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Norway 0709
Norway 0709

Cruising on the Crown Princess

Southampton - at sea - Stavanger - Hellesylt - Geiranger - Trondheim - at sea - Honningsvag - Tromso - at sea - Flam - Bergen - at sea - Southampton


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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

We booked this trip on the Crown Princess about a year before the sail date. The prices were expensive so we booked an oceanview cabin. Then Princess announced special pricing for TA's that was about 1/2 what we were paying. So, we upgraded to a balcony and still saved money! We were attracted to this itinerary as all the ports were new to us and it fitted nicely with the previous British Isles cruise (documented under separate cover).

The Crown Princess is identical to the Emerald princess, which we had sailed on last year. We had also spent a week on the Crown this past fall during which Christina and Matt were married. So we were familiar with this class of ship. Once again we found that the theatre capacity was hopelessly inadequate for a ship of this size (our only complaint). Realizing this, Princess has extended the major shows to three performances each - two one night and one the next. Now there are seats for everyone, but only half as much entertainment . For this reason, I have given the ship 4 stars. In all other aspects it is really a wonderful ship.

This cruise did not turn out to be great for "cruising the fjords". If you have done New Zealand's Milford Sound or Alaska's Glacier Bay, College Fjord or Hubbard Glacier, then you have spent the day (or morning or afternoon) specifically cruising for the scenery, with no port stops. On the Norway cruise, we always did a port stop in every fjord. The fjords were quite long (the longest was 120 miles) and took 2 to 3 hours to navigate. We would dock (or anchor) between 6 AM and 7 AM. This meant that to watch us cruise through the fjord, you would have to be up on deck by 4 AM (yes, the sun was out then!). Our departures were usually about 6 PM, so we sailed out of the fjords during dinner. It was only when we went out on deck after dinner that we got to see a bit of the fjords. Actually there was one day where the ship cruised the fjord from Hellesylt to Geiranger (10AM to noon). However, we got off the ship in Hellesylt for an overland tour and so missed it.

For those of you who like statistics, this was a full ship with 3,109 passengers (out of 3,100 double occupancy capacity).

Day 1 (Jul 7) - Boarding in Southampton

Continuing from the previous cruise (British Isles), we walked back to the ship having done Southampton. It was really nice boarding the ship. Because we had our new pass keys, we did not have to check in or wait to go on board. We just hustled through the terminal building and onto the ship. We did have to stop briefly to have our pass card photo taken, but that was it.

We had lunch at the buffet and then spent the latter part of the afternoon seated by the railing on the upper deck watching the activity on the docks below. It was sunny and warm by this time. We watched them loading various fruits, vegetables and other foods. A security guy and a sniffer dog (black lab) were examining each pallet of groceries. The dog was looking for illegal milk bones. It's amazing how much food is taken aboard for the sailing. 4 PM was muster drill. In our brochure for B2B sailors, we were informed that as continuing passengers, we didn't have to attend the lifeboat drill. Only embarkiung passengers must attend. It was strange walking around the deserted decks while everyone else was listening to the captain talk about abandoning ship. We passed several employees in their yellow caps, but none of them tried to direct us to our muster station. They just smiled and said "Hi".

Our departure from the dock was an hour late, during which the PA system was calling 3 or 4 names every so often. I guess someone was late getting on the ship - presumably a B2B'er (maybe went to Stonehenge ...). When we did leave, we had to "turn on a dime" to get out of the channel, so a tug boat helped spin us around. The new Cunnard Queen Victoria was in harbour with us. We didn't see it leave, so it must have had a late departure time. Dinner was very nice and we met some humerous ladies from near Glasgow. We didn't do the entertainment as we were too late finishing dinner. Walking around the ship that evening was very strange. After 12 days it had become that we couldn't go anywhere without running into someone we had had lunch or dinner with or shared an excursion with. Now everyone were strangers again - no familiar faces.

Day 2 (Jul 8) - Day at Sea

This cruise was a little heavier on sea days (4 days at sea) as compared to our previous cruise (2 days at sea). Today was our first day at sea. We were travelling up the English Channel and across the North Sea towards Stavanger. The ocean was really choppy and very windy, and the ship was bouncing around. It took two of us to open the door out onto the promenade deck. We didn't stay out there for long! I did my usual gym workout while Marjorie went to a book club meeting ("Sundays at Tiffany's"). At 10:15 we attended a lecture on Astronomy.. The lecturer (Don Kurtz) was an astrophysicist and very knowledgeable. He had lots of Hubble photos to illustrate his talk on stars. He is doing 3 more lectures in the coming sea days.

