June 3, 2011 12-day Fjords & Highlands Review by cruise2rejuv
Our trip began with a 3 night pre-cruise stay in London. Not nearly enough time to visit this wonderful city. We flew into Gatwick and were able to take the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station. Being seniors, our passage was £26 for the two of us. We walked from Victoria station to our hotel, which was a 5-minute walk south - Best Western Victoria Palace. Very nice, small basic room with air conditioning, safe, and a nice breakfast. The front desk provided much help with advice on the attractions. We used the tubes (subways) extensively using our Oyster Cards.
We made arrangements with National Express to get us from London to Dover for embarkation. Senior price : £27 for the two of us. Since we arrived at the ship close to 2:30pm, our check-in went very quickly as there were no lines. Of course, we had to stop to get our picture taken by the ever-present Paparazzi.
We found out that Holland America tries to eliminate the spread of certain shipboard nuisance maladies by disallowing any self serve food for 48 hours.
Cabin: We reserved an Aft (wake-watcher) stateroom (4182) and found it really nice. The room was long, but somewhat narrow which made for difficulty retrieving items from the small, dark closets. The verandah was quite large (8.75'w x 6.5'd). The bathroom was ok excepting no storage space for normal bathroom goodies. There was no noise other than normal ship sounds, and the ride was totally smooth. Our cabin stewards were fantastic. We have found that rear cabins are great for viewing both sides of the ship.
Ship: This was our first time on the Eurodam, which after studying the deck-plan map, is quite easy to get around - Our stateroom was directly above the MDR and a few decks below the Lido. We were about a third of a mile from the entertainment venues where the talent was wonderful. The cruise director, Ian Page, was really great - good sense of humor. We had our CC Meet 'n Greet in the Crow's Nest the first day at sea which was very well attended thanks to Spinner2 - The area of the Crow's Nest seems to be eaten up by the Exploration Cafe and Library.
Dining: We had a table for six with late dining (8:00pm) due to such a port intensive cruise. Our tablemates were fantastic. The entertainment shows were held one hour earlier than dinner. Our wait staff was great as well. The food quality didn't seem to be up to the same standards as with our first 6 HAL cruises. It might be due to the fact that there weren't any alternate restaurants on those cruises. There was a Lido Party, rather than the Dessert Extravaganza
Ports and Excursions : Our ports of call were really interesting which included;
Copenhagen, Denmark : We opted to do-our-own by visiting the Rosenborg Castle, the Round Tower, the Little Mermaid, walking through the city and having a cool drink at the Ice Bar.
Oslo, Norway : This was a DIY as well. We took advantage of the Oslo Pass, which provided transport and free entrance to several attractions. The Vigeland Sculpture Park was wonderful and should not be missed.
Kristiansand, Norway : Our tour here was short - the HAL excursions were very expensive and the town was easy walking. Not our favorite.
Bergen, Norway : We took a HAL tour - Floibanen and Mt. Fløyen hike. The weather was basically a cloud of fog with a little rain but the hike was beautiful. We also visited the Rosenkrantz Tower and fortress.
Invergorden, Scotland : After a day at sea, we arrived here to take a HAL tour to visit Urquhart Castle along the bank of Loch Ness - we saw no monster! We visited the Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle and gardens. Very good tour.
Newcastle upon Tyne, England : This HAL tour took us along the path of Hadrian's Wall to visit various castles and sites near the North Pennines - Highest point in England. Since the coach tour was so long, the driver was asked to stop at an extra relief station - My DW and I were almost (unintentionally) left behind because the tour guide thought all were on board, incorrectly counted noses and took off! We were somewhat perplexed, thought the bus had to relocate so we waited, looked around and saw no one familiar - then sort of panicked. Within a minute, the coach entered the parking lot and picked us up - We were greeted with applause.
South Queensferry (Edinburgh) Scotland : Our HAL tour consisted visiting a very interesting boat elevator called the Falkirk Wheel, which by lifting a boat up 79 feet from one canal to another, eliminates 11 sets of locks. We hiked a trail to view the ruins of the ancient Roman Fort of Rough Castle and Antonine's Wall. After that tour, we took a city bus from S. Queensferry to Edinburgh (£6 round-trip) - what a beautiful city.
Communication in General : Prior to the cruise, we found answers difficult to find out from HAL if we could exchange US $$ for the necessary monies required in England (£), Denmark (DKK), and Norway (NOK) on board. We purchased those currencies from our bank in the USA and were more than pleased because we could pay on the spot without the need for a credit card. We had some Danish Kroner left over but were able to use them in Norway.
Check your final statement - for charges you did not make and compare it with your credit card statement. We were overcharged a minor fee because someone accidentally used our stateroom number while purchasing some waters. I will sometimes reverse a number or two (4182 or 4281) - The process of the vendor not scanning the room key allows these errors to possibly occur.
Disembarkation : Extremely efficient.