Vision of the Seas Cruise Review by jdbirch: Above the Arctic Circle in Norway
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Above the Arctic Circle in Norway
Flew from Denver to Frankfurt via Lufthansa - roomier seats, better food, predinner drink/ 2 glasses wine with dinner/ after dinner drink for only fifty bucks more, plus hot towels to freshen up. And your own TV, choice of a dozen movies/ dozen channels/ live gps.
However: allow three hours to change planes in the Frankfurt airport, since the plane will land somewhere in the outlying regions of the airport, then you go through customs a couple of times (once while transferring concourses. More if you don't know about the tunnel between concourses b & a. If you have extra time, try Herman's Sausages, a cart somewhere around A28.
Stayed overnight at the Best Western near the airport ($118 on Expedia). OK motel to sleep in, clean. 4 star restaurant (Belvedere) upstairs - great Italian food for dinner, good breakfast included. 10 dollar taxi from the airport.
8/12 (boarding): took a walk around the park - turned out to be the Danish Rugby Center - across More from the hotel, then caught a taxi ride (about $50) to the ship. Checkin a disorganized crowd, take a number and wait. Think the problem was the large number of European first cruise passengers aboard and the limited number of agents that spoke Spanish/ German/ whatever. We got pulled out of line for English and went right up to an agent. Think RCL should work on this a bit. 4:30 lifeboat muster, 5:00 leave past the wind generators lining the harbor entrance. Dinner had a smoked fish tapenade, prime rib, and a too-sweet pavlova for dessert. Running narration by the Danish at the table on "what we're passing by" as we cruise up the coast.
8/13(at sea): Couldn't find the lox in the WindJammer, so had breakfast in the dining room (crowded). Competed in the trivia contest, got smoked. Potato Leek soup for lunch. Cruise Critic Mix/Mingle with some nice snacks, then dinner of Escargot (2, of course), shrimp, cherry custard. Show was an Elton John imitator - quite good!
8/14 (Alesund): up at 6 to come into Alesund - good pics with the morning light. Nancy take walking tour of Alesund, I go birding in park at base of overlook. Check with the information center about features of town. Back to ship for lunch of Split pea soup and Pork Tenderloin. After lunch bus tour of town, then up to the overlook. Great overlook, lousy tour (town doesn't have much to see). Dinner is a great, rich Latvian Mushroom soup + Salmon Cake, Perch (oily in cooking), Flam (some kind of Apple Crumb Cake with caramel sauce) - ordinary. In town - walked to the Alesund Kirche. Up hill, steep but worth the trip. Plainish Lutheran style, nice wood carvings, great organ - try to catch a concert, usually sundays. There's a large grocery store in the shopping center across from the information center for those who like to explore for different foods and new jams, etc.
8/15 (at sea): Woke early, in my travels about the ship found the library covered in ashes from the cigar party the night before. Smells OK, they are running some kind of electronic air cleaner. Found the lox, so breakfast in WindJammer. This place is disorganized, the serving stations are in the aisles at the entrance. Everyone comes in, pushes their way through to find a place and save it, then pushes their way back to get their food. Tried the Blood Sausage - English style, not like Grandma's (she's German). Lunch in Dining room - Nancy likes the salad bar, I like the She Crab soup (great), eat the quiche (ok). Dinner is rack of lamb (bit tough, good sauce), crab cakes (great, so get another one), and apple pie (great). Crown and Anchor get together before, wine and canapes, including caviar. Sunset is 11:35 as we get farther north. 12-15 foot waves, throwing spray on our 3rd deck window.