We did the English Pub lunch again (fish and chips). We're in a rut, but it is so good! We bummed around for a while after lunch and then headed off to a lecture on Stavanger, Hellesylt, Geiranger and Trondheim - the ports we would encounter before our next sea day. The speakers (husband and wife) were quite good. They had done the Norwegian coast several times and had some very good photos to show us what we would be seeing. Because our other cruise only had 2 sea days, both of which were in the latter part of the cruise, there was no lecture program. With our 4 days at sea on this cruise, Princess has organized some wonderful lectures. We did the usual dinner thing and met some more people. We skipped the entertainment as it was a repeat from the previous cruise. By the way, we have seen lots of oil platforms in the North Sea. Quite a business here!

Day 3 (Jul 9) - Stavanger

Over night we had some wild seas and the ship really tossed around. I slept through it, but Marjorie woke up a couple of times. What a difference from the previous cruise! We arrived in port at Stavanger (pronounced Sta-VANG-ger) early in the morning. We were breakfasted and off the ship before 8 AM and the weather was a mix of sun and cloud. We wandered on our own through the "old port" (Gamle Stavanger), which very close to the ship. No need for a shuttle here. We walked along the waterfront, past a huge town square and up a hill to a medieval cathedral (Domkirken, built in 100 AD). We popped inside to check out the ornate interior and the stained glass windows. It was a beautiful church. It was dedicated to St. Swithun. Next to the church was a huge park with a lake and fountain. Then we wandered through another heritage area full of restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops. One of the bookstores that we browsed reminded me of Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle in that it had expanded to several neighbouring buildings with different level floors. Continuing along we encountered another dock area and the museum of oil and gas (Norsk Oljemuseum). Very picturesque town. As we walked around it got cloudier and eventually started to rain. We made it back to the ship before the rain was too bad. Glad we did the early wander as we didn't have sun for the rest of the day. We were back in time to do a morning gym workout before lunch.

We grabbed a quick lunch and then headed off to our afternoon ship's 2 PM excursion. It was a bus trip to an old monastery in the countryside. The monastery was in a small village called Utstein. It was an interesting drive through the country to the island of Mosteroy. The Utstein Kloster was built in the 12th century. We had a tour through the monastery buildings, seeing the cathedral and the monks' living quarters. Then we had an excellent organ recital in the old cathedral. After the music we were escorted to the "dining room" where we had tea and waffles. It was sprinling with rain as we left the monastery.

We returned to Stavanger, left the bus and did a walking tour of the "old port". This was our second time through the area, but now we had a knowledgeable guide. This historic area consisted of 140 wooden buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Our tour wrapped up around 5 PM and we were right in front of the ship. We reboarded as it started to rain again, and prepared for dinner. It was Tandoori tiger shrimps tonight. They were a bit spicy for me, but good nonetheless. During dinner we sailed back into the North Sea. The entertainment was again a repeat from the previous voyage, so we entertained ourselves tonight.

Day 4 (Jul 11) - Hellesylt, Geiranger

This was to be an unusual port stop today. The ship was stopping early in the morning in the village of Hellesylt just long enough to drop off passengers that were heading off on overland bus tours. The ship was then to sail the 10 miles or so to Geiranger where the overlanders would be picked up again and the ship would spend the rest of the day. It was a cloudy day with rain now and then - not the best for pictures or views.

We were up early for our overland tour. The ship arrived at Hellesylt deep in the Geiranger Fjord at 8 AM. Those of us going on the overland tour tendered in to the little village. Then the ship took off to the nearby port of Geiranger. While the ship sailed to Geiranger, we did the overland bus tour which would end us up in Geiranger where we could rejoin the ship. It was a 9 1/2 hour tour. We headed up the mountain and inland through the of villages of Flo, Stryn Loen and Olden. We passed lots of small lakes and farms along the way. Many of the rural homes and buildings had sod roofs. Our guide said there was no advantage to the sod roofs, they just liked them. From Olden we took a road up to the Briksdal Glacier. There, we were given 1.5 hours to see the glacier and have lunch. We did a 45 minute uphill walk to the base of the glacier. Then we trekked back down again and had a very nice lunch at the Briksdal Hotel. The clouds although heavy, were mostly quite high so we still got the spectacular views from up in the mountains.

