18 independent reviews for Northern Lights and whale watching vacation in Norway

These full and frank independent reviews are from travelers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travelers below.


review 25 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

We saw a feeding frenzy with several humpback whales and a lot of killer whales. Truly awesome sight to see all the whales working together popping out of the water to feed! A close second would be the spectacular Northern Lights popping through the clouds. Our weather forecast wasn't great but the cloud parted beautifully on our second night to give us a show.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Travel light with lots of wind proof layers! On the trip, it was cold as expected so I had all the warm layers but I was most thankful for the windproof outer trousers and coat. I was a solo traveler and everyone on board was very friendly - just book it and go!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I definitely felt that this boat trip was significantly more respectful and friendly towards the environment than the day trip boats out of Tromso...Not to mention a lot more civilised!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

This vacation was perfect - exactly what was needed! It blows the cobwebs away from normal life, gives you the peace and time to watch the world go by, fantastic food and is the perfect opportunity to see nature at its most incredible. A very positive life experience!

review 3 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

From meeting the captain and crew, seeing orca, humpback and the northern lights on the first day. We cannot pick out 1 memorable experience, it was all excellent and we were contemplating mutiny so we did not have to return to civilisation. The fresh air , the views, totally immersed in trying to find whales and Eagles. Loved it all. Food is good and plentiful, you won't go hungry.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Travel light, cabins are small. Take lots of warm clothing as you will spend a lot of time on deck . If possible leave some kit at a hotel. Take lots of photos

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, I beleive so in a small way as captain Charles is local and a small business, who buys locally. He loves his country and promotes it. He carries out recycling onboard.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We both loved it, as a different vacation basic but wholesome if you are willing for some discomfort it is a 5 star experience.

review 9 Feb 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

To be there, in a grandiose landscape, no sound, watching whales swim around the boat, going about their lives, undisturbed. You wait and wait, and here they blow, majestuous. Beautiful and changing skies, wind, snow or rain. To be in another world with very friendly fellow travelers, there for the same purpose as we are. Wonderful captain, cook, friend and fellow whale watcher in one and only person.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Travel light; very warm and waterproof clothes; patience. Open minds and open eyes. Traveling in a small sail boat is not as comfortable as being on a liner. But take it with the right state of mind. It is worth it.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

It benefited local people in the sense that we stayed in the city before and after embarking, which means local hotels and food. I believe also we consumed only local products while on-board. If we did not "reduced environmental impact", we at least did not increase it, and did not have negative effect on conservation

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A wonderful time. One of our best, most memorable vacations. Not a single negative comment. Captain Wara is a wonderful person: professional, knowledgeable, warm, available. We made a new friend

review 1 Dec 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

This trip was so full of great experiences it is not possible to pick just one thing. To have pods of Orca beside the boat treating us as part of the scenery was just the start. To see the difference in behaviour ( and size!) between Orca and Humpback whales was revealing. We were blessed with good weather and two good nights of Aurora borealis - breathtaking! To be part of a small group on board a vessel staying out with the whales made it much more involving than just dashing up in a fast RIB and then dashing away again. I was lucky enough to make a sound recording of a pod of Orca one night; it is something I shall treasure, even though it has plenty of faults. The sounds reinforced how Orca work as a family group, constantly talking to each other.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be flexible. Space below decks is limited but you will be warm and can make yourself comfortable. Bring your kit in bags that can squash flat to save space. Layer up; during daylight hours you will be on deck, so prepare to spend a few hours in cold, possibly windy weather. We had no rain; you might not be so lucky. Full daylight only lasts a few hours, with extended twilight, so learn to use your camera in low light conditions on a (usually gently) moving deck. Do bring seasickness pills, just in case.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, this a locally-based business that uses local produce and services. By staying near the whale viewing areas the use of diesel fuel is reduced. Resources are not used wastefully.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A great experience for anyone whose priority is to get close to the wildlife and enjoy the wonderful landscape.

review 21 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing a large number of orcas and some humpbacks feeding on herring - a fantastic sight. Great home-cooked food.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take plenty of layers of clothes, you need to be warm while up on deck but the cabin is lovely and toasty.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

It supported local people and encouraged responsible whale watching.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A great experience to be able to see so many whales feeding and also lots of white tailed eagles. We were also lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.

review 20 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing hump back whales, eagles and the Northern Lights (and fainting herring).

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Pack good quality thermals and minimal everything else. Layers are good on the boat as you do get cold. If you can wear slightly large shoes so you can wear extra socks without cutting off the circulation. Clarion Hotels are excellent and fill up on breakfast/waffles/dinner to save yourself a considerable amount. Book return via Oslo and add a few days there. The Oslo pass helps get around and the museums are excellent.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, the tourist trade is clearly very important in Tromso.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We loved our time in Tromso but probably would have preferred more time in Oslo on the way back.

