‘It is magical to swim surrounded by the Arctic winter in all its brutal glory’: an eco cruise in Norway’s far north

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Our writer travelled on a low-emission ship to the top of Europe in winter to experience the northern lights, cross-country skiing and a freezing plunge in the sea

The view from the ship’s bridge is what I expected: a ribbon of dark Arctic water leading through a maze of snowy mountain islands. But the view of the bridge is a shock. Where is the wheel, the chart and that big metal thing that goes “ting”? You know, the one marked “Dead Slow” and “Full Steam”, like you see in Titanic when they spot the iceberg? In its public areas, the Havila Capella looks like any modern cruise ship or upmarket ferry. There are lounges, a panoramic bar, a couple of gyms and a deck that can be strolled. It is what lies behind the bulkheads that is very different.

On a bridge that is more USS Enterprise than Titanic, Captain Brynjard Ulvøy checks the flatscreen displays. “You see, if we increase speed … ” He nods at the first officer in the comfortable chair who taps another screen. “We drain the batteries and use more liquid natural gas.” Another nod and the ship eases back a little. “At this speed, we are at our most economical.”

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