Balmoral Cruise Review by EJNutz: A Trip up the Norwegian Fjords and across to the Arctic
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A Trip up the Norwegian Fjords and across to the Arctic
Our cruise commenced from Dover, Kent.England. This was a 15 night cruise to Spitzbergen taking in the sights of the Norwegian Fjords. As our cruise ship was smaller than the main lines we were able to cruise the Inside Passage in calm waters and see such stunning scenery. Our Captain was Norwegian and very familiar with the waters and took us into some extremely interesting fjords, e,g. Troll Fjord which was so pretty.
We stopped at 6 ports on this itinerary and they were as follows.
We decided to go on Tour A, which was sightseeing in Narvik. We visited the Commonwealth Graves and in particular paid tribute to the British memorial. There were also memorials for Poland, France and Germany. After a brief journey around the town we went to the War Museum. It is a small museum but very interesting. You are given a booklet which explains everything in English. The cost to enter is 5 Krone but they will accept payment in Euro's and Sterling. Narvik is More a nice little town and worth a visit. Shuttle buses were provided at a cost of £5 for unlimited travel all morning.
This translated means Honey Bay.
We took a walk up the high street and popped into a couple of shops. Honingsvag has an Icebar which may be worth a visit. There is also a nice little church at the end of the high street. The souvenir shop and museum is right next to the pier. It is quite a nice shop as they go and the prices are not horrendous.
We went on a ship's tour of Megaroy Island. We first stopped off at a tradition reindeer farm and see the family in traditional clothing , their tents and of course reindeer. After this we visited two fishing villages, one of them called Skasveg. In Skasveg we went to the Christmas House and had some gluhwein and traditional Christmas cake which was nice. The Christmas House is also a Christmas gift shop which is nice.
As we toured the villages it was interesting looking at the houses and seeing the fish hanging off the roofs. The Norwegian people are so friendly and talkative. The houses are beautiful and very colourful.
We decided to walk into town. We visited the Svalbard Museum . The entrance fee was 75 Krone. The museum told the history of the island and the wildlife. It was very good and well worth a visit. After the museum we did a bit of shopping, most of which is tax free. The prices are very good considering we are in the middle of nowhere. Of course we had to pop into the bar for an arctic beer. A reindeer wondered into town, but there are no sightings of polar bears. The Church on the hill is also worth a visit. We also got some good views of the glaciers.
We wrapped up warm to go into town, I wish we hadn't. It is so warm, especially when that sun is shining.
I telephoned home, the signal is very good. Also in one the cafe's they offer free wifi.
This is a science and nature research centre, 600 miles from the North Pole. The last inhabited place before the North Pole. It is a bit desolate but in many ways very nice. We were able to walk around the centre as long as we stayed on the authorised track. We got to see some huskies, arctic foxes and Arctic Tern's. Those who went too close to the nests of the Arctic Tern's were attacked on the head by the Tern's. Those who were attacked deserved it as they ignored instructions and were seen by the Tern's as threatening. Ny Alesund is the base camp of Roald Amundsen as he began his trek to the North Pole.
There is a small souvenir shop and post office open to cruise passengers.
We are a 30 minute walk from town. A shuttle bus has been laid on at a cost of £5.00 for unlimited use.
We went to the Polaria Centre. This is well worth a visit. There is a slide show on the Northern Lights, A Navigation Simulator, A multi Screen film on Spitsbergen, An area that rein acts life in the Arctic. It can get cold and then there is the Aquarium and seal pool. This place is well worth a visit. I wish we stayed longer. I bought the video of the film show we saw, it was spectacular. We then went on a Cable Car ride up the hills, mountains and saw some spectacular views. It is a lovely area to go for a gentle walk. Finally we had a sightseeing tour of town. A good tour and well worth the money.
We are doing a tour on the Old and New Bergen. Bergen is a beautiful city. The buildings are outstanding and well worth a visit. Our tour took us just outside Bergen. We visited several islands, my particular favourite was Oen. The views were magnificent. We also visited The West Coastal Museum were we were served pancakes and coffee. The museum was OK. I wouldn't go to it again. We also visited a local gas refinery station.
Bergen is so beautiful and I intend to visit this city again someday.
Although it was not a Port Call we visited the Magdalenfjord. Surrounded by glaciers. This place is so beautiful. In the distance we can see reindeer, unfortunately no Polar Bears.
We also passed by Bear Island on two occasions, on both days it was shrouded in fog and mist.
