My husband and I just returned from the Opera where we sailed from Amsterdam to Oslo, Stavanager, Flam and then disembarked in Bergen, Norway.
We are both in are early 40s and were not travelling with our two teenagers.
We arrived in Amsterdam the morning before our departure and stayed with a fantastic couple we found on airbnb.com (a site I highly recommend instead of paying super high hotel charges). This was a great start to our cruise as the couple was from the UK and was able to help us figure out how to navigate Amsterdam as well as drop us at the cruise port.
Embarkation took all of 5 minutes from the time we walked in the front door to the time we stepped on the ship. We arrived at approx 4 pm. Everything was smooth and there was NO line at all. I understand that a lot of passengers boarded in Southhampton so that is probably why there were no lines.
We immediately went to our room which was a balcony room and we were very happy with the accommodations. I loved having the balcony and would definitely recommend it for this cruise as most of the reason you are taking this cruise is to take in the Norway Fjords and all their beauty. It was worth the extra price we paid.
Our bags arrived shortly after and we rested and got ready for dinner where we had the second seating. This served us very well for this cruise as we would be tired after a long day of sightseeing and would come back for a nice nap until about 7pm. Keep in mind that it was light out from 4am to approx. midnight every night...in fact, it never really got completely dark.
One of the first things we immediately noticed is the general age of the passengers. I would say the average age was approximately 60 years old. For me, I loved this! In my opinion, older people are generally more interesting to talk to. However, the other thing we noticed is that we were definitely the minority. In fact, we did not meet anyone else the entire time on the cruise from the US. Again...this is GREAT in my opinion. I loved it. We did meet a lot of people from the UK, a nice couple from South Africa, Italy and Germany.
The service was great in our room...I swear they made up our beds 3 times a day. :) We had absolutely no issues at all with anything related to our room. The service in the dining room was good but not like we have experienced on other cruises. We did have a great server 'Phillip' from Brazil and he was very friendly. However we encountered waiters at other times that were not very warm and fuzzy...they seemed a bit put off by us.
The food....well....I had read reviews before going and so I was prepared. There were a few dishes that were quite good (a pork dinner one night) and the desserts and pasta dishes were all very good. One of my dinner choices was inedible...ugh. But again, all in all...I would say the food was decent to good.
The casino was very small and often times we were the only ones playing but we absolutely loved some of the staff. Christian from Ecuador was the best! Also, we loved Daniel from Romania but he took a lot of my money loll. They offered black jack, 5 card poker (against the dealer) as well as roulette. From talking to the casino staff, the Northern Europe trip typically does not have many gamblers. We still had a great time each night playing a few hours of blackjack as poker. There wasn't enough interest to get the Texas Hold Me tournament going so I was a bit bummed by that.
The sites (Oslo, Stavanger, Flam and Bergen) were all fantastic. We loved them all. We did not book any excursions through the ship and saved quite a bit of money by booking directly with the companies.
Oslo: we just walked around, shopped in the wonderful downtown area, tried to ride the bus to visit the Viking museum but ending up getting lost and going to a residential area. The good thing is that most people (if not all) speak English so we really had an easy time getting back to the cruise port area. All in all we loved the experience...even the getting lost. It's all part of the adventure!
Stavanger: Oh what a lovely port! We got off the ship and immediately booked a 3 hr. cruise to see Pulpit Rock (from the water not walking on the rock). Again, we paid less than what the ship was advertising. Before our cruise, we walked around the great shops, had lunch, watched people, etc. It was a wonderful sunny day. The cruise was fantastic and worth the price we paid approx. $65 apiece. When we came back we went up to the top deck of the ship (the disco area) and took in the sun, the people down below in the port, the wonderful scenery, it was truly lovely.
Flam: Again...breathtaking. Unfortunately, the weather turned a bit cold a little rainy. We knew that was wanted to take the infamous Flam train to Myrdal and back and figured it would be rather busy later in the day. We were some of the first off the ship and headed right to the train station ...only a short 5 minute walk. The round-trip was approx. $65 each and again worth every penny. One piece of advice. When going up to Myrdyl, find a seat on the right hand side of the train. :) There isn't a lot to do right in the small village so this might be one stop that I would recommend taking a ship excursion after the train ride. We ended up heading back to the ship for lunch and then taking a VERY long nap...I don't think I have ever slept so much in one week...it was much needed.
Bergen: This was our departure port so we headed off the ship (there were maybe 50 other people also leaving at this stop) . One thing I didn't research was how far the airport was from the cruise port. We ended up walking with our bags into the city center (maybe a 20 minute walk) and then luckily found a taxi to take us to the airport which was about 25 minutes away. The taxi was about $75 for the both of us. We didn't get to see much of Bergen as our flight left at 10 am. We heard that it rains 300 days a year in Bergen. We took a flight back to Amsterdam and stayed the night again and headed home the next morning.
All in all our trip was fantastic! I don't think the trip is for everyone but if you have an open mind and want to see some of the most fantastic scenery in the world, this cruise is for you.
The ONE negative thing for us was how expensive everything is...the US dollar is not worth much in Norway. A beer for example cost approx $12 USD..so needless to say, we didn't spend a lot of money in the ports on knick knacks, food etc.