Five Stars of Scandinavia in the News
Increase in direct flights to Bergen
Norwegian Air Shuttle is investing heavily in overseas direct routes from New York and Bangkok to Oslo with good connections to Bergen from May / June. In addition, they open a summer route between Evenes and Bergen.
Norwegian Air Shuttle will start the direct route from New York 31 May and from Bangkok 2 June. For more information, see the Norwegian's press release. The airline will also operate the route between Evenes and Bergen on Thursdays and Sundays from 23 June to 15 august.
There has been a significant increase in direct flights to Bergen during the last couple of years, and today there are near 40 direct flights from various destinations abroad. In addition there are several good connections to Bergen from major hubs such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Helsinki and Oslo. Also the connection to other Scandinavian destinations are good.
NEW ROUTES TO BERGEN IN 2012/13
- SAS from Manchester, operating up to 4 weekly flights.
- Norwegian from Edinburgh operating 2 weekly flights (summer).
- Flybe.com from Newcastle operating 3 weekly flights.
- SAS from Barcelona, operating 2 weekly flights (summer).
- Norwegian from Paris, Orly operating 3 weekly flights.
- Norwegian from Barcelona, operating 2 weekly flights.
- Norwegian from Rome, operating 2 weekly flights.
- Vueling from Barcelona,(19/5) operating 2 weekly flights
St. Petersburg Cruises - Visa Free!Our St. Petersburg Visa free Cruises enjoy continuous success and popularity!
ST.PETER LINE has increased the number of Princess Maria's visa free cruise departures to St. Petersburg from eight to fourteen a month. The number of hotel packages also increase significantly. By increasing the capacity, ST.PETER LINE aims to reply to the increasing demand in Finnish market and to provide even more interesting departure dates and products specifically for Finnish and international markets.
A new kind of Baltic Sea cruise
ST.PETER LINE's other ship, Princess Anastasia, offers a new kind of Baltic sea cruise from Helsinki via Stockholm and Tallinn to St. Petersburg. The passengers are able to spend the day in each city and Princess Anastasia will take the passenger to a new city conveniently during the night. As the whole cruise is done with the same vessel no inconvenient ship changes are required.
ST.PETER LINE's M/S Princess Maria successfully started the traffic between Helsinki and St. Petersburg in spring 2010. By the autumn of 2011 the shipping company had carried half a million passengers. M/S Princess Anastasia that started traffic in August 2011 has also been received brilliantly. M/S Princess Anastasia sails on the Baltic sea visiting four ports, Helsinki - Stockholm - Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Helsinki.
Our visa free products 2013:
Cruises Helsinki - St. Petersburg - Helsinki, Helsinki - Stockholm - Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Helsinki
1 or 2 nights Hotel packages in St. Petersburg:
Helsinki - St. Petersburg - Helsinki
Helsinki - Stockholm - Tallinn - St. Petersburg
Schedule Princess Maria
Five Stars of Scandinavia, Inc. was the first agent for St. Peter Line in the USA -
your One-Stop Booking Agent!
We know the cruises and are able to answer most of your or your clients questions regarding procedures, customs, excursions, etc..
To book your one-way or round trip cruise, please visit our website:
To book our popular 3-5 day cruise/hotel packages, with 1 or 2 night stays in hotels of your choice in
St. Petersburg, please visit our website:
To contact Five Stars of Scandinavia:
Toll free: 800.722.4126
The great Iceland Traverse:From Coast to Coast
A True Backpacking Expedition into the Wilderness of Iceland!
This is the ultimate challenge for the serious backpack hiker; a total traverse of the Icelandic highlands. From the northern lowlands to the south coast, along the North-Atlantic volcanic Rift and Europe's biggest glacier, through different types of volcanic and glacial landscapes, this fantastic journey is a unique experience. Just the duration of the expedition, makes one bound to try all kinds of weather conditions, and even season shifts may be observed. The expedition is made of five legs, each one with different characteristics.
Asbyrgi-Myvatn - Canyons and lava fields: 4 days, June 30-July 3
Myvatn-Askja - Desert and Volcanoes: 5 days, July 5 - 9
Askja-Nyidalur - The Desert under the Glacier: 6 days, July 11 - 16
Nyidalur-Eldgja - Lava of Trolls and Lakes of Elves: 7 days, July 18-24
Eldgja-Vik - Land of the hidden Volcano: 5 days, July 26 - 30
It is possible to join or leave the expedition between legs, thus participating in a particular section of the journey.
The Coast to Coast backpacking tour is one of the greatest adventure we offer. In 31 days we travel on foot from Asbyrgi Canyon in the North to the village of Vik on the south coast. The tour represents one of the greatest challenges in Iceland backpacking.
The 450 km route lies along some of Iceland's best known sites like lake Myvatn and the Askja volcano. But our brave group of hikers will also pass through some of the less traveled paths in Iceland like the Vonarskard pass and over the remote west side of the great Vatnajökull glacier.
Robert Thor Haraldsson will be guiding the group. This will be Robert's 3rd Iceland Traverse but he lead this tour in both 2009 and 2010. On our web site you can find more info on this amazing adventure and a beautiful video from the 2009 Coast to Coast made by one of the hikers on the tour, Ted Wenskus.
To view the Video click :
Gary Goldenberg has some amazing pictures on his web site mindlesspleasures from this tour.
Fly Fishing Workshop in NorwayThe Norwegian Flyfishers Club is pleased to announce that April Vokey will be offering a one-week workshop on the over 10 kilometers of their private Gaula River beats, in the second week of the June 2013 season.
From June 9th - 16th, a limited number of NFC guests will have the opportunity to fish with and learn from one of British Columbia’s most internationally renowned fishing guides.
April’s expertise in Spey casting and fly tying for wild steelhead and salmon is coupled with a passion for environmental conservation. In 2007 she founded B.C. based guiding operation, Fly Gal Ventures, where she presently guides and instructs anglers on some of B.C.’s best steelhead destinations.
