We greatly enjoyed our trip to Norway. This review will be particularly helpful for families and travelers with disabilities, since we brought our 6 year old and two year old children on this vacation.
Our precruise stay was in London. We stayed at the Dolphin House Service Apartments, which is conveniently located within a short walk or cab ride to many major London tourist attractions. The hotel is very clean, well designed and spacious – we had a 3 bedroom suite and the kids were so excited that my son said it was the perfect hotel to play hide and seek in. Families should consider staying in executive apartments which are primarily designed for long term business stays, because they often have a one bedroom apartment with a living room and kitchen for the price of a regular hotel room. The concierge and hotel staff were extremely helpful and friendly, and this hotel is an excellent choice for families.
Our son loves Harry Potter, so his first request upon learning we would be visiting London was to see Kings Cross station. They kindly let you pose for free with a Hogwarts scarf and wand (and let family members take pictures), but please note that since this is free and each individual gets to make several poses, there can be a very long line (we visited midweek in May and waited 20 minutes – the photographer said it could be over an hour wait on weekends during the summer). Please also note that Kings Cross is about 20 minutes away from Westminster Abbey via the Underground or cab, so you might want to know that it isn’t that close to most tourist attractions before promising your kids they can go (I didn’t realize this, but my son loved it so it was all worth it in the end). If you love Harry Potter, there are a lot of options listed here: http://www.visitlondon.com/things-to...resQQm5GdUx.97. If you like the movies, there might be better places to visit than Platform 9 ¾, particularly the Warner Brothers Studio tour, which is located 20 miles from London. We visited the London Eye (and bought the more expensive tickets that let you bypass the lines, since the kids were tired and jet lagged and we only had one day in London) and then took a double decker bus that got us halfway to Kings Cross station.
Our next day was an excellent tour of Stonehenge and a visit to the amazing Salisbury Cathedral (and I was absolutely shocked when my 6 year old told me that the Salisbury Cathedral was his favorite attraction on this cruise). The people at www.salisburystonehengetours.co.uk provided us with an outstanding tour. Our tour guide, Jeff, is extremely knowlegeble about the history of Stonehenge, and even brought books along for our children to learn more about the history of Stonehenge. Anyone who would like an in depth understanding of these sites would greatly enjoy this tour.
One of the questions that often gets asked on the cruise critic Baltic forums is which cities should one visit in Norway. We chose this particular cruise because it visits both Geiranger and Flam (and as it turned out Olden was also quite impressive). The highlight of Stavanger is Pulpit Rock. If you aren’t able to make this hike (and please note that it is rated as an easy hike, although it may take about 2 hours each way) you can still have a nice day in Stavanger, but it isn’t a must-see city if Pulpit Rock is not accessible for your family (or if the weather is bad, since you won’t be able to see much from the top if it is foggy).
Because of our two year old and six year old, we decided not to attempt to hike Pulpit Rock. Our ship docked very close to the Old Town of Stavanger, and we enjoyed a pleasant and easy walk through the charming streets. We visited the Petroleum Museum, which was a bit underwhelming but a nice place to spend some time. Children will like the crane where you can knock down giant foam blocks, and there is a lovely playground right across the street from the museum.
We greatly enjoyed our Fjord cruise with Rodne cruises. The only bad reviews for the fjord cruises in Stavanger on Tripadvisor were written by people who were disappointed because they had seen most of these views on the ship during the sail-in. We had two interior cabins, and were chasing two kids around, so we didn’t see much of the sail-in and therefore cannot address these concerns. It was a pleasant and lovely cruise for our family, and a nice way to get out of the rain. The Rodne boats have a covered interior downstairs and an open top on their ships, so you can be completely protected from the rain if you choose to stay on the bottom level. The ship is very safe for young children, and most of the bottom floor of the boat is childproofed so a small child cannot fall in the water (the exception is the back of the ship, where there is a tiny area with a railing with wide gaps. That section isn’t very dangerous, but you would need to stay close to a young child since they can wriggle through wide railings quickly).