After lunch we drove back through Olden, and then continued along the road we had left earlier.We drove along the edge of Lake Strynsvatn to the village of Hjelle. There we stopped at Jostedalsbreen National Park Headquarters and browsed a small museum and souvenir shop. Outside there was a wonderful display of the local types of granite and gneis. Each rock sample was about 8 to 10 cubic feet, in a natural state except for about 1 square foot of surface which was polished to show the beauty of the rock. It was a very interesting stop. We went through some very long mountain tunnels and started towards Geiranger. The road was very twisty and narrow, and along the way while passing an oncoming bus, we bashed against some rocks which injured one of the rear wheels of the bus (more on this later).

Our final stop along the way was at the village of Djupvasshytta to go up Mt. Dalsnibba to a lookout at 5,000 feet. The clouds had lowered here so we were in a thick fog and really couldn't see much. The road up was kind of scary, so they let out the people who valued their lives to wait for us at a hotel. Marj stayed with a few hotelers, but I went up with the remaining passengers. Unfortunately the clouds were thick all the way and the whole trip up the mountain was in fog, and there was no view from the top. On the way down the bus brakes kept locking up due to the damage done earlier. Our guide couldn't get cellphone reception, so he left the bus and ran down the switchback road to call for a new bus. We finally made it back to the hotel where the guide had ordered a rescue bus. Marj was happy that she had stayed at the hotel. One half hour later we were on a new bus heading to the ship in Geiranger. There was a wonderful overlook part way down the mountain where you can see the village, the fjord and the ship. However, we had to skip the stop as we were late. Marj had to snap a fuzzy photo through the bus window. We were about one half hour late getting to the docks, and they had to delay the sailing for us. Lucky we were on a ship's tour!

We changed for dinner and managed to get to the dining room by 7 PM. We had another great dinner (shrimp again) and then returned to our room. On the way through the ship, Michael Godard (the artist who does the funny olive and strawberry paintings) was in the atrium doing live paintings! We stopped to watch him for a while. Then we turned in for the night.

Day 5 (Jul 10) - Trondheim

We pulled in to the harbour at Trondheim about 7 AM. It had a very small dock that we tied up to. The captain called it a "rinky-dink" dock during his docking announcement over the PA. Once again we had booked a full day tour. It was overcast and raining when we docked and it didn't get much better throughout the day. Oh well, this is Norway! We grabbed breakfast and then headed out to the buses. We travelled through the city and then south through the mountains to the village of Lokken.

About an hour along the way we stopped at a small village gas station for a pee break. However, we were too early and it was Saturday so the place was closed. An elderly lady walking along the street (going to the grocery store) saw our dilema and invited us to use her house for a pit stop. She boarded the bus with us and took us to her home along the road about 1 km from the town.. Several people got out to use the facilities. When the folks had reboarded the bus, we all waved goodbye to the wonderful lady who then had to re-walk back to town to the grocery store. What wonderful people here!

We reached Lokken and stopped at an old copper mine called Gammelgruva ("old mine"). It had been in continuous use from 1540 to 1972 - over 400 years! We donned helmuts and raingear and walked into the mountain. We went quite a way through some low tunnels (ducking our heads in places) and ended up in a huge "dome" cavern (called Fagerli Hall) that was maybe 100 feet in diameter and 50 feet high. It was huge. We sat on benches and listened to a guy play some Bach on an alto horn. The cavern is often used for music concerts and seats about 400 or 500 people.

Then we travelled a short distance to the village of Thamshavn and a historic railroad. We hopped aboard the train and travelled for about an hour to another small town called Orkanger. There, we went to the Bardshaug Herregard manor house for lunch. It was a wonderful old house. We had a huge buffet with tons of salads and hot dishes - all Norwegian style. It was very good. Then we drove back through the countryside to Trondheim.

After a tour through the city we stopped at the Nidaros Cathedral, dating from 1070. We didn't go inside as there was a wedding in progress. We toured the neighbouring Bishop's palace, and then walked along the historic canal area. We got back to the ship about 4 PM. There was time for a gym workout before dinner. Dinner was great as usual (veal scallopini). It was Italian night and all the waiters were in either red/white or green/white striped shirts. We saw an illusionist at the theatre. His delivery was kind of stilted and we had seen others do the same tricks and illusions, so nothing new. It was pretty good. As we sailed away from Trondheim, the sun came out! After three days of cloud and rain in the ports, it clears up just as we approached a day at sea! We were getting farther north, too - sunset now was at 11:30.