April is a certified casting instructor of the Federation of Fly Fishers and a fly-fishing columnist. As a member of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association she is also the Canadian Field Editor for Chasing Silver Magazine and the Steelhead Columnist for Fly Fusion Magazine. Her works and photos have also been published in Fly Fisherman Magazine, Salmon Trout Steelheader (STS), Field and Stream, Canadian Fly Fisher, Flyfishing and Tying Journal and several other international publications.
Using the exclusive fly-waters of the Norwegian Flyfishers Club, April will bring her expertise in tackle and high and cold water fishing techniques to Norway for the first time. Skagit and Scandinavian lines and their casting techniques will be the main topic of the week. Her presentations will be related mostly to spring conditions and tactics and all guests will benefit from her individual consultations and tutorials throughout the week on the river.
The course will include:
• Introduction and orientation of the course by April
• Techniques to be used during spring fishing for big salmon
• Casting demonstrations and individual casting tutorials
• Fish and work with all participants as a group and individually
• Presentation on swinging flies
• Fly tying salmon flies
Depending on the weather and the water conditions during the week, the course’s agenda will be tailored accordingly in order to get the most of out this unique opportunity to fish side by side with one of the best fly fishing instructor for Salmon and Steelhead.
Spaces are limited and if you are interested in joining April Vokey next June please contact:
Five Stars of Scandinavia
Toll free: 800.722.4126
HURTIGRUTEN IS UNIQUE IN THE WORLD!What makes Hurtigruten a Coastal Voyage and not a "cruise"?
Simply put, just about everything on your client's Coastal Voyage will be unlike any cruise they have experienced before.Our 11 ships visit 34 amazing ports every day of the year, some seldom seen by tourists. We offer a selection of utterly unique, local and exciting excursions.
It's the true diversity of the Norwegian landscape, history and culture - its sheer variety of sights, sounds and surprises - that makes your client's Coastal Voyage such a delight.
The original Coastal Voyage since 1893
The Norwegian coastline has been home of Hurtigruten ships since our founder Richard With forged a route in 1893. Today, Hurtigruten ships proudly continue its vital links between cities, carrying local passengers and freight, while allowing tourists to experience this beautiful country in a unique and meaningful way - unlike any traditional cruise.
With 34 ports of call (35 in the summer), the Norway Coastal Voyage is still the lifeline of Norway along a stretch of coast characterized by vast distances, sparse population, dramatic fjords and breathtaking scenery. Your journey begins in Bergen and you’ll sail north to Kirkenes stopping at 34 uniquely picturesque ports along the way. The ship then turns around, and sails south back to Bergen. She’ll call on the same ports, but those visited during the day on the northbound voyage will now be visited during the night on the southbound voyage, and vice versa. You are guaranteed days filled with majestic scenery - spectacular fjords, snow-capped mountains, and an astonishing variety of flora and fauna.
"Hurtigruten is unique in the world. With Hurtigruten you are really a part of Norway, part of a Norwegian tradition. The crew is Norwegian, the food and experience is Norwegian. Hurtigruten is identified with the country it operates in. That's not true with conventional cruise liners."
Jonathan Tourtellot, Director Center for Sustainable Destinations, National Geographic Society
“National Geographic Society pinpoints what we understand as a unique character of Hurtigruten. In many ways Hurtigruten has a mission besides presenting the beautiful Norwegian coast to tourists. This mission is exercised in cooperation with our surroundings, our destinations and our local partners. Hurtigruten both supports and depends on viable and sustainable destinations. We will always strive to improve our skills and performance on all fronts, thereby enhancing what makes Hurtigruten unique in the world.”
Olav Fjell, CEO, Hurtigruten ASA
East Greenland Northern Lights CruiseNew Cruise: Scoresby Sund - Aurora Borealis, 2013
In 2013 the Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights will be experienced at a maximum intensity.
in the Scoresby Sund, East Greenland, the longest fjord in the world, where conditions will be optimal
to experience this breathtaking phenomenon during the nights.
PLA14, September 06 – September 13, 2013, Akureyri – Scoresby Sund – Akureyri.
Rail Products WorldwideFive Stars of Scandinavia offers Rail Products worldwide!
As booking agent for ACP Rail we are proud to assist you with all your rail needs, i.e. Rail passes, Point to point rail, Attractions such as
Eurail Denmark / Eurail Finland / Eurail Norway / Eurail Sweden Passes
The Norway in a Nutshell /Sognefjord in a Nutshell /
Hardanger in a Nutshell / Geiranger & Norway in a Nutshell
We are proud to provide travelers from around the world access to its attractive range of "All Country Passes" and point to point train tickets which offer great value and flexibility for exploring exciting destinations by rail, including Europe, the UK, Japan, Australia, China, North America and beyond.
2 Country passes in Scandinavia:
Denmark - Germany / Denmark - Sweden / Finland - Sweden / Norway - Sweden
4 Country passes in Scandinavia
Eurail Scandinavia Pass
Visitors can now explore even more countries when traveling with a Eurail Global Pass!
Fly Norwegian New York (JFK) to OsloFLY DIRECT TO NORWAY WITH NORWEGIAN IN 2013
Fly Norwegian New York (JFK) to Oslo from May 30, 2013 and experience the Norwegian capital, the marvelous fjords and summer in the midnight sun!
Take the plunge with Norwegian
From May 30 to June 24, Norwegian will fly Oslo - JFK New York twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. From June 25, the number of weekly flights increases to three. With a new fleet, friendly service and low prices, US travelers will enjoy the brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the most modern and technologically advanced long-haul aircraft in production today. Easy connections to more than 100 European cities, and in-flight WiFi within Europe.
Starting at USD 339* one way from JFK.
