Holidays and Other Excursions

Category: Norway

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Friday 2 and Saturday 3 September 2016

Friday is spent entirely at sea as we head back down the North Sea and through the English Channel to berth at Southampton, right back where we started from.

A day at sea allows the shipboard team the opportunity to arrange extra events.  We have a look around the specialist restaurants and will probably take advantage of them if we ever come on the Celebrity again as they break up the dining.  Jackie usually partakes in a bingo session on a sea day, although I do not always accompany her I do this time.  Just as well as she enjoys a small win on this trip, mainly because one number flashes up but was not announced by the caller – although I spotted it!  Lucky!

The evening entertainment has been pretty good throughout the trip – a Freddie Mercury impersonator one night and an excellent girl singer who has worked on UK X Factor and won (I think) the Dutch version.  I am told we will be doing a Celebrity cruise again in the future, it is more relaxed than Cunard and the entertainment is better – of course the ships are much larger which gives greater capacity but the ratio of staff to passengers is not so good – but the service seems pretty good to me.

On Saturday morning we cannot be sure when we are disembarking as it is done in stages and we are given estimates of when it is likely that we can go and collect our luggage.  The more expensive staterooms tend to disembark first.  We have time for a breakfast but they are ahead of schedule and we are about half way through breakfast when we are told we can go.  Finding luggage is always fun in the adjacent “warehouse” and unlike when we arrived we have to walk back to the car – when we arrived the luggage was collected at the car and that was the last we saw of it until we were in our cabins!  Luckily the wheels on the cases work and we are not in a great hurry.

Steve and Veronica have definitely enjoyed the trip and are looking at what might be worth booking for the future.

Route segmentDistance in Nautical miles
Southampton to Bergen805
Bergen to Flam100
Flam to Geiranger (approx)256
Geiranger to Alesund (approx)65
Alesund to Stavanger250
Stavanger to Southampton635
Total (approx)2111

And with that summary another holiday comes to an end.


Thursday 1 September 2016

We have now effectively commenced our return journey as we reach our final port of call in Norway – Stavanger.  Here the port is immediately adjacent to the city and we can walk off the ship and just meander along the dock side and into and around the town centre. Just a few photos here.

Once we have finished wandering around the shops we find a coffee shop with wifi so that we can catch up on communications as we will have no wifi tomorrow.

The ship did give us some free time each, but the whole of Jackie’s was swallowed by an Apple operating system upgrade for Jackie’s phone so I passed her my time as well so that she could stay up to date – well she is online with her social group far more than I am and her friends are expecting decent updates on her activities.

We do visit the Watchtower which has views over the city.  This was used until 1922 to spot fires in the city as it was above most of the surrounding area.

The main industry in Stavanger days is the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea which for the Norwegian fields is operated from the city, in the same way as Aberdeen does for the UK fields.

There has been something of a food festival along the dock and we look into a couple of the outlets on our way back to the ship.  Not much we can do with fresh shellfish or other fresh products this far from home.

On looking at the captured images I have none of the old town which was adjacent to the ship.  Mistake!



Wednesday 31 August 2016

We are back adjacent to the North Sea having spent the last two days tied up at berths deep inside the fjords.  We are on a booked trip again today.  Our first stop is the Town Mountain and a view down to the town and the houses all look a little like a Toytown, and they are dwarfed by our cruise liner!  We see other smaller boats skittering around the port.  The weather is much brighter today and we can appreciate the views.

The photos from the mountain can be found here.  The consistent style of buildings is down to them nearly all being constructed following a major fire on 23 January 1904.  As Wikipedia reports Kaiser Wilhelm had visited here previously and he sent significant help to the residents following the disaster.  The rebuilding then took place over just a few years and is largely in the Art Nouveau style.

Our other destination on the trip is the Sunnmøre Museum which has a large collection of rescued Norwegian buildings.  There is also a collection of boats and reconstructions some of which have been captured in my photos.

