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13 Norwegian Fjords Luxury Cruise Reviews

For those interested in a comparison, let's look at the differences between Oceania and Princess. We were on the 18-day Dublin-Copenhagen segment. This was our first cruise with Oceania. We are elite with Princess. We chose this ... Read More
For those interested in a comparison, let's look at the differences between Oceania and Princess. We were on the 18-day Dublin-Copenhagen segment. This was our first cruise with Oceania. We are elite with Princess. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary: Norway and northern Russian ports. Oceania has considerably less merchandising pressure. There is no crew of photographers. The crew seems under less pressure to sell extras. There are no "cruise ship art" events. Speciality coffees and sparkling water are available without extra charge. Speciality restaurants are available without extra charge. On the other hand, the cheapest bottle of wine on Oceania is about $10 a bottle more than on Princess. That generally put wine above what I was willing to pay. The ship felt less crowded and there was never a problem finding outdoor seating (although the Northern itinerary may have had something to do with that). 650 passengers instead of thousands does make for a different (and pleasant) experience. Oceania does live up to its reputation for good food. The dining room food was consistently a notch better than Princess. The buffet food was also very good. However, the buffet was typically more crowded than I'm used to on Princess. Our cabin (C1 ocean view) was equivalent to what we'd expect on Princess. Surprisingly, the cabin steward was good, but not as good as is typical on Princess. There were two ship lecturers. We only went to the lectures by one, but she was outstanding (https://cruisethroughhistory.com}. I liked the smaller venue for ship shows, although the noise level (at times 90db or more) was louder than I'd like. Passenger demographics: Oceania is a bit older and fellow passengers are on average wealthier. They also have a tendency to provide lots of details on their previous exotic Oceania cruises. At first that was useful, since we've not been on Oceania before, but enough was enough.... Shore excursions are overpriced. We generally don't book ship excursions, but we took their tours to make life easier for the three Russian ports, and we booked the bird safari at North Cape (a mistake). In Lerwick we hired a cab for the day. I tried to rent a car, but waited too long. I'd recommend planning ahead and getting a car. Even if you feel a bit uncomfortable driving in the UK, traffic on Shetland Island is thin. We walked around Bergen, a lovely port. Instead of the Oceania excursion to Mt. Floyen, we booked in advance on-line (https://www.floyen.no/en). Efficient and lots less money. In Kristiansund, there is a company that takes off from the cruise dock and heads up the local fjord for a lot less than Oceania. The Russian tours were fine, although private packages would have saved money. North Cape was a good tour — but we could have done it for less than half the Oceania price on our own. My advice is to rent a car (there is a company at the pier that will rent a car for 1500 NOK). That would allow both the bird safari and a drive up to North Cape, and save a whole lot of money. Thee is also a public bus, although an expensive one, from the pier to North Cape. The tourist office at the pier has the details. Although the cruise to Flam is spectacular, I can't say I'd recommend the railroad trip — but if you do take it, don't book with Oceania. You can either book on-line in advance or buy a ticket once you get there. Flam itself is a town of about 500 that absorbs thousands of cruise ship passengers, and is entirely uninteresting on its own. Cabs in Copenhagen (Uber withdrew from the city) are readily available at the cruise terminal and will set you back less than the Oceania transfer. In sum, Oceania is about twice the price (or more). If I had a choice between them I'd take Princess assuming identical itineraries. However, Oceania's smaller ships bring one to places Princess doesn't. I wouldn't hesitate to book Oceania again — but only if the itinerary was one that Princess could not match. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We hoped to see the Northern Lights as well as visit the Norwegian coast. The cruise which was one of the first by Viking on this route had some difficulties with the excursions, but expect these will be corrected in the future. The ... Read More
We hoped to see the Northern Lights as well as visit the Norwegian coast. The cruise which was one of the first by Viking on this route had some difficulties with the excursions, but expect these will be corrected in the future. The Northern Lights were not very good during our trip, but that is not Viking's fault. The sky is only twilight from 9 to 3 in January, so it is important to plan your excursions carefully to maximize your opportunities while you can see. The buffet restaurants were excellent. The higher end restaurants for which you need reservations were good as well, but to be honest after six months I have forgotten about eating in them. The entertainment provided by Viking was absolutely first rate. We enjoyed every show. Because it is cold outside this is a great cruise to get the deck all to yourself. I enjoyed going out as the ship was sailing at night with no one else around and just letting the silence envelope me. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We chose the cruise for the total Norwegian itinerary and were not disappointed particularly as the weather was perfect throughout. The facilities on board were excellent but the management of the Pool deck re opening time for a pre ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the total Norwegian itinerary and were not disappointed particularly as the weather was perfect throughout. The facilities on board were excellent but the management of the Pool deck re opening time for a pre breakfast swim were appalling with complaints from many clients being ignored by senior officers. Food was variable dependent on restaurant visited.MDR was the best food and service we have experienced in 20 yearsof Silversea cruising.The variety on the menu was excellent,nothing repeated in 15 days,and we were provided with favourite menu by giving 24 hours notice to the excellent Maitre d. La Terrazza was average food and service and we cancelled remaining three reservations after first visit. Hot Rocks was very good at lunchtime with an interesting and varied menu plus quality service.Evening menu was boring unless you liked large pieces of meat and chips. Entertainment in the theatre was average but acceptable after a superb MDR dinner. The crew were excellent but there were signs that the numbers were less and more was being asked of them which may be an early sign of the effects of the takeover by RC.HOPE NOT!! eg Sunbeds and covers left out overnight and if it rains wet beds await the clients with obvious consequences.Staff in restaurants and bars reduced and only two crew on the Pool deck instead of 4/6 as previously. Overall an enjoyable cruise apart from the morning problems on the pool deck. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We wanted to visit Norway again & since this cruise also had some new to us ports we booked it It was round trip Amsterdam which was also a good feature for us We took the cruise only fare & booked our own Bus class ... Read More
We wanted to visit Norway again & since this cruise also had some new to us ports we booked it It was round trip Amsterdam which was also a good feature for us We took the cruise only fare & booked our own Bus class seat on Air Canada ..wonderful lie flat seats we managed to actually sleep on the flight Embarkation: We we were in a B cabin so we arrived about 1:00pm minimal line up & we were onboard quickly went to the Terrace for a quick bite to eat amazingly it was not crowded like other embarkation days when our cabins were ready we dropped off the carry on bags then went wandering back to cabin to unpack before muster Muster was quick & painless as usual some people felt the drill was not for them after Muster we headed to Horizons after dropping off our life vests we had our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet A section was roped off with a sign for CC (Thank you Dominique) We had a good turn out I would guess about 50 + people as well as the CD Peter & GM Dominique after that dinner in the Terrace with our TA & a small group of her clients & a surprise guest Mr Bob Binder & his wife were also on the cruise The cruise was very smooth sailing we did have a issue one day one of the life boats had a leak so required us to stay later in port until it was fixed we were a little late getting into the next port but at least we made it there was some doubt the night before whether we would or just have a sea day The Oceania crew came through Food was very good with some hiccups but who is perfect all the time We ate in Red Ginger it was better than the last time we tried it but it was not that good sorry but 3 strikes we are done with Red Ginger For those that say the food there is not spicy enough ..you should have had my Green Curry ..I had no feeling in my mouth for the duration of the meal Oh Well we prefer the GDR any way & we did not starve The scones at tea are still not like they used to be but better than our last cruise The weather was very nice then the heatwave caught up with us in some of the ports It was uncomfortable for me so we did not do too much in those ports ..some we had been to before Overall the cruise was very good & we booked another on onboard (which we rarely do) Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We had a mid ship DELUXE VERANDA....I was expecting a better cabin. THE VIKING SEA has a major shortage of storage space in the cabins. They know about it and have done nothing...What could be done? Hutches on the desk, a small chest ... Read More