Sweet dreams onboard the 787 Dreamliner
The 787 Dreamliner is a cutting-edge aircraft with many innovative features and Rolls-Royce engines. With 20 percent less emission than comparable planes, it is the most eco-friendly option on the market. Lower cabin pressure leads to increased humidity, which can help to alleviate common jet lag symptoms like sore muscles and headaches. It is also equipped with bigger windows and reduced noise levels - all to ensure highest possible passenger comfort.
For reservations call: 800.722.4126
Icelandair Ranked # 1Icelandair was Europe's most punctual airline for international flights in September,
as recognized by the Association of European Airlines (AEA).
Icelandair was the most punctual of all airlines in long haul flights in September with 92.5% on time performance. Icelandair also topped the list in medium & short range flights with 93.9% on time performance.
Out of 25 International airlines measured, Icelandair ranked # 1 overall with 93.5% on time performance.
Furthermore, the Association of European airlines (AEA) who publish data regularly on behalf of members punctuality confirm Icelandair tops the list in punctuality of long haul flights in 2012 with 90.7% on time performance.
On time performance is an essential part of Icelandair and we look forward to better serving your clients.
Five Stars of Scandinavia congratulates Icelandair!
Icelandair increase Flights!Icelandair will be increasing flights by 15% in 2013 vs. 2012, making it the largest capacity in our 75 year history with nearly 2.3 million expected passengers flying Icelandair to Iceland and beyond.
Two additional aircraft will be added to our fleet to accommodate our growing numbers.
We are excited to announce that Icelandair will increase service from 4 to 6 flights per week from Denver International Airport during the peak travel season. For your convenience we have included our Denver schedule through October 2013.
Denver flight # 670
Departing DEN at 17:15 arrives KEF at 06:35:
31MAR13- 3MAY13 (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays)
4MAY13- 27MAY13 (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
28MAY13-23SEP13 (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
25SEP13- 26OCT13 (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
Denver flight # 671
Departing KEF at 16:45 arrives DEN at 18:40:
31MAR13- 2MAY13 (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays)
3MAY13- 26MAY13 (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
27MAY13-22SEP13 (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
24SEP13- 26OCT13 (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
Icelandair will also open three new routes with 2 flights per week from Anchorage, Alaska, 2 flights per week to St. Petersburg, Russia and 2 flights per week to Zurich, Switzerland. In addition to London Heathrow, Icelandair will offer service to London Gatwick.
Our strongest boost in service will be from Boston Logan, where Icelandair will operate up to 3 flights per day during the summer (2013). Capacity from other North American gateways will also increase with seasonal service 4 days a week from Washington–Dulles beginning March 21st, increasing to 7 days a week starting June 3, 2013. Seasonal service from Canada will begin earlier this year with 4 flights per week from Toronto starting March 8, 2013 and additional flights from Halifax. Seattle will also see an increase from 6 to 7 flights per week from March 31st to October 26, 2013.
Icelandair offers service to Iceland from Boston, New York-JFK, Seattle, and Denver with seasonal service from Washington, D.C., Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando Sanford, Halifax, Toronto and Anchorage (starting May 15, 2013). Connections through Icelandair’s hub at Keflavik International Airport are available to over 20 destinations in Scandinavia, the U.K. and Continental Europe. Only Icelandair allows passengers to stopover in Iceland at no additional airfare.
Please contact Five Stars of Scandinavia toll free at: 800.722.4126
Norwegian Air to Spitsbergen!NEW FLIGHTS TO SPITSBERGEN WITH NORWEGIAN!
Spitsbergen might lie almost next to the North Pole but it is surprisingly easy to reach. And in the future it is just getting easier. In March 2013 to be more precise, there will be an extra airline flying to Spitsbergen.
NORWEGIAN airline will provide flights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Oslo to Longyearbyen during the highest season. This will most certainly bring advance for us flying in or out from Longyearbyen, since Norwegian will start their airline tickets from 799 per one way. Not too bad! Maybe it is time to start to plan your winter holiday!
Five Stars of Scandinavia offers a great selection of tours to Spitsbergen, from Winter tours like Husky Safaris, Snowmobile Safaris, Ski Expeditions.
Our Summer offer includes exciting Cruises, Wildlife Expedition cruises and Sailing cruises.
Activity tours such as Trekking, Kayaking, Sailing Cruises, Dog sledding on wheels and much more.
Spitsbergen - Basecamp NordenskiöldWe are proud to present our newest destination on Svalbard!
Please visit our winter tours to Spitsbergen!
Basecamp Nordenskiöld is the northernmost cabin for commercial trips on Svalbard. The cabin is located far away from any civilization and offers excellent possibilities for longer expeditions.
It is situated in Billefjorden, right beside the mighty glacier Nordenskiöld. During summer you can reach the cabin by boat from Longyearbyen and during winter you can drive there with dog sledges or snowmobiles. No matter which season you pick it is certain to be an adventurous trip!
With no running water or electricity Nordenskiöld is a true hunting cabin like those for the trapper’s, but with modern comforts. We use wood to heat up the cabin and get our drinking water from the melting glacier. There are 5 big bedrooms with fantastic arctic view, 11 comfortable beds, indoor toilet and a traditional sauna. The cabin is modern and comfortable with big windows giving away to the mighty glacier.
Laying in the glacier moraine the cabin is well hidden from any by passer. This is a place where you are quarantee to have your privacy. You can enjoy your breakfast while looking right over to the magnificent Nordenskiöld glacier or relax in the sunny terrace with warm coffee and watch polar bear hunt for seals on the sea ice or sit down.
If you are looking for true arctic story with big glaciers, mighty mountains and rough moraine, this is the place to come!
Antarctica with M/V OrteliusWe are pleased to offer Oceanwide Expeditions
New Program 2012-13 Antarctica
m/v Ortelius NOW WITH HELICOPTERS!
Weddell Sea Emperor Penguin Voyages - incl. helicopters:
We will start our season with m/v Ortelius with three spectacular 11-days voyages to the Weddell Sea (starting/ending in Ushuaia) and we intend to visit the Emperor Penguin rookeries south of Snow Hill Island. The use of helicopters has a great advantage and can support us in our goal to have a rendezvous with those “Super Stars” of Antarctica, living in a place that otherwise remain inaccessible for tourists.