The houses are described in this part of the Museum website.  The Church booths were interesting as journeys to Church for Sunday attendance were so long through the mountains.  These little booths were used to allow for a change of clothing for church and eating on Sundays.  The other buildings demonstrated how people lived and how the houses grew over the years.

Similarly the collection of boats is explained on this part of the website.

My own photos from this location are here and this includes a few photos of the town from ground level.

On sailing away we will start our return journey; we have one more port of call tomorrow.  Compared to some of our other holidays being on a cruise saves the packing and repacking and the food does tend to be consistently good.




Tuesday 30 August 2016

We are today deep in another fjord at Gerainger where slightly unexpectedly we are tied up at a major new facility so that it is now possible to walk ashore and not be transported by boat.  We were originally told that this was a tender transfer so it is pleasing to be able to walk off.

The weather is distinctly less pleasant today and we are glad we are not off to visit the glacier which is the main reason for stopping here.  Walking into Gerainger is the limit of exposure we fancy and almost immediately into a coffee shop – mainly for a decent wifi connection.

On our way back to the ship I see some slightly less expensive reindeer pelts and one is bought.  Sadly we find it moults extensively once on the bedroom floor at home and it is soon despatched to the shed.

Given the weather the photos are less than illuminating.

Whilst we are passing the afternoon taking life easy on board we watch other vessels coming and going including a Hurtigruten operation.  These provide a mixed service – moving mails and goods as well as people.  It is a little disconcerting to see people moving to and from tenders as the vessel heads towards its mooring point.  They are seeking to maximise passenger time ashore and the tenders are therefore moving before the ship comes to a complete halt.

Steve and Veronica only make it back to the ship shortly before sailing time – and look somewhat tired.  We have had a gentle day in comparison!

Dining is well organised.  We wander down to the main restaurant and we get given a flashing box which illuminates when a table becomes available.  We are on a drinks package which also works well.  If we are sharing a bottle of red it is left on the table.  The white sits in an ice bucket nearby and we get regular top ups with no real queries over entitlement once they have seen the relevant card.  All works very smoothly.


Flåm, Railway and Scenic Norway

Monday 29 August 2016

Overnight we have sailed around the fjords and we arise to find ourselves moored at Flåm adjacent to the railway.  Not particularly bright today unfortunately.  Our trip today was booked almost with the cruise itself as I was insistent that having missed the line when I did my Interrail I had to do it on this visit.

The Flåmsbana is famous for the quality of the scenery and for being the steepest gradient, averaging 1 in 18 over the 20km of the line as it rises from Flåm to Myrdal.  It is pure adhesion worked, no cogs or other clever gubbins and it has been electric since 1947, after 7 years of steam operation – the steam locomotives were modified with additional braking capacity because the line is so steep.

Passenger numbers have grown rapidly in recent years as cruise liners such as ours disgorge huge numbers of passengers.  Near the top of the line the route passes the Kjosfossen falls where to entertain the passengers we can hear music and are entertained by “maids” dancing at the side of the waterfalls.  Jackie’s eyes reckon at least one if not more of the maids is actually male!

The trip and falls are in photos here.

We disembark at Myrdal and we take a main line train onwards to see some of the beautiful countryside leaving the train at Voss.  This is part of the line between Oslo and Bergen so I have already covered this piece of railway.  A large hotel at Voss provides a huge number of lunches via a very good buffet – Fleicher’s hotel and we can walk down to the lake before taking our coach onwards.

The aim of today is to see some of the sights of the Norwegian countryside and our first stop after lunch are the impressive falls at Tvindefossen, where I seem to have gone completely arty in terms of the photos – not sure how good they are!

Our onward journey to Flåm takes us slightly off the main road – we descend a very twisting road at Stalheim – we use the old Stalheimskleivi  road which can still be used with its hairpin turns and 20% grade.  The new road descends into tunnels and is the only uphill route.  The old road is one way only.  We are three coaches in convoy but one of the coaches lost its suspension and the passengers are transferred into the other two and have to stand until our next stop when a replacement vehicle arrives.