Day 6 (Jul 11) - Day at Sea

It was a wonderful day at sea. Brilliant sunshine. Where was this weather when we were up the mountain? I went up to the gym at 6:40 AM, but it wasn't open. I sat with several other enthusiasts awating the opening at 7 AM. Sheesh,with all this daylight they should open it earlier! We had a late breakfast with all the crowds and then we went to a 9:45 lecture on our upcoming ports (Tromso and Honningsvag). About this time we crossed over the Arctic circle with quite a bump. From now on there was to be no more sunrise or sunset! We were in the land of the midnight sun!

Later at 11 AM we had a Cruise Critic get together. The captain (Nick Nash) and the hotel manager (James Deering) were there to talk to us and answer questions. That was nice! We met most of the folks that we had been dialoguing with on the Web for the past year. We did the "English pub" lunch again in the Wheelhouse Bar. They have this every sea day. We both had F&C (again) and it was delicious. Did some reading this afternoon and sat on our balcony in the hot sun. It felt so good! Beautiful scenery as we sailed along the Norwegian coast. At 4 PM we went to another astronomy lecture. The guy is very good and I've really enjoyed his lectures. Later we were sipping our Irish Cream (bought it in Edinburgh) and were waiting for dinner time to roll around. The dinner menu was an exact replica of our previous cruise, so we knew what to expect each evening. It gave us the chance to try other things on the menu that we missed the first time through. The entertainer in the Explorer's Lounge was a comedian, but there was nowhere to sit. Unless you get there quite early, it fills up quickly. We stood in the hallway and listened for a bit and then headed for the promenade deck. A great day at sea! I woke up during the night and it was 2 AM. The sun was out like a bright afternoon. We were really getting close to the top of the world.

Day 7 (Jul 12) - Honningsvag, North Cape

This morning we woke up to brilliant sunshine. It was solid blue sky with only a few wisps of white clouds. We were pulling into Honningsvag on the island of Mageroya at the north tip of Norway. Honningsvag is the most northern city in Europe. It's situated at 71 degrees latitude, well above the arctic circle. It's so far north that there is no CNN, no ESPN and no internet. Pooh! There is a dock in this town, but the Celebrity Century beat us to it. Hence, we had to tender. We had booked a 1/2 day morning tour of the island. Honningsvag is a good sized village of 2500 people.

After breakfast, we tendered to the dock, walked along the waterfront for a bit and then hopped in a tour bus and headed up the island. We were way above the tree line, so the island was nothing but rocky hills and grassy shrubs (tundra). Ancient glaciers had scoured the landscape, so there was nothing pointy. It was getting very warm out. I had been tempted to wear my shorts when I saw the sunshine, but the forecast said a high of 14 degrees so I wore long pants. Well, it felt like 25 degrees and I really regretted not wearing my shorts. (Later I saw that the ship's log had recorded the temperature as 22.8 degrees). Anyway, we travelled north through the barren hills and came to a view point where you could see the north tip of the island. Then we drove to a fishing village called Skarsvag. It is the northernmost fishing village in Europe. There was a small Christmas shop in the village, some cute wooden houses and some fishing docks. A very picturesque village. A small herd of reindeer were walking through the town and sped up to pass the tourists.

Then we headed to the village of Karmoyvaer. Along the way the guide pointed out the northern most chickens in Europe and even claimed that he was the nothern most tour guide in Europe. There was a very interesting art shop in the second village. After wandering around the village, we drove back to the ship. It was a very nice tour and the sunny skies were wonderful.

We tendered back to the ship to have lunch and change into our shorts. Then we tendered back to the main town and wandered around the shops and dock area. We bought some Finnish licorice (Marj's favorite) at a small grocery store. We climbed up the hill to the next level of streets and checked out the views. It reminded me of Ketchikan, with the houses climbing up the mountain, and the streets mapping out the elevation contours.

Around 3 PM we tendered back to the ship. Did my gym workout and then we watched the sail away until dinner. The sunshine was beating down on our balcony - it was wonderful. For dinner we sat with some folks from Ontario that we had met earlier in the cruise. Marj and I had the surf and turf (fillet and shrimp) which was very good. We listened to a comedian for a while and then headed back to our room.

