We booked the 8/30/2014 cruise to the Fjords of Norway, and arrived in London a few days early. We had a pleasant stay at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. We arranged for an International Friends bus to get us to Southampton, ... Read More
We booked the 8/30/2014 cruise to the Fjords of Norway, and arrived in London a few days early. We had a pleasant stay at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. We arranged for an International Friends bus to get us to Southampton, stopping in Stonehenge. Stonehenge was a bit crowded. There’s a path and short fence circling Stonehenge. We can’t go into the stones, only around them. And so we did.
Arriving in Southampton, there was some confusion on which line to join…An officious, squinting lady studied our ticket for a long minute, then resolutely pointed us the wrong way. We corrected that, going under some ropes to the proper line, and then through security, registered quickly and boarded without incident
Celebrity provided a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine provided in the cabin, nestled in an ice bucket. The bottle was wet and slippery and, when the cork popped prematurely, the bottle escaped my grip, and there was champagne everywhere. We flung towels out and, to add to the sense of mayhem, the doorbell rang. As luck would have it, it’s the blond assistant manager of room attendants. I lauded her timely arrival, and pointed out the mess we had just made. She beckoned the room attendant who undid the damage I had done.
After our first dinner, we stopped in the ship’s theater. A Chinese magician was doing Magic 101 rope-cutting tricks, seen a thousand times before. While he had reasonable English skills, he had no stage charisma. That was the last show we attended.
During the cruise, we made ample use of the Aqua Spa, as documented by Celebrity’s accountants in our final room statement. Service in the spa was good, with a bit less hard sell on the goos and ointments than we experienced on an earlier cruise. At times, they can seem like snake-oil peddlers.
Breakfasts and lunches in Deck 14’s the Oceanview café on 14 can be an ordeal. Time it wrong, especially on sea days, and you’re coping with the entire ship’s contingent of passengers scavenging for food. You should check out alternate available venues for breakfast and lunch (e.g, the MDR, the Aqua Café in the solarium and, of course, the Mast Grill.)
On our cruise, one of the ship’s at-sea diversions was a lecture in the theater about the WWII invasion of Norway. The lecture started at 13:00. We arrived twenty minutes late, and people were already leaving. Once in the theater, we understood why. The lecturer had lost his PowerPoint slides, mid-presentation, and was slowly searching through his laptop’s directories, trying to fine the right .ppt file. We watched him struggle quietly for about five minutes, and left. I sensed a brewing rebellion in the remaining crowd. Later, on the ship’s TV, we caught up with some if the ship’s recorded lectures on Norway. These on-board performances were head-and-shoulders above the PowerPoint hell that 1941 invasion of Norway was. We learned about glaciation and the formation of the fjords.
There was a new drill for the Captain’s Club happy hour. On the Equinox last year, it was held in a cordoned-off area of the Sky Lounge on 14. On this cruise, the Eclipse did it differently. Captain’s Club Elite members could swill their drinks at any of a number of bars on board. To support that, they provided sheets of drink coupons. We were allocated three drinks per person per day. This was reasonable, but the coupons added a cheesy note.
Meals in the MDR were good. The Tuscan Grill and Murano were head and shoulders better.
The ship’s first stop was in Bergen, where we quickly espied a TGI Fridays, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks and so on. (Why do we even travel?). After that, Flåm, a tiny town surrounded by mountains at the end of a fjord. With only 300 or so inhabitants in Flåm, the Eclipse’s passenger population was tenfold larger. Had we been organized, we could have taken over the town before the Norwegians knew what was happening. Instead, everyone was either sleeping in, noshing on breakfast, or preparing for their organized excursions into greater Flåm. There was no unity of purpose. In Flåm, up on a hill, there was a farmer on the hill who had posted a large sign “No Cruise Ships.”…one of the disgruntled 300.
While in the fjords, we would often discover there was no internet. In fact, there was no satellite TV, as well. The towering mountains deprived the ship of a bead on the southern sky for its satellite signal. In spite of this hardship, we continued to project an outward sense of calm.
The next stop, the cruise’s northernmost port, was Geiranger. As the ship approached the port, the boat slowed and executed a tight 180° turn, aligning with two big docking buoys, fore and aft. I was impressed. On the shore, nearby, was the floating walkway that replaced the need for tenders. It worked well.
Geiranger is larger than Flåm, populated with more shops and restaurants, a hotel, houses, farms, and an RV campground. Like Flåm, it’s completely surrounded by mountains. Midday is the time to hit it, since the mountain sunrise came about 10:00 a.m., and the mountain sunset was probably around 14:30.
Alesund followed Geiranger and, after that, Stavanger. Both Alesund and Stavanger are proper cities, with ample opportunity for walking and exploring. (We’re not keen on organized excursions.)
At some point during the cruise, we had gotten a call From Fabian, inviting us to check out the exclusive Michael’s Club on deck 5. So, one day, at 17:00, we did. We walked in and sat down. It was so exclusive that no one was there. No passengers. No wait staff. A minute passed, and another couple wandered in, beckoned, as we were, by a phone call from Fabian. The couple accurately assessed that drinks weren’t flowing, backed out of the place quickly. After a couple of beats, we followed.
During the cruise, my wife had one bout of gastrointestinal discomfort. The ship’s nurse was professional and helpful. Lacking any abdominal cramps, the nurse doubted that my wife had norovirus, so euthanasia was ruled out. She got a shot, some medications, and a day of quarantine.
That afforded us the opportunity to try out the Eclipse’s room service. We over-ordered food. A bit later, Alex, our suite butler, staggered in carrying a tray that was stacked improbably high with covered dishes. The food was good. We ate on our balcony, where it was warm and sunny, facing the setting sun. As we ate, the ship pulled out of port. Seagulls were dodging and weaving alongside, putting on an aerial show. We learned this wasn’t a spontaneous show of avian affection. Someone on a balcony forward of us was putting food on the railing, attracting the gulls.
Disembarkation in Southampton was a breeze. We had been told to muster in the Tuscan Grill at 7:30 to await our turn. We had luggage tags #10. When we got there a few minutes early, Bruce, the terrific concierge from the Sky Lounge was there, directing traffic. He reported that luggage numbers 1-15 had already been called and, undoing our leg chains, advised that we were free to disembark. . A flash of our key cards, and we were fleeing down ramps that zig-zagged down to street level.
There was already a sea of luggage there, awaiting their travelers. In short order, we found our bags and our transfer bus and were off to Heathrow. It was Sunday, with light traffic. We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 early, at 9:05 a.m.