Having recently experienced a Fred. Olsen cruise to Norway, here is a countdown of my top five things to do.

I travelled on the Balmoral for a nine-night cruise in search of the Northern Lights, stopping off in the Arctic towns of Bodø, Narvik and Tromsø before travelling back down the coast to Ålesund and home via Newcastle.

The aurora borealis proved quite elusive during my trip – but with stunning scenery all around and a great mix of natural and urban exploring, my itinerary was packed.

Here are five of the highlights.

See the world’s strongest whirlpools and sea eagles near Bodø

Daily Echo: The sea safari offered spectacular views of the fjords - and sea eagles, which can be spotted faintly top leftThe sea safari offered spectacular views of the fjords - and sea eagles, which can be spotted faintly top left (Image: Newsquest)Two of Bodø’s biggest claims to fame are the large colonies of Sea Eagles it is home to – represented in the city crest - and the nearby Saltstraumen, one of the strongest tidal currents in the world.

Take a RIB safari out to see the mesmerising whirlpools formed when 400million cubic tons of water flow between the Saltenfjorden and Skjerstadfjorden at the changing of the tides.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also see the majestic white-tailed eagle flying high above the fjords, and be shown some of the beautiful geology that makes this part of the world so striking.

Make sure to keep your wetsuit and goggles fastened tight, as things might get a bit wet – and hold tight on your way back to the port.

Watch the sun set in the Arctic Circle from the hot tub

Daily Echo: Watching the sun set from a hot tub - does it get better?Watching the sun set from a hot tub - does it get better? (Image: Newsquest)They say the best things in life are free – and while this isn’t strictly true here, it’s certainly free by the time you’ve stepped on board. So why not make the most of it?

There are outdoor hot tubs on the top deck and one of the lower decks to the rear of the ship; having tried both, I would recommend the latter as having the better views.

Open from 7am to 7pm, what better way to start the day then with some morning bubbles – or as a reward after a Pilates class or a gym workout.

But the routine we settled into was a dip in the hot tub in the early evening, preceded by a power nap, to reenergise ourselves for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.

Seeing the mountaintops turn pink as the sun sank below the sky was one which will stay with me.

Get dressed to the nines and dance the night away at a silent disco

Daily Echo: The silent disco was a lot of fun!The silent disco was a lot of fun! (Image: Newsquest)

During the nine-night cruise, there were two formal evenings: double the opportunity to dress up.

The Captain’s Welcome and Farewell parties created a real sense of occasion, with drinks and canapes being handed out in the Neptune Lounge while the master of the ship interacted with his guests.

A silent disco was timed for each of these evenings, and once everyone had enough Dutch courage, the Lido Lounge’s dancefloor was full. The channels on offer were pop, Motown and rock and roll, with something to tickle your musical tastebuds.

Take the cable car in Narvik

Daily Echo: The view from the cable car in NarvikThe view from the cable car in Narvik (Image: Newsquest)Skiing is a national pastime in Norway, which had no shortage of snowy mountains where we visited.

But it also presents an opportunity to take in some breathtaking views, via the cable car.

Half an hour by bus, or 50 minutes on foot – which allows you time to take in the sights of the city – will get you to Narvik’s ski slope cable car. For around £25 each, it’s worth it once you get to the top.

You can also do a cable car ride in Tromsø, which will take you over the Tromsø Bridge and past the iconic Arctic Cathedral on your way there.

But there’s an even better way to see what’s been described as the ‘Paris of the North’.

Go on a snowshoe hike in Tromsø

Daily Echo: The snowshoe hike in Tromso was a highlightThe snowshoe hike in Tromso was a highlight (Image: Newsquest)Being one of Norway’s most northernmost settlements, and certainly one of the largest, getting around depends on coping with snow.

Tromsø’s people have coped well with this, commuting to work and even walking their dogs by ski.

But for those with less experience, snowshoes are an ideal gateway into Nordic living.

Take a hike with Tromsø Outdoor, where you’ll be supplied with all the kit you need to get going.

Our friendly guide Tomi took us through the birch forests and across the hills surrounding the city, stopping to give us hot blackcurrant and Norwegian pancakes with cinnamon buttercream while we took in the panoramic views of Tromsø Sound and the city skyline.

For more information about the cruise, excursions and how to book, visit the Fred Olsen website.