We had a mid ship DELUXE VERANDA....I was expecting a better cabin. THE VIKING SEA has a major shortage of storage space in the cabins. They know about it and have done nothing...What could be done? Hutches on the desk, a small chest of drawers in the closet, replace night stands with real shelf space. SCHEDULING OF MAJOR ACTIVIES and DINING: 6:30 -7:15 pm is the guest lecturer in the theater; after which a mob descents upon the “ anytime” RESTAURANT. If you scoot out a few minutes early- you're more apt to get a table right away. The major entertainment shows start at 9:15 pm back in the theater (there's only one show) - The problem- the kitchen is SLOW. We rarely made it to the show on time. AND when we did- there were NO SEATS!! What can be done?: We discovered the World café as a substitute to the dining room. Food was excellent and the Seafood was plentiful (Shrimp and King Crab Legs), However, my husband and I enjoy being served…so when we opted for the Restaurant- there was a conflict with time. What can be done? Viking could start the guest Lectures (which were excellent) earlier, perhaps at 6pm and start the show a little later, perhaps at 9:30 pm. The itinerary (INTO THE MIDNIGHT SUN) was wonderful. Ports were excellent and the VIKING SEA included tours were basically panoramic bus drive around with a guide. It included “photo op” stops but no real sightseeing. Anything in depth was an additional tour with an additional charge. ONE SMALL SAFU: We were travelling with friends, two women who were recently widowed. They signed up for a special tour in Edinburgh: Tour of the Royal Yacht. They were assigned a bus number that was incorrect. So- when that number was called…their tour had already left. They were instructed by the crew staff to take a cab…and were told they would be reimbursed. We are talking about two women in there upper 70’s. They were already upset and once the cab left the dock they worried about having enough GBP to pay. Fortunately they just had enough but had forgotten to obtain the taxI receipt. They did miss a small amount of the included sights along the way and were feeling uncomfortable about being rushed. They wanted their money back in full. The Officer in charge gave them a really hard time in obtaining a refund. At first he offered only a partial refund …and refused to refund the cab fare without a receipt. As their travelling companions, my husband and I could not understand why the process took so long- at least 4/5 days. We were told the cruise staff had to clear it with the home office in Los Angeles. Really? This was small potatoes in my mind. And I still don’t understand why VIKING does not allow the office onboard to deal directly with these small problems. Basically we were pleased with most aspects…The Food was very good, The entertainment was hit and miss- but fine. The Lectures were very interesting and the Lecturers were great and shared their time with passengers. The Cruise Director: Heather Clancy was fabulous. And the Ports for INTO THE MIDNIGHT SUN were terrific. NO TRAVEL AGENT GIFTING ALLOWED...How about this- I am an experience cruiser...having used the same agent for years. Every cruise I have gotten a card with a ship credit or a bottle(s) of wine. On this voyage- no note- no gift. I thought this to be an error...so I notified my TA...He responded that VIKING does not allow Travel Agents to do on board gifts or ship credit... #VIKING CRUISES -WHY???? Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We were on the London to Bergen cruise with a side to Oslo. The Viking Sky is a beautiful ship with a friendly crew. Food is very good and the entertainment was wonderful! But we have been spoiled by Viking river cruises and the ocean ... Read More
We were on the London to Bergen cruise with a side to Oslo. The Viking Sky is a beautiful ship with a friendly crew. Food is very good and the entertainment was wonderful! But we have been spoiled by Viking river cruises and the ocean cruise did not meet the standard set by the river cruises. Maybe its just that handling 200 people is a lot easier than handling 1000, but they did just not have their act together yet bringing back the excursions and getting them back on the ship smoothly. In Edinburgh, all the excursions came back at about the same time, resulting in at least 1 hour to reboard! Same thing happened 2 more times during the cruise, although you could tell they were trying. (The one tendering service we had, however, was excellent.) The restaurant service was another problem. It seems they are using a system where there is a team, by section. One person takes the order, and there is a person for water, another for drinks, another for bread, another for silverware etc, but there is no one person responsible for your table. So things get forgotten (example, we often received bread without butter, dessert without spoons to eat it etc. The couple next to us asked 3 or 4 individuals to bring their main course, but nothing happened for a very long time until they got the restaurant manager involved.) Very frustrating. The service in the specialty restaurants however was much better, but there we had an actual waiter responsible for our table. So if you are a river cruiser and really like Viking, i'd say wait a bit before you jump into the ocean cruise. Hopefully, they will get better, and all will be as good as their river cruises. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
Weboarded in Stockholm after a three day stay there, we met the ship at the address stated on our paper work, we were greeted by the captain ( a very dry and funny guy) they're still looking for my luggage ( just joking) his crew who ... Read More
Weboarded in Stockholm after a three day stay there, we met the ship at the address stated on our paper work, we were greeted by the captain ( a very dry and funny guy) they're still looking for my luggage ( just joking) his crew who were absolutely fantastic. We had a cabin on deck 6 which was close to the main dining area, perfect for us. We chose the starboard side but in hindsight it wouldn't matter which side of the boat you're on when travelling through the Fjords the scenery was fabulous. Dining was in two areas, the formal and not so formal and both areas had everything covered, the food was sensational and a want for nothing, the food varied always with wonderful breads and desserts, the wines with the meals were just right and if one wanted something more special that was also available at a price. The room service incase one slept in for lunch or dinner was also fabulous. The bars, which I think there were 3, are fantastic the bar tenders super knowledgable and speak multiple languages of course the cocktails were included in the fare so why not a Bloody Mary at 10 am and Pisco sours in the afternoon. The entrainment on the ship was a bit lame and boring it would have been nice if they had a dinner dance or if the musicians who played on the boat separately could have joined together in a band, I felt that the musicians and the opera singer were only there for their own holiday and a fill in. ( my opinion and really need to do some work on it) In the morning there were yoga classes and some dance classes which were fun the teachers had a great sense of humour. We didn't elect to go on any tours as we like to do our own thing when getting to port which was fine for us as we didn't miss the great lunches or cocktails!!! We didn't hear any complaints from people who did go on the tours, passengers weren't given the big sell and we felt very comfortable. The service we received on the ship was absolutely fantastic from George the cabin steward to the ships captain everyone was so obliging. Our cruise quite a mix of race of passengers mostly French who I might add were lovely and we tried to converse regularly, The ship was near capacity at 240 passengers and 142 crew - in my world - perfect - plenty of room to move around no one in each others pockets. I loved every minute of this cruise except for the so called world famous opera and the lame musicians, Please do something so that people can dance after dinner to reasonable music. My wife loved the yoga and dance classes All in all a fabulous time Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