review 15 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Being in the midst of a feeding frenzy with orcas bringing herring to the surface for gulls, golden and white-tailed eagles to compete for. All of this in the most beautiful golden light of the late morning sunrise north of the arctic circle.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Remember a camera, binoculars, warm, warm clothing and follow Charles's advice to bring your own night cap and purchase beer in the local supermarket before boarding. Then be prepared to be awe-struck by the wildlife and scenery and delighted with the warm welcome received from Charles.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We like to think we helped the local economy in some small way by choosing to cruise with Charles. We also firmly believe that using Goxsheim as our base to watch local wildlife had far less impact on the environment than the day boats.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We have fantastic memories, shared with the company of Charles, Wal and the other guests. Goxsheim was a special base for watching whales and eagles and experiencing the magical light of an arctic winter; of sunrises, sunsets and a fabulous glimpse of the northern lights. It definitely had the Wow factor.

review 10 Nov 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

I have lived out my childhood dream! Orcas, humpbacks, golden eagles and the Northern Lights! What a fantastic trip, a beautiful, quirky boat, complete with a wood-burning stove, a welcome sight to snuggle round after being outside on deck! Charles Wara, looked after everyone extremely well, a fabulous cook and captain and assisted by crew member Wal - who just couldn't resist another trip with him on the Goxsheim :)

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

I booked into the Radisson Blu the night before the trip started which was pricey (as is everywhere in Norway) but you could get a much better deal in the Clarion Collection Complete hotel which offers B&B plus dinner in the price! You can board anytime between midday and 2pm. Bring lots of layers, warm gloves and boots - previously tried and tested are a must, as "freeze time" on your fingers is about 3 minutes outside! I am gutted that I didn't stay an extra night in Tromso after the tour to walk to the beautiful white Cathedral or take a husky ride - so I would definitely do that next time. Bring a cabin sized bag as it has to fit in a hole under your bunk, as the room is very small, oh, and bring alcohol on board, if you want, as it's very expensive to buy in town.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I feel that I definitely did not interfere with the whale's everyday life which is what I wanted and everything was recycled as far as possible. Our sea "footprint" felt very small :)

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was a fantastic trip, awakening all of the senses, one of the nicest parts at night was snuggling up in my bunk listening to the sound of the sea in my ears! Chatting round the log burner comparing photos and sharing the experience with like minded people ! thanks once again, could highly recommend this trip.

review 11 Feb 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

seeing the whales breeching and seeing 7 whales "hurding" the fish together

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take the trip in November

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was an amazing experience. I enjoyed it. Thanks.

review 7 Feb 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

To be in close proximity of so many whales: humpbacks and Orcas. We experienced the incredible sight of groups of large powerful whales breaching several times. It was a very special trip. The boat was lovely, Charles and his wife have put a lot of thought and care into renovating it. Charles was an amazing host, great cook and knowledgeable about the area and a sense of humour. We was also lucky to be part of an interesting diverse inclusive group of people.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be open to what ever the experience brings. We had quite stormy weather which added to the dramatic environment. Unfortunately we did not see the Northern Lights but the trip was still very eventful. Don't spend too much time trying to get the perfect photo because you will rarely be facing the right direction and you miss the spontaneity of the situation.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Charles had a strong eco ethos and talked passionately about this and I learnt quite a bit. He scoured food locally and ensure there was very little waste. He supported the local fisherman who worked alone on the boats in some extreme weather.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A special experience - would love to do it again.

review 3 Feb 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Watching humpback whales and orcas hunting herring in their natural habitat. Just awesome!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take a hot water bottle

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes most definitely. Cetaceans should not be hunted or captured for captivity. I support any operator that allows people to watch these animals in their natural habitat without disturbance.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Ace

review 30 Nov 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Watching many humpback and orca whales chasing herring and breaching the surface around the islands and fijords near Tromso. Also sleeping on a small sailing boat for 4 nights. Charles Wara, the owner and captain, is so passionate about his boat and the whales that it made everyone on board enthusiastic too.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Remember to bring as little as possible but pack clothes & shoes suitable for cold and sometimes wet & windy weather. No smart clothes needed just warm, comfortable clothes. If it is snowy when you go to Tromso, take Yak Tracks or similar (lightweight removable springs that you fit on the bottom of your boots/shoes and are a tremendous help to prevent slips and falls on snow and ice). Be prepared to have no privacy and to sleep in a confined space on board the boat. Most of all, go with an open mind and heart, and be determined to enjoy the natural world with likeminded people. Be prepared to slow right down -we live in a fast paced world and this week was so relaxing and calm it made me realise how tense we tend to be these days and how with so many electronic items available, response times get quicker so we are all living a fast life, without time to just be! This trip gives balance to that.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes to all; staying in Tromso for 3 nights supported local businesses, cafes, hotels, shops etc. The trip on the boat was environmental friendly as we stayed out for 4 nights at anchorages in fijords and were there to watch the whales in their own environment. Awareness of these gentle giants, watching them feed on herring, and protect their own young was life enhancing and made me think more deeply of how man destroys nature - something we must preserve not destroy. Talking to others about this raises further awareness and hopefully impacts on conservation opportunities in this fragile world.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Brilliant, amazing, would do it again at the drop of a hat. So very different from sun and beach, and very educational along the way.

