May 2013 – 7th
This is not our usual sort of trip and as it’s all organised I’m not sure there will be too much to write about but we are off on a P & O Cruise to Norway on Oceana for 7 nights! It’s our first trip away for quite a while and I’m quite excited, and just thankful to be able to get away at long last! We haven’t ever been on a cruise before and have never been to Norway – so a couple of ‘firsts’!
Ok..............I’m quite impressed!! The journey down to Southampton was fine, finding Terminal 4, no problem, check in was amazingly efficient – you drive in, unload your luggage, a guy appears and takes your luggage away and then you just drive your car into one of the lanes, get out and walk back to check in! A bit of a queue for 15mins, through to security (ok so I did have a problem taking scissors but only because they were too large!) and quick welcome photo (£9.95!!) and onto the ship!
Amazing central atrium covering 4 or 5 floors, bit of a ‘wow’ factor, ........found our cabin
easily...luggage was waiting outside! Unpacked and then just wandered about (as you do!!) on deck 14, in the hot sun, getting our bearings and looking at the swimming pools, bars and Jacuzzis. As we have never been on a cruise before we have nothing to compare it with, but it was quite impressive. Had a nice (free!) barbeque lunch/3 o clock snack and sat and enjoyed the sun and disembarkation from Southampton!
We had to find the Ligurian restaurant as a ‘freedom diner’ on Deck 5 for our evening meal and were given the choice of eating together or sharing a table with 4 other people. We opted for some company and had a superb meal and some decent conversation (which included some detailed information on renovating old tractors!!!) and a good laugh with some lovely people from the New Forest and from Sheffield! Explored the rest of the ship after dinner and settled for a couple of drinks in the Casino bar where there was an easy listening music duet, before bed! Clocks go forward 1hr tonight!
At Sea!! Slept in quite late....well late for us!! Adriatic Restaurant stopped serving breakfast at 9.30am
so it was up to the Plaza on Deck 14 for a good choice, self service breakfast and as there was a shortage of tables, we shared a table with another couple! There is a full programme of activities throughout the day and we opted to go to a seminar on ‘How to reduce Belly Fat’ (Chris’ choice!!!!!) before coffee, followed by a demonstration of 3 card poker, black jack and roulette in the Casino which was great fun as they let us have a load of practise goes!!!
A full menu for lunch (but I opted for loads of salad stuff but couldn’t resist the banana mousse! Am sure thats not helping my belly fat!!!) and then as the sun had come out, sat on the sunloungers on the top deck and read for a while. Bit too windy so back inside and back to the cabin for a cup of tea and to get ready for the Captains Welcoming Party at 6.00pm. Free glasses of wine and a lot of standing about chatting before our three course excellent dinner with a couple from Liverpool! Caught the Captains Welcoming Party again (!!!), more wine, a wander about, bumped
into the couple we met from last night (from the New Forest!) so had an enjoyable drink with them and watched the sun go down at 10.00pm – nearly got back down to the cabin for an early night but then ended up chatting to another couple who were also cruising for the first time......its all very social, this cruising lark!!!
Woke up and saw land!! Made our way down through various islands to Stravanger and docked at 10.00am. Stavanger was famous for opening the first fish preserving plant, opened in 1873, the last plant closing in 1983. It was also one of the points where the German army invaded neutral Norway in April 1940. Nowadays it is the Norwegian centre for oil and the natural gas industry.
It was cloudy but no rain forecast so we got off the ship (very organised and quite quick) and a walk around the old town which consisted of 174 white wooden houses and cobbled streets. It was quite pretty with all the clematis, lilac and flowers and we made our way to the ‘Canning Museum!’ (Norsk Hermetikk Museum) (40NOK) This was not
as bad as it sounded and we were treated to an interesting half hour talk and tour of an old factory where they used to thread and then smoke the sardines in the fire ovens, and then take the heads off and can them in oil! All the old belt driven machines still worked which was quite amazing! Had a taster of some freshly smoked salmon – delicious!
Walked up to the Cathedral, built in 1125, (30 NOK) and then along to the Valberg Tower (30 NOK) where we had fine views of the old town and our ship that seemed to dominate the small harbour! Found Ovre Holmegate which is a street with a lot of coloured wooden houses and then generally wandered about the harbour area and via the lake and maritime museum back to the ship. Got back about 2.30pm ish (Stravanger is not very big!!!) and then, after lunch sat on the sunloungers on deck in the sunshine! Listened to the ‘Sail Away’ party and dance before the wind got the better of us and we went inside, had our dinner, and then watched the sunset at 11.00pm!!
