The sun was finally setting at 10 p.m. over this stretch of coastal Norway, 200 miles above the Arctic Circle. We'd just met up, this mild August night, with a trawler carrying shrimp plucked from these waters and cooked by the fishermen themselves. Now about 60 of us—Norwegian and international passengers, the Norwegian captain and his officers—were gathered on the deck, talking and laughing as we peeled shrimp and popped them into our mouths. The craggy, snow-capped Lyngen Alps glowed pink and mauve in the distance.

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Travel moments don't come more magical than this.

I have to admit that when I boarded the Midnatsol in Kirkenes, Norway, I was mostly drawn by the promise of the ship itself, a well-appointed tourist vessel boasting a remarkable collection of contemporary Norwegian art, a five-deck-high atrium with glass elevators, fluffy European duvets on its beds and succulent king crab, berries and other Norwegian delicacies in its restaurant. I planned to lounge by the window in my cabin, bubble in the outdoor hot tub and happily sweat in a sauna fitted with a window.

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But it wasn't long before those delectable accoutrements were overshadowed. Whether you sail on a six-day southbound run, a seven-day northbound run or a round trip, it's easy to see why seasoned travelers call the Midnatsol's route the world's most beautiful voyage. We rarely crossed open sea and instead hugged the coastline as landscapes scrolled by like the scenes of a movie. I watched as we glided past forests and glaciers, sheer granite cliffs and barn-red cabins that dotted islets floating on turquoise waters.