The voyages to the Weddell Sea will be a thrilling adventure and it is advisable to book your space soonest:
Weddell Sea Emperor Penguins tour dates:
Voyage OTL21: 14 - 24 November 2012
Voyage OTL22: 24 November - 4 December 2012
Voyage OTL23: 4 - 14 December 2012
Prices start from USD 11,150 per person in a quadruple non private cabin incl. helicopters.
Due to the revised schedule we have furthermore included
two 10-days classic departures to the Antarctic Peninsula:
Voyage OTL24A: 14 - 23 December 2012 and
Voyage OTL24B: 23 December 2012 - 01 January 2013.
Prices start from USD 5,150 per person (voyage OTL24B) in a quadruple non private cabin.
Please view our Antarctica Cruises here
Smyril Line M/F Norröna
Smyril Line has started their new season and has been sailing a few trips to Iceland, at the moment we are in the Shetland Islands with approximately 600 guest who have been on our special cruise to the Faroe Islands, Orkney and Shetland.
During the winter season we have made quite a few changes and updates on-board. The Simmer Dim Restaurant has become a Steak House, serving fantastic fresh salads and other tasty dishes in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Our Deluxe cabins have got a total make over with new furniture's and a great new look and furthermore our Naust Bar has become a Sport Bar with a new Sporty look. During the summer we will make sure that the guest will have the possibility to follow all the sport events which are going on through the summer.
Our famous Norrøna Buffet Restaurant is still serving both breakfast and dinner during the whole week. The Buffet offers such a wealth of dishes that one cannot possibly try them all in one evening, even if you will be tempted to. Every evening there are over 20 different hot dishes to choose from, in addition to somewhere between 40 and 50 cold dishes. And then there is the cheese, the fruit and the irresistible pastry selection.
Pre-Book and save up to 20%
We would very much recommend that your guest pre-book the food before the journey, not just because they save money, but also to make sure that they get a seat either in the Buffet or in the Steak House.
St. Peter Line visa-free cruise Stockholm - St. PetersburgPrincess Anastasia En Route to St. Petersburg
"Princess Anastasia" will arrive in Stockholm every Tuesday and Friday and in Tallinn every Sunday. Prices for the round trip cruise start from $185 per person, based on double, inside cabin, June 15 - August 31, 2011.
Five Stars of Scandinavia, Inc. is exclusive agent for St. Peter Line in the US.
To book your one-way or round trip visa-free cruise to St. Petersburg, please visit our website:
To book our popular 3-5 day visa-free cruise/hotel packages, please visit our website:
To contact Five Stars of Scandinavia:
Toll free: 800.722.4126
New Five City Baltic Cruise from St. Peter Line!Five City Baltic Cruise
Helsinki - Mariehamn - Stockholm -Tallinn - St. Petersburg - Helsinki
Enjoy St. Peter Line's visa free cruise on the M/S Princess Anastasia. Depart from Helsinki on Friday afternoon, via Mariehamn to Stockholm, where you have the full day at your leisure. Continue to Tallinn, with time for a city tour of Tallinn and Old Town with private driver/guide. Evening departure for St. Petersburg; full day to explore the imperial city of the Czars on your own, by St. Peter Line shuttle bus, or by private pre-arranged excursions.
As a novelty, Princess Anastasia will arrive from St.Petersburg to Helsinki on Friday mornings starting from 5 August 2011. New passengers from Helsinki can start with Princess Anastasia on Friday evening and sail via Mariehamn to Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg they can stay visa free for two or three nights in a hotel before returning to Helsinki Port either with the other ferry Princess Maria on Thursday morning or the same ferry Princess Anastasia on Friday morning. Passengers from Stockholm can on Saturdays and Wednesdays go for visa free cruises spending from a day up to 72 hours (three hotel nights) in St. Petersburg before sailing directly back to Stockholm or via Helsinki and Mariehamn (in both you can jump off) back to Stockholm.
Please view our great offer on the Five City Baltic Cruise and all our St. PeterLine visa-free cruises from Helsinki and Stockholm to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Icelandair resumes seasonal service from Washington, D.C. with flight #644 departing Washington-Dulles International today at 8:40pm. Icelandair offers up to six flights per week from Washington-Dulles with service running through January 08, 2013, resuming early spring 2013.
Along with the first flight of the season comes a new business class lounge. The Air France Business Lounge will now be open for all Icelandair Saga and Economy Comfort class passengers traveling from Washington, D.C.
This year, Icelandair celebrates 75 years of aviation with the largest network in its history, including additional flights recently added to London Gatwick and daily service to Heathrow. Due to the increased demand from New York, Icelandair will introduce a second evening flight with up to 10 flights per week from JFK through November 5, 2012. Icelandair will also launch service from its newest gateway, Denver International Airport on May 11, 2012.
In addition to Washington, D.C., Icelandair offers service to Iceland from Boston, New York-JFK, Seattle, and Denver with seasonal service from Minneapolis - St. Paul, Orlando Sanford, Halifax and Toronto. Connections through Icelandair's hub at Keflavik International Airport are available to over 20 destinations in Scandinavia, the U.K. and Continental Europe. Only Icelandair allows passengers to stopover in Iceland at no additional airfare.
See our great offers for Iceland Stop-overs
Icelandair Added Value
Icelandair is now activating frequent flyer points as soon as your passengers board their Icelandair flight. Once on board, passengers can use those points to purchase luxury, duty free, items from Icelandair's Saga Boutique available on all Icelandair flights. They can purchase a special gift for someone, or treat themselves to one of the many unique items featured each month by top Icelandic and international designers using their Saga Points.
This is a great added value for the less frequent traveler and a way for Icelandair to provide instant rewards to our passengers.