One of the cities we chose this itinerary for was Flam, and it is an absolutely beautiful place to visit. We had one very bad experience in Flam. We didn’t book the earliest Flam railway train since the port was listed as a possible tender, and we didn’t want to worry about making the earliest train. That left us with 2 hours of free time in the morning. I was a little concerned about traveling all the way to the Stegastein viewing platform because I was worried that if we were delayed we’d miss our tickets on the Flam railway. There is a small tourist train that travels around Flam called the Rallartoget, which departs near the Flam railway. According to its website, it departs every hour on the hour starting at 10 am, and returns 45 minutes later. As soon as we arrived in Flam, I went straight to the Rallartoget booth and asked their employee to confirm the schedule. He assured me the train would leave at 10 am and return at 10:45, which would leave us plenty of time to make the train (and get on line ahead of time to ensure we have good seats).
At 10:07, the train hadn’t left and they were still selling tickets to people on line. I went to the railway operator and told him we were promised this train would leave at 10 am, and that we needed to be back on time to ride on the Flam railway. He told me he wouldn’t let the train leave until the train is full and told me that it wasn’t guaranteed I’d make the Flam train so I should just get off the train and take a refund. We left the train, and walked to the Flam railway platform where we could still see the tourist train. The tourist train did not depart until 10:14 am, which is an unacceptable delay for a 45 minute ride when the train had been sitting at the terminal all night long.
We’ve previously taken our children on several of these small tourist trains (they’re usually nothing special but kids tend to really enjoy them) and they have always been advertised in the past as departing whenever they are full. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with the trains waiting until they are full to depart as long as they are honest with people about their schedule. By the time we exited the train, it was too late to go to the Stegastein viewing platform, and we wound up having to spend two hours in Flam with two young children waiting around. We would have been able to visit the viewing platform if the Rallartoget employee had been honest when I asked him at 9 am about the train schedule.
When we were on the Flam train, another couple came up to us and told us they’d been on the Rallartoget with us and that we didn’t miss anything – apparently the route travels much of the same way the Flam train goes, plus there was a lot of construction so they didn’t see anything scenic.
If you want to ride the amazing Flam railway, you should book this first, since the railway tickets tend to book up quickly during the height of the tour season. The Flam railway is a five minute walk from where you dock or tender, so this can easily be undertaken as an independent excursion. We booked our tickets online at the Norwegian Railways site at https://www.nsb.no/en/?gclid=CMuvnubiitMCFYoy0wodZb8BnQ .
If that site is showing that everything is booked, other cruise critic posters have mentioned trying http://booking.visitflam.com/en/to-do/a1488268/the-flåm-railway/showdetails , and other posters have stated that this site has access to different tickets and sometimes has availability even when the Norwegian railway site lists no availability. Also, people have reported on the forums that when the train was initially sold out, they kept checking and eventually tickets opened up due to cancellations. Another option is to check with your cruise line – it will be more expensive to purchase this excursion through the cruise line but worth it if you cannot purchase the tickets independently.
A quick online search seemed to recommend that you should sit on the right side of the train on the Flam to Myrdal journey. The view on that side was quite lovely, but might also be on the other side.
In Flam, we had a lovely afternoon visiting a goat farm, exploring the beautiful town of Undredal (the inspiration for the movie Frozen), and then eating local cheeses (including brown caramel goat cheese) and a delicious lunch that was organized by Flam Guide Service ( http://www.fjordsafari.com ). Fjord Safari's booth is located about a minute away from the Flam railway platform, so you will have no problem finding your tour. You can combine this tour with a hike and boat ride along the fjords if your group is all physically fit. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable excursion, which I would highly recommend. We traveled in May, before the goats move to their summer farms so this excursion had to be individually arranged. Flam Guide service stayed in contact with us and gave us updates as they worked to book this reservation, and they also helpfully provided car seats for our children. Our tour guide was highly knowlegdable and helpful and this tour was one of the highlights of our cruise.
One of the other cities we chose this cruise for was Geiranger. Visitors should please note that if you are planning on driving to the beautiful scenic viewpoints at Dalsnibba that Road 63 opens between mid-May and early June, depending upon how long it takes to clear the snow and when the avalanche risk has ended (the engineers wait until the big spring avalanche occurs before opening the road). You should consider choosing a cruise that visits later to ensure you will be able to experience all of the beauty of Geiranger. It would be helpful if the cruise lines adjusted their itineraries and put Geiranger last on May cruises, since Road 63 opened the on our last port day, when we were in Bergen, but they may have logistical reasons for leaving the port stop in Geiranger earlier. We were told in Flam that the waterfalls all looked gorgeous in May because they are currently filled with snow runoff. This will melt, and then the waterfalls won’t be nearly as impressive later in the season so that might be one reason to choose a May cruise.
