David and Tena Smith enjoyed cruising so much they've been again!
As foretold in my last narrative, our second cruise of 2011 saw us drive to Southampton for an overnight stay at the De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel, before boarding Fred Olsen’s “Balmoral”, mid Friday afternoon for our journey to Bergen and the Norwegian Fjords.
The first 48 hours was spent relaxing at sea, getting to know and find our way round the ship and meeting fellow passengers, in particular the two couples who were to share our table for the evening meals – fortunately we hit it off with both, so that every evening we were eager to meet up and swap experiences of the day over a sumptuous meal served by our designated waiter named Roffey.
We arrived late Sunday afternoon and disembarked the ship for our 2 hour coach trip around the Bergen area, including the fish market and Bryggen. This gave us a taste of things to come for the next few days as far as scenery was concerned.
Sailing overnight saw us arrive next at Olden, having experienced the wonderful scenery of the Fjord on the way in and ultimately boarding the coach to take us by a scenic route to Olden Lake for a one hour boat trip from one end of the lake to the other. I stayed on deck of the MV Olden, taking pictures for the duration of the trip (Tena retiring to the comparative warmth of the lower, covered deck for coffee and a chat to some of the other ladies). By the time we re-joined our coach for the trip back to the ship, the cold had turned my lips blue and fingers too cold to handle the camera for as little while, but by then I had some stunning shots for the album!
Our next port of call, Flam, was for me the main purpose of choosing this particular itinerary – a trip up the Flambana Mountain Railway (an engineering feat to be wondered at considering it was completed in the mid 1940’s, the only concession to modern train travel being diesel having replaced steam!) Winding our way up the Hardangervidda Mountain with a short stop at the viewing platform for the Kjosfossen Waterfall on the way (with the ethereal music and song from the “Maiden of the Mountain”), we changed trains at Myrdal to continue our journey to Voss for lunch and walk round the town where we experienced the cost of Norway – a pair of designer trainers would have set us back the equivalent of £250 sterling!! Coaches took all 332 of us back to the ship down steep mountain roads, one the steepest in Europe with a gradient of 1 in 5 with 13 hairpin bends with stops on the way for tea/coffee, photo opportunities etc. What a day!!!
The next day, our Wedding Anniversary, saw us dock at what proved to be the prettiest port of the whole cruise, Eidfjord , where we boarded a coach to take us half a mile into a mountain to view the Sima Hydro-Electric Plant, another feat of engineering considering that the first floor alone out of the three could accommodate a block of 420 flats. More stunning scenery on the way back to the ship produced many more photographs and pictures to be stored in the memory bank.
Our last port of call the following day was at Kristiansand and a walk round their “Garden of Eden” at Ravnedalen. We re-embarked the ship for our 36 hour trip back to Southampton, where we disembarked mid-morning in the pouring rain for our somewhat soggy journey back to Loughborough.
We both felt that the “Balmoral”, being slightly smaller, was the best ship to date to suit our purposes with truly attentive staff, first class cuisine, excellent entertainment and some really friendly, fellow passengers.
The magnificent scenery of the Fjords surpassed our already high expectations from descriptions of friends who had been before us enhanced by great weather, where 4 feet of snow had been experienced in some parts only 2 weeks before our arrival.
Our thoughts now turn to the next cruise!! – THE BALTIC me thinks!!!
David & Tena Smith
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