I just got back from my Adventure of the Seas 13 day Iceland and Norway cruise from Southampton, UK. In this review, I will discuss generalities about the trip then get into the specific details on the different aspects of my journey.
Boarding and leaving the ship was quite easy except for having some temporary problems in Iceland. The ship itself was clean although a bit worn in some spots. The staff on board were generally wonderful, especially the cruise director's staff and our waiters Mario and Wilfred at dinner time. The food quality was quite good overall. The entertainment on board and the food was generally quite good. The gym had a nice variety of equipment, but unfortunately, there were a number of exercise machines that were not adequately functional or disabled. Overall there were enough working machines for a good workout though. The weather prevented too many people from using the exposed areas outside for much of the cruise, but at least the pools were heated to a nice temperature by the afternoon. But anyways, on to the specifics...
I had a connecting flight from Indianapolis through Atlanta to Heathrow on Delta and took a National Express bus from Heathrow to Southampton. My flights were uneventful, although with a longer layover in Atlanta than I preferred (4 1/2 hours. It took me about an hour to go through customs at Heathrow and another 90 minutes before I was able to board the bus, but the bus ride went fine, allowing me to catch up on a bit of sleep (I can seldom catch any shut-eye on overnight flights such as this one). Anyways, I had a hotel room at Premier Inn waiting for me only about a half mile or so walk from the bus seminal, unpacked my bags and took off to walk around town. I went to the Seacity museum first and took a tour of the town's history and the Titanic exhibit that they had there. Overall, I felt that the museum was fair, not great, but a reasonably good way to spend a couple of hours. I then wandered around a couple of malls and other shopping areas for a bit before returning to my hotel room to collapse into a nap.
The next morning, I woke up, had a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel and took a quick taxi to the ship. Embarkation was rapid and friendly. Within ten minutes of arriving at the curb, I had my luggage tagged, went through security, checked in and was on the ship.
Upon first impression, the public spaces appeared to be in good repair and the various crew that I met were friendly and helpful. Windjammers, as it typically is on embarkation day was quite crowded with rather limited table availability. They had the usual buffet choices which I felt to be average in quality.
The evening show had a magician with his fiancÃ©e, an aerolist. They were both rather good.
I enjoyed the ice skating show quite a bit. It was amazing how the performers were able to perform their routines almost flawlessly on a moving ship.
On day four, we arrived in Reykjavik. It took some time after we were supposed to be in port for the shore crew to find and set up the gangway for disembarkation but eventually they did so. I shared a taxi with a few others to walk downtown for an hour or so before I had to be back to the ship for a "Golden Circle Tour". This tour had four stops: first we went to the spectacular Gulfoss waterfall followed by Geyser and then a park where the two tectonic plates diverging at Iceland form a crevice and a waterfall and river runs through it. It would have been quite except for high winds and driving rain during this part of the excursion. Next we went to a building that the tour guide called the "Pearl" where we had a brief break before returning to the ship. It took about fifteen minutes waiting in a long line in high winds, cool conditions and driving rain to embark on the ship again. People behind me had to wait even longer as the line continued to grow.
On day five, we had a partial day in Reykjavik, departing port at 2:30 PM. I elected to take the Blue Lagoon bus transfer excursion. The bus ride took about 45-50 minutes each way and the full admission to the Blue Lagoon was an additional 40 euros, a rather steep price, I felt. However, I did find the Blue Lagoon to be a very interesting and relaxing experience, floating in the light milky blue geothermal waters surrounded by volcanic scenery. Because it was still rather chilly with a stiff wind and occasional rain, it was rather cold getting into the waters initially but I rapidly felt better once I was able to slip into the lagoon. There were quite a few people in the lagoon but it did not feel overcrowded. Some people from our excursion chose to observe the lagoon without getting in. Our bus did a quick drive through downtown Reykjavik on the way back and then we were back on the ship with no significant lines embarking this time. The evening performer I believe was a singer named Tony Tillman, who energetically sang a number of older show tunes from Sammy Davis Junior and Stevie Wonder and others. I felt that his performance was rather good.
The next day, we sailed into Akureyri, Iceland where I went on the Jewels of the North excursion in which our group went to the waterfall Godafoss, around lake Myvatn, to a geothermal field and to the pseudo- craters at Skutustadir. The waterfall was quite pleasant but not as impressive, I felt, as Gulfoss was. The geothermal field was interesting but rather malodorous and the lake was quite scenic. The weather cooperated quite a bit better today with a high temperature of about 70 degrees F and lots of sunshine. The 70's disco party in the mid evening was quite fun and was well attended. It was rather interesting going out on deck after 11:00 PM and still seeing the sun shining brightly. Overnight, the sun never set due to our position north of the arctic circle.