Crowds also tend to be a bit thinner in May, so you may experience more availability about booking tickets on the Flam railroad (we booked at the last minute and might have been shut out if we’d tried to book last minute tickets in June) and changing the troll car in Olden.
Cunard requires passengers to pass a “step test” in which you step across two pieces of tape 18 inches apart in order to demonstrate that you are physically capable of boarding a tender without requiring crew assistance. The people running the tender insisted that my 2 year old would need to pass this test prior to our family being issued tender tickets. My husband offered to take the test while carrying our 2 year old son, but the people running the tender refused to allow this. We went to the purser’s office and after a half hour wait we were eventually issued a tender ticket by them. When we went to tender, the Cunard crew did exactly what the crew on the Coral Princess did when my older son was two and we sailed through the Panama Canal – they picked our child up and placed him into the tender boat. We were prepared to carry him ourselves, but completely agreed with the crew members that letting them transport the toddler was the safest option. I support step tests for passengers in general because I believe that crew members or passengers could be injured if crew members try to lift an adult with a disability, but lifting a two year old child shouldn’t endanger the crew. After the cruise, I emailed Cunard and they confirmed that a parent should be allowed to take the step test carrying a small child and if they pass they should be issued a tour ticket. So if you have any problems with this issue, please go to the purser’s office and ask them for assistance. This unfortunately caused us to be an hour late for our private tour, which upset our tour guide. We were scheduled to start tendering at 8 am, and weren’t able to get off the ship until 10.
In Geiranger, Geiranger Fjordservice is the dominant tour operator. We booked a private limousine tour for just our family to visit the various scenic viewpoints. When I was organizing the tour, I emailed the company to request that they provide a car seat booster for my 6 year old. I was told that they did not have this, and we’d need to bring it. This was the only transfer on our trip that refused to provide a booster seat, and it required us to transport 2 car seats to Europe. After the cruise, I learned that transportation services in Norway are required by law to provide car seats upon request.
I had also emailed them ahead of time to request that we stop at a goat farm by a lake we were scheduled to visit. Their company told me in email that they could not arrange a visit ahead of time, but we could stop our car and visit with the goats if they were along the fence.
This delay in being issued tender tickets caused us to be late for our private tour. I had called the company at 8:30 in the morning since our tour was scheduled to begin at 9 and requested that we please move it to 10. The woman who answered the phone said, “oh, it’s no problem – your driver will just be here whenever you arrive.” I told her we were having difficulties getting off the ship and could be delayed longer and she assured me there were no problems and to just come whenever we were able to leave the ship.
When we were finally able to exit the ship, the driver told us he’d been waiting a long time and had almost left without us. It was unfortunate that his office chose not to tell him about our delay, and we explained that we’d tried to leave a message with the main office. Geiranger Fjordservice runs buses to the attractions we visited, but we booked a much more expensive private tour for our family so we’d have control over the itinerary, which is important when you are traveling with small children. Unfortunately, when we asked if we could stop at the goat farm that was just down the road from our last stop, our driver told us that in Norway it was illegal for anyone to visit a farm without proper vaccinations. If this is correct, then it would be quite odd since Norway’s travel website includes a link to the goat farm experience we undertook in Flam. My kids were starting to get a bit carsick after the long drives through the hairpin roads in Geiranger, so I didn’t argue with the driver about the fact that we were told by the office in email it would be possible to stop (we saw the goats from the road so it would have been easy to visit). If other families are trying to visit please note that the goat farm that is located at the first curve off Eagle road from Geiranger, near the lake they will probably take you to. Hopefully other families will have more luck being able to visit there.
Visitors should note that the viewing platforms in Geiranger are amazing (especially on a clear day) but there are hairpin roads to reach them, and it could be a little challenging if you are prone to car sickness. I would not recommend using Geirangerfjordservice for private transportation, but they do run a bus to the panoramic viewing stations and it seems unlikely travelers would experience the problems we did on a group bus tour, since most of the reviews on tripadvisor are positive for this company.
