We travelled from South Yorkshire to Southampton by rail on the day before we were due to sail - this was an easy journey for us although it necessitated a London tube ride (it was the day of the royal wedding, and many London roads were closed so taking a taxi was not an option). We stayed at the Novotel in Southampton which is very close to the port and we could see other cruise liners from our bedroom window. The hotel was very comfortable although food and drinks were quite expensive - next time we'll eat out or have a take-away.
Embarkation was very smooth and efficient - we got to the terminal early (11.45), checked in and went through security, and then had to wait about 30 mins in the lounge before we were allowed on board. We headed straight for the Plaza restaurant and enjoyed lunch before chilling out on deck on sun-loungers. We had an inside cabin, with lots of storage space, a fridge, safe and spacious shower room; we were very satisfied with our accommodation and our room stewardess was excellent. The food was excellent with plenty of choice - we were on second sitting on a table for eight. Our table companions were great fun, and although we had planned to try the speciality restaurants, we decided that we didn't want to miss out on their company. I would recommend other first timers to choose a table for eight - its a great way to make new friends! The ships facilities were very good, we tried all the bars but our favourite was the Yacht and Compass pub. We enjoyed the evening entertainment, especially the guest speaker and comedian, but the Headliners Ships Theatre Company were also very good.
Our first port of call was Stavager where we took an organised tour - sailing up the fjord to view the pulpit rock. The scenery was spectacular, steep mountain sides plunging into the deep waters of the fjord, waterfalls, small villages at the waters edge and roads clinging to the sides of the mountains.
Alesund was our next stop and we explored independently, the town was rebuilt after a great fire and architecture was amazing. A climb up the 418 steps to the town mountain gave great views, and some rather special photos.
Our next stop was Geirangerfjord and the pretty little village of Geiranger, probably the photographed fjord in Norway. We got up at 4am to watch the entry into the fjord, it was freezing cold (2 C) so we were glad the buffet restaurant had 24 hour tea and coffee.
We were delayed at our last port of call, Bergen, by technical problems so were about 4 hours late at Southampton. Extra entertainment was provided (quizzes, films) and lunch (an extra meal). The company had contacted the coach link to let them know about the delay, and the Internet cafe was made available to rebook train journeys and send emails to relatives and friends. In short, everything was done to minimise disruption or problems for the passengers.