Having had several holidays in Norway, including excellent trips on Hurtigruten, we chose this Fred Olsen trip as it would be in Oslo on Norway National Day, 17th May.
Balmoral was comfortable in a charming way. It was not glitzy but suited us and we never did actually see the casino or disco. It was extremely clean with pleasant lounges, a comfortable cabin, delightful staff and absolutely delicious food. We had nothing whatsoever to complain about in relation to the staff and ship and felt that the hygiene standards were high. Passengers were age 50+ but everyone was very friendly and we met lots of interesting people - almost everyone seemed to have travelled with 'Fred' before.
Activities on board were good. We thoroughly enjoyed the first class lectures by Colonel Ivar Hellberg and the "Make A Book Onboard" classes with Juliet Lunn and Alan O'Cain.
Kristiansand - weather sunny and pleasant. Balmoral made good speed so we arrived here mid morning which gave us a few extra hours in this pleasant town. We walked along the harbour and river to the older part of town where we found an excellent exhibition of tapestries by Else Marie Jakobsen at the Sorlandets Museum - on until 25th August. Pleasant walk behind the town through woodland to a lake.
Oslo - weather hot 26 degrees(!) with one heavy shower Balmoral was docked opposite the stunning Opera House with an easy walk into the city centre. The National Day celebrations very special and we enjoyed seeing children from 100 schools in the parade and the Norwegians in their beautiful national dress. Excursion from Fred Olsen (25) gave us a coach to the Palace and then access to the area in front of the palace where we had a great view of both the parade and the Royal Family.
In the afternoon we took the ferry from the harbour over to the Bygdoy penisular where we visited the Viking Ship Museum (about a 15 minute walk from the ferry stop). This was very interesting. There are 3 other museums nearby and we have previously visited the Fram museum which is one of my favourite museums - a must if you are interested in Polar exploration.
On the Sunday we took a bus to the Vigeland Sculpture Park and were staggered at the number of sculptures depicting life from birth to old age with incredible detail and a lovely park to wonder around.
Flam - weather sunny and pleasant Flam is spectacular - everything that we read and had heard about the Flam railway was true - it was stunning. We did a day long excursion (140) which took us on the Flam railway and then we were meant to travel by scheduled train on the main Oslo to Bergen railway over a mountain plateau to Geilo but unfortunately there had been an avalanche and all mainline services had been stopped- 'Fred' rescued the situation by bringing us back down on the Flam railway and we then went by coach to and from Geilo through stunning scenery and tunnels. We had an excellent lunch in Geilo.
Bergen - weather wet! Bergen is a destination we know quite well. I had planned to go up the funicular railway (recommended) and walk down through the narrow streets to take photographs but the wet weather put a stop to this so I went by service bus to the Industrial Knitting Museum at Salhus - pleased how easy it was to use local transport.
Haugesund - sunny New port for 'Fred' and we were welcomed by the mayor! We took an excursion (75) to very pretty Skudeneshavn which was excellent - a sea shanty group welcomed us and the fish soup at the restaurant on the harbour was the best I have ever tasted. Haugesund looked interesting but no time to visit - would have liked a longer stop here.
All in all, a great trip and we have already booked to travel with 'Fred' again next year.