We chose Viking Star for the itinerary (we'd never seen this part of Norway) and for the reputation of Viking Cruises. We have been on a Viking River Cruise and were very impressed with the quality there. We found the Viking Star ... Read More
We chose Viking Star for the itinerary (we'd never seen this part of Norway) and for the reputation of Viking Cruises. We have been on a Viking River Cruise and were very impressed with the quality there. We found the Viking Star to be beautiful, with lovely staterooms, restaurants, and public areas. There were many places to sit quietly, away from the chatter of other passengers. The Restaurant (main dining room) was very nice with excellent service. Food very good. The buffet breakfasts seemed very repetitive, but of good quality. We did not go to any evening entertainment, other than a martini tasting/demo, which was a lot of fun. I think the biggest disappoint of the cruise were the shore excursions. Some were very good. Our day in Bergen and the guide we had was excellent. Geiranger was stunning and the guide very good. But the "Håholmen: A Viking Adventure, was not well done, nothing like the write-up, and the guide was pretty bad. Sometimes, I think we just chose the wrong excursion, as others returned from their day and raved about the sites they experienced. Embarkation was well-done, but disembarkation did not go as smoothly. Bags were taken off ship(in London) and placed in a large tent where you needed to claim them and pull them to the waiting busses. Someone on our bus was unable to locate his bags, and those the entire bus waited for nearly an hour, making some anxious about their flight connections at Heathrow. All-in-all, we did enjoy our cruise, and will travel with Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
Captain Geirg Arne Thue Nilsen Cruise Director Handre Potgieter Guest entertainers Neal Austin (magician-comedian), Stevie Jo (comedian) and Paul Emmanuel (singer) Executive Chef Andreas Lang This was my third SB cruise (I had ... Read More
Captain Geirg Arne Thue Nilsen Cruise Director Handre Potgieter Guest entertainers Neal Austin (magician-comedian), Stevie Jo (comedian) and Paul Emmanuel (singer) Executive Chef Andreas Lang This was my third SB cruise (I had two prior, BTB, on the Odyssey in September 2015) and DH’s first. We have only done about a dozen cruises, mostly on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with our prior composite and limited experiences. Overall we were both pleased with our experiences on the Quest in this cool, mostly gray, green, and white hauntingly beautiful part of the world. However, there is some room for improvement in food and service on the Quest (especially food). We rate it a 4.3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5, (and thus round down to 4 on the overall scale). EMBARKATION: very smooth and easy, no waiting, friendly welcoming personnel in Copenhagen, to whom we surrendered our larger bags. Arrived shortly after 12 PM and then went to a a welcoming buffet at the Colonnade indoor/outdoor dining venue. Sat outside with a view of the harbor in comfortable chairs, ordered our drinks, and by the time we came back from the buffet with our first plates, the drinks were there. At 2PM overhead notice informed us that suites were ready. All our luggage was in the suite and the mini-bar was accurately stocked with what we had pre-ordered. I had also pre-ordered a foam topper for the mattress (confirmed 3 times in advance), anticipating the bed would be too hard, like it was on the Odyssey. It was not there initially, but was put on that evening. It was only a 1-inch thick irregular foam piece, so it was good that the mattress was not as hard as it was on the Odyssey or it would not have been enough cushion, and more negotiations would have been required. Our stewardess “Danielle" was welcoming and efficient without being falsely friendly. She took notes regarding our basic requests for the journey and consistently honored them. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE : Relaxing overall. The ship was well-maintained and very clean, nothing was broken, though a lot of the furniture, just like on the Odyssey, although stylish, is uncomfortable for me (stiff main entertainment lounge/Grand Salon chairs, and mostly stiff observation lounge and MDR chairs). Overall, with some exceptions, there was an unhurried atmosphere. There were no to few lines the entire cruise, other than occasional short lines at the buffets or for tenders. Sometimes the Colonnade and MDR had slower than ideal table service at peak hours, and table availability at peak hours was sometimes scarce, with matching service problems, but generally we were not negatively conditioned to anticipate space stress in the overall spacious public venues. Passengers were generally pleasant and well-mannered, with a few notable and crude exceptions (e.g., there were some pushy, inconsiderate and domineering people, e.g., with intrusive selfie sticks, and/or who either repeatedly inserted themselves into the front disability seats on the excursions buses though they were very clearly not disabled, or who otherwise made a point of asserting their alpha-importance and “control" as much as possible, in loud voices) . The nationality breakdown on the distributed guest list reported 243 Americans, 55 from UK, 55 from Australia, 13 from Belgium, 8 from Canada, and other nationalities were in single digits. Average age seemed to be in the early 60’s, give or take a few years depending on plastic surgery status, almost no children. Pax were mostly well-off do-everything-together couples, or couples traveling with other couples, and a couple families. Most pax were reasonably mobile, though given our ages, it was not surprising that many casually complained about assorted health issue trials and tribulations and discomforts, while others appeared to cope with their apparent health demons in silence. It was hard to spot a solo traveler (which is not surprising as SB pricing is not solo-friendly), but there appeared to be a few. DRESS CODE: Pax usually followed the designated dress codes (usually “elegant casual”, though there were a couple “formal” nights with jacket required on which most pax wore suits and ties rather than tuxedos). There were some rare pax who occasionally showed up in ugly baggy blue jeans, workout fleece sweatshirts, thick down vests, thongs, T-shirts with writing, or a backwards baseball hat at the “elegant casual” dinners. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Food opinions are subjective, of course, but overall we found the food on this cruise good though not outstanding, and definitely good enough to do a SB cruise again, though the food and included wines were not as good as on my Odyssey BTB last September. I would not sail again on this ship primarily for the food experience. The food quality and variety also did not come close to the food on Hapag Lloyd’s Europa 2 a few months ago (see my separate review on that, Cape Town to Cape Town). Every night dinner personnel tried to push an included sauvignon blanc or equivalent as the white of the day, not our favorites, but we knew enough to decline and were able to find both white and red included acceptable wines that were usually drinkable though not particularly interesting. There was also a decently priced special order wine list, though sometimes there were significant delays and confusion in securing our non-included choices. I did not see many pax ordering for-pay wines at dinners. Included champagne was Nicholas Feuillatte brut reserve. We ate at The Grill restaurant the first night where they served the new highly touted Thomas Keller (TK) menu, included in the fare. It was fine, but nothing spectacular. First came celery sticks with radishes and cucumber pieces and green goddess dressing, all fresh but not unique celestial, we can get these at home. Our baby asparagus appetizer with hollandaise sauce was next, delicate and subtle, fine. Our rack of lamb for two, with creamy mashed potatoes, was large and very fatty and was ok for us, but a couple Brits we met did not care for it and referred to it distastefully as “mutton”. Loud and annoying music pulsated overhead, apparently to create a 50’s and 60’s cool diner vibe and atmosphere (we asked to turn it down, and they did, a little). I had no desire to return. I regretted that the delightful and unique old R2 small-plates-with-pairings restaurant has been discontinued. The food in the MDR was usually prettily plated, but not spectacular in taste, and there were very limited choices with variable quality. All the fish dishes except for the excellent tender salmon options tasted mostly the same to me from day to day, bland, watery and salty (though I like salt). A few nights the MDR had a TK menu insert option for appetizer, main and dessert. The caviar special on the TK menu was not to my liking at all, bland, and the TK appetizer with firm spinach gnocchi and a soft-boiled egg on top with a cheese sauce and a strip of bacon did not do much for me either, nor did the TK