The Saga Club, Icelandair's Frequent Flyer Program, lets members earn and redeem points on Icelandair and the many partner companies including Radisson SAS, Marriott and Hertz.. Members who earn 40,000 points in one year are upgraded to Saga Silver and those who earn 80,000 points in one year become Saga Gold. Passengers can earn flights, upgrade their cabin class or earn hotel nights and car rentals. Icelandair also allows passengers to trade, exchange, buy, give or redeem their points on points.com.
For more information on Icelandair's Saga Club visit https://www.icelandair.us/frequent-flyer/
Icelandair wants your clients to feel appreciated and The Saga Club is one more way of Icelandair adding value to travel.
We look forward to welcoming Five Stars of Scandinavia's clients aboard.
Antarctica's unspoiled Beauty
on the Antarctic Dream
A number of special tours are bringing interested adventurers to Earth's "last great frontier": Antarctica. A trip to the frozen continent offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view breathtaking vistas of ice, snow and water and to make up-close observations of unique wildlife. Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas) (3/21)
Please view our offer of Antarctica Cruises
Five Stars of Scandinavia in the News!
Visa-Free Cruise to St. Petersburgby Victoria Brooke Markus
Let's face it; no one enjoys the logistical barriers that bog down vacations; who really wants to spend time waiting in line for a visa? With the increasingly popular visa-free cruises from Five Stars of Scandinavia Inc., that inconvenience can be easily avoided. Traveling between the exciting cities of Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Five Stars' packages provide you with more time to explore vibrant new cultures and less time dealing with mundane travel protocol.
The distance between Finland and Russia is practically a tease – geographically, so close, yet so far away diplomatically. But since May 2009, international tourists have been able to visit Russia visa-free for up to 72 hours when they enter through designated ports, one of which is St. Petersburg. Established in 1989, the U.S. tour operator Five Stars of Scandinavia, offers comprehensive visa-free packages that make the most of the 72 hour window with exclusive activities and engaging activities.
One package, the Three Baltic Capitals Cruise, departs from Helsinki and includes an evening excursion to medieval Tallinn in Estonia. Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, you have a full 72-hour window to explore the city of the Czars. The former Imperial capital of Russia encompasses a wealth of sights, and unique expeditions, including the guided three-hour Panoramic city bus tour, highlights the city's cultural treasures. All the overnight accommodations are with the Finnish Sokos Hotels, and the St. Petersburg location is just across the river from the most famous landmarks, including the Hermitage Museum, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and The Admiralty.
Available from February to late December, these cruise packages vary from one night/two full days in St. Petersburg to two nights/three full days. They include breakfast buffet, onboard dinners, options for private car tours and guides and great amenities on the finely refurbished ships. And you can't beat the visa-free perk. So skip the application; it's more fun to relax on a cruise than wait in a line.
Forbes Magazine: In Cod They TrustEven in late March the weather can be nasty above the Arctic Circle, especially in the Lofoten Islands, where my German fishing buddy Ingrid Shumway and I were booked to compete in the Lofotcup, Norway's annual two-day cod fishing tournament. A 60-mile archipelago, the Lofotens fan across the Norwegian Sea like scared bait. They are one of the prettiest--and most out there--places on Earth. Sheared and whittled by 20,000 years of glacial ice, the islands are a sweep of 3,000-foot maritime alps and 3-billion-year-old granite plateaus. If Switzerland were flooded, it would look a lot like the Lofoten Islands.
Scattered about are little fishing villages marked by simple fishermen's cabins and two-story wooden cod-drying racks. But don't let the old charm fool you. The place is full of chic coffeehouses, good bookstores, hotels that could win design awards in Milan and some of the most sophisticated seafood anywhere. Especially cod dishes, the Lofotens' still-bustling cod fishery being the reason Viking traders bothered to settle these Lilliputian islands. A thousand years later, in 1991, islanders turned the opening of cod season into a national event and invited out-of-towners.
A word about cod and the Norse. The fish lies in rough relation to northerners as cattle do to Argentineans and sheep to New Zealanders. Norwegians eat it fresh; boiled with fat skeins of its own delicate roe; air-dried and baked into a tomato-based bacalao; or prepped with lye, which turns the fish into something resembling a bar of soap.
Tournament headquarters is in the village of Svolvær, nearly 800 miles (and two more flights) northeast of Oslo. By the time we arrived the light was blue and Svolvær's waterfront looked like Saturday night on Santorini--with Gore-Tex. The cafes were packed with jovial Norwegians, but we managed to squeeze in and enjoy some surprisingly lean and tasty hamburgers.
"Hvalburger," our server corrected. Whales, a fellow fisherman told us, follow the cod, so this was good news.
By morning Svolvær Harbor looked like D-day. Scores of boats carrying 500 or so contestants revved their engines while crews ran around filling bait tanks and checking tackle. Swathed in layers of fleece, wool and rubber, we Gumby-walked to the Blomøy, the 58-foot postwar chartered boat we would share with nine other fishermen, all from Oslo. The day was so clear the mountains looked mythic. The starting horn sounded to a hail of whoops, and we were off. But the moment we left the harbor a north wind kicked up, the sea convulsed, the sky went dead-cod green and ice-pick sleet soon hacked at our faces. We skedaddled into the first handy fjord, but it was so rough there the Norwegian Coast Guard followed us in. Nonetheless, the captain cut to an idle, and the fishing began.
The boat bucked nonstop, one icy wave after another crashed onto the decks, and the wind tied endless knots in our lines. There was something heroic about standing there and surviving. Dock gossip that evening was that almost no cod had been taken by anyone. Something wasn't right.
On the second day we awoke to a perfect Arctic storm. Stowed rope and crab pots made snowy hillocks onshore as we headed out in near whiteout conditions. Within minutes I was totally freezing.