The next morning, I went to a behind the scenes entertainment tour, which was by invitation and RSVP only. I met with about twenty other passengers outside of the Lyric theater for the tour to begin. By about five minutes past the meeting time and no one showed up to give the tour, we realized that something was amiss. I called the front desk to see why no staff had shown up to give the tour and about ten minutes later a staff member informed us that the person who was supposed to give the tour was off duty and that the tour could be rescheduled on one of the next few port days. Our group informed the staff member that this was unacceptable as most of us would not be able to attend the rescheduled tour because we would be off the ship for excursions. After about another ten minutes or so, they announced that the tour would be given after all and a friendly stage director named Aaron gave us a brief but well presented tour of the stage and backstage areas. In past tours on other ships, there were several different staff members demonstrating the different aspects of show design including sound, dressing and such, but these were skipped this tour presumably because Royal Caribbean forgot to inform those involved that there was an entertainment tour scheduled. I spent most of the rest of the day relaxing onboard and then caught a show called "Can't Stop the Music". I felt the the show was fairly well done with some excellent singing.
The next day, we came into our first Norwegian port of Trondheim. We arrived in port on time and disembarkation was uneventful. I took the ship sponsored tour called "Trondheim City Sightseeing in which we went to an open air museum at Sverresborg and then to the Nidaros cathedral. The open air museum had numerous houses and other buildings from different times in the city's history on display and some were open for visitation. I found it to be a quaint experience and pleasant. The cathedral was rather impressive. The bus then took us back to the ship at which point I took a pedestrian bridge back over the the city center for an exploration on foot. That evening back on board, I went to see a hypnotist show presented by David Knight. His performance and those of his volunteers was quite good.
On day nine, we arrived in Alesund, Norway. I took the Alesund Highlights tour to the Sunnmore Museum where I saw a number of different old homes and businesses on display as well as a fairly large assortment of old fishing and other vessels. We also went to an overlook with a wonderful view of the town, toured through the town for a bit then went back to the ship. I enjoyed a quick lunch at Windjammers, went to a trivia contest and then went back to town for a walk around for about 2 1/2 to three hours, including a walk up the stairs to the viewing point again and down a fairly long nature trail back down the mountain into the town once again.
On day ten, we arrived in Molde, Norway. I took the Atlantic Ocean Road and Fishing tour. We took a bus to the town on Bud, an small fishing town, and went to tour a small fort created by the Germans during their occupation of Norway during world war two. The fort was pleasant, although a bit on the soggy side from the continuing rain. Afterwards, we went to a small local restaurant and tried a snack food that was like a pancake folded over onto itself with some sweet cream inside. It was tasty. Next, we took a drive over the Atlantic ocean road and back. The bus was having some cooling problems and the air conditioning was not working so we had to open up a couple of the vents on the top of the bus. Fortunately no rain entered the bus from this. Next, we took a drive back towards Molde for a ride up a small mountain to an overlook over the town. Unfortunately, the bus made a loud popping sound and the engine started to make a blowing noise. We soon found that the bus was unable to make the climb up the mountain and we had to back down a few hundred feet until we came to a spot at which we. Inked turn around. Fortunately, the bus was able to get us back to next to the ship. At this time, the driver said that we could wait for about half an hour for another bus to come along to continue the tour to the overlook, but I decided to spend the time walking around downtown Molde instead. Molde seemed to be a nice town but unfortunately, because it was a Sunday, almost every business in town was closed, making for a rather limited experience.
On day eleven, we arrived at the small town of Olden, Norway. The weather had cleared and it was a beautiful and sunny day. The town itself was quite beautiful. I took an excursion called Briksdalen Glacier. The scenery was quite beautiful on the way to and from the glacier and was absolutely stunning along the hiking trail to the glacier and the glacier itself. I felt as though this was the most beautiful area of all of those that I had experienced on the cruise.
On day twelve, I went on the Stavenger - Oil Capital of Norway tour. On this tour, we traveled by bus to a spot on the fjord where there was a three swords memorial and past a beach and the airport. We then went back to Stavenger to the Norwegian Petroleum museum, which was quite well done. I felt that the bus tour was a bit on the weak side and that it would have been better to have had a walking tour to the museum rather than going so far out of the way on the bus. Afterwards, I wandered around the city for a little while.
On day thirteen, we spent the day at sea on the way back to Southampton. It was a fairly quiet day in which I spent a lot of time in various trivia contests.
On disembarkation day, I departed the ship at 7:30 AM on a ship's tour to Stonehenge to Heathrow Airport transfer. Leaving the ship was swift and uneventful. We drove through the New Forest then through Salisbury to Stonehenge. Although I had been warned by several people that Stonehenge was mostly a "pile of rocks", I found the experience worthwhile, with the handheld information guides informative. By 1:00 PM, I was at Heathrow and on the tube headed towards London.