8/16 (Honningsvag): Sunrise at 3:10 on a crummy overcast drizzle of a day as we pass North Cape - do get a double rainbow to make it look a bit better. Waves now level with the 3rd deck windows! Snow at 6:54 AM, changing to ice pellets, changing to rain in a 30 mph wind (50 km/hr to the Europeans). Off the ship at 11:10, running late due to the waves in the harbor slowing the tenders. (pulled ticket at 9:30, promised ½ hour, took 1 ½ hours, some seats are wet from the waves coming in, and a window open during trip for crew access...) Honningsvag is a factory / fishing town, not much to see and only a couple of places to shop. Even more pleasant to walk around in the wind and off and on rain. One ATM (get some Norwegian Krone) in the "mini-bank", internet cafe has two machines (big line) in souvenir shop. Should mention that the satellite reception for the TV and internet on the ship has been out for the last day due to our location in the far north! Visit museum on pier ($8 US, looked from outside and didn't enter). At 1:15, find out that the boat trip to Bird Island has been canceled from the other birders on board. Since the tour desk onboard knew this at 9:00, RCL needs to work on their communication skills some - I could have lined up another tour. Tenders landed at small dock due to waves, buses parked at big dock. That's fine, but RCL should have told people that "they're over there", or something. By now 1:30, I'm cold so return to ship. First tender has bad driver, improperly equipped crew (no slickers or weather gear); second is fine. Obviously the weather is throwing wrenches into all the arrangements, but RCL should anticipate some of these troubles. Change clothes, then warm up in bar with some Aquavit in a salute to the local drinkers, since they should know how to chase the chill. Dinner is crab/shrimp salad(good), beef "shoulder" (good, but sauce is great), crème brulee (I make better at home). North Cape passes again at 7:15 and half the diners go to take a look. Clearer now, so no rainbow. Show is switched, because the scheduled dancers can't do their thing with 20 foot waves. But there were a couple stacks of dishes dumped in the dining room for entertainment, and attendance is a bit light at dinner.
8/17 (Tromso): Breakfast in WindJammer, then tour to Sommoya (fishing village on the coast, about 40 miles away). 1.5 hour drive, hour in village (waffle snack excellent), 1.5 hour back by a different route. Fantastic scenery on drive, saw a few reindeer. Lunch in Windjammer, then visit souvenir tent set up in parking lot for our wallet lightening. Postcards 10/$8 US, postage runs about $2/card to the states. Wrote on them that the daughter better treasure them, because that's all they're getting. Shuttle to town shopping was $8. We had seen the town going on the tour, and it looked pretty dull, so we skipped it. Our friends caught a taxi to the University and went to the museums, etc there and liked it. Wanted a sample of the local beer (world's northernmost brewery) but too much trouble - no bars in sight from the ship. Dinner: fish soup (great), flounder (bit overdone), panacotta.
8/18 (at sea): Breakfast in dining room, Salmon Omelet and "dissect your own" grapefruit half. Went to participate in the slot tournament, canceled because I was it! Too bad, I think I could have won.... So I went to trivia and tied for second on my own. Attended the astronomy lecture (#3 of 4), left in disgust - disorganized. (I used to teach astronomy...) Went to the wine tasting, found out the list of wines and left - turned out to be the half dozen cheapest wines on the ship's list. Another formal night scheduled (the second one was a mistake, so why not cancel this one?). Fried shrimp (OK), Osso Bucco (Excellent), chocolate mousse (excellent). Gambling coupons turned in after dinner - RCL has a "learn to gamble" package, where you invest $20 and get $30 in chips. I win $70 on one package, $75 on the other (betting red/black on roulette) - easy money in my opinion. You also each get a pull on their special slot machine, and I got a keychain from that one. WhoHooooo! Trivia - second place again. First place is luggage tags....
8/19 (Geiranger): Get up early and watch the last 3-4 hours of approach up the fjord. Flat out beautiful! (and I live in Colorado, too) Tour at 10:30 to top of mountain even more beautiful. Walk around town seeing the "sights". Church fine, sidewalks non-existent so keep your head on a swivel watching for traffic. Not much shopping here, but walking around is fun. Walk along the shore, across the bridge, then explore the streets, stream, and shoreline. Lunch was tomato-basil soup (good) and a flan for dessert. Dinner (arrived late since we were on the top deck watching the fjord go by) was lentil soup (good), sole meuniere (good), bread pudding (edible).
