Norway goes cruise crazy during live TV broadcast

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 2:18 PM
Norway goes cruise crazy during live TV broadcast

Fjords, fjords and more fjords.

In short that sums up the content of a live broadcast that mesmerized Norwegians this week.

The five-day-long live coverage of a cruise ship plying the scenic coast of Norway was watched by an astounding 2.5 million viewers _ half the country's population _ according to public broadcaster NRK. It ended Wednesday when Queen Sonja welcomed the ship in the Arctic port of Kirkenes, the final stop on Norway's famed Hurtigruten line.

The sensational popularity of the show, which also triggered lengthy discussions on Twitter and inspired spontaneous gatherings and flag-waving along the ship's route, seems to have surprised just about everyone.

"We have Mad Men 4 on DVD, but the feeling of participating in this journey in real-time won't come again," columnist Vidar Kvalshaug wrote in newspaper Aftenposten. "To discuss the event with people from all over Norway while it actually happened, was unique."

NRK placed 11 cameras on the MS NordNorge cruise ship as it sailed 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) from Bergen in southwest Norway to Kirkenes, near the Russian border. They also filmed the ship from other vessels and from cameras in the ports where it docked.

The pictures were accompanied by occasional commentary from people on the NordNorge, music and natural sound of the ship's humming engines and its blaring horn.

"It has been great. The program has been a journey everybody could join at any time," said Aase Krane, a 43-year-old office manager, who welcomed the ship to the northern city of Tromsoe on Monday along with 57 other women in a female drumming band.

"In the past days cities in the north have almost competed over who could put on the best show when the ship arrived at their port," she said.

Rune Moeklebust, project leader for the program at NRK, said his team wanted to describe a journey and make the viewers feel like they were onboard the ship.

They never expected it to become this popular.

Moeklebust said the silent journey through picturesque fjords glistening in the midnight sun appears to have met a demand for something different in a fast-moving TV universe obsessed with action. The show also seems to have evoked national pride in a country enamored with nature.

"There something special about this route, with which many Norwegians have a strong relationship," Moeklebust said.

Online, viewers waxed poetic as the program came to an end.

"We have laughed, we have cried, we have gasped at the beauty. We have been a part of Norway," the signature Ruth Marie wrote on Twitter.

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Malin Rising reported from Stockholm.

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Online: http://www.nrk.no/hurtigruten/?langen