BROWSING through travel brochures can produce happy memories, one of the most vivid being that of cruising in civilised and leisurely fashion along what has been described, with little or no exageration, as the most beautiful coastline in the world I urn speaking of the coastline of Norway.
This coastline can be savoured by taking a trip which, by present day standards, is unbeatable in value.
But is "off beat", which means that conventional travellers may ignore it. For others, however, til-ed of those glossy brochures which depict every beauty spot in the world as consisting principally of luxury hotels inhabited by wholesome models, a voyage from Bergen past the Arctic Circle to the North Cape for under £300 all-in seems too good to be true.
Norwegian Coastal Voyages offer cruises starting every day of the week from Bergen which, within the packages offered, is reachable from Newcastle or Gatwick.
The winter season lasts until the end of April and the invitation to "feel on top of the world this winter" has almost literal truth and much attraction. You can book through Fred Ohlson Limited, Norwegian State Railways. Travel Time or any travel agent. You can leave home on any weekday and by nightfall you will have been installed in a comfortable cabin on one of the dozen "coastals" which leave Bergen daily and act as a sea-bus service as they work their way up the coast taking local passengers on and off as they go.
It is the absence of frills in the form of entertainment, games and expensive shore excursions — features which are beginning to destroy old fashioned cruising altogether — that enable the prices on this type of holiday to stay on amazingly low.
You are never far from the coast and can take in an ever changing panorama of beauty as you chug your way up from port to port. There is a nine or a thirteen day voyage according to time available.
You have time to get out and explore at most of the stopping Nam, the furthest away being l irkenes which is reached after you have passed the Northern Cape whence, in summer, is visible the midnight sun. Kirkenes is as far east as Cairo and only ten minutes from the Russian border.
Other notable stopping-off places are Trondheim with its beautiful medieval cathedral, Hammerfest, the most northerly town in the world, and Alesund, Norway's biggest fishing town, situated on several islands linked by bridges.
The climax of the trip the unforgettable sight of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, one of nature's most spectacular and fantastic phenomana.