It’s not that I have anything against water, but I’ve always been more of an over-lander or fly-driver when it comes to international travel.
So tomorrow is going to be a case of in at the deep end (metaphorically speaking, I trust), as I head off on my first cruise proper, to the Norwegian Fjords.
By ‘first cruise proper’ I mean something beyond a cross-channel ferry, which is as far as I’ve ventured so far in terms of seafaring journeys. And I’ve just begun to realise how little I know about what to expect.
Ask The Experts (And Fellow Beginners)
To help me out, I’ve been reading up on some tips from experienced cruisers such as Gary Bembridge from Tips for Travellers.
A recent article on cruise life by Lucy Dodworth from On The Luce, also helped me get a feel for what to expect in terms of life on board, especially as I’m also travelling with P&O.
My cruise ship is Aurora, by all accounts a stately lady of a vessel, with a nice layout. I’m curious to see whether the décor matches my preconception of endless brown, swirly carpets – to which I admit having a strong aversion!
I’m hoping the onboard entertainment will be of the calibre to pleasantly surprise Simon Cowell, and that the variety and quality of the food will live up to expectations.
Mind you, those expectations are based on a recent visit to Cunard’s newly remastered Queen Mary II, and the food choices there were exemplary! (More on that visit to be posted soon).
I’ll also be finding out as much as I can about P&O’s environmental policies, and how Aurora applies them. Cruising has a bad rap when it comes to sustainability, but without transparency and education, and perhaps continued public pressure, travel companies will focus on compliance rather than real progress. So I’m taking this as an opportunity to learn more, as did my good friend and associate Kathryn from Travel With Kat on her cruise with Azamara Club Cruises this year.
Sights and Sounds
In any case, accommodation and eco-credentials aside, it’s all about the destination, and Norway is right up there on the Travel Continuum bucket list.
Our 7-day itinerary first takes us into the pretty town of Bergen, with its striking waterfront rows of protected wooden buildings. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage City and a European City of Culture so, unsurprisingly it’s become quite a tourist hotspot, which can be a double-edged sword. It looks mighty pretty though, and worth a few hours’ exploration.
In particular, I’m looking forward to our visit to the home of renowned composer Edvard Grieg, he of the ‘Morning’ classical piece many will remember from school assemblies. It’s testament to the beauty of the music that the endless renditions didn’t put me off – despite my rock-chick tendencies, it remains one of my favourite and most evocative classical works.
Next port of call (literally) is Andalsnes. The standout excursion for me here is the Rauma Railway trip, described by Visit Norway as:
‘a unique opportunity to experience one of the most spectacular scenic areas in Norway’
It’s also categorised as a ‘low activity’ shore excursion, which, as my mum has considerable mobility issues, is the other reason we’ve booked it. If it’s as magnificent as it looks, it will undoubtedly be one of our highlights.
Continuing northwards, we dock at Olden, which offers the possibility of a visit to the Briksdal Glacier – the chances are we’ll skip this, not for lack of enthusiasm, but after 2 excursions on the trot a day of rest (and a spot of catching up with blog/social media stuff!) may be in order.
Our last stop is at the university city of Stavanger, with its mix of old and new attractions. The most famous of these is Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen, a mountain plateau which towers 604 meters above the waters of the Lysefjord, creating one of the world’s most breathtaking viewpoints.
We’re not making the journey to the top this time, but another option is to take a mini-cruise along the fjord itself and enjoy its waterfalls, islands and caves as well as gazing up at the dizzy heights of Pulpit Rock itself.
As many of you already know, astronomy and astrotourism are often featured in my writing and travels. So unsurprisingly, the only thing that would make the itinerary more exciting would be reaching inside the Arctic Circle. You know why, right? While the Northern Lights do make appearances further south, the chances of seeing them are much higher the further you venture north towards Tromso. Visit Norway has a great summary here.
Being the positive person that I am, if we see them, great – after all, how cool would it be to see the Aurora Borealis from onboard the Aurora?!
But if they’re a no-show…. well….it’s just one extra reason to plan a return visit.
Disclosure: This cruise is being taken on a private basis, independent of my part-time work for Carnival UK (comprising both P&O Cruises and Cunard), and I retain the right to express my own views and opinions.