8/20 (Olden): Go back out to the sea, around Alesund again, then up the next fjord south to Olden. Fjord not as beautiful as Geiranger, but town is much prettier setting. Leave for tour to glacier, 45 min trip. Park in lot, walk to glacier - 2 hour walk with a constant uphill grade. You can catch a ride for most of the way (all but 15 minutes, maybe) for about $20. If you've got any issues, pay the money. The hike is more beautiful with every step of the journey. Restrooms about half way. After we make it back down, we get some cakes and drinks at the restaurant as part of the tour. I taste test a few, and they are all pretty much better than the desserts on the ship. Lunch on ship, then off to walk around town. Better shopping then Geiranger, couple of decent souvenir shops, so buy a troll and ornaments for children. Wish I needed a wool blanket - they're really pretty (and a couple hundred dollars). Dinner was lamb shank (excellent)
8/21 (Bergen): second biggest town in Norway and a major harbor on the west coast. Tours are running late - limited bus parking. Tour city on way to Grieg's house. ½ hour piano concert in the concert hall - quite excellent. Nancy tours the house, I go birding in the surrounding gardens. Bus drops us off at the fish market, so we don't have to walk back from the ship. Cheapest T-shirts of trip (3/200 NK) in the street market, cheapest postcards. Have a mixed seafood salad (2 kinds of shrimp / lox/ king crab) for lunch (about 80 NK). We found ourselves chasing the little crumbs of king crab around on the plate (best we ever had, lifetime) so Nancy went up and got a dish of king crab only, which we put away - only $57 US! (it was worth it...) Waddled back to the ship, buying some jams for presents and a lingonberry waffle for dessert. Leave port at 6:00, Dinner is prime rib (OK), Nancy has the Chops Filet (extra $15) excellent. The show is a Beatles takeoff - not that good, can't hit the high notes, can't hold a sustained note, guitar quality not good.
8/22 (at sea): Ship is now out of bagels, lemonade, juice sq ueezer has been broken for 4 days or so. I was up in the Windjammer early and got the premium table in the ship, right up front in the bow. I have been noticing that the cleanliness is suffering up here. The 'edge' below the windows is somewhat inset and contains bread crumbs and dried out cheese, etc. on several occasions. I don't mind seeing it during the day, but the staff should vacuum it every night. The rug around this table contains crumbs from the night before. So I start looking around - the bottom of the table is sticky (retired teacher - I was looking for gum!). You know, in the states I think they'd close this baby down for a day. I would hate to look in the freezer! Anyway, I'm starting to not eat much so I can fit into the airplane seat. Check over the bill, have a strange $3.74 charge, but the line is about 25 people all day so I manfully swallow it. Dinner: onion soup (ex), shrimp /mahimahi tempura sweet/sour stir fry (excellent) - that makes 3 dinners I've thought were up to "cruise quality". I really expected more fresh fish - we were next to trawlers in most harbors. But after I bought the king crab in Bergen, I think I figured it out.... king crab in Colorado was 12 bucks a pound when we came back.
8/23 (Copenhagen): Shuttle to airport is $36, with a two hour tour of the city is $40. Tour goes to palace, waterfront, University, a church or two. We bit the bullet and made reservations at the Hilton($350 on Expedia, for 2 with breakfast) at the airport so we would have access to the mass transit. When the bus drops us off, we go across the street, check in, buy a day pass for the mass transit system, and leave. We visit Tivoli Gardens, walk down the pedestrian shopping streets, take the boat tour of the waterfront (we were going to take the bus tour, too - but the first one pretty well covered it). It was now starting to rain, so we returned to the hotel. The restaurant at the hotel was very good - they have a buffet, and with a couple glasses of wine, it runs about 1000 DKK for 2. The breakfast buffet is very good, too - so we ate there again then caught the plane to Frankfurt (allow at least 2 hours for a connection, then Denver.
I sorry for the emphasis on food - I like food, and think that it is a featured part of cruising. On this ship, the appetizers were good, the entrees good, the desserts subpar. The soup chef, the baker, and the chef making the sauces really knew their stuff. I thought the housekeeping staff and the wait staff were above average to great, the cruise director pretty ordinary to fair (who's in charge of the tours? - they were poor). The Windjammer needs a reorganization to move the serving stations and needs someone to check the cleanliness once in awhile. I thought the food in the Windjammer was pretty mediocre - I've had better on past cruises. Since the weather was poor, the Europeans who smoke a lot pretty much gathered in the casino every night and took up space. As an ex-smoker, I'm good for a half hour, then I leave! The ship needs a refurb, the carpets on the stairs are pretty stained, some of the furniture is looking a bit beat up. Less
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