More on the weather: The average high temperature for Honningsvag in July is only 9 degrees, and there are 21 to 23 days of rain. Did we ever luck out! It was a North Cape heatwave!

Day 8 (Jul 13) - Tromso

We had no tour planned for today, we were doing a "day on our own". That meant that we could sleep in! Until 7 AM that is. We popped up to the upper deck to watch us come in and dock in Tromso. This was a good sized town of about 60,000 people. For a second day it was beautiful blue sky and warm. The forecast was again for 14 degrees, but I put my shorts on anyway. We had a leisurely breakfast, packed up our backpack and headed off the ship. We caught the shuttle to the town center. Our first stop was to be the Polaria Aqurium. It was about a 15 minute walk from the shuttle stop. The building was very modern and looked like a bookcase toppling over (that's how the locals described it). We got there about 9:30 but it didn't open until 10. However, the employee lady said that 4 bus loads were coming at 10, so she said we could come in right away. We had the aquarium all to ourselves for 1/2 hour. They had a seal pool with 3 bearded seals (huge) and a small arctic fish aquarium. At 10 AM, when the buses arrived, we went into the onsite Imax theatre for a movie on Svalbard - the islands waaaaay north of Norway that I've always wanted to visit. It was quite crowded in the exhibit area and we'd done everything, so we headed back outside.

We wandred back to the town center. We were looking for the local bus (#56) that would take us across a huge bridge to the base of the mountain and a cable car. As we got on the bus, the driver said he could sell us cable car tickets with our bus fare, but it had to be cash as he didn't take credit cards. We didn't have sufficient cash. So, we got off the bus and hustled about a block and 1/2 to an ATM machine and took out some cash. As the bus caught up to us he pulled over to let us in. How's that for service? We got off the bus at the cable car stop and walked to the entrance building. There was a huge lineup of people. We already had our tickets, so we "jumped the line" and went up in the cable car to the top of the mountain. What a view over the city. And the sunshine! While wandering the mountain top, we ran into our videographer friend that we had met on our Australia cruise. He was just heading back down the mountain. We sat at a picnic table overlooking the city and I had a Coke and muffin from our backpack. After wandering around for a while we headed back to the cable car building. There was no lineup going down. We bobbled down the mountain and walked over to the bus stop to continue our journey.

Our next stop was at the Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen). It was a very modernistic building with lovely stained glass. There were a number of tourists there, but it didn't seem too crowded. The interior was lovely and there was a large pipe organ. The outside had some nice gardens and a lilac tree. Then we boarded the bus again (our pass seemed to be good for the day) and headed back over the bridge to the town center. We wandered through an open air market in the city square that was selling handicrafts, vegetables and bedding plants. Lots of locals were there. We headed back to the shuttle stop and there was a huge lineup. The line moved quite quickly though as several shuttles showed up. Our wait was probably about 15 minutes. We boarded the shuttle back to the ship.

The route back included a tunnel system that must have been about 5 km long. Along the route we had 4 undeground tunnel intersections complete with round-abouts! I've never had a trip through intersecting tunnels before! When we finally exited the tunnel, there was our ship right in front of us. It was about 2:30 PM so we grabbed some salads and sandwiches from the international Cafe (deck 5) and went back to our room for a late lunch. Marj read for a while and I did a gym workout. The Captains Circle party was at 5:15 PM. we decided to go this time and were glad we did. they had a door prize and I won a bottle of champagne. We headed then off to dinner and I took the champagne along to share with our dinnermates. We sat with Kelly and Katrina (friends from Ontario) and some others we hadn;'t met before, but everyone enjoyed the champagne. I had the veal scallopini with ham and cheese. Mmmmm! The entertainment was a ventriloquist act. Neither Marj nor I had seen a live ventriloquist before and he was very good. He was not on the previous cruise, so some of the entertainment was new.

Day 9 (Jul 14) - Day at Sea

Today was another day at sea. It was a long way to sail from Tromso to Flam. During the night we noticed the fog horn (very muffled though) and, sure enough, we were travelling in a thick fog. Most of our sea day was cloudy, but it cleared up by dinner time and the sun came out. It was a leisurely day. I did my workout at 7 AM. However, I have discovered that if we go to breakfast at 7 and then do the gym later, we have no problem getting a breakfast table. However, if I do the gym first and then go for breakfast around 9, then it is really packed there. But, we had planned to do the lectures so that settled the timing. Went to a port lecture on Flam and Bergen at 10 and did the 3rd astronomy lecture at 4. They didn't have the usual "English Pub" lunch that they had been having on sea days, so we did the formal dining room lunch instead.

