I am going to try my best to make this the last instalment of my cruise posts. I’m pretty amazed to be honest that you are actually reading this and if you are then thank you so much. As a blog writer, and not a very consistant one at that, I do wonder if all of my one finger typing is worth it.Does anybody actually read my posts? I should really be focusing on finally finishing the editing of the book that I started back in 2019 but I’m also aware that I need to try and keep my blog going. Trying to do both is not easy, especially when after a busy day at work all that I want to do is collapse on the sofa and watch Youtube videos about cruises! I really should finish the book, that will then be published, be a best seller, become an award winning TV series staring Lesley Manville and Colin Firth which will obviously result in me being able to afford more cruises!
Meanwhile back to the real world, and back to this last cruise post!
After a day at sea, it was a lovely surprise to open my curtains the next day and see land. We had arrived in Norway. five minutes later I was out on deck to take in a view of passing islands, some dotted with the odd building and lighthouse, and low cloud that now and again shrouded the land. The ship seemed to be gliding through the calm, grey waters and just watching the world go by was mesmerising, peaceful and beautiful.
After yesturday’s dog talk breakfast in the dining room, I decided to go to the Borough Market buffet for something to eat. The buffet has lots of different stations to get food. Somewhere to get a fry up, or an omlette. Maybe cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit or porridge. The choice was huge. It was very busy though and being on my own I found it best to sit at a counter. I am not that fond of counters because it means hoiking myself up on a stool and being short I just can’t do this effortlessly and if I want to get more food, I have to get down and risk losing my seat and also doing the whole hoiking bit again. You don’t get a tray, so you can’t get more than one thing at a time and you have to queue for your tea or coffee. The same thing happens at lunch time too. The buffet is really attractive and the food choices are good but for a single person I found it a bit of a faff with all the getting up and down business and risking losing your space. I think that you are better off not going at the busiest of times because you are more likely to get an actual table with a chair. During the week I found myself eating up my food quickly at breakfast and lunch and eating it to refuel rather than enjoying the experience.
The ship wasn’t docking until early afternoon so I took myself off to the theatre to listen to a very informative talk about Norway. As well as learning about Norway’s geography and history, I learnt that the Norwegians love brown cheese called Brunost. I decided that if I took one thing home from Norway, it would be a packet of brown cheese.
On my cruise, the ship was celebrating 100 years of the BBC by having guest speakers aboard. I listened to Baroness Floella Benjamin, Jan Leeming and John Sergeant speak. All very interesting, especially John. As they were all on the cruise, you would see them having coffee, on deck and on excursions.There was also a dalek on board but it never went on an excursion as far as I know or dress up for dinner!
Our first post was Eidfjord. A small village of only 554 pople. It is situated at the end of Eid fjord, a branch of the large Hardhangerfjorden. It’s a major port of call for cruise ships and has several local tourist sites including a power plant and te Voringsfossen waterfall.
I had decided to go exploring by myself rather than go on an excursion. Despite it turning out to be a beautiful day with clear blue skies, I had decided to take no chances and wear a thermal vest, jumper, winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves. Ten minutes into my walk I discovered that I’d overdressed and hadn’t taken a bag big enough to put my hat, scarf and gloves in. So I ended up turning an unflattering shade of puce !
My walk took me along the river to a lake. I sat on a stone and just took in the stunning scenery. I always thought Norway was beautiful but I didn’t realise how beautiful until I got there. The mountains, forests, waterfalls and fjords are breathtaking.My walk took me up though forest, past colourful farmhouses, orchards and an ancient Viking burial ground. The air smelt fresh and it was so peaceful. It was just wonderful.
When I returned to the village I found a Coop store and bought my brown cheese. My souvenier shopping was done!
What is exciting about cruising in the fjords is that you open the curtains the next day and discover that overnight you are somewhere else and it’s a whole new view greeting you. When I woke up the following day we had arrived in Bergen, Norway’s second city and famous for its high levels of rainfall due to being situated between seven mountains which makes it vulnerable to showers. It was once the key centre for trade between Norway and Europe. By the harbour is a row of colourful wooden buildings called the Bryggen which is a UNESCO World heritage site.