Flam at about 8.00am. Some people had been up at 4.00am to watch the sunrise (although they said it didn’t really get dark – just dusk!) and to enjoy the cruise down to Flam through Sognefjord and Aurlandsfjord but as we have an inside cabin it remains pitch black and we sleep quite happily until 7.30am ish!!!
Songnefjord is the most extensive and deepest Norwegian fjord, penetrating 115 miles inland. It is seldom more than 2 ½ miles wide and its deepest point is 3700ft. The mountains at the entrance to the fjord are 2000ft high rising to 6000ft high at the head of the gorge, where the mountains are covered with snow all year round. Flam is a small farming community
Anyway, a beautiful morning and after breakfast, disembarked to do our Big Trip – Norway in a Nutshell!! This involved taking the 3rd
steepest train in Norway, to Myrdal station which is 866 metres above sea level and above the snow line! Fantastic scenery up through the valley (best views on right side of train!!) with a short stop to see the thunderous Kajosfossen waterfall cascading down the mountain, complete with alluring singing maidens (!!!) before
changing trains at the top to take an 1hrs train journey through to Voss. (Best views on left side of train!)
It was explained that Voss wasn’t a beautiful place as the Germans had destroyed it in the 2nd
world war, but it was a fairly pleasant place spread over the side of a snow peaked mountain with a lake at the bottom and an unusual church. Had lunch at the Park Hotel (inc in the trip!) which was quite impressive with lots of fresh salmon and trout and then after a walk alongside the lake, we boarded a coach, with a tour guide. (views both sides but I think the right side slightly better!) ( info from the guide - Norway Constitutional Day is May 17th
where they dress in national costume and most towns and villages have traditional music etc.......) There also seems to be loads of campsites on the road out of Voss as well as the one in Flam and we see campervans in car parks too.......
The first stop was another impressive waterfall, where you were able to climb over the rocks to get to the middle of the waterfall and then we
drove down this amazing steep, thirteen hairpin bend, narrow road down into a valley, past various other impressive waterfalls.
Our next stop was at the top of Gudvangen Fjord before the drive back through an 11km tunnel followed by a 5km tunnel to arrive in the centre of Flam at about 4.30pm.
We left Flam at about 5.45pm in bright sunshine and had some wonderful clear views of the snow capped mountains as we left. Went to see one of the recommended shows – Motown with The Headliners which was ok and then back up onto deck, eventually leaving the fjord at about 11.15pm, still light but bedtime! But we couldn’t resist sneaking back upstairs at midnight to see if there were any good photos to be had!!..................... And there was!!
Got up to find a beautiful sunny day and that we had already docked at our next stop – Eidfjord, which has a population of 900 people. The village is spread over a mountainside and quite touristy with a ‘petit train’ and has a white water river running through the middle that feeds into the Hardangerfjord which is
surrounded by snow capped rocky mountains. Quite picturesque!
After a cooked breakfast, we disembarked and walked up to the church which turned out to be on the blue waymarked walk around one half of the village. The churchyard was fairly interesting and quite old with a lot of the graves adorned by stone birds looking down on the graves. We thought this rather sweet until the grave tender said they were of no significance at all, other than the person who had died maybe have been a bird hunter!!
Walked down to the marina and then back into town and decided to do the other recommended walk, alongside the river to the lake and then uphill through the pine woods to an old iron age fort where there was Viking graves (we didn’t find them!) and then to a view point overlooking Eidfjord. Some of the cruise people did a trip to the Hardangervidda Plateau, which they said is the highest plateau in Europe and a very good trip.
Strolled back down into town and then went back onto the ship for a lunch and a sunbathe on the deck before the ship disembarked Eidfjord at 16.30pm.
Sat and watched the scenery go by, went underneath a new road bridge that only just cleared the top of the ship and then after dinner went to a quiz in one of the bars! No- we didn’t win!!! Sat outside in the sun for a while before the ship reached the open sea at about 22.30pm, turned south, and then the wind came up again! Decided to have an early night.
Awoke to a cloudy start with light rain although due to brighten up later. Docked at Kristiansand at about 10.00am and after breakfast caught the ‘Petit Train’ around Kristiansand. (100 NOK) Its a fairly modern, thriving port town, with quite a lot of industry and the train takes you past the old Fish market with its pleasant inland waterway and then along past the marinas’s to the old circular fort built in 1660, complete with cannons.
