A fishing boat turned luxurious spa

Aboard the Vulkana, experience Arctic nature from the serenity of a floating spa

Photo: Morten Knutsen / Flickr Most of the time, Vulkana is moored in Tromsø in front of the Polar Museum, from where it takes day tours.

Photo: Morten Knutsen / Flickr
Most of the time, Vulkana is moored in Tromsø in front of the Polar Museum, from where it takes day tours.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Once used as a fishing boat, the Vulkana is now a luxurious floating spa, waiting to take you and your friends on an Arctic adventure. Where tons of fish were once stored, you can now relax in the Zen Lounge; where the fishing gear was stowed, you can enjoy a gourmet, locally-sourced meal. And you won’t want to miss the saltwater hot tub on deck or the Finnish-style wood-fired sauna!

Before its lavish transformation, the 1950s fishing vessel served a variety of roles in the maritime industry. Originally called Viga, the boat was first used for herring fishing along Norway’s coast. In the ’70s, it was renamed Leif Jr. and used for whale hunting from Lofoten up to Svalbard. It was later sold to a shipping company on Senja and christened Ofsen. But when the company switched to a bigger boat, Ofsen was docked and neglected for a couple of years, just waiting for someone to come along and salvage it.

Simultaneously, two men with a passion for saunas and Northern Norwegian nature developed a dream: to build a spa on a boat. When they learned of the neglected fishing boat, they knew it was the one. They bought the worn down, dirty, and broken boat in 2007 and saved it from destruction. Where others saw a wreck, they saw their dream boat.

Working with Norway-based Finnish architect Sami Rintala, they spent the next two years renovating the boat into a floating spa. They gave it the name Vulkana, and they were ready to share their love of saunas and the Arctic with adventurers from around the globe. Vulkana welcomes groups of eight to 12 travelers to enjoy its unique spa facilities as it ventures into Arctic waters.

Vulkana can usually be found in Tromsø, docked in front the Polar Museum. This summer, however, Vulkana will be docked in Stokkøya, an island in the Åfjord municipality, from June 29 to August 16.

One of Vulkana’s hottest attractions is the wood-fired sauna with an incredible view of the ocean through the panoramic window. Don’t worry if you’re new to the sauna culture; the crew you will teach you the traditional Finnish sauna procedures. If you get a little too warm, you can always join the crew in running from the sauna off the seven-meter diving tower at the stern straight into the icy Arctic waters—if you dare, that is.

 Photo: C H / Visitnorway.com  Large windows provide a view of the Arctic.

Photo: C H / Visitnorway.com
Large windows provide a view of the Arctic.

For those seeking ultimate tranquility, the Zen Lounge is the place to be. The highlight of the lounge is the Hammam: a Turkish bath that allows you to heat up using steam and warm marble tiles and then cool down in the adjacent cold pool.

If you have sore muscles after a day of hiking or skiing—or just want to pamper yourself on vacation—you can opt for one of the several massages offered in the lounge. The library and open fireplace contribute to the sense of relaxation in the Zen Lounge, not to mention the 10-foot panoramic skylight above, designed to give you a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Of course, if you want to enjoy an unadulterated view of the Northern Lights or revel in the Midnight Sun, you’ll need to venture to the saltwater hot tub on deck. Here you and your friends can stay warm and socialize as you experience the Arctic nature firsthand.

All trips on the Vulkana include a visit to the restaurant, where professional chefs will serve you locally-sourced Nordic meals. The Vulkana’s specialty is the legendary fish soup of chef and manager Gottfried.

If you’re fortunate enough to book an overnight stay on the Vulkana, you will either stay in one of the three double-bed cabins in the stern or the traditional cabin in the bow with four beds.

One of the most popular packages is the Laugardagr, a two-hour Arctic trip offered every Saturday from noon to two. On the return to Tromsø, you can enjoy Gottfried’s famous fish soup and beverages from the bar. If the lunch trip fills up, there will also be an early-bird trip available, starting at nine.

 Photo: C H / Visitnorway.com  Once a fishing boat, Vulkana now contains a luxurious spa with saunas and pools.

Photo: C H / Visitnorway.com
Once a fishing boat, Vulkana now contains a luxurious spa with saunas and pools.

The Frøya package includes a three-hour journey inspired by the Nordic goddess. The goal of this trip? Happiness, contentedness, harmony, and warmth. What more could you ask for in a spa?

For an even more luxurious experience, your group can book the Frigg package for exclusive use of Vulkana. This four-hour experience celebrates Nordic cuisine with a three-course dinner menu based on the season and local ingredients. Following dinner, you are encouraged to spend the remaining time enjoying the spa facilities.

Next up: calling all skiers! The Ski by Boat trips take groups up to 10 to the Lyngen Alps for an idyllic ski vacation. You start your day fueling up with a breakfast buffet, before the guides take you on a skiing trip appropriate for your skill level and goals. Once you’re ready to relax, ski back to shore and you’ll be met by hot drinks and Norwegian waffles. Spend the evening in the spa and enjoy the three-course dinner. The next day, the captain will take you to a new mountain to explore!

And finally, the crème de la crème: the Arctic Cruise package. This is your opportunity to collaborate with the crew to design your ideal excursion on the Vulkana. You may choose to go to Yttersia, where the coastline meets the Barents Sea, or to the Lyngen Alps. Whether you want to fish, hike, or ski will help to determine your destination.

Understandably, the Vulkana attracts tourists from all over the world. There’s something for everybody, whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure—or a bit of both.

This article originally appeared in the June 19, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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