One part of the world that has always drawn people in are the Norwegian Fjords. Whether for its mystical past (Vikings), it's beauty or the fresh air that fills your lungs it's definitely one destination on your bucket list.
For this particular voyage I took my family and departed from London Tilbury on-board Cruise and Maritime (CMV) ship Columbus. One of the most convenient ways to get to Tilbury is by the chartered coach return service from Victoria coach station.
With these northern European voyages it's recommended to travel between late May and early September, hence why I went late July. The weather was a key factor- sunny days with clear skies. An hour or so after we left Tilbury people were already enjoying the two pool areas on deck 12.
On this six night multi generation voyage the itinerary was just right. Two days at sea and in the middle three stops- Eidfjord, Flam and Bergen. Our first day at sea was quite unique, a calm and serene North Sea! I found a nice little niche place called the Oasis at the stern part of the ship, an adults only secluded area. The stern is designed reflecting the four decks overlooking the next. Typical design of ships that were built in the 80's, the classic look and that's what Columbus was.
As we entered Norway’s second largest fjord- Hardangerfjorden we headed to our first port of call- Eidfjord. I decided to wake up at 5.30 only to be met by low cloud. I was glad I was not the only one as we all looked at each other with cameras at the ready. As the captain stated the night before we should be at Eidfjord by 8.30am.
When I returned to the open deck at 8.30 am the scene in front of me can only be described as super fabulous. The low cloud now resembled a carpet of mist just hovering over the water. It reminded me of a mystical scene just waiting for the Vikings long ships to appear through the horizon. In fact one local resident told us that in 20 years she has never seen the mist that greeted us...spooky.
Once it cleared the sun was on its full splendour. Whilst the more sporty decided to opt for kayaking me and my wife took the popular Scenic Fossli & Vøringsfoss Waterfall excursion by coach. Climbing up to 750m you enter Hardangervidda, the largest mountain plateau in Northern Europe. We stopped at several photo opportunities, from water cascades to ice glaciers. The latter having been the practice glacier for both Amundsen and Scott prior to their respective Antarctica expeditions. Also where the opening scene of Star Wars Empire strikes back was filmed.
It takes approximately five hours to sail the Fjord from Eidfjord, this now compensated what we missed on our way in. As we sailed out eating al-fresco was a must, with the spectacular backdrop it's hard to put into words.
Our next port of call was Flam, this time we steamed down the world's second and Norway's longest fjord- Songefjord. Our arrival time was 8am and as yesterday the observation deck on level 12 was a sea of passengers with their cameras and mobile phones. You just can't help looking up and not taking yet another photo.
The highlight is the Flam train excursion to Myrdal, at 866m. This is a public train service but always go via the ships excursion as they do sell very quickly. The journey took just under 3 hours. Taking us through pretty and breath-taking scenery as we ascended to the top of the mountain. We stopped at one of the many waterfalls, the one on our list was Kjosfossen with a freefall of 305 feet. The cascading water noise was suddenly interrupted by a wailing yet hypnotizing tune. From a rundown house on the right a figure emerged in a shape of a woman dressed in red dancing to the wailing music as to draw you in. This is taken from a bye-gone legend and its similar to mermaids luring sailors into the rocks.
Dining is one of the highlights on any cruise. Let's face it we want to be pampered for a week or two. The ship is adequate for the passengers it takes and there was a well-balanced passenger ratio, albeit the night club attendance was somewhat on the small side. The waiter service Waterfront restaurant (deck 7) was fairly full and the 5 course meal did not disappoint as neither did the buffet on the Plantation bistro on deck 12. The other leisure areas of the ship were easily accessible including the small number of shops in the atrium.
As we set foot in Bergen the sun was beating hard and it gave us a chance to do our own excursion. The hop on hop off bus, always a safe bet as you get to see the more important parts of the city. Bergen is probably the most important port in Southern Norway, hence the reason why there were five cruise ships on that day.
The main attraction is the Funicular train which goes up to the top of the mountain overlooking this pretty sea port town from 320m. The queues are long and pre booking is advisable. As any other tourist port the gift shops were plenty but since Norway is a bit expensive we chose wisely on souvenirs. But a coffee was a must-£9.20 for two Nespresso's!
The port is very busy and do offer many aqua excursions as well as other areas of interest especially the fish market. The main design of the houses in Bergen reminded me of Lego land. All beautifully manicured yet in different colours all side by side.
As we departed Bergen another day at sea awaited us but not before more stunning views. The captain did alert us of a slight swell and strong winds whilst on the North Sea. The day at sea was set- chill out, enjoy our last slightly bumpy ride home with a school of whales accompanying us on route.
As we headed into Tilbury it was a journey I had to do, this part of the world has always fascinated my wife and I. The 6 nights were just right.
…We didn’t see any Vikings but plenty of memorabilia about them.
Farvel og takk Norge. (Goodbye and thank you Norway)