We arrived on one of the rare dry days. Infact, once the early morning mist had disappeared we were blessed with a cloudless sky. I spent the morning exploring with a new friend. We popped into the fish market where we bumped into John Sergeant and had a chat about oysters! A few hours just wasn’t long enough to see much. I think that’s one of the downside of cruising. You don’t spend much time in each port, but it gives you a taster of a place and you could choose to return for a non cruise break another day. I really liked Bergen. It was clean, quiet and had character. I would definitely go back. In the afternoon I took a coach excursion to composer Grieg’s house at Troldhaugen. I love Grieg’s music and really enjoyed the piano recital in the beautiful recital hall. On the way back we hit traffic, which was ok as our guide told us lots of interesting facts about Bergen and living in Norway. The cost of living may be high but so is the quality of living there. Apparently you rarely see the police because there aren’t many. Not because of budget cuts but because they don’t need them as there isn’t much crime!
That evening I was in for a treat. I had booked a place on the Chef’s Table and was looking forward to a gastronomic experience of twelve courses paired with wine. Before we ate we had a talk from head chef Sidney about the logistics of catering for a ship full of passengers and crew. We then had a tour of the galley, a huge area below the main dining room that you take an escalator to get to. As a passenger you don’t really think about all the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s definitely a ship of two halves. The bits you see and the bits you don’t.Not only is there the galley but there’s the engine rooms, crew quarters, the Bridge and laundry. No doubt I have forgotten something.
So, after our tour we sat down at a beautifully laid table, hidden in the main dining room and started our feast. Every course was delicious and beautifully presented. Our waiting staff were very attentive and made sure that our glasses were always topped up. There were ten of us around the table and everyone was great company. To dine at theChef’s Table cost £89. I think it was well worth splashing out for and would definitely recommend doing.
The next morning we arrived early in Flam a village at the end of the Aurlandsfjord. It was another crisp, blue skies kind of day. There was a thick frost covering everything and the snow capped mountains dazzled white in the sunshine.With the autumnal foliage, the views were fabulous.
The first thing I did when I disembarked was go in search of a sheer rock face! Weird sort of thing to go searching for you may think. Mountains have a habit of tumbling straight down into the fjords and rock faces are sort of all over the place. But I was on a mission. You see, Mr R in his twenties went to Flam and took a pedalo out despite not being able to swim. He peddled a bit too close to a hydrofoil arriving at the port and nearly capsized in its wake. He remembers being close to a rockface at the edge of the fjord and wanted me to find it and take a photo. I found one, took the photo and sent it to my dear husband. And it was the very same rock face. Well, fancy that!
Mission accomplished I went on a train ride on the famous Flam railway, reputed to be one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys. It didn’t disappoint. Up, and up the train went, through tunnels, past waterfalls and winding its way up the mountain to the station that connects with the main line to Oslo. Opened in 1941 it really is a feat of engineering. I could have booked the excursion on the cruise but that cost £55 whereas I went to the station and bought a ticket for £41. The train station was a five minute walk from the ship. Hardly worth paying £14 more just to be escorted on a five minute walk!
That night the sky was clear and filled with stars. There was a chance that we might see the Northern Lights. After midnight the top deck was filled with people bundled up in thick coats and woolly hats staring at the sky. Cameras and phones poised to take a shot if they appeared. I was one of them. I stared into the blackness and there they were, feint but definitely there. I witnessed the Northern Lights. This was to be the ultimate highlight of my cruise.
Our last port of call was Haugesund which to be honest was a disappointment. The blue skies had been replaced with steely grey one and we had left the mountains. I caught the shuttle bus into the town, looked around a folk museum that was half open and had a chat with the museum receptionist who was worried about her energy bills and being suspcious of Russian neighbours. At one point I found myself somehow joining people attending a conference on a coffee break. I was tempted by the free coffee and buns on offer but thought better of it and made my exit. Bored of walking the length of the shopping street that seemed filled with stores selling down filled coats I returned to the ship.