At the end of the tour, we decided to stop for lunch in Geiranger. We were a little scared to stop at Braserie Posten, since it is in a tourist trap location right near the cruise ship terminal, but the yelp reviews were positive and the food was excellent. There is seating with a beautiful view of the harbor in the back of the restaurant. We went through two bowls of fish soup, since the kids were so happy eating all of it. It is a very short walk from this restaurant to the dock, so this is a nice way to conclude your day in Geiranger.
We were extremely fortunate to learn that the Loen Skylift opened three days prior to our arrival in Olden. I was a bit anxious about the logistics of visiting a brand new attraction with small children, and the owner of Olden Adventures was very patient and reassuring about the logistics of reaching the skylift. As it turned out, the weather was a bit rainy on the day we arrived, so there were very few crowds. It was still a very beautiful location, with a gorgeous viewing platform. On nice days, paragliders take off from the mountain (that happened the day before we arrived) and that must be spectacular to see if you are lucky enough to get good weather. The food in the restaurant was excellent, especially the sample platter of local meat. It’s unsurprisingly expensive, but the view is outstanding and the food delicious.
The Loen Skylift is only a 6 km bus ride from Olden, so it isn’t very difficult to get there. Olden Adventures ( http://www.oldenadventure.com/ ) is running shuttles to the Loen Skylift, right next to their buses to the Biksdal Glacier so it would be very easy to travel to both attractions through Olden Adventures. Both buses leave from the only petrol station in town, which is a very short walk from where your ship will dock.
You can also take a cab to the Loen skylift. It is a 40 minute ride to the Briksdal Glacier, so a cab there would probably be quite a bit more expensive. Please note that cabs will refuse to transport children without car seats, and although they are required to provide them upon request we were unable to fill any taxi requests we made (we only emailed the taxi companies 2 days in advance; you might have better luck if you contact cab companies far in advance).
The most economical option for getting to the Briksdal Glacier is a public bus that runs from June –August. The Norway tourist office stated that in the 2017 season the bus left Port Olden at 9:58 am, and departs Biksdal Glacier at 1:30 pm, and is currently listed as costing 132 NOK for each adult ticket. You might want to contact the tourist office to see if there is any way to purchase tickets ahead of time or if they can run additional buses if the first one is full.
The Briksdal Glacier has been hit hard by global warming, but the 40 minute bus ride there is quite scenic and lovely, as is the hike itself to the glacier so overall this excursion is a very good choice as long as you realize ahead of time that the most beautiful pictures online of the glacier showing lots of ice are not recent and don’t represent what you will see at the glacier.
For travelers with young children or mobility issues, there are troll cars available for rent to reduce the length of your hike. These golf carts travel most of the way to the glacier, leaving you with a very pleasant and relatively flat 700 m walk. Since we didn’t expect my 2 year old to make it all the way to the glacier, my husband and 6 year old went ahead of us. To my surprise, my 2 year old slowly but steadily made the entire hike in the allocated time (they tell you what time to return to the platform to catch your return troll car). Reservations are required for troll cars in May and October, and recommended during the summer months (the troll car season runs from May-October). The only challenging thing is that they do request that you tell them what time you’d like to ride on the troll car, which is hard if you want to chose a time to do this excursion based upon the weather forecast (although it is completely understandable they ask you to pick a time, since otherwise there might be a lot of people trying to get on a troll car at one time and this would cause really long delays). I don’t know if the troll car operators are always flexible about the time of your reservation, but we changed our minds about what time to visit the glacier on the day we traveled since we wanted to visit the Loen skylift in the afternoon when the weather was scheduled to be better. I emailed the troll car operators at 9 am as soon as we got on the bus towards the glacier, and they had already switched my reservation by the time we arrived at the troll car office. We traveled in May, when things are less crowded so I don’t know if they will be able to accommodate a change in reservation time during the busy summer months. The troll car website where you can make your advance reservation is available at: http://www.oldedalenskysslag.com .