It then drove through the Posebyen district, with its the old white wooden houses for a few blocks before arriving at the Cathedral in the centre of Kristiansand where there was also an international food market. (This is the only stop on the train) Had a
little wander around, looked around the market and strolled up the main street, (the cathedral, the third largest church in Norway, was unfortunately shut), and then caught the train back to the ship where we had an early lunch!
It had brightened up by now, so we basically walked the whole train route except we extended it as well and went for a walk along the salmon River Otra. Didnt really have enough time to do the walk in the Baneheia Forest as well so we caught the train back from the centre again to the ship. At 3.30pm on the ship there was a chocolate buffet that we thought we would have a ‘look at’(!!) and spent half an hour queuing and chatting until we reached the front of the queue and loaded our plates with gateau, chocolate donuts, cakes, etc (I just had one small tartlet and a lychee dipped in chocolate but I think Chris kind of gorged himself a bit!!)
Sat at the back of the ship on Deck 7 and watched the ship leave Kristiansand and then read for a while until it was time to get ready for our evening meal! All
as we seem to do is eat!!! The Headliners show of different musical songs was at 8.30pm and after a drink in the Casino bar we headed back to our cabin!
Another lovely sunny day and a whole day at sea with no plans, so after a leisurely breakfast we sat on one of the decks to read our books. Resting at last!!!
Lunch came around quite quickly and then we spent most of the afternoon chilling out on deck, reading and chatting and then we visited the health spa as Chris wanted the scientific reading of how much fat he had!! (£29.00!!!!) I could have told him for nothing!!
A quick power walk around the deck 3x ( that’s our mile done!) and a last sit in the sun before packing and getting ready for our 3 course dinner! All as we seem to do is eat!!!
As it was our last night we had arranged to meet up with some friends that we had met on the first night. (We just couldnt wait to see the pictures of his tractor!!! It was quite a sweet looking tractor - no idea
what model or make except it was red and had two lights on top that looked like eyes!!) Anyway, we had a very enjoyable 4 course meal with wine and a ‘few’ drinks afterwards, entertainment from some waiters doing ‘tricks’ and a really good laugh! Just what I needed and a real tonic!
Statements of our onboard spending arrived and was correct (well – Chris’ Health Spa had charged an extra 10%!a(MISSING)nd he doesn’t know why!!) Two large red wines onboard is £9.20. It will automatically get charged to our credit card – so it’s quite a good system as there is no money exchanged on board the ship! The tips were £24.50 each for the week which was also automatically charged to the credit card and you could leave a little something extra for the person who looked after your cabin.
We had to vacate cabins by 8.00am and went to The Plaza for cooked breakfast. We had been warned it would be a cattle market but it was ok and we got seats fairly easily. We had been told that we had to meet in the Footlights theatre between 8.35 and
8.55am for disembarkation and it all went very smoothly as we filed off the ship into the baggage hall where all our cases were waiting ( in deck order!) Located our cases very easily and then walked across the road to CPS where we got our keys, located the Van and were on the road by about 9.45am. All very stress free and efficient and an easy way to end the cruise!
Overall – yes we would definitely do a cruise again! (Apparently, cruising is quite addictive!!) Superb value for money, you are wonderfully looked after by mainly Indian and Philippine staff in the restaurant and the cabins and they work amazingly hard to make sure your every need is catered for. Nothing is too much trouble for them. Everything is very well organised and works very efficiently. There is plenty to do on the ship but we are usually happy to explore the towns or sit and read books but if we were so inclined we could use the gym, have a Jacuzzi, play table tennis, do a jigsaw even. They provide a daily Sudoku and newspaper sheet, there is a hairdressers, bingo, a quiz, craft classes and
plenty of places to just sit.
The dress code on the ship was smart casual and was just like dressing up to go out for a meal in the evening at home, with 2 black tie evenings which are a bit smarter, but a dress is fine (black works well!) and men wear black bow ties or ordinary ties, but its not over the top. And not everyone dresses up! If you didn’t particularly want to dress up, you could get away with smart casual and go to the Plaza buffet restaurant. Through the day, anything seems to work, cut offs, jeans, shorts, t-shirts, kagools, trainers etc.
We are quite happy with our inside cabin although there have been a few occasions when we would like to have had a cabin with a view as we had daylight until midnight! We like the fact that you can bring your own drink on this cruise (discretely!), so that you can have a drink in the cabin in the evenings, if you want to. We like the freedom dining and have met loads of nice, interesting people to talk to, as well as having to spend a mealtime with a
few that we were ‘not so in tune’ with!!! It makes for interesting dining though and we have definitely learnt a lot about cruises! An amazing 5* experience overall....everyone should do at least one cruise!
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