Why Santas sled must be pulled by female reindeer.
Europe - British Isles & Western
We chose this cruise because we had been to, and fallen in love with the Norwegian Fjords with Costa but Costa were only offering North Cape with a flight so we elected for Princes from Southampton and were not disappointed.
The staff from the captain down to the deck painter and flag raiser were all friendly and welcoming ( I love to be up on deck early with my camera) and they still greeted one with a cheerful Good Morning - how are you sir and seemed to mean it. The cabin although described ass bigger than previous balconies on Costa appeared when we first checked in to be smaller. The hanging area between the main cabin and washroom facility however turned into a great dressing area.
A revelation for us and the highlight of the cruise was the opportunity for any time dining which we elected each time to "share a table" and met so many brilliant helpful erudite people that I could have stayed all evening talking except the need after a few hours of going to the More
theatre shows of which the on board cast provided a great experience. The food was excellent and with the attentive but not obtrusive staff added to the experience. One thing I learnt and is worth having in mind if a show is an essential part of the cruise is that many of the larger shows stay on the same ship for up to 7 years or the next wet or dry dock so any early return would be greeted by the same show!!
A further plus was a photo workshop delivered by a photographer who ran the platinum studio I learnt more in one hour than in many other courses++
The downsides were the limited number of formal evenings and the chance to dress up allow the moths flying time from my DJ and give my wife excuse for new dresses (which she looks wonderful in) there were only two in the 12 days and some fellow guests came for dinner those nights in the Da Vinci / Michelangelo dining rooms in less than even smart casual - and no one turned them away. On previous Costa cruises they would have been sent to the buffet to avoid spoiling the experience and ambiance for others.I was also disappointed with the "Enrichment and port lecturer" both were boring and did not add to the experience such that we only went to see each once. The final irritant was the Bergen stop at half a day, moored in the industrial port with the last shuttle return at 13.00 did not give opportunity to really enjoy the port.
Overall the pluses far outweighed the any negatives and I will certainly be travelling with Princess again and recommend them I agree with what they say "exceeding my expectation". Less
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Cabin review: BDR254 Balcony
R254 Riviera which is deck 14 balcony cabin forward great quiet location, cabin did not seem as large as described but in use the layout of the hanging wardrobe area provided a great dressing room. The balcony is good it does overlook balconies on two lower tiers of cabins this is no problem for R254 which is not itself overlooked.
Port and Shore Excursions
Fabulous port we had visited before but this time we were limited by our time in port we elected a visit to the Stave church (interesting in the middle of a wood but a stout 400 yard walk) to find a structure that was photogenic but locked and the caretaker did not turn up to let us in out of the rain!! embarrassing our tour guides. Although it is said to be one of only 26 stave churches in Norway this is a bit of a fib, the original church was demolished and moved to this "private site" all well and good but the actual structure is an authentic reconstruction! as the original church was burnt down by extremists in the 1990's. The Edward Grieg house and museum were again worth visiting but this time the coaches were only permitted to go within 700 yards of the house and museum - fairly strenuous walking for anyone with disability. The house is interesting and with original furniture - it is tiny with three main rooms to visit all on the ground floor but accessed up steps. The second part of the tour is a recital in a theatre constructed in the grounds with a glass window giving fabulous views of the Fjord beyond - the pianist was of concert class and played the grand piano to perfection a highlight f the trip. The other two really interesting parts are the wooden lodge furnished as at the time of Grieg where he composed and the wall plaque marking the burial spot of hi and his wife's ashes in the cliff face both are in fabulous palaces with amazing views over the Fjord but to get to them needed fitness and an ability to descend steep and uneven steps. The museum was modern and small and the cafe gift shop good but expensive - as is everything in Norway. (I would recommend for a person with limited mobility sharing a taxi, the place is not far out of Bergen and taxi's can get straight to the door. The city tour around Bergen was excellent but just a taster for what one felt one wanted to see more of in the compact centre such as the historic brightly coloured Hanseatic League houses no museum of that life and shops, the fish market and the funicular railway to the mountain top offering exquisite views of the city and fjord are all close together but on this trip time was our enemy. Always try to go for a cruise offering a full day in Bergen.
This was my second visit to Flam and as previously we wanted to travel on the Flamsbana Railway and I advised fellow passengers that on previous cruises we had been able to book tickets at the station easily. Unfortunately this time there were two cruise ships in port Grand Princess with 3200 passengers and Holland America Rotterdam with 1400 both had booked many organised tours including the railway. The ques started at the station at 07.15, I joined at 08.20 and after queuing in line for 1 hour 15 minutes was one of the last successful passenger's to get a return ticket to make the ships sailing! There were still hundreds in the line at that time who were disappointed. The trip was and is brilliant it costs 350 Norwegian Kroner each (approximately £40 or $64)But in future check which ship is going to be in Flam and maybe how large your ship is. (One clever passenger via Cruise critic had bought the minimum 10 pre booked tickets on line and shared the discount and availability on board!)
A port we did on our own, the port is some distance from the town but dependant on one's fitness levels a 15 minute sharp walk. We took the shuttle at $6 each way and enjoyed tremendously the cathedral and museums in the complex (Archbishops palace and crown jewels) a ticket for all three was 140 kroner a saving of the 189 kroner of buying each separate. The military museum is in the same complex and is brilliant and free although poignant about the Nazi occupation and persecution in the second world war. From the cathedral a short walk to the river and the old lift bridge and colourful converted warehouses a fabulous photo opportunity. Back on board Monksholm is a small island with buildings which is also photogenic and appeared to have many tourist boats visiting. Highlight was a wedding party with bride / groom chauffeur and photographer who used the dockside and Monksholm as a super backdrop for their wedding snaps and made a great picture for us as well.