watery chocolate dessert. However, the Siberian caviar served on sail-away one evening was terrific, though tightly rationed as people obediently lined up to get their little bites. Sometimes there were odd ingredient combinations, e.g., lemon and thyme mousse for dessert, that just did not work for us. I had a very good cauliflower potage a couple times, and generally the cream soups offered were all good, though usually served lukewarm. There were also TK offerings on a few nights in the Colonnade, by reservation only, with only one entree offering per night, e.g., fried chicken or clam bake. People we met during the cruise who had done the “family style” TK in the Colonnade one night complained that the amount of salad offered for six people was woefully small, and required great efforts by pax and waiter to expand portions. Our own experience in the Colonnade at the “Ad Hoc” TK event was ok though underwhelming: a giant “gem lettuce salad" with slow baked beets, radish, fried capers, and chopped egg was presented in one bowl family style to six people, but with only a couple tablespoons of the green goddess dressing in two separate containers (requests to replentish the dressing in adequate amounts were not totally successful). Main course was tender “hickory smoked BBQ ribs” with braised greens, baked beans, corn pone, and whipped honey butter; then came “cabot clothbound cheddar” with maldon flat bread and blue apron ale mustard; and dessert was “potted cheesecake” with poached blueberries and vanilla chantilly. All this basic "comfort food" was good though I’m not sure it was worth all the fuss. Servers wore jeans, and poured generic white or red wine into stemless glasses. With some difficulty, we ordered off the wine list to get something that could stand up to the ribs. Hip music blared over our heads, and the friendly though a little confused personnel were unable or unwilling to do anything about the sunlight that started glaring in from the window and baking us. We like trying a little bit of many things, so our favorite venue was the Colonnade, on non-TK nights, and for lunch. There was a different theme in the Colonnade each day, e.g., French, German, Japanese, Tuscan Market, pasta, etc. , mostly decent, except for “Baltic” day where waiters greeted us with the mantra “Welcome to Russia” and wore fake fur Russian-style hats, some with a Soviet red star, one hat was hot pink, another zebra-colored. The hats were as silly as the imitation and failed “Russian" food offerings (which did not include caviar), including the lukewarm borscht and non-Kiev "chicken Kiev". Japanese night offerings in the Colonnade were the most disappointing (though we are picky as we live in a neighborhood resplendent with terrific Japanese cuisine). Miso soup tasted like plain beef broth, the tempura on the lobster “tempura” appetizer resembled the coating used on KFC extra-crispy chicken placed on rubbery lobster, beef teriyaki was just a slab of beef with soy sauce, and the grilled shrimp in red sauce were like those in a reheated mail-order frozen dinner. Breakfast buffet was o.k. for filling the stomachs of people with usual American tastes, nothing special was offered on the basic uninteresting breads, cheeses (2), or meats (3), and 1 fish (smoked salmon) that were offered, but there was Greek yoghurt and there were made-to-order options for table service basic omelettes, pancakes and waffles. The eggs benedict were forgettable (they were much better on the Odyssey). I also had lunch in the MDR once (open for an hour each day every day this cruise) which was very relaxing, with mostly attentive service once they noticed me (seafood chowder, juicy Swedish meatballs, strawberry Napoleon), compared with the always hectic and at times somewhat understaffed prime-time Colonnade. We tried the TK “Napa Burger” at the Patio Grill, which was very juicy, with quality meat, properly cooked, good fries to go with it, great service. I am not sure why the room service burgers are not also “Napa Burger” quality. Room service offerings were basic and arrived on time and as expected (caesar salad, grilled NY cut sirloin, club sandwich, hamburgers, creamy tomato soup, etc). Breakfast and SB Square pastries and breads in general on board were so-so (other than on the few days when French baguettes were baked for dinner ) as was the very light ice cream, which was nothing like the daily to-die-for Italian ice cream specials with whipped cream options on the Europa 2. Snacks and coffees at Seabourn Square varied in quality, e.g., not uncommonly the espresso drinks were given to me lukewarm, though always with a friendly smile, and I definitely appreciated having these between-meal options available. I was happy to see that the calm Observation Bar also starts offering self-serve coffee (variable quality), tea bags, OJ and little pre-made breakfast pastries at 6:15, for those of us who do not wish to communicate with humans until we have been caffeinated. Observation bar snacks we tried before dinner twice were meager and uninteresting, e.g., little chunks of cheese in oil, pieces of ham, nuts, so we did not go back for them. Tea choices at tea-time were limited to about a dozen (compared with >30 mostly loose-leaf on the Europa 2), regular coffee was generally drinkable though often weak. Sweets at tea-time were generally on the dry side, sandwiches were plain, scones with clotted cream and jam were ok. I had several very good Irish coffees prepared for me in various venues. SERVICE The best way to describe SB service is that it is generally efficient and unobtrusive, and I did not often find myself getting annoyed with service deficiencies (exceptions noted). The stewardesses and eating venues personnel seemed generally well-trained, well-organized and attentive without being intrusive, and did not appear exhausted, except at peak hours when they sometimes struggled to keep up with wine refills and plate clearings, and typically did not check if we liked our entrees or had issues with the food until it was time for dessert, i.e., when too late, as they just did not have time. We had no difficulty communicating in English with the mostly hard-working and responsive primarily European and South American front-line personnel in the various venues (many from eastern Europe). The “do not disturb” sign on the cabin door was always respected (unlike some experiences we had on Silver Sea). My experiences in the bars when I went to imbibe by myself a few times were unfortunately not optimal, e.g., I watched one bartender (apparently beloved by others, so YMMV) rush together my Cosmo drink so quickly that it was not at all cold when served and was underdosed on the eye-balled alcohol. When he served DH and me in the Colonnade, he acted equally rushed and careless with our wines. In the Observation Lounge I was kept waiting for my drink for over 15 minutes one afternoon before dinner, and when I finally asked about it the confused waiter briefly left, came back and then smiled, stating “it is ready now”, when it was clear they had not even started on it, instead of saying they had just forgotten and apologizing. On another day, during afternoon tea, it was also a bit of a battle for my good-natured but persistent dining companion from the UK to receive his desired scones. It also appeared that it would have been useful to be a “regular” known to, and on first name basis with, the bartenders and some service personnel, but this is the case on all luxury lines which deal with frequent cruisers, as opposed to newbies. Fresh fruit was initially brought to our room daily, though we did not ask for it, and for a while it continued to come in large quantities even when we told personnel we did not need anymore bananas or apples. A couple we met, however, reported they were struggling to get fruit. Laundry and dry cleaning services are available on board ($50 per stuffed laundry bag, 2 day service, 50% uncharge for same-day service on items), nothing was permanently lost or transformed into a child’s size. There is also a launderette for self-serve we did not use, and a clothes-line is available over the tub for drying your own items. I asked to always have six bath towels and four wash rags in the bathroom, without need to change them daily, and they were always reliably there, no fuss. SB Square personnel appeared competent and helpful and professional, no complaints, but we also did not have any major issues to resolve. SPA, EXERCISE AREA, AND POOLS: as is all the rage on ships, loud and pulsating music was playing not just in the exercise area, but also in the manicure/pedicure/hair care area, which was not very relaxing. One lady working there was clearly very unhappy with her position and looking forward to leaving, but still did a very good job on the service I asked for. DH enjoyed his massages, but not the hard-sell on products (e.g., $179 for 10 packages of bath salts). DH also repeatedly enjoyed the relatively private hot tub in the bow on deck 6 (which was actually HOT, unlike on the Europa 2, where it was deliberately kept just luke-warm below body temperature), which appeared to be oddly