"Dere is no bad weather, only bad clothes," one of the crew noted, glancing helpfully at my dishwashing gloves, which were all that the Svolvær hardware store had left. Then he told us that Blomøy means either "flower island" or "cauliflower" depending, we assumed, on how the fishing was going. The old boat managed to plow through nonstop rollers for 45 minutes before we lurched into another fjord. We resumed battle positions, armed with heavy Norwegian fishing rods and handsomely tooled saltwater reels--all of which counted for nada. After three hours of fish-free torture I'd had it.
Whoever said misery loves company was crazy. All I wanted to do was crawl off somewhere by myself and warm up. I settled for the hold and braved its perilous long vertical ladder only to find a crew member named Odd Burviuk already down there playing "Misty" on his accordion.
"Shouldn't you be running the boat or something?" I asked him.
"Too rough," he replied with a rococo flourish. "I joke. Dis is nothing."
So the old Blomøy can handle weather like this? "Awk!" spat Odd. "She yust need replacement in skandekk, floor and skin. Also dare is tæring damage in the aftermath bastard around some keel bolts in forskipet." After that explanation, he began to play "That Old Black Magic." A yell sounded from above decks. Someone finally had a fish on. I scrambled back up the ladder. The snow had stopped, the air was still, and the Good Ship Cauliflower was bathed in celestial light. I was thrilled to find that the fisherman fighting a fish was Ingrid.
She boated it, too, with a little help from our first mate's gaff. There it was, the ancient Norwegian coastal cod: the Homer Simpson upper jaw, the churlish little chin barbel, the big startled eyes popping out of a scale-less skin. But intriguing. This cold-water cannibal won't hesitate to dine on its younger brethren. It makes its own enzymatic antifreeze that lets it handle water temperatures icy enough to make a grown man … pick up the accordion.
Ingrid's 8-pound cod won her ninth place in the women's division, an achievement we toasted at the Lofotcup awards ceremony on the waterfront that night. But the real celebration began when she led us and some Oslo pals to Svolvær's Rica Hotel, where she had snagged a room with a fishing hole cut into its floor. We settled into armchairs, poured brandy and cast our bait to the wind beneath our now warm feet.
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Gourmet Magazine: Pride of the Norwegian WoodNORTH OF OSLO, A UNIQUELY LARGE POPULATION OF THE GIANT GROUSE KNOWN AS THE CAPERCAILLIE DRAWS HUNTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD BY JESSICA MAXWELL
ON A NARROW FRET OF LAND between Sweden and the Norwegian Sea, Sea, the trees are alive with the sound of capercaillie, the largest species of grouse on earth. Big as a turkey, handsome as a hummingbird, male capercaillie (pronounced "caper-kelly") can weigh up to 15 pounds and are detailed like race cars, with bright indigo backs, mahogany wings, and a blaze of malachite iridescence across the front, all of which the dusky females find irresistible.
Capercaillie are well known for the ruckus they make when startled, something like a pony crashing through the brush, hence their sobriquet, an old Gaelic word for "horse of the woods." And the flesh of this woodland grouse has seduced hunters for centuries. Fine-grained and lilac-mauve, it has a pungency reminiscent of guavas soaked in retsina, the gift of a diet rich in forest berries and pine shoots.
Once common throughout northern Europe, capercaillie had been hunted to extinction in the British Isles by the late l700s. Small, scattershot populations exist today in the French Pyrenees, Slovakia, Scotland, Russia, and the Czech Republic, but a remarkably high ratio of forest to people supports hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs in Scandinavia. Especially in Norway, which is why I was stork-stepping through foot-high snow in a 30,000-acre family forest a few hours' drive north of Oslo, trying to follow the poodle-yip of a little red Finnish bird dog, which, my Swedish hunting guide assured me, had treed an iibergrouse only a few miles away. "When Molly barks, she has found a bird," explained Bertil Kainulainen, a renowned
shooting champion who had been recruited to lead our hunt.
"Now we have to find it," added Knut Arne Gjems, the cheerful, sea-eyed 26-year-old son of our hosts, UlfErik and Gerd Gjems (pronounced "yems"), whose family has owned and hunted this forest for 150 years.
Being so heavy, capercaillie don't really like to fly, and whenever Molly found one, she chased it into a treetop, then distracted it with her incessant yapping so we hunters could, theoretically, sneak up on it unnoticed. So far, every bird had escaped long before we'd gotten to it. Once, we found Molly barking at absolutely nothing. "She smells some oil from a bird," Bertil explained. "But it flew."
Moments later, the dog was off again on what we dubbed another "Molly bolt," and so were we, navigating the cool beauty of the woods, which, given the lack of hunting action, had become its own reason for being there. Having lived in the American Northwest most of my life, I've seen my share of forests. But the Gjems' forest felt enchanted, like the antechamber to Valhalla. A dappled land of birch, pine, and lake, it has, even at midday, a vespertine quality that makes you want to speak in whispers, which made Molly's racket all the more jarring. But that's bird hunting. And this was certainly the place to do it. Thanks to the exceptional management of Ulf, Knut Arne, and his older brothers, Ole Jorgen and Haakon Einarprofessional foresters all-this grand forest remains a virtual larder of ducks, geese, black and hazel grouse, and the elusive capercaillie, not to mention moose, deer, hare, trout, perch, pike, and even thrilling nongame predators: wolf, lynx, and brown bear. But the capercaillie is the most coveted game, a legendary staple traditionally served with lingonberry jam, Norway's answer to turkey with cranberry sauce.
We'd been walking for something like five hours, not counting a break for a good camp lunch of bacon mooseburgers and hot coffee. Molly, as always, was off somewhere, barking like a crazy thing, and we were trudging up yet another snowbound hill, an army looking for a war. Then, without warning, a rapid swooshing sound passed overhead.
"Capercaillie," Bertil announced with quiet admiration, like John Wayne pointing out Rita Hayworth. We saw nothing. But the closeness ofthose mighty wings had set my heart on edge. The hunt was on.
A few minutes later we saw them: five rufous-throated females and a dark male, pecking at pea gravel not 20 yards away.
"I have never seen so much capercaillie here," Knut Arne whispered to me.