Near where you pick up the troll car is a small café off the souvenir shop; they have excellent waffles. They are best freshly made, so if you have time keep an eye on the plate where they store the waffles and order them when everyone else bought up the older waffles. My family started off by ordering 4, and ended up eating 12 (the kids really loved them and since they’d just finished hiking to a glacier without a single complaint I wasn’t going to say no), so we were able to get a lot of fresh waffles.
We arrived in Bergen on what the ship’s employees described as one of the worst weather days in Bergen – and that says a lot considering the fact that it rains in Bergen 240 days a year! Due to the poor weather, we actually did not experience any lines for the funicular. On a clear day, the lines can be quite long so pre-purchasing your tickets online can help you avoid at least one set of lines (there could still be lines waiting to get on the funicular even if you already have pre-purchased your tickets). The top of Mt. Floyen has a lovely playground and nice restaurants, and is probably a wonderful place to visit when the weather is nice.
The Bergen fish market is nearby, where adventurous eaters can sample whale. There are many other fish selections, including excellent fish soup and fish kebobs. There are heaters and blankets so even in the cold, rainy weather we were able to enjoy a very nice meal there.
There really aren’t any public transportation options to the funicular from the port, but it is only a 10-minute walk if your ship docks close to town. Half of this walk is along the beautiful streets of Bryggn, and the other half is a little less scenic (but perfectly safe). If you have disabilities, you can try to arrange for a taxi ahead of time, but families should note it may be difficult to obtain taxis in Norway due to their stringent car seat regulations. Families should consider either the HOHO bus or the Museum Shuttle bus. The museum shuttle bus ticket includes entry to the Hanseatic Museum, Schotstuene and the Norwegian Fisheries Museum. We visited the Norwegian Fisheries Museum, which had some nice hands-on attractions for children. This isn’t a must-see museum, but the kids were very happy for a half hour and then the shuttle bus took us back to the city center.
If I had been able to take a taxi, we would have visited the ViVite Science Center, which has very strong reviews. There is also the Bergen Aquarium, which can be reached via Beffen, a public ferry that runs every 10 minutes Monday-Friday starting at 7:30 am and also during the summer on Saturdays starting at 11 am. The aquarium’s reviews were a bit more mixed than the Science Center, but the Beffen itself is supposed to be a charming ride. Families should also note that there is a Vannkanten Waterworld to consider visiting. The museum bus does not visit these attractions, but it is quite possible the HOHO bus will.
There are many positives about sailing on Cunard. We were very impressed with most of the staff, which mainly consisted of very hard working and dedicated employees. We sailed with a 2-year old and a 6-year old, and one night the head waiter noticed the 6-year old sharing his prawn dish with his brother, and brought over a second plate of food so they could both eat. The food was generally quite good. It is very difficult to cook for the entire main dining room at once, and understandably a few dishes fell short (which is exactly what happened on Princess and HAL, the other two lines I’ve been happy with their food). But some of the food was always excellent, and by ordering 3 courses each person was able to have a very strong dining experience overall. There was some very good food in the buffet – usually the ethnic food, the carved food station and the cooked to order fish station were excellent. The pizza was so bad that for the first time in his life my 6 year old actually refused to eat pizza, but there was always enough good food if you tried enough things in the buffet. The scones and bread were always very good, along with the custard deserts in ramekins.
Please note that you will receive a card with your table number for assigned seating in your cabin. You should bring this card with you to the dining room on the first night. Patrons who did not have their card had to wait in a long line while the dining room employees checked their table number. Simply telling them your number was insufficient, as they would refuse to seat you (and I can guess that previous patrons may have gotten confused and given them the wrong number, leading to problems when they were seated at the wrong table). Guests who had their dining card were immediately escorted to their tables.
There are a few things that families should be aware of prior to booking a Cunard cruise to ensure that sailing this line is the right choice for your family (and people without children can stop reading here, since the rest of the review is for families). Anytime dining is only available if you are staying in more expensive cabins. If you have two interior cabins like we booked, you will need to do fixed dining or the buffet or the specialty restaurants (and there is no discount for children ordering off the adult menu in the specialty restaurants). We were originally assigned late seating, which was after my younger child’s bedtime. I emailed Cunard prior to my sailing, and they very kindly cleared us off the wait list for early dining so the lack of anytime dining did not affect my family since the early fixed seating worked well for us.