popular with doctor cruisers on board (one night he met a radiologist in the tub, the next an ophthalmologist, the third an oncologist, the fourth a cardiologist, and I know there was a dermatologist on board too though she did not make it to the tub to meet DH). There were also four other hot tubs (two in the very public area near the main pool, and two more near the smaller pool on Deck 5 aft outside the Club lounge). The pool was nicely heated but not used much, presumably because this cruise the weather was cool. Music at the pool area was subdued and unintrusive. I toured the “serene” area of the spa area but did not find the rock hard loungers at all serene for my sore muscles, so I did not use it. DH used the fitness center, it was fine, usually uncrowded, with an ocean view. ENTERTAINMENT: Generally overall not to my taste this cruise. There was no classical music featured on any night. There was a British comedian-magician named Neal Austin who fancied himself to be comedically outrageous, but whom I did not find amusing, nor did I find the British comedian Stevie Jo generally amusing (though I admit I chuckled a few times). Most other nights offered assorted forgettable pop and crooner music by SB singers who attempted to sing Elton John, Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder songs but somehow could not convey the correct emotions with their voices and styles. Their best performance was “Crossroads”, a blend of country and rock/pop. There were, however, plenty of “lounge lizard” musical offerings in the lounges, per usual on luxury cruise lines that cater to older people. Silver Sea, Regent, and Crystal had better main stage entertainment for our tastes, in our limited experience, and the Europa 2 absolutely did. In-room TV satellite service was unavailable much of the cruise as we were in the fjords with limited reception, which helped enforce the escapist nature of cruising. There were dozens of free in-room movies, however, with something for everyone, unless one desired something adult or X rated which we did not. The one TV in our basic suite was unfortunately very small, and in the middle of the room, presumably so you could see it from both the bed and the rock-hard sofa, but the view was always just from the side. There were also other activities, e.g., trivia, and a cooking demo, which we did not attend. A bridge tour was offered for free, but DH got there 2 minutes after departure time so he missed it. There were a couple “shopping with the chef” days posted in the Herald, but we did not attend. A galley tour was offered for free, we missed it. There were a couple uninspired lectures, e.g., about Norway scenery and birds and about the excursion basics, also available on the room TVs, but I am not sure that paying the guest lecturers for free cruises (with their partners) can be justified for what little they did here. One evening at 6PM there was a “meet your neighbors in the hall” event (we stayed in our suite, I was taking an enjoyable bubble bath using the ship’s very nice Molton Brown products ) and on the rainy day morning sail-in at Bergen, there was a “come in your bathrobe to the bow of deck 6 for mimosas and coffee" (I came for the coffee, in a warm down coat, only 1 person was there in a robe). In Eidfjord some cute Norwegian folk dancers also came on board wearing their $4000 folk dress costumes to dance and play fiddle and accordion for about 45 minutes and talk about Norwegian music history, this was interesting, followed by gravlax and caviar in the Bar. We had brought plenty of kindle/ipad books and had no problem finding things to do in between ports. INTERNET ship wifi was usually slow, sometimes non-existent, as is the case on all cruise lines I have been on, neither worse nor better, but generally was good enough to at least sometimes check messages, on-line newspapers, and work issues back home, and was faster during times when people were either asleep or in port on excursions and less people were trying to get on the ship’s wifi. We opted for the unlimited plan for $399 for the 12 days of the cruise to avoid the stress of sensing the clock ticking and price rising while on-line with a slow connection, but only one person in the suite could be on at a time. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Weather was variable on this cruise and involved a lot of rain. Anyone coming to Scandinavia should anticipate at least some rain, if not a lot of it, and the excursions will thus not all look like on postcards you see. But even with rainy weather, excursions were enjoyable. We spent 4 nights pre-cruise in sunny Copenhagen at the Marriott Copenhagen (one of two SB’s choice hotels) and easily could have spent more to see this lovely city. The Marriott (executive floor) is not perfect but was adequate, comfortable. Highly recommended off the beaten path things to do beyond the usual obvious city tour sites you cannot miss with Hop-On and Hop-off buses, or a basic private tour which we did, are the Hirschsprung Museum (private collection of striking, mostly dark, brooding 18th century Danish art with an excellent self-audioguide); the Louisiana Museum of art outside Copenhagen (modern, beautiful oceanside venue with sculpture gardens and with an excellent view smorgasbord area); and Fredericksburg castle (many old portraits and tapestries). On the funky Christianshaven island part of Copenhagen, we had a special meal at the "56-degrees" restaurant (fixed menu with wine pairings, beautiful outdoor dining venue and service, it was an easy cab ride from the Marriott). We also toured the Carlsberg Brewery which has a giant beer bottle collection, and a collection of historic buildings. We did a lot of SB-organized excursions, despite high cost, to save organizational stresses and time figuring out what to do in places we have never been. I received 10% off the excursions as a SB “silver.” Excursions with SB were primarily on generally comfortable and clean buses with reclining seats and WC, usually limited to about 26 people per bus (only one half-day excursion had 36 pax in the bus). We noted the usual reluctance of European bus drivers to run AC or open doors and windows to allow air to circulate while waiting to depart. Guide quality varied, and surprisingly many were not Norwegian-born (we had Spanish, Italian, and American ex-pats on various tours). ALBORG, Denmark — we did the SB excursion "Back to the Vikings", on which we saw a Viking grave site and museum (Lindholm), learned about the various slaves Vikings had, and sampled little Viking snacks including ham, pork rinds, excellent herring sampler (I could have made a meal of it), and local honey on bread. 4/5 stars for the tour. FLAM — this was a tender port for us (Tenders on the Quest are loud and have uncomfortable seating, compared with the Odyssey). We did the early morning Flam Railway — comfortable train chairs, WC on board; we stopped at a waterfall (Kjosfossen) half-way up and while in a big crowd of people, watched a young lady “troll” (who looked like a bored teen with a summer job) sing and dance. Then we headed higher up and had sugary cake and coffee at the historic inn at the top (Vatnahalsen Mountain Hotel), with a little extra time to walk around. In crowded Flam itself back at the bottom one could buy various street vendor sausages (elk, whale, goat, etc.). or dine in one of the tourist restaurants. 4/5 stars for the excursion. ALESUND, Norway — "The Islands of Giske and Godoy" excursion. We saw many bridges and tunnels that are engineering marvels. Best part was the Giske church and cemetery from 1150, which the dark, overcast day highlighted well. We had a sugary pancake and cream cake with coffee at the under-renovation lighthouse near Alnes, (no forks) and unfortunately also endured the company of some aggressive fellow-cruisers who demanded to buy “one of each” of the available cakes (which required purchase of the entire cakes) because they did not like what was served for the SB group. However, after insisting on buying the entire cakes, they then haggled with the hapless waitress about $1.50 extra on the final price tag,loudly insisting they should get more than “crumbs” for their high cost. 3/5 stars for the tour overall, (4/5 for the scenery and sites, 2/5 for the excursion guide who spoke so slooowly that she put people to sleep, 1/5 for the fellow cruisers for embarrassing behavior). There are clearly both advantages and disadvantages to being thrust together with strangers on cruise excursions. MOLDE, Norway — "The Atlantic Ocean Road and Haholmen Island” excursion. Excellent 5/5 half-day tour of local islands and archipelago, made better by great weather to accompany our “Viking ship” open air trip to Goat Island (Geitoya), which had a replica of the famous Saga Siglar environmental-message ship. We saw a movie about the ship’s construction and eco-sailings, (and its demise at sea), then had a 2 cubic-inch piece of very sweet cake and coffee (again, oddly no forks), returned around 1:30PM to the Quest, which was late for lunch so one has to plan ahead if one gets hungry easily, as the Colonnade closes for lunch at 2 and personnel there always make a point of clearing away the buffets right on time. GEIRANGER, Norway — "The Best of Geirangerfjord", 8.5 hours. This was a long bus trip over twisty mountain roads, with classic hairpin turns, to assorted scenic vistas, some quite high up above the timber zone (bring a warm jacket and hat). +WC on the bus. Lunch around 12:30 was at a very nice upscale tourist hotel where everyone en-masse was served lukewarm but flavorful cream of white asparagus soup, cod in a cream sauce, and low-fat vanilla ice cream with generic chocolate sauce, then stroll time, over the course of 1 hour and 20 minutes. The day culminated in a scenic 3-language one-hour ferry ride back to Geirangen, with many waterfalls and scenes of old abandoned cliffside farms where one could sit on the open deck or indoors in comfortable chairs. 