'Experience the Northern Lights': A Group-tour With a Difference
Earlier this year, I set out on a work-related adventure: I escorted our wildly popular ‘Experience the Northern Lights’ - tour for 15 days in January. Most of the exciting winter-itinerary offered brand new experiences even for a Norwegian like myself: A delightful first-hand insight into a range of our most popular products and destinations; all rolled into a winter wonderland small-group adventure.
Eager to meet and get to know my group of 15 Australian and Canadian travellers, I spent a lot of time going over the finer details of the itinerary. There’s one thing to sell a fantastic journey, but something entirely different to travel and experience it in person! From the Welcome-dinner at the historic Engebret Cafe in Oslo, to the magic of the Norwegian Coastal Voyage and range of hand-picked winter-adventures; everything went without a hitch and had us ticking off bucket-list items at a rapid speed.
During the Welcome-dinner I asked everyone why they chose our particular group-tour: Northern Lights, Arctic King Crab Safaris and husky-sledding rated high on the list, but equally so the desire for a detailed and action-packed Nordic itinerary “without the hassle of having to think of everything ourselves.” It was clear that the group consisted of well-traveled people craving the structure of a group-tour without having to worry about the intricate details. They wanted to spend their time enjoying and exploring, not sweating over minute issues like transfer-times and luggage-service.
As the 50 Degrees North tour-leader I saw it as my responsibility to make sure everyone felt included (we have solo travellers on every departure) and to ensure a strong sense of community within the group. Despite ours being a social crowd, people still had the freedom to choose how social they wanted to be. Whether it was meeting for pre-dinner drinks on board Hurtigruten , or staying up way past bedtime to look for Northern Lights after a shot of cloudberry liqueur at the SnowHotel’s ICEBAR; there was always someone there to enjoy it with.
Escorting a 50 Degrees North-tour not only means knowing the product well, it also means making an extra effort for our clients: Handing out cinnamon scrolls or Norwegian milk-chocolate on the bus during local tours, taking a sick guest to a GP or surprising the group with steaming sides of hot hand-cut chips with dinner - little things that make our group-tours feel more like traveling with a bunch of new friends and fellow adventurers.
Eating dinner together every evening allowed us to recap our days’ adventures, pour over different Aurora Borealis-prediction apps and discuss the following day’s schedule.
Photos and videos were captured and shared, lively discussions took place and email-addresses were exchanged. The vibe during our final evening’s Farewell Dinner in Finnish Lapland, though muted and slightly exhausted, reflected a group of people who had just enjoyed the time of their lives.
As a fitting conclusion to our two adventurous weeks together, I asked everyone to share their highlights from the trip. To my surprise the best memories went way past the 4 nights we saw Northern Lights, the Arctic Crab Feast or the eager huskies; it also included Hurtigruten’s homemade ice-cream, making new friends, the aforementioned hot chips (Australians love them with a passion!), the sense of community and the many shared laughs. One young couple even added a brand new proposal and engagement to the mix!
A lady in the group told me that she and her husband had done many group-tours over the years but this was the first one where she got to know everyone’s names and faces. I smiled and thanked her; it was one of the greatest compliments I could ever hope to receive as a tour-escort.
Want to experience the magic of winter in Norway and Finland as part of a small group? Check out our website for our 2022/2023 departures.