Please also note that formal dress codes apply to most common areas on the ship, not just the dining room. Most Cunard passengers are very dedicated to the dress code, and even in the buffet you can see women in evening gowns on formal nights. I need to dress for chasing around small children (which means I was wearing an ordinary black dress that would really be more appropriate for daywear and not eveningwear since I don’t wear anything that needs to be dry cleaned while my kids are small and stain everything) but people seemed tolerant of my clothing choices.
The kids club is scheduled to close from 5-6 pm for dinner. Please note that there are no dining venues that serve dinner during this time – the buffet does not open for dinner until 6 pm. From 5-6 pm the buffet serves a lovely tea – there are very good scones and sandwiches available but there are no dinner options available during this time in the buffet or main dining room. Room service is available, and might be an option if you want to feed your child during the 5-6 pm slot. I was lucky and my kids were happy to wait until they left the kids club before going to bed to eat a late dinner in the buffet, since one of my goals on a cruise is to feed my children a lot of different ethnic foods they haven’t tried before. Thankfully, there was a large variety of foods available from the buffet so my 2-year old was able to add a lot of new foods to his diet. We also took our kids to the main dining room some nights, where the waiters did an excellent job.
Parents should also note that the kids club staff requires at least one guardian to stay on board while their children are in the kids club, so it is not be possible to leave your children behind while you participate in an excursion that might be too difficult for them (such as hiking Pulpit Rock). The kids club generally opened at 2 pm on shore days, and was closed in the mornings on shore days. We normally take our children with us on excursions, so these rules and closures did not affect our family at all.
Children are also required to wear bracelets identifying their muster station. If your child is unhappy wearing this bracelet, you can obtain a waiver from the purser’s office in which you agree that in case of an emergency, your child might not be brought to the correct muster location and you may be separated from your child temporarily.
Our cruise options this year were limited to Cunard and Carnival, since I wanted to be on a ship with a kids club that would accept my 2 year old son. I am aware of the RC, Disney and Norwegian Escape nurseries but was a bit concerned that they might not have availability during the times I’d want to utilize them. Since we chose this cruise specifically for the kids club, it was disappointing that the staff was the weakest of the four lines I have sailed on with children (NCL, Princess and HAL all had stronger kids club staff employees). We traveled with our older son when he was two on Princess. Princess allowed children under the age of three to visit their kids club with parental supervision. Whenever my son went into the kids club the staff immediately started to interact with him, and ask him what he wanted to play with. They brought him toys and art supplies, and helped him complete the arts and craft projects that were designed as the activities for the older children. Even though I was required to stay in the kids club for insurance reasons, the kids club employees completely took on the responsibility of playing with him and setting up arts and craft activities for him.
The staff on Cunard were not nearly as helpful in terms of interacting with children individually. We had sailed during the school year in both England and the US, so there were only 23 children on board, and I never saw more than 10 in the kids club at any one time so I expected that they would be able to provide some individual attention to the children. Our six year old greatly enjoyed the kids club, but our two year old needed help for 5-10 minutes following the drop off. He needed someone to play with him to distract him so he could transition into the kids club. After 10 minutes, he was perfectly fine and could play with the other children and participate in the activities without requiring individual attention from the staff. In fact, some nights when I went to pick him up, he told me he didn’t want to leave.
But the staff had initially refused to play with him during drop off to help him with the transition, and when my husband asked why they weren’t interacting with our son he was told by a kids club employee that they “were overworked.” At the exact time of this conversation, there were two Cunard employees working in the younger kids club, and there were only three children in that kids club (the kids club for older children had two employees and no children). Two out of the three children in the younger kids club were playing a video game, so they were not interacting with the kids club staff at all. After my husband complained that they needed to help our two year old transition into the kids club, they seemed more attentive and helped our two year old more during the transition. Although many employees on cruise ships are required to work more hours than they should, it seemed strange that the Cunard kids club employees stated that they were overworked since their kids club is open for fewer hours than those of other cruise lines. On a previous HAL cruise, I wrote in my evaluation that I felt that HAL needed to hire more staff, since on port days the kids club was open from 9-4, and 7-10, which I thought was too many hours for only two employees. Cunard’s kids club was only open on port days from 2-5, and then from 6-11, so there were a lot fewer hours to cover and a lot more employees (at least 4 were always working for 10 kids, although 2 were in a room that usually didn’t have any kids in it). If the Cunard cruise had a lot of children, I would have understood that the kids club couldn’t give any individual child attention even for 5-10 minutes, but in a kids club on a sailing with 23 kids (and some of them were children of officers who are only allowed in the kids club on a space available basis) it seems as though the Cunard staff should be able to help kids transition briefly.