4/5 tour. MOLDE, Norway — DH did the SB sponsored “Hike to Briksdal Glacier” (rated 3 little men in strenuousness on a scale of 1 to 3) which he enjoyed, 5/5 quality, while I vegged out in town and for 20 Euros rode for 1 hour and 10 minutes around the lake on the tame “Olden Sightseeing” Disneyland-like little train car that waited outside the quay soliciting customers (the people recruiting for the ride will inevitably tell you it is leaving in “a couple minutes”, even though it may not leave for a half hour, depending on how full it is). BERGEN, Norway — we did not do any excursions on this mostly rainy Sunday, just walked this charming town on our own past the colorful fresh fish market (which had a variety of fresh crabs, fish, paella, fish and chips, as well as more whale and goat smoked sausage) and past the old fire-prone downtown buildings, then up to the university district where we had a pleasant light lunch of grilled tender fresh Norwegian salmon with cucumber and young potatoes with yoghurt sauce at a comfortable outdoor but covered centrally located casual restaurant called Loge Haven, where we listened to a street band play international tunes, and people-watched. We also spent a lot of time in the Konde 3 museum which has a good-sized provocative Monch collection, with a very interesting short guided tour (in English at 12 PM and 2PM). Did not have time to make it to the unusual leprosy museum we’d read about, or the museum about the Norwegian resistance v. Germans in WW2, or any of the other many museums you can immerse yourself in here. SB offered a hiking trip (in the rain) as well as an excursion up the funicular, which you could also do on your own, though there were not many views available with the cloudy weather. Eidfjord, Norway — “Scenic Fossil and Voringsfoss Waterall” excursion, 3 hours. 3/5 overall. This involved a short ride to a major local dam, then to a hotel where we had coffee and more uninspiring Norwegian sugary cake at the old family hotel that is right above a magnificent and powerful very inspiring waterfall, then back to the ship. Construction is going on right now, so that in the future one will be able to walk over the waterfall on a glass floor. Stavanger, Norway — “Old and new Stavanger” excursion took us around the town in a bus and to an interesting open air exhibit of pre-Viking Iron Age life, then on to the fascinating Petroleum Museum where you could easily spend several hours on the exhibits and simulated oil drilling platforms, great for kids and techies. We then had a short guided walk through old Stavanger where one can also easily walk around oneself and tour cute shops and restaurants not far from the ship. 4/5 tour. IN SUMMARY, we enjoyed the cruise, the itinerary, and generally very good SB service, but were just a bit disappointed in the uninspired food offerings. But we realize no cruise is perfect, and were impressed enough that we will be keeping our SB Quest cruise booking in the spring of 2017, hoping food quality improves. We have posted some pictures of the cruise and the ports in this wonderful area. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
This was Viking Sea's inaugural voyage up the coast of Norway so glitches were to be expected. The ship itself is a marvel of design and the shipbuilder's craft. The onboard service was top shelf. Aside from general minor ... Read More
This was Viking Sea's inaugural voyage up the coast of Norway so glitches were to be expected. The ship itself is a marvel of design and the shipbuilder's craft. The onboard service was top shelf. Aside from general minor annoyances, such as poor flight scheduling resulting in our bags getting delayed in Copenhagen, the main problem was in the shore excursions which failed to live up to what one would expect of Viking. I'm sure they'll get it sorted out, but for this trip, unfortunately, we were the guinea pigs and the results were poor/average at best. Our other big complaint is not directed specifically at Viking, but at the cruise industry in general and their kowtowing to the ADA. We are in our 70s so I'm sure we'll get there, but the level of decrepitude of the clientele that we encountered on this cruise was stunning, and their sense of entitlement even more so. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We chose to sail on the Quest to Norway having had a fantastic cruise on the Quest in the fall of 2015 through Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. That cruise was awesome, and we loved the ship, the crew, the guests and the dining. The ... Read More
We chose to sail on the Quest to Norway having had a fantastic cruise on the Quest in the fall of 2015 through Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. That cruise was awesome, and we loved the ship, the crew, the guests and the dining. The Quest is a beautiful ship, and easy to call it home for our trip. The cabin, however, was not thoroughly cleaned when we embarked. Our stewardess on this trip spoke poor English, and was difficult to communicate with. This was one of the reasons we are not giving this cruise 5 stars. But we were very cozy after settling in. The weather was still cold as this cruise went above the Arctic Circle to the North Cape, so we had brought along extra blankets and needed them. Still, we were able to use the balcony many days, and enjoyed the fantastic scenery and the Midnight Sun. We were not happy with the changes in the dining aboard the Quest with the new Thomas Keller menus. We did not mind the change from Restaurant 2 to the TK Grill, but did not like the changes in the Restaurant and the Colonnade. In the Colonnade there were four Thomas Keller nights serving meals such as ribs and fried chicken. We vastly preferred the regular Colonnade menus and felt cheated out of the local seafood that we expected on a cruise through Scandinavia. If you like French Haute Cuisine and foie gras you may like the other TK menus, but we did not. We found the dining options more restricted and stressful. There was also not the seamless service in the dining areas that we had had before. We will be watching to see how Seabourn handles the TK menus, especially in the Colonnade, before we book another Seabourn cruise. Still, we had many wonderful evenings in the Restaurant and the Colonnade, and many good options for breakfast including coffee and pastries in the Seabourn Square. The itinerary and shore excursions were fantastic. Our Captain was very experienced and hailed from Denmark. One of the reasons we like Seabourn is their Scandinavian captains. We really loved seeing Arctic Norway, and had three wonderful days in Copenhagen!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Having planned this trip 9 months ago, and having been on Windstar before, we had been looking forward to the Star Legend. We were not disappointed. The itinerary is interesting, From Reykjavik to the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands, ... Read More