Diving behind a tall snowbank, Bertillay down sideways and motioned for me to steady my gun barrel across his back. This was crazy. And dangerous. And it worked. Despite my raging pulse, I got the male squarely in my rifle sight... then he ducked, and moved out of view. As with making sauces and taking photographs and broaching delicate but necessary subjects with a loved one, a hunting shot requires good timing. There is a right moment, then it is gone.
"Why didn't you shoot?" Bertil asked.
Why? Because I'd never gone bird hunting with a rifle, only a shotgun. Because I'd only shot a rifle three times in my life... at target practice the day before. I hit the sweet spot on the cardboard capercaillie each time only because I love animals and cannot bear the thought of wounding one and want to take it square or not at all. And because when the capercaillie ducked, the sweet spot ducked with it, and I was unwilling to take a chance on anything but certain, pain-free death. "It is a rifle," Bertil replied. "You would have killed it."
WE WALKED DOWN MANY MILES of frosty lane that day, hot on the trail of Molly's promising bark. She seemed to find a capercaillie in every cardinal direction, only to have it vanish on the wing. We walked until around three that afternoon, when the light was falling and so was the temperature, and my fingers felt like frozen fish sticks. That's when Bertil's foxy little bird dog became a cinnabar comet streaking up a slope. He took off after her, and I after him. Forty-five minutes and five uphill football fields later we found the tree.
"There," he said, and pointed up at such an obtuse angle I thought he meant the sky.
"No, Yessica, there," he repeated, turning my head toward the top of a very tall spruce. But all I saw was a thatch of branches.
"I don't think that's a bird," I ventured.
"It is a bird," Bertil declared. "Shoot it."
It's hard to disobey the John Wayne of Sweden. So after a Keystone Cops episode of Berti I trying to get me to use his shoulder as a rifle rest and my chickening out three times for fear of ruining his hearing (or worse), I knelt in the snow, leaned into a tree, and took aim. My heart hopped like a pogo stick and so did the thatch of branches in my scope. My blood played kettledrums inside my ears, my arms cramped from holding the heavy rifle so high, and I was panting like a lover. There was no way I could hit anything. Then something hard and true fell into my solar plexus. My pulse slowed. My mind cleared. And soon the capercaillie hung on the cross in my rifle scope. And I pulled the trigger.
"You got it!" Bertil hollered, then ran to get to my bird before Molly did.
It was a yearling male, nearly eight pounds, dropped against all odds at 65 yards in the dark, in the snow, in the good Norwegian woods. There in my arms, the blue and green of its feathers playing against the black, it looked like a gigantic collapsed petunia, the warrior's corsage.
My capercaillie was prepared that night by Jorgen Bestum, who is the gifted young chef at Skaslien Guesthouse (062-94-6666), in nearby Kirkemer, and whose cooking trumps that of chefs at many big-name restaurants. Jorgen made us a starter of crisp-skinned lake trout with leeks and asparagus done in a light butter cream sauce, followed by a champignon consomme with tomato concassee and fresh parsley, so rich with the essences of capercaillie bones, it could have held its own in Paris. As could the rounds of walnut bread that Jorgen baked himself. Our third course was Ulf's mother's recipe, the Gjems Capercaillie Sandwich, a hache of thigh meat on toast with a ragout of Lithuanian chanterelles, crowned with half a roasted capercaillie heart.
But the prize went to the edgy, sexy roasted breast of capercaillie served sherbet-pink in half-inch slices as generous and aromatic as the woods from which the bird came.
"Capercaillie is the grouse de resistance!" I proclaimed.
"And I am Yohn Wayne of Sweden!" countered Bertil. "And I say it is the time for the hunting toast!"
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Forbes Magazine: Girl vs. MooseWhen da dog stops barking, da moose is moving." Toward us? Bjorn regarded me with lutefisk eyes. "Yes, maybe. If we have da luck."
He nodded, and Ingrid nodded back. Bjorn Johansen was our hunting guide. Ingrid Shumway is the founder of Five Stars of Scandinavia, the U.S. outfitter that books this annual October trip. We were hunting on the opening day of Norway's moose season alongside our hosts, owners of a 10,000-acre private woodlands outside Oslo. The family sold its ancestral home, which is now a hotel, Losby Gods Manor. But they kept the surrounding property--a preferred hunting ground since 1850 for European nobility, including Norway's late King Haakon VII.
The hills are alive with the sound of black and hazel grouse. The bottomlands hide pools of quicksand, plus many mighty moose. For the record, elk, or, in Norwegian, elg, is what Europeans call the animal known in North America as moose ("moose" coming from the Algonquin word meaning twig-eater). The Swedish father of taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, named them in 1758: Alces alces, Latin for "elk elk." What Americans call "elk" are really wapiti--Eurasian red deer.
Moose are related to the extinct Irish elk, which were the same size as modern Norwegian elk, weighing between 900 and 1,200 pounds, but had enormous antlers. Irish elk had antlers 13 feet across and died out about 10,000 years ago (no doubt from poor posture).
There are an estimated 125,000 moose in Norway--so many that scientists have called for thinning of the population to avoid an agonizing die-off from mass starvation. As it is, hungry moose have shown up in barns looking for food and have sampled Christmas wreaths hung on urban front doors. They have broken into grocery stores, chased joggers, attacked dogsleds. Some, after gorging on fermented apples, have stumbled around drunk and gotten tangled up in hanging laundry. Others have plunged off cliffs, flattening cars.
Last year some 85,000 licensed hunters culled 40,000 moose. The meat was used for such traditional Norwegian fare as moose roasts, ribs, supremely lean steaks and kjøttkake, tasty little meat cakes. About a hundred moose roam the Losby estate, more than enough to assure good hunting for the owning family, their friends and up to two dozen paying guests per season. Throw in the comforts of a room at Losby Gods Manor and a meal at its award-winning restaurant and you have a hunting trip fit for Haakon vii.
