Steve’s Sojourns “ Sampling the Fjords and wonderful railways.”
Life itself is an adventure and the cruise companies have realised that there is a growing segment between the purist adventure cruisers and those people who are content to sail around the warm climes of the Mediterranean and Caribbean getting off at ports to explore ancient cities or visit vineyards. By the same token not everyone wants to skim across rough seas in a zodiac to land on rocky beaches and explore deserted islands in the far flung corners of the world.
Fred Olsen for example now offer cruises to explore the Amazon, the Arctic and watch the total eclipse of the sun and in common with other cruise companies are now targeting Norway as a major adventure destination. The Northern lights are a big draw here and once you see them you will never forget them I can assure you.
I took a cruise from Liverpool on Fred Olsen’s Boudicca and was intrigued to find out how the company are making this destination more exciting and interactive by getting under the skin of the country.
Two days at sea went very quickly, I learned to play bridge, tried my hand at deck quoits and whilst the North Atlantic is not usually the best place for swimming the heated pool and Jacuzzis with the warm weather were too good an attraction to miss.
Boudicca’s small size lets her get to places off limits to the larger ships and thus we found ourselves at the top of the Hardanger Fiord deep inside the mountains. A boat trip took us even further into a splinter fiord to look round a local cider factory and taste the local produce. What I liked about this was that we returned by coach and had to cross the fiord by the ferry which meant we shared our trip with a flock of sheep.
Some of our party took the fantastic Flam railway journey climbing almost 2800ft through tunnels, over bridges and past stunning waterfalls. Often described as one of the finest railway journeys on the world this trip is one of the many the company puts on.
Fred Olsen have an amazing traditional Afternoon Tea on board with lovely cakes and sandwiches where you are served by white gloved and white aproned staff who keep topping up your cup with a selection of teas!
Our cruise then called in at Stavanger alongside the old town with its narrow winding streets of white boarded, orange pantiled 18th and 19th century houses to stroll through and explore. For a truly memorable visit to Stavanger though you can take one of the best views of the city via a helicopter ride. Looking down on the city, harbour and the stunning Lysefjord.
We decided to take the three hour round trip on the superfast jet boat to the Lysefiord with its extraordinary cliffs rising vertically up to almost a 1000 feet in places.
The world famous rock of Preikestolen, located above a vertical drop of 600 meters, can be seen and of course there’s that waterfall we spoke about earlier. After an hour the weather suddenly changed and it was cold, wet and raining so you can imagine how grateful we were when we pulled in beneath the cliffs to taste hot waffles, fresh cream and strawberry jam at an outdoor centre.
You can explore Bergen’s amazing fish market and eat lunch there with the locals from the offices and shops so you know it must be good. The city has a lovely little conservation area with its amazing, colourful Hanseatic League houses on the waterfront and the antique, bric-a-brac shops and artist’s workshops and studios of the Bryggen district the oldest part of Bergen.
We also got a stunning view when a short walk from the ship brought us to the Fernicular railway which climbs 400ft above the city where you get an incredible view of the mountains and sea surrounding it. The railway runs all day and there are many walks you can take from the top to explore even further.
We berthed over night here and next day turned out to be Norway’s National Day with everyone walking around in National costume. A massive two hour parade takes place on this day and if you want to understand Norway do try and visit the country on this day as the locals are more than happy to explain it all to you. Nearly everyone speaks perfect English and is extremely helpful.