Having planned this trip 9 months ago, and having been on Windstar before, we had been looking forward to the Star Legend. We were not disappointed. The itinerary is interesting, From Reykjavik to the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands, Norwegian fjords and Copenhagen. We planned our excursions carefully and chose to take the Windstar Cruises offerings, although the tours are on the expensive side (par for the course in cruise companies and not unexpected). For the most part we found these informative and good with excellend guides, with one exception. When we (and several other passengers) complained about the quality, the line gave us a 50% discount, which was fair and unsolicited. Boarding and leaving the ship at each port was handled efficiently and relatively fast. We arrived in Iceland 3 days early and spent them touring around the Southern part of the country. The weather was good to us and we were lucky to have mild, clear days. The weather throughout the cruise was fairly good. Having sailed the North Sea before, I expected some rough weather, but it was calm throughout the cruise. There was very little rain even in the Faroes, and very mild. We boarded the Star Legend and were immediately impressed and pleased with the ship. We did not find the ship to be tired, despite the fact that it has been in service for some years. Our cabin, a BS1 category, was unexpectedly large and very comfortable with a soothing beige and blue decor, plenty of storage including a walk-in closet, large bed, good size bathroom with shower (my only caveat - the shower head is ridiculously located in a corner, necessitating one to cram into the corner to get under the jet), and best of all, a sofa and two armchairs. The Bose speakers were a great addition and my husband immediately connected his phone with music. The TV was smallish, but we are not great addicts, so didn't mind. The crew were, without exception, extremely helpful and pleasant. Our cabin steward was delightful and the restaurant staff were well trained and everyone knew our names by the end of the first day - impressive! Captain James and his officers were charming and welcomed us on the bridge whenever we visited it, the open bridge is a nice touch from Windstar. The Amphora Restaurant served breakfast and sometimes lunch, buffets, all of which were good but not exceptional. We managed to eat at Candles a couple of times, worth the effort, the lamb chops were tender and juicy and I had them both times. Other members of our party were also pleased with their dishes. As is usual, the bar drinks were expensive, but the choices of wines offered were reasonably good. Looking back, we both agree that it was one of the nicest ships we have been on (we will only travel on smaller ships), and we would definitely choose the Star Legend and Windstar Cruises again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Azamara Quest Norway Cruise – July 18 to August 1, 2015. Why this cruise? I had been told by a friend that the Norway cruise was a good one. This particular trip started with the chance to see the last day of the Open at St. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Norway Cruise – July 18 to August 1, 2015. Why this cruise? I had been told by a friend that the Norway cruise was a good one. This particular trip started with the chance to see the last day of the Open at St. Andrews Old Course, an event to be seized with all haste. In addition, we have heard good things about Azamara, and we very much like the small Renaissance ships. The idea of being in the cool North while getting away from July in Phoenix also had its appeal. Cruise pre-planning Azamara uses the “no formal nights – ‘smart-casual’ attire” rule used by Oceania, but we had some weather concerns. The forecasts were for days in the 60’s and nights a few degrees lower. We had booked several tours, including an all day trip to the North Cape, so warmth and rain protection was important. I therefore packed no shorts, and Edith included a good selection of pants suitable for both evening wear and providing warmth. We think we did pretty well. I brought my favorite blue blazer and one tie in addition to my favorite Zuni bolo tie. I also brought my Aran Island wool fisherman’s sweater, and a marvelous cashmere sweater purchased many years ago in Inverness, a nice Scots town at the north end of Loch Ness. They know how to keep you warm in Ireland and Scotland. Embarkation We flew non-stop to Heathrow and then to Edinburgh, staying in a hotel there for one night. So we showed up at the pier in Leith (about a $30.00 cab ride) at 11:30. Check-in was fast for us because we had booked a Continental Suite and had a priority line, but it seemed to move smoothly for everybody. Once on board we had to wait until 1:30 to get into our cabin, but used the time to get books from the lovely Deck 10 library, (called “The Drawing Room” on Azamara ships); and to have lunch in the Waves Café (buffet). Our stateroom! We chose a Continental suite because our prior experiences on these ships showed us that the standard veranda cabin is rather small, and the Continental Suite on Azamara, or Penthouse Suite on Oceania provided enough room. When we walked into our stateroom, No. 8061, our reaction was – Wow! We soon found out why we had this response. It seems that Azamara is planning on upgrades of at least its Continental Suites, and ours was the prototype, the only one on this ship. The first impression was the “light”. Everything seemed white and bright, in contrast to the browns used in most cabins. The closets to the left as one entered were actually light brown, but the most striking feature was the “bureau-desk” arrangement stretching from the mini bar next to the closets to the veranda. The bureau portion was about six feet long, 18 inches high and about the same depth or slightly more. It was all white with some form of composition material on top. There were three deep drawers. About two-thirds of the way to the veranda, the desk portion started. It therefore was above the last drawer of the bureau portion so there was a covered, but open storage area. The desk was only about six inches deep until the final two feet or so. It had two wide, shallow desk drawers. It was also white, but the top had a glass surface. At the very end there were some light switches and electrical sockets at the front. There was a very modern desk lamp. There we a high backed desk chair, a small side chair, a round coffee table and a comfortable wing back chair against the back wall. The bed had a round small side table on one side and a larger square table on the other side. The bed had panels above as headboards, covered with a leather-like material with a raised pattern. More on this will follow. Every surface in this living area was white and the veranda went almost the entire width of the cabin, so the “light” effect was remarkable and delightful. The bathroom was completely redone. Instead of the tub/shower of the regular Continental Suite there was a very roomy six foot long stall shower with beautiful marble walls, a well-directed main shower head plus a hand held shower. We were told that there had been a design error in that the shower floor was virtually flush with the bathroom floor with no lip to prevent water getting out, but we found that with a floor mat there was no real problem. We thought this to be the best shower ever on a ship. The single sink was a large square porcelain “vessel” sitting on a darker composition table, with a shelf underneath. There was a handy magnifying mirror on the wall and three long shelves to the side which had all the room needed for toiletries. The walls were marble, and the floor some kind of composition looking like grey wood. The same grey floor was present in the entrance to the cabin up to the “living” area, where there was a nice carpet with an attractive abstract design. The veranda had three wicker arm chairs and a table high enough to serve as a dining table, although a Norwegian cruise does not invite al fresco dining, even if we were room service types. The lighting system was excellent, and relatively easy to master. For example, there was an overhead light which was perfect for reading in the large arm chair. At the bedside there was a general area light, which actually emitted a small glow at night; and small “bullet” lamps that could be focused easily on a book for reading in bed at night, something we both do. The thermostat was adjustable, but the cabin never was very warm, and Edith’s feet were cold until she got back to the 110º of Phoenix. As usual, we had no problem storing all our clothing and other belongings. We had a few conversations with senior staff concerning this stateroom, especially since we were asked to vacate it for a short period of time on Sunday afternoon, while still docked in Leith, so that the President and CEO of Azamara could lead a tour of our cabin for the benefit of some cruise tour providers! I was at the Open, so Edith was the subject of this request. Afterwards, when we were visited by the Hotel Director to thank us, we mentioned that we thought the cabin should have had a mirror over the desk for the benefit of Madame putting on her makeup. He agreed and said this would probably be corrected along with the shower issue. What we did not mention was the fact that the coffee table in the cabin was much too small for any true room service usage. Since we never use room service this did not occur to us at that time. This may not be easy to cure given the three chairs in that area. Oh well, not our problem. What became our problem. The fifth night out I was snoozing away when, at 2:30 A.M. I was awakened suddenly with something falling on my head with a crash! I struggled up with this object in my hands and managed to turn on the light. I discovered that a quarter panel of our “headboard” had fallen off the wall. Examination showed that this headboard was in four sections, each about three feet wide and two plus feet high, made of pressed wood about a ½ inch thick and cover on one side with a leather like material with some raised pattern portions. This was a substantial object which came down, and I was very fortunate not to have been hit with an edge, which would have been extremely damaging. There were four of these panels, and this was the upper panel. When we looked at the upper panel over Edith’s side of the bed, and touched it, it seemed loose. We thought we should take it