The other unusual part of the kids club is that they require parents to pick children up fifteen minutes prior to closing. On our previous Baltic cruise on NCL in August, there were a lot of children onboard and it could take 10-15 minutes to sign all the kids in and out, but on this cruise we never saw more than 10 kids in the kids club so there were never any delays in terms of signing children in or out of the kids club. My husband was admonished for lateness when he signed the children out at 11:55, when the kids club was supposed to be open from 9am-12pm. He was told the children need to be picked up at 11:45. The kids club staff first stated they needed time to sign everyone out, and when my husband insisted it wouldn’t take him 5 minutes to sign a sheet, they then said that they needed 15 minutes to clean up, and then stated they could not work overtime due to British overtime regulations. I’d suggest that Cunard implement technology like other ships in which the parent’s cruise cards are scanned instead of having people sign sheets if signing the children out needs to happen quickly to be in compliance with employee contracts (I don’t personally require this change, as it was never a problem to sign our child out but seemed to be an issue for their employees). Or at least Cunard should change the hours to 9-11:45, so parents don’t see that the kids club is listed as closing at 12 and get confused.
Overall, we quite liked sailing on Cunard, but it just isn’t particularly reassuring to leave your children when you don’t feel the kids club employees are as dedicated to their jobs as the other ship employees such as the stewards and waiters. Therefore, we won’t sail with Cunard again until our children are older and more self-sufficient and don’t need support from the counselors (my 6 year old was very happy in the kids club because he didn’t need any personal attention.) The unfortunate thing is that since so few lines allow two year olds in their kids club, this is a really nice opportunity for Cunard to show young families what a great way to travel cruising is for families and to win the loyalty of young families to their cruise line. It is unfortunate because a lot of the Cunard employees really are quite sensitive to the needs of families traveling – the reservations people changed our seating to early dining ahead of time, we were able to skip the lines at embarkation, and the waiters in the main dining room always helped us feed our children quickly and get them food they liked.
Families should also please note that cabs in Norway are not allowed to take children without car seats. Cab companies are required to provide car seats, but we were unable to get a cab service to agree to take us with the kids for a short ride (I emailed two companies in Bergen two days in advance, didn’t hear back from the first and the second apologized for not viewing my email until after we left Bergen). I’m not sure you will be able to get a cab to agree to transport you for a short ride if it means they have to bring and install car seats for you but others might have better luck if they contact the cab companies farther in advance to schedule transportation. On our previous Baltic cruise we rarely relied upon taxis because the public transportation system is excellent. But in the small towns of Norway, there just honestly just isn’t a need for an extensive public transportation system. So you can either walk (and a lot of attractions are within walking distance if the weather is nice) or take the HOHO buses which usually require some waiting. We found ourselves in the frustrating situation in Stavanger and Bergen in which it rained a lot and our kids were cold and didn’t want to walk, and the taxis at the taxi stands couldn’t transport us. And it meant that we saw a lot less in those locations than we would have if we’d been able to take cabs. So oddly even though the Baltic cruise seems like it should be logistically more difficult, Stockholm/Copenhagen/Helsinki/Tallinn actually was easier to navigate since they have a stronger public transportation system and taxis are available in a pinch. If I could do this over again, I’d have probably waited until my children were older to visit Norway due to the transportation difficulties. I emailed the Norway tourism office to ask at what age children no longer require car seats, but they said they didn’t know of an exact age and that cabs were legally required to provide them. However, families that prefer cruise tours or HOHO buses really won’t really experience any of these transportation issues. And because tourism in Norway exploded after the release of the movie Frozen, there are a lot of new attractions that make it much easier for children to experience the beauty of Norway. Read Less