review 7 Dec 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing so many humpback whales and orcas so close.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take soft bag and avoid too much luggage - wear lots of layers, especially wearing thick socks/ more than one pair. The cabins and amount of storage space are not big but the vacation is really special and you won't be spending much time in your cabin.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Possibly.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Spending whole days watching whales and orcas was absolutely amazing. No other whale watching trip can compare. The boat is surprisingly comfortable and Charles and Knut know how to look after their customers very well. The seas were not too rough - much of the time you are in fjords or small bays and the scenery is fabulous. The bunks are small though, although the boat is so characterful.

review 6 Dec 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Finding ourselves in the middle of a feeding frenzy - herrings, seagulls, orcas and humpbacks, on all sides of and under our boat. True nature in the raw. The sight of humpbacks breaching is breathtaking, the orcas stunningly beautiful and the cacophony of the birds and breathing of the whales exhilarating. The aurora borealis was an amazing sight - almost creepy - and visible on three clear nights despite poor forecasts. The skipper was as excited about the wildlife as we were, and his photographs second to none.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

If you're the kind of person to whom luxury and privacy matter, this is not the vacation for you. This is for people happy to muck in and just enjoy this very special experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Food was locally sourced, and there was benefit to tourism.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Absolutely first-rate. Truly memorable, but unsettling, as I want to go again!

review 23 Nov 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The sheer number of whales was just amazing! We watched and photographed them for several hours, 3 days running. Added to that the northern lights, and the fabulous food cooked by Charles, 'Skipper Extraordinaire', the vacation exceeded all expectations. I'd been a bit worried about going above the Arctic Circle in November, but dressed in lots of layers, the cold wasn't a problem. If you needed to warm up a bit, below deck it was really cosy - more like a log cabin than a boat, and being mainly within the fjords, there was no rough water. Even the light was better than I'd expected, with dawn and dusk being longer than in the UK, and the colours of the rising/setting sun reflecting on the water.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take lots of layers: thermal tops, ski pants (or similar), fleeces, padded jackets and waterproof jackets/trousers (to protect against the wind as much as rain). Boots that have plenty of room for thick socks are useful. (I took snow boots, and had cosy feet.) Bear in mind it could be a bit slippery on deck on very cold mornings, so boots with a good grip are advisable. With the days being short at this time of the year, you may like to take a book - though there is a collection of books/DVDs etc aboard.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

This is a small company and they don't normally take more than 8 passengers, so all food is purchased locally. Cannot imagine that this boat harms the environment in any way.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent: exceeded my expectations by far. Can't recommend it highly enough. Not sure that I'm 'reborn' (see below), but I would give it at least 4 stars, maybe more.

review 30 Jan 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Sitting on a remote anchorage at night with the Northern lights illuminating the sky with a bright green glow, constantly changing, twisting, turning, folding and falling. At the same time as this eerie display we could hear herring flapping on the surface of the water and the noise of humpback Whales blowing just metres from the boat.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take lots of layers of clothing and a torch.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Not sure

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A wonderful experience which I would not miss for the world.

review 29 Jan 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing humpback and killer whales close up, without ever feeling crowded by other boats. Tromso whale industry still in its infancy. Get there before the crowds wake up to it. Seeing the Northern Lights - spectacular display on two nights. Beautiful sailing ship to relax in and escape from the cold. Great food and hospitality. Knowledgeable and welcoming skipper.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

If you like to socialise with a drink then buy plenty of booze at duty free (much cheaper) or the special licensed retailer in Tromso shopping centre. There is no alcholol available on the boat, and we didn't go ashore for 5 days. Bring a good book to read. December, when the whales arrive, only has a couple of hours daylight. You can see perfectly well for a couple of hours either side of that, but by 3pm it's dark, so plenty of time below deck. Or take advantage of the lull of a berth on water and catch up on sleep. Make sure you bring layers and PROPER waterproof clothes. The wind chill factor at sea can make it seem very cold. Be prepared for long stints on deck in inclement weather (worth it for the scenery alone). Aside from warm clothes - travel light as there is no one to impress and nowhere to go out to dinner. Though Tromso itself is a lively place and good for a night out before the cruise.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Well, aside from giving the captain of the boat work during December (which used to be quiet before the whales came) we ate local food (reindeer and fish) and the whales have certainly benefitted the locality (they have only been coming to these fjords for a couple of years). There were spaces on the boat and I think that the trip could benefit from all the exposure it can get via the website. It derserves to be pushed.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I loved the vacation. Whale watching has been something I've always wanted to do and this trip felt very 'exclusive' and personalised. As a single traveler (one of three) it was also easy to fit in as a passenger on the boat. Would thoroughly recommend it.

review 4 Dec 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Getting so close to the whales was a truly special experience. The boat was a beaut and so cosy. The scenery was breath taking during the day and the stars/Northern Lights were beautiful at night time.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take plenty of warm things including a hot water bottle to use as a cushion on deck!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Run by independent local business so yes in that respect. Seeing the whales close up made us care even more about their conservation. Unsure about environment impact as we flew there and there were only a few on board

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Absolutely great :) Would give five stars but your description says it has to be the best vacation of our lives to do that and there are a few other contenders - but this is up there!

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Unedited reviews from other travelers

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
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