Sadly, the final day of the cruise had arrived. The end was near and made real by the arrival in my cabin of information for diembarkation the following morning. My suitcase had to be outside my cabin by 11.59 that night. I wondered what would happen if I dared to leave it until midnight!
My final day at sea was spent doing final things. Final hoiking up on bar stools in the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Final decedant afternoon cocktails, final chance to try the hot tub but didn’t otherwise I’d have to pack a damp swimming costume. Final dressing up and wearing heels and having a final dinner with my wonderful table chums. One final fabulous show, one final walk on deck. My suitcase made the 11.59 deadline and I slipped under the duvet for one last time.
Disembarkation is easy. I had to vacate my cabin by 7am which seems crazy early but you have to remember that it is turnaround day and by lunchtime the first passengers for the next cruise will begin embarking. Lucky them! You are told where to go to to wait and roughly what time you will disembark. Because I was catching a regional coach I was with one of the last groups to leave the ship. After a bit of a wait, I finally walked off at 8.50am. Once off, you retrieve your luggage from the luggage hall and that’s it, you are on your way home.
My first experience of cruising was over but it won’t be my last. They say that once you’ve cruised you want to do it again. That is most definitely true. So where to next? I’ve always fancied Antarctica but that might be rather ambitious and costly!
So, in a nutshell, what are my thoughts about my cruise.
A bit dated and uninspiring to look at. Very beige and brown with out of place art work. Masses of storage. Air conditioning and heating control not working but it wasn’t an issue for me. Suitcases can fit under the bed. Very comfortable bed. Very quiet, I didn’t hear anything from the corridor or adjoining cabins. Lots of hot water. Good shower. Only one socket. Bedside lights not great for reading in bed. Very clean. TV small and not many channels to choose from, tea and coffee. Wall mounted hairdryer. I took my own.
Excellent range of choice and vegetarians/vegans catered for as well as those with diatery needs. Food hot and tasty, I only left a rissotto because it was over seasoned. Perfect texture though. Trying to find a table in Borough Market could be tricky at busy times. Service swift and efficient. Too swift sometimes. Chef’s Table was amazing. If on a longer cruise I would hsve tried the two speciality restaurants but I heard great things about them.
Loved all of them. Beautifully styled and each had a different atmosphere. Loved the cocktails and the entertainment.
Wow, what more can I say. Very talented performers and very professional. The quality was outstanding.
There was a full programme of activities. Many I didn’t take part in. I didn’t attend the craft sessions but would have done if there was painting workshops. I was really disappointed that the book group didn’t happen. I’d read the chosen book and was keen to discuss it.
SPA AND GYM
I didn’t try either so can’t comment. I’ll go next time.
The cruise line is perfect for solos. You are really well looked after and I like that you are put on a table with other solo passengers. I was lucky that I was on a table with people I jelled with instantly.
Brilliant. Very friendly, welcoming and helpful. You are made to feel like part of a family and you feel valued. My cabin steward was great. Can’t fault the crew at all.
A great mix of people. Mostly over 50 in age, but some younger. There was always someone to chat to if you wanted to. I want to say a big thank you to Sandy, David, Tony, Dawn, Irene, Mandy and Bev for being the best company and for your friendship.
WHAT DIDN’T I LIKE?
Bar stools and the cruise ending
VALUE FOR MONEY
Excellent. It seemed a lot to pay (I’m used to self catering holidays) but compared to other similar cruises it’s great value. I did think though that the excursions were a bit expensive for what they were.
FINALLY, DO I LIKE BROWN CHEESE?
So, that’s it. this series of cruise blog posts have come to an end. I hope that you enjoyed them. Do leave a comment and maybe subscribe. My next post will be about the WI of which I am a member.
Meanwhile, I am available for cruise reviews and would happily give up the day job in return for a free cruise. A cheeky ask, but as they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!