Memorable 7 day Norwegian Cruise on HAL Ryndam! Ever since I was in high school, and my girlfriend's parents talked about growing up in Norway, I have wanted to visit Norway and see the Fjords myself. This cruise did not disappoint! Hopefully I can repeat this itinerary, as there is just too much to see and do in 7 days. Next time I would like to take a longer cruise, and sail around the North Cape. The biggest challenge in doing this is the airfare, as the cruise is very reasonably priced.
Have sailed on 30 cruises with Celebrity, Costa, Holland (65 nites on 7 cruises) and NCL. HAL offers a great value for the price. Each of the HAL ships has a different character and atmosphere, and the HAL Ryndam Norwegian Fjord cruise was very international, with half the passengers from the UK, and the rest primarily from the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa. I have sailed on the Ryndam before [Sea of Cortez Cruise], and find it a comfortable, older ship.
Boarding in Dover
This is the 1st time I have boarded a HAL ship in Dover. At first I was a bit intimidated by having to get from Heathrow to Dover, and almost gave in and paid the cruiseline ~$200/pp, but after a little research I found that I could take the underground from Heathrow to St. Pancras Train station for 5.3 GPB, which took about an hour, and then the high speed train from St. Pancras to Dover for 41 GBP, which took another hour. Shared a taxi from the train station to the port for an additional 2 GBP/pp for a total of 47.3 GBP and 2 hours travel time. The port had no other passenger ships, so the passenger terminal was empty when the taxi pulled up. The baggage cart was large enough to fit bags for five people. We checked in immediately in the port.
Once we boarded we were on Deck 5. When I asked which way the cabin was, it was right there on the left.
HAL Ryndam Cabins
The cabin was a very standard Outside that the stewards kept immaculate. I was constantly in a hurry, dropping things off, digging through things, but when I returned it was all neatly stacked. Also enjoyed coming back to the cabin at night [or early morning as we stayed up late to watch the white nights and the quasi-sun set]. Every night there was a towel animals that had been carefully placed with my daily planner for the next day, and chocolates. What I like about the HAL cabins is they are very spacious considering how small they really are. The each have a sitting area with a loveseat and coffee table, and there is a curtain between the beds and the sitting area which gives it a spacious feeling, even when in an inside or outside cabin.
HAL Ryndam Spa & Fitness
The Spa is one of my favorite places. The best buy is the spa pass that gives you access to the thermal pool, sauna, whether you choose to indulge in spa services or not. The pass is sold for entire cruise so there is no overcrowding in the facilities. If you do not buy the pass, then you only have access when you purchase services. How a colder weather cruise like Norwegian Fjords or Alaska, it is really nice to be able to soak in the warm thermal waters.
HAL Ryndam Dining
We had breakfast and dinner in the Rotterdam Dining, and lunch on sea days which is always one of the highlights of our cruises. The food and service is consistently excellent which is amazing when you think of how many people are served. On port days we ate lunch in the buffet since the main dining room was closed. I am not a fan of the buffet concept, but this buffet does have lots of food options, and all very nicely done. I really enjoyed all the fresh fish offerings, and the Indian dishes. We never had problems finding a table, but we did tend to eat a late lunch.
The best excursion was sitting on the aft deck watching as we sailed through the fjords. It was so spectacular, that we switched our days around so we slept during the day and stayed up at night to enjoy the white nights, watch the quasi-sun set, and catch the first glimpses of the fjords as we sailed down them. It reminded me very much of the movie, 'The 13th Warrior" sailing through the mist shrouded Fjords in the dusky night.
Given the price of the excursions, and the limited choices, opted to do self tours in all ports but Bergen. Mornings were foggy and cool, and sometimes rainy, so a perfect time to sleep in. After lunch the sun would come out, and it warmed up so a perfect time to get off the ship and sightsee, especially since everyone else had left much earlier in the day.
Both Eidfjord and Aalesund had trolleys for the equivalent of ~ $20 USD that was paid at the booth where they departed from. In Geiranger Fjord there was a Hop On Hop Off Bus and tickets were available at the Information Center, and were quite reasonable. Both Eidfjord and Geirangerfjord are small, with only a few hundred people, so just one ship with a thousand or two, is considerably more than the town. In Edifjord, we were the only ship there. In Geirangerfjord there was one ship there when we arrived, and 2 more arrived after us, so it was quite crowded in town, until the afternoon, when the first ship left, and the ships after us had boarded there tours for the day, and then the town was quite quiet.
In Bergen booked the Edvard Grieg tour, which was pricey but well worth it as it includes a beautiful lunch time concert overlooking the lake. The pianist was a professor of piano from the university. When I return though I may take the train out to the Grieg house/museum as the concert is included in the price of admission.
Disembarkation day is inevitable but went as smoothly as possible. Booked the Canterbury tour and cruise transfer to Heathrow. The tour guide was excellent, very knowledgeable, but the tour itself was not well laid out, as we stopped at Dover Castle but did not get to go in, and at Canterbury Cathedral, we went in but the guide did not come with us. There was a store to buy the audio tour, but it was closed, so I wandered around on my own, read the tomb inscriptions and bought a book. Kind of wished I had taken the train back, as the tour/transfer was very expensive, probably 4 times the cost of the train/underground back to Heathrow.