down and it required very little effort to pull it off the wall. The panels clearly had been attached with glue only, and obviously not enough. Since this was at 2:30 A.M., and we were safe and unharmed, and could not expect or need any help, we went back to bed. We called Guest Relations first thing in the morning, and they obviously did not understand what happened, probably because our stateroom was unique, and they sent up a carpenter with a hand drill to “fix” it. He took one look and sent for higher staff. The chief housekeeper showed up and was properly appalled. It was quickly determined that no attempt to reinstall would be made, so we spent the rest of the trip with missing upper panels, not something that interfered with our use or enjoyment of the room. I do have a picture of it however. The Hotel Manager, Philip, showed up again with profound apologies and the assurances that the home office had been fully informed. Guest relations offered to provide a tour, but we had made our own private tour arrangements as usual, so this was of no value. Later I asked for and received additional computer usage minutes, but, as I noted when asking for them, this did not cost Azamara anything. We have been off the ship more than a week now, and still have had nothing in writing from Azamara by way of compensation for this near disaster. This is not good public relations, and a poor reflection on their stated desire to make everything a joy for their “guests”. The ship As we noted, we love these Renaissance ships. This was number 8, so the newest of all. Their design is, food aft – entertainment forward, very handy. From the top aft, on Deck 10 there are the two specialty restaurants and the Drawing Room. Forward is the Looking Glass Lounge providing a marvelous viewing room, with a dance floor and bar for activities. Deck 9 holds the Waves Buffet aft, the pool area and the Spa and Gym area, along with the computer room forward. Decks 8, 7 and 6 are all staterooms except for the complimentary self-service laundry on 7. Deck 5 has the main dining room with adjacent cocktail lounge aft. Proceeding forward there is the Mosaic Café; the two stores; the piano bar/lounge and the photo gallery; the Casino and the Cabaret, which is the main entertainment venue. Deck 4 has the Guest Relations area amidships, with the shore excursion desk, future cruise sales and concierge. There are also additional cabins and the medical center. Deck 3 has only access to the tenders or gangway as needed, although there is also gangway access on Deck 4 from the Guest Relations area. Altogether it is a compact and efficient design, although the passageway along the photo gallery could get crowded when the audience from the Cabaret shows exited. The shipboard New York Times was delivered to our cabin as a suite perk, and we had 235 free internet minutes. The Times and international editions were available around the ship. The internet service was slow of course, but always available. Some TV stations were out of range at time, and generally the room television offerings were not much to entice long viewing. There were movies shown every day. Dining aboard This is where Azamara Quest really shines. We have always felt that Crystal Cruises offers the best overall dining experience, and we still do. We also have greatly enjoyed Oceania’s Marina with its four imaginative and wonderful complimentary specialty restaurants. But if Crystal rates a 98, and Marina a 96, then Quest gets a 95. It may seem strange, but two very ordinary, homely menu items reflect this – potatoes and soups. Potatoes were served in the buffet for breakfast and lunch (and probably dinner also) and always were fresh and flavorful. I am of Irish ancestry and care about my potatoes. These were really something to look forward to. When they showed up on the dining room menus for diner, they were just as fine. The same can be said of the soups. There were always two at the lunch buffet and three, including one cold soup, in the dining room at night. They were always rich, flavorful and hot. We talked to the buffet maître’d about this and he described how they were made with a long cooking process from rich stock to extract all the possible flavors and rich variety of taste. This is how soup should be crafted. Edith, a vegetarian, was generally delighted with the offerings in this category, especially the wide choice available for lunch at the buffet. The only mild disappointment I felt was, oddly, with the filet mignon served with the “turf and surf” choice in the main dining room. It was comparatively tasteless compared to the lobster accompanying it, and the other entrees experienced on the balance of the trip. The breakfasts were up to the high level of the better cruises with a good selection of fruits for me and a number of hot items like mushrooms, beans, and potatoes which Edith loved. The coffee unfortunately was not that good, but we have seldom found good coffee in the buffets on any ship. The evening dinners at the Waves Buffet usually had an ethnic food theme; everything from Vietnamese to Middle Eastern to French to Tex-Mex. We went to this last, and found it very good, with a decent selection of offerings. The officers and crew It should first be noted that the passenger to crew ratio is 1.9 to 1. Anything below 2 is very good and shows a commitment to serving the passengers. This was apparent in the very quick room makeup and the generally excellent service in all the dining areas. In addition, the overwhelming majority of the crew was very friendly and helpful. The Hotel Manager, Philip, set the tone with his presence all over the ship, friendliness and generally pleasant attitude. The ship’s master, Captain Jose, also put in frequent appearances, and was very approachable and willing to enter into conversations. When I expressed one concern to the Cruise Director, Russ, he dealt with it quickly. The ship’s overall appearance was excellent, with cleaning and maintenance an obvious priority. Entertainment We would cast ourselves as a tough audience when it comes to shipboard entertain-ment, but we felt that Azamara did a pretty fair job, given the space limitations of the Cabaret Lounge. The usual “singers and dancers” were six in number, with two being only dancers, and the other four largely confined to singing. Their skill level was fairly high, and we enjoyed the fact that they kept the sound level to barely tolerable as contrasted to intolerable on some cruise lines. The choice of songs was decent. They performed four shows on a fourteen night cruise, which is a lot. We did walk out of one of the early shows, a male pianist who seemed to believe pianist skill was best demonstrated by pounding the instrument into complete submission. A female solo singer was good, as were a song and dance team. A second pianist doing mostly Broadway show tunes was quite good. We had a magician for two nights, and since I am a sucker for a magician, I enjoyed him thoroughly. The Azamazing Evening was Sunday night in the port of Leith before sailaway. I did not attend as I was tired from attending the Open at St. Andrews. But Edith and all we talked to who attended it were delighted with a tour of a castle providing lots to see, plenty of bagpipe music and spectacular fireworks. I should note that Russ, the cruise director, had been a stage production singer for many years, and he joined the regular singers and dancers for two of their shows, with very pleasing results. On board activities With one exception, this was quite dismal. The destination lecturer, Charles Richardson, was very good, with informative presentations about Norway and geology. We did feel that scheduling two of his talks at 9:00 in the morning was not a good idea, since it meant getting up very early for breakfast on a sea day when that would not normally be required. He did mention needing the Cabaret Lounge for rehearsals, but some forethought could have come up with better timing. The rest of the activities were a waste of time as far as we were concerned. They consisted of mainly of trivia games, bingo and pitches for the spa and art auction. Azamara need serious work in this facet of shipboard offerings. Ports of Call and shore excursions Bergen. We had arranged for a local tour beginning with a boat trip to another town with a museum. Unfortunately, we were a little late in docking and could see no transportation available to get us to our debarkation point by 8:50, so this was a loss. My ability to walk any distance is limited, so Edith went ashore herself and walked around the area near the ship. She reported it as a pleasant town. Flåm. The main attraction in this town is the railway journey into the mountains. The tour offered by the ship filled quickly, as did one other tour run by a local company, and I thought we might be out of luck. But the Norwegian Railway reserves some tickets and they are not available until 90 days prior to the use date. So I went on the railroad’s web site 90 days prior and purchased 2 tickets with no problem. The on-line cost per person was $81.50, while the Azamara price was $169.75 per person, more than twice as