For the evening, it was a formal dressup night, so lobster was served. Yumm! We went to the theatre to hear a Scottish singer, but her voice was really warbly (ie. a huge vibrato) and I don't like that. Marj didn't care for her either so we left after a few minutes. It was a very relaxing sea day. We finally used our free laundry service. Yeah! Marj had run out of laundry soap.

Day 10 (Jul 15) - Flam

We woke up early today and went up on deck to watch us come into the village of Flam at the end of the Sognefjorden. This is the longest fjord in Norway at 140 miles in length. It took a few hours to sail up the fjord. We arrived in Flam about 7 AM. Flam is a small village of about 450 people, so our cruise ship dwarfed the town. The clouds had come back again with occasional sprinklings of rain. We had booked the Flamsbana train excursion through the ship. After breakfast, we disembarked the ship and boarded the train for an 8:30 departure. We chugged up the valley from the fjord into the mountains. There were lots of tunnels, villages and waterfalls along the way. The rivers and waterfalls were everywhere and they were always gushing with fresh, clear water. I'm not sure if the glacier melt or the rain runoff is to account for all the water.

We stopped at several small stations along the route. We got out for about 10 minutes at one of the huge waterfalls (Kjosfossen). After about an hour of travelling, we arrived at our final stop - a large alpine hotel in the village of Vatnahalsen, just a short distance from the end of the line at Myrdal. Our excursion would only take us this far. We had an hour or so to wander around here. Our trip included a tea break in the hotel where we were served coffee / tea and waffles. This was the third excursion that we had done where waffles with jam and whip cream (or sometimes sour cream) were served, so it must be the national Norwegian snack food. Then we reboarded the train to head back to Flam. We stopped again at the same huge waterfall where they had piped music of a lady singing, and sure enough a costumed dancing lady appeared near the falls (way up) and danced to the music. She kept appearing and disappearing at various locations up the falls, and it turned out that it was actually two ladies. We arrived back in Flam at 12 noon. About this time the clouds cleared and it was beautiful sunshine (and quite warm). We popped back to the ship for lunch which was easy as the ship was docked (no tenders).

After lunch, we headed back into town for a look around. There were lots of tourist shops and a small outdoor market. They had an interesting railroad museum complete with a real locomotive. They also had a display case of HO gauge replicas of the various trains that had travelled the route over the years. Neat!

The sun was shining on the ship from across the fjord, so I decided to walk around to the other side of the fjord (we were at the end of the fjord!) to get a photo of the ship against the mountains. It took me about 20 minutes to walk around the end of the fjord and up the other side across from the ship, and by this time it had clouded over and started to rain again. I sat on a giant rock across from the ship for about 20 minutes in the rain, but it didn't look like the sun would be back again. Rats! So, I hiked back to the ship to dry out. I did a gym workout and then watched some more Corner Gas. Then it was time for dinner. I had Chateaux Briand. It was delicious. We sat with a nice couple - the lady (Viviane from Brazil) was a travel agent. One other night we sat with another travel agent lady. Marj got to talk shop. Tonight's entertainment was a repeat of last night so we didn't go. The sun came out again during dinner, so after eating we hit the decks to watch us sail out of the fjord. It really was beautiful. The mountains rose straight up out of the sea.

Day 11 (Jul 16) - Bergen

Today was our last port. We woke up to beautiful sunshine as we headed in to Bergen harbour. We had booked a half day tour to see Ole Bull's house and then do a walking tour around the old Bryggen town. Ole Bull was a famous violinest (and not so famous composer) in the 1800's. He was quite wealthy. We boarded the bus (about 8 AM) and there were only about 15 of us on the tour. The bus probably had 50 seats, so we had lots of room. We drove south from Bergen through the country side. Along the way we passed the royal residence. We finally arrived at the village of Sovik. Here we got off the bus and onto a little ferry boat. We had a short trip across the inlet to the island of Lysoen. Here was the house of Ole Bull. The house was amazing. It was an amalgam of all the styles he had seen in his travels - Swiss, Russian, Indian, Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, etc. The woodwork inside was mostly pine and it looked brand new (even though it was over 100 years old!). Outside there were some beautiful gardens and a great view looking our over the inlet. Very interesting indeed. There was a small guest house where we were served a snack of coffee/tea and - guess what? - waffles with jam and sour cream. All they eat here in Norway is waffles! Then we wandered around the wooded island in the warm sunshine. The ferry picked us up at 11 and we drove back into Bergen.

