As a two-time cruise veteran, it’s time I checked in again with a fresh and exciting status report on my recent voyage to Norway with my cruise companions Mum and Dad.
This time there was no flight to catch, just a drive up the A1 and straight onto the ship, the Marella Explorer. Unpack, look at the Tyne, have a wine, watch the UK melt into the horizon, then reflect on the endless sea all around you as dusk takes its grip.
Never quite gotten used to the surreal feeling of that, to be honest.
The first day was crossing the North Sea into the Norweigan. Enough time to wallow in that first day holiday feeling, soak up the sun and explore what the ship has to offer. My cheap plastic sunglasses exploded into smitheerens at this point on my face so that was the end of that. I also got a blister on my ankle from some new shoes. Holiday fun, happy times, plasters ahoy.
Things creaking in the cabin, creaking in the bathroom, cupboard doors flapping, drawers cracking and the ships reverse thrusters treating you to that night time Disney World 4D earthquake experience you’ve always wanted. The first few nights were interesting to say the least.
Then the quiet set in.
The ship, still moving, gliding along the almost glass like water of the Fjord. Open the curtains, take a peek, fall in love with this:
Most of the places we stopped at were very sparsely populated and avalanche prone, but as the snow thaws the tourists begin their swarm. Thankfully it didn’t feel that way in Olden, a quaint little place at the end of the Fjord surrounded by amazing scenery.
We visited the Briksdal glacier, a really old baked Alaska. The photos make it look really tiny but believe me it was a big boy that stretched over the top, an appendage of the biggest glacier in Europe.
Sadly it has been receding over the years.
Welcome To Ålesund
Sometimes you get the feel of a place through its culture, food or people, but to me the joy of Ålesund came from its anthem Velkommen til Ålesund, a barnstomer of a track played throughout our tourist train trip up a hill that overlook the town.
Ålesund is a lovely place with an interesting history, it burned down in the early 1900s and was rebuilt by the young people who were inspired by the Art Nouveau style, giving it quite a unique feel and design.
As we sailed away the Ålesund fire service gave us a farewell hosing.
Don’t look back in Geiranger
I’m still trying to come to terms with my experience of Geiranger.
The Fjord is a UNESCO world heritage site and you can see why because it’s absolutely f*******g amazing. I’m not joking, I’ve never see anything like it in my life and the day we went the weather gods rewarded us.
Waterfalls, snow, an ice lake, standing on top of a 1500m mountain, more waterfalls, seagulls and finally a good set of waterfalls. It really was a waterfall of a day and I’ll cherish it forever.
But first, onto that mountain.
When we read the precis of the trip up Mount Dalsnibba we thought it looked okay, but didn’t actually clock onto the fact that 1500m is quite high. A fact soon made real as the bus wended its way up the hairpin bends and the green landscape turned to white, temperature dropping from 25 to 9ºC.
From up there you could see right down into the Fjord, with the tiny 200 ton ships in the distance. People who live down there do regular avalanche drills because if one crashes into the Fjord, the resulting tsunami would devastate the area. Luckily they have 12 minutes to get out of there first.
As we were whisked back onto the ship, the sun kissed the Fjord, revealing a different side to its majesty. Nothing prepared us for this, it was a privilege to witness and I will treasure it forever.
It’s pronounced Flom by the way, so my intial working title of flam bam, thank you mam doesn’t work.
Flåm was our final port of the trip but it didn’t disappoint. Embedded deep into the vein of the Sognefjord, it’s a village famous for its steep, scenic railway though some breathtaking scenery.
Of course we had to take a trip on the train, which was very enjoyable. Once we reached the top we enjoyed the views, a waffle, a cup of tea then watched a guy take a zip wire down into the gorge. Whoever that guy was, we salute him and hope he made it back onto the ship.
The train stopped at a real gusher of a waterfall, enough time to run out and take a snap. Oddly during the snapping, a ballet dancer came out near the top of to perform against the thunderous roar and some ethereal music. Her performance schedule tighed to the timetable of the train, I pray her dances weren’t some coded message or cry for help, but it was very moving.
The train trip was a real treat and as we got back on the ship, we toasted our farewell to Norway with a drink in the bar on Deck 12.
Observant readers might notice I’ve not actually spoken about the ship that much in this post, but that’s mainly because the Norway was king tier material and the ship was content to stay in its shadow.
That’s not a mark against the ship itself though, we enjoyed some excellent food, drink, mini golf and unnervingly attentive service. Couldn’t fault it really, and it was quite novel walking around on the outside deck at 11:30pm at night watching the sunset.
The evening after Flåm, we dined at the Kora La restaurant, one of the speciality ones on board. My parents treated me to a meal as I beckoned in another year on the life clock. It was excellent, and the service by the waiter was so good that we gave him a tip.
On the crossing back to Newcastle the onboard Spa was our primary port of call, with the sauna looking out onto the sea. The heat might have induced some whale based hallucinations but it was relaxing. The salt steam room made my forehead all shiny for like three days after.
A unique trip
Some might say a cruise is superficial as you don’t embed yourself in the culture of the places you are visiting, but I’d argue it’s a different kind of holiday.
Yes, there is nothing you can do to assauge the guilt of the polluion the ship emits, but hopefully that will improve in the future. Cruising is popular with millenials now, so I’ve joined the ranks of the trendsetters it seems.
To me this trip was a once in a lifetime experience, to see four different Fjords up close in a part of the world I’ve never been, each with their own unique characteristics was a real privilege to be a part of.
Thanks for reading xxx