We have just returned from the Ocean Countess Cruise to the Norwegian Fjords that sailed from Hull on 25 Aug 12. Before departure we were aware that the ship was old, somewhat creaky and quite small in comparison with other cruise ships. We knew that you get what you pay for and were not anticpating too much, although we had paid extra for a junior twin suite on deck 7. On boarding we were pleasantly suprised at the dimensions, cleanliness and disposition of our suite. The bathroom in particular was excellent and could be compared in size and facilities to that of a decent hotel room. We also happily noted that the crew came across as very friendly and helpful. At this point, it is also worth mentioning that embarkation, from arrival at Alexander Dock to entering our cabin, was superbly organised and started the cruise off on just the right note.
The negative experiences began when we cleared the Humber Estuary and entered the North Sea. It soon became apparent that the ship was not comfortable in even moderate seas. Later we were warned that conditions would worsen as we headed into fairly severe Northerly winds. This was somewhat of an understatement and, judging by the attendance at dinner on the Sunday evening, many of the guests had been severely affected by the ship's considerable instability in these conditions. This included my wife who was very ill indeed, being confined to bed throughout Sunday. Our arrival in the Fjords on Monday morning banished our blues as we were met with tranquil waters, clear blue skies and quite stunning beauty. The beauty of this delightful country continued to overwhelm us at each of the four Fjord destinations we visited in the next four days. During this time we took two excursions; one on a coach trip to "Beautiful Stryne"; the other on a rail/coach trip involving a visit to the "Trollwall". Whilst expensive in UK terms, I feel these trips were good value for money in Norway which, as we all learned, is very expensive indeed. On departing Bergen on the Thursday evening for our return to UK, our second and much more serious weather related problem occurred. I believe the ship on leaving the Fjord, was heading in a Westerly direction prior to turning to take a course South for the UK. We were in the Kensington Restaurant and nearing the end of dinner when we first encountered some fairly heavy rolling emanating, I think, from Northerly winds. Then suddenly the ship was hit broadside by what could only be described as a massive force. Pandemonium then ensued in the restaurant as guests and staff were thrown everywhere. Women were screaming and some people were propelled off their seats and under tables and dishes, food, glasses, bottles and cutlery went flying. It was a scene of utter chaos with even the restaurant staff too shocked to do anything at first. Sadly, there were also injuries to individuals. Eventually the staff reacted and some semblance of normality returned. I saw one passenger being removed from the scene by stretcher by the first-aid team. Everyone in the restaurant was in a state of shock by this stage and several women just sat in their seats sobbing. I am told that similar scenes occurred in other public areas of the ship. There are several disappointing aspects to this incident. Firstly, we received no warning of the severity of the seas at that time. Whilst Richard Sykes (cruise director), made a public announcement afterwards apologising for the inconvenience, nothing was heard from the Captain during that evening or at any time afterwards. In my view, this was a major incident involving at least one casualty and considerable shock to many passengers and appears to have been just brushed off as insignificant. Moreover, this was a formal dining evening and passengers were dressed in appropriate attire. Many were drenched in red wine and food as a result of the impact. At no stage did anyone from the cruise staff offer some form of cleaning arrangement or recompense for the damage resulting from the incident. Indeed, passengers, themselves had to request wine that had been lost on the night to be removed from their accounts. I spoke to several passengers subsequently and all were of a similar view that the Ocean Countess floundered in what can be described as not the most difficult North Sea conditions. I hate to think of what it would have been like if we had hit storm conditions. Its a shame really as other aspects of the Norwegian Fjords experience were very good. This is, I believe, a fair and honest review of the cruise. Had a twin junior suite on deck 7. Spacious, clean and comfortable. Lots of cupboard space. Comfortable beds. Excellent bathroom that is similar size to average hotel room.