We halt at Gudvangen to admire the views along the lake.  On leaving we plunge into a tunnel and certainly I (and I suspect many others) go to sleep.  The tunnel is over 7 miles long and is the second longest tunnel in Norway.  There is one more tunnel before Flåm and two the other side – of which one is the longest in the world.  Before the tunnel I suspect that a ferry was needed between Gudvangen and Flåm!



Sunday 28 August 2016

Our first port of call is Bergen and for me this is a return visit, after almost exactly 40 years as I came here in mid-1976 when travelling on an Interrail ticket.  It is fair to say that I recognise very little of the City to be honest.  I came out from Oslo and wandered around before taking a train back whence I came.

We initially take the hop-on hop off bus as we have not booked any trips and we know these give a good background to the ports at which we call.  We stop about half way round so that we can take the Fløibanen funicular railway – which was there on my last visit but I do not remember using it.  It rises 991 ft and carries over 1m passengers a year.  The current cars date from 2002 and are fourth generation for the line.

We wander around the mountain top taking photos including our cruise ship which dominates the bay.  Lots of goats as well.

We return to sea level and continue our bus trip and then visit the preserved part of the town – Bryggen – which more reminds me of how I remember far more of the entire town and sea front.  Not quite as many different bright colours which are often used in photos promoting Bergen.  The buildings are all wooden and close together; the aim being no doubt to conserve heat in the winter.

Having wandered around we then feel entitled to some coffee and local cake – the Skillingsbolle – a cinnamon bun.  I eat little bits of Jackie’s but cannot find a photo of one in our collections.  The cost of even this small consumption is of course high!

At the waterside there is a market with a lot of fresh fish; I hope the provisioning team on board our ship have been ashore as it all looks hugely fresh.

We wander around the City – we see trams, odd buses and so on – obviously there is now a huge number of tourists which visit here.  There is a second photo album.



Sailing Outwards

Friday 26 and Saturday 27 August 2016

Another holiday starts here.  After a period when Jackie implied that she was not keen on cruising – largely due to the unpleasantness in the Bay of Biscay – here we are off on another cruise and we are joined by Steve and Veronica.  This time we are not with Cunard but we are travelling with Celebrity in one of their largest cruisers – the Eclipse.

The background to the Eclipse can be found here.  Compared to Cunard ships she is larger and with many more passengers and less staff to passengers but the entire atmosphere is far more relaxed.  We embark at Southampton and as usual once the bags are handed over life is easy.

We sail away on the Friday afternoon in bright sunshine and the sea is dead smooth.  We take what seems an unusual route to the west of Cowes before turning to port, obviously staying right in the deepest channel and then heading along the south coast.  The Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quay can be seen in the distance and we head east as our destination is Norway.

There are some photographs of our initial departure to be found here.

Saturday is entirely at sea as we are heading north, although to be honest we do not get to see any land on either side as we sail at a steady rate, probably a little below the top speed on 24 knots (28 mph).  We do see numbers of oil platforms as we get further north.

Our cabin is outside with a nice balcony on which to sit and very close to the nearest lifts.  The balcony seems untroubled by wind and we are able to sit out there at times for a read quite comfortably.  Noise and vibration is non-existent and we have a very good night’s sleep.  It was the tour consultant’s suggestion and it definitely seems to be good.

Dining times are not fixed for us.  We can wander down to the restaurant and if they do not have a table for us they give us a little box which lights up and buzzes when our turn comes up on the system.  It all seems to work and they have a pretty good idea of how long before a table is free.  And there is bar not far away for a drink.

And the sea remains pretty smooth and we continue heading north!  According to my check it is about 800 nautical miles (which itself is 1852 metres – about 15% more than a UK land mile) from Southampton to Bergen which is our first port of call on Sunday.