At Losby some hunters walk with the guide and his dog (as Ingrid and I did the first day), while others remain posted at prime shooting spots. Then everyone trades places. Bjorn's dog, Piro ("Fire"), is, of course, a Norwegian elkhound, a breed descended from Viking guard dogs, and as such had immediately run off to find moose (elg) and start barking at them.
We chased Piro's bark all morning. Sometimes it floated to the left, sometimes to the right; sometimes it drew thrillingly near, sometimes it narrowed to a small, distant yelp that could have been mistaken for a hawk's cry. We pursued it like the siren-possessed, up granite outcroppings and down hillsides slick with tangerine-colored mushrooms and lichen that looked like golf tees. When Piro ran too far off to be heard, we tracked the signal sent from his collar to Bjorn's insectile, four-antennaed radio.
We crossed forest floors aglow with wild cranberries and raspberry-colored blueberry bushes, then Frankenstein-stepped our way across a lagoon of quicksand, in which I became resoundingly mired for ten sinking minutes. When one of my rubber boots got stuck, I walked right out of it, then had to balance ice skater-like with my other leg pointing out behind, until Bjorn and Ingrid rescued me.
After I'd recovered my breath and boot, we tramped through stands of birch while Piro barked and barked. We had been walking for three hours when at last he stopped. The sudden loss of the hunt's soundtrack made me nervous.
"We stay now," said Bjorn, "let da dog bring da moose to us."
He crouched and took aim while Ingrid and I steadied our 7mm Dakota 76 Travelers, "the best gun on the planet right now for the money," according to Ingrid's husband, Bob, an ace shot. We hunkered down into what might at any moment be the path of a galumphing behemoth.
It was hard not to recall what had happened two years ago to a hunter in this same situation. Aurdal Arne, 68, had shot a bull moose one autumnal morn. As Arne approached the "dead" bull, it reared up and lunged at him. Not wishing to be impaled, he grabbed hold of the moose's antlers as it flailed with the urgency of the dying. "After a minute of madness," he recalls, the moose expired, "and went on to the eternal forest."
Conditions all seemed in our favor. We were downwind. Visibility was flawless. Sound--the ratcheting song of a black grouse--carried plainly. But the straight-up truth is that waiting in a clearing for a rampaging moose feels a lot more like pre-op surgery than sport.
There was a thrashing in the bushes as moose sought to get away from Piro.
"I can smell them," said Ingrid.
Alas, no elg ventured out. Then Piro barked again, and the tension broke like a shoelace. Exhausted, we gave up for the day. Bjorn eventually found the dirt road back to his car, Piro found us, and together we drove to a log shelter called the Resting Place for lunch.
Our hosts had already made a campfire. Cowboy coffee was boiling away in a big black kettle suspended from a rebar tripod minded by Johan Foss, an Oslo surgeon and one of the ten surviving family members who inherited Losby Gods in 1960 when the family matriarch died. His cousin, Danckert Krohn, an Oslo anesthesiologist, cut off thick slices of bacon and fried them in a pan with an ingenious 3-foot sapling handle. His daughter, Kristin, who works for the Norwegian Parliament, readied potato pancakes for the best bacon sandwiches this side of London. Their friend and fellow M.D. Fredrik Hancke helped affix the sandwiches to pronged sticks so we could roast them in the fire, and Bjorn poured thick coffee into hand-carved birch cups.
After lunch Ingrid, Kristin and I posted on a sunny knoll while the rest either walked with Bjorn or posted elsewhere. Just as I had bedded down in the heather for a nap, I heard Kristin say: "There he is!" And I opened my eyes to find a huge earth-colored bull sauntering through brush below us.
Until you have a close encounter with a moose in the wild, you simply cannot fathom how massive they are. Their haunches are hillocks. They stand taller and broader than any horse. This male's huge, many-tiered palmate antlers called to mind the lyric "he's got the whole world in his hands." Ingrid already had her sight on a cow that had climbed the opposite ridge. Before I could say: "Wait, there's a bull!" Ingrid shot. And missed. Both bull and cow bolted into the pines.
The next morning I walked with Johan Foss. "Normally we would have an animal down by now," he said as we followed a small, clear creek up a steep hill. "Very unusual." Few know the property better. From May to October Johan and his wife live in a cabin on the family estate.
"I hunt here. I golf here. I go skiing here, tracking here, pick mushrooms and berries here, go canoeing and swimming and skating on the lakes here. I see things I never see anywhere else." He pointed to a hoofprint in the new grass. "He has been here today. The moose very often come to this place."
That place, called the Lunch Sump, is a traditional dining spot for Losby loggers. A granite rise with natural boulder seating, it offers an excellent long view of a tight valley. An hour later Johan pointed to a dark shape on the hillside and took aim. The wind was up, making white noise in yellow birch leaves. Clouds raced in from the west, then vanished. So did our moose.
"Hunting is waiting," said Johan. He and I departed for a new post near a silvery lake above a sloping V-shaped meadow half a football field wide at the middle. At 12:15 a yellow-backed woodpecker landed on the tree in front of us, just as a message in Norwegian came over Johan's walkie-talkie. He held up two fingers: two moose.
"Listen for the shooting."
At 12:35 we heard Piro barking loudly, closing in on the woods by the lake to our left. The dog fell silent. A ringing shot followed. Then another. Two more. And a fifth. Johan interpreted the radio report: "One moose down. A cow. Ingrid's. Danckert hit a bull, but they haven't found it yet. They'll find it."
They did, of course. Later we all met at an outbuilding fixed with winches and pulleys and tables, where Bjorn and the doctors went about the solemn choreography of butchering the first moose of the season. As night fell and the evening birds began their own hunting, the men moved silently in tandem to tease the rich, red meat from narrowest of sheaths of white fat beneath the chocolate hides. You could smell the sweetness of the forest in it--a miracle of wild nutrition. Isn't it good, Norwegian wood? The Christmas kjøttkake would be excellent this year.
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