We stopped at the old part of the town (Bryggen, circa 1300 or so). This was the remains of the German buildings from when Bergen was part of the Hanseatic League. The bus had stopped just outside of Bryggen and we wandered by a large Cathedral (the Mariakirken, circa 11th century). We didn't have time to go inside. We walked past the church and into the old town of Bryggen. There was a mid-sized public square surrounded by the old buildings. We had to hustle our tour as the ship was sailing at 2 (last onboard at 1:30). We exited the old town and walked down the main street to a fish market by the waterfront. We saw numerous types of fish, plus lots of crab and shrimp. Actually there were a lot of handicraft booths as well - sweaters, animal skins, tourist souvenirs, etc.Then we reboarded the bus and drove back to the ship.

We grabbed a quick bite at the international cafe. The sky had been clouding over as we ended our tour, and by sail away it was heavy cloud. I'm glad we had the sun in the early morning. We watched the sail away for a while and then I headed to the gym. We had dinner with some friends - lots of fun. I had a double order of rack of lamb. Yummy! Afterwards we went to see a comedian and the ventriloquist that we had seen before. Before going to bed the captain warned us of severe weather coming. I woke up once or twice through the night and it was really rocking and rolling.

Day 12 (Jul 17) - Day at Sea

Today was our final sea day and the last day of the cruise. Whah! The stormy weather from overnight had remained with us. At one point we were attacked by a gale force cross wind and the ship was listing 3 degrees. The captain appologized and said the ballast tanks were being adjusted to right us again. It was weird walking on sloping floors! It took 20 minutes or so to right the ship again. All of the entrance doors to the outer decks were taped off. I guess they didn't want to lose any passengers over the side.

This morning we had a later than normal breakfast. I did the gym and some wandering around the ship. We had an early lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar as they had the English pub lunch again (love those fish and chips). Then we took in the final astronomy lecture. We went down to the internet room and I printed out our Air Canada boarding passes for flight home and then we started our packing. We seemed to have more stuff now than when we came. At about 3:30 PM the sun came come out so I headed out to the balcony and downed the remains of our Irish Cream (from Edinburgh). It was our final dinner tonight, so we probably won't do the entertainment.

Day 13 (Nov 7) - Southampton and Home

Marj had purchased our return bus ticket (Southampton to LHR) when we first arrived in England after many hours of flying. Without thinking, she had selected the 10:30 AM departure which would get us to LHR by 12:15. However, our flight was at 1:15, so this was clearly too late to give us the required 2 hour turnaround for checkin and security. On the last Baltic cruise we did, we had mid morning tickets, but got off the ship early and arrived at the bus station on hour early. They just put us on the next bus, so we got to LHR with an extra hour to spare. We assumed we could do the same in Southampton, so didn't really worry about it. We could have exchanged the tickets for an earlier departure on the "turn around" day we spent in Southampton between the two cruises, as we walked by the bus station. But, we didn't think of it. Then, near the end of the cruise Marj saw an ad in the library from someone giving away their 9:30 bus tickets (for free). Marj thought of the travel agent dinner mates that didn't have tickets yet and phoned them about the tickets. They picked them up. Once again we could have gotten the earlier tickets, but didn't think of it.

So, we got up really early, had breakfast and then headed off the ship about 7:30. We were to the bus terminal before 8 all ready to board an earlier bus. Well, they were sold out on all buses (hourly) until the afternoon! Whoa!! We hung around the bus station thinking what to do, when our friends arrived for their 9:30 bus. we explained our dilema and they kindly swapped tickets with us. They had no deadline as they were overnighting in London. The bus was ontime and we made it to LHR in plenty of time. The lineups were quite quick for checkin and security and we got to the departure lounge with lots of time to spare. We thought that had we taken the 10:30 bus, we could probably still have made it.

Update: Marj phoned the TA lady (Aug 9) and she said we were lucky we had swapped tickets. The 10:30 bus had caught fire after leaving the station and it was 45 minutes until a replacement bus picked them up. We would have certainly missed our flight!

Anyway, our flights home were uneventful and Mike was there to pick us up when we arrived in the late afternoon. It had been a great holiday.