We had a Superior outside balcony cabin. The room was spacious and light. The bed was a large double although it can be split into single beds. There were 2 armchairs and a table. There are two large wardrobes with plenty of drawers. Each side of the bed are two bedside lockers with 3 drawers and light and radio control buttons.
There is a safe provide, as well as tea and coffee faculties , hairdryer and Television which had Sky News, Sky Sports News, BBC World, MSNBC, a British News text service, Fred Olsen promo channel, a movie channel and FO!, the online service for checking your account and booking excursions and room service. A very good system by far the best I have seen on any cruise line yet.
The bathroom had a full size bath and shower. Two sets of toiletries were provided in a nice gift back. Bath Wash and Shower gel are also provided, the brand is Cole & Lewis.
Pool towels are also provided in the room.
The balcony was a fair size, but not the biggest I have ever had. It had two chairs, a sun lounger and a table. We spent plenty of time out there. The only downside to this balcony is as it is the end cabin the right hand side is a glass wall as opposed to a plastic screen. This means anyone on deck 10 looking over could see you. So this is a little bit of a privacy issue there. It didn't bother us. Also the other problem is that at the Aft of Deck 7,8,9 on the starboard side is the smoking area and sometimes the smoke waft's into the balcony. It didn't bother us but I can see that it could others.
Our Stewardess was Malou. She was very friendly and helpful. She looked after us very well.
There are 12 Pac's and one printer. You have to swipe your key card to gain entry. You are charged roughly 40p per minute for use. The charging system is calculated on the amount of information you download. There is an onscreen notification of the cost of your usage as you go along. The speed is not too bad. The room is nice and quiet. I didn't see anyone in the room who would be able to assist you if a problem arose.
This is the main Showtime are. It is a fair size room. There is a small stage and a dance floor. However when the shows begin the dance floor raises to create a larger stage. So one word of warning, it doesn't pay to grab the front row seats as you will have to look up at the show so it could hurt your neck.
This is the second showcase area, smaller than the Neptune Lounge. This is were the quizzes are held as well as the Wii games, line dancing and dolphin racing. The dolphin races enable you to bet a £1 a time on a race. I was lucky to win some big money, £6.
The Lido Lounge is also home to the Roulette and Black Jack Tables. I went to the teaching classes they provided which were informative. On sea days the tables are open in the afternoon and "Happy Hour" is in place meaning the minimum amount to bet is halved.
This is a nice quiet room with plenty of seating with good views. The library is well stocked up with books of all sorts to read. It is here that you can also collect the Daily News newspaper. Card Room
This is adjoining the library and had quite a few tables. There were daily whist and bridge games carried out.
Arts and Crafts Room
This is situated on Deck 3. It is a nice fair sized room. The arts and craft classes charge an additional fee of £1.20/£1.50 per session, but this included everything you needed to make your craft items.
This room also doubled up as the Table Tennis room.
Morning Light Pub
This is a nice place to have a drink. There is entertainment in the pub. During our cruise it was a duo called Overeasy Duo. They could not sing. Everytime they came on we had to leave the room.
These restaurant's are on Deck Ten and offer some wonderful views. We ate in these restaurants for our evening meal on table 337. It was a table for 2. The waiter was Putu. He always had a smile and was very friendly.
This is on Deck 6 and is the main dining of the ship.
This is a small bar next to the Observatory Lounge. It is also the place for morning and afternoon tea.
This is on Deck 11 and has the best views of the ship. Each night the pianist Jacqueline Waugh played. It was a nice peaceful place to be for a drink.
This is open for breakfast, morning tea. Lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and the supper club. I found it to be a very spacious and very nicely laid out cafe. We ate here on a number of occasions.
This is adjoining the Atlantis Spa. I never visited this facility.
There are two sea water pools which are heated at 27.5 degrees each day. There are Jacuzzis next to the pools.
There are two launderettes' on board, one on deck 3 and the other on Deck 9. The cost is £2 a go and tokens are obtained from the reception. The Launderette offer good facilities which also include irons.
There is plenty of hand wash all over the ship. You can not miss it. As you enter food places staff make sure you get a squirt. What amazes me are the few who are determined to avoid them altogether. They don't care about the effects of Norovirus.
There are plenty of lifts to get you between decks. One world of warning if you are a wheelchair user. For some reason the lift doors close a bit too quick and it is possible to get trapped. One lady we spoke to got her arm caught and as a result got a nasty gash. Apparently the same thing happened on the previous cruise.
Fred Olsen arranged for the Norwegian Customs authorities to come on board at the last port of visit to arrange for the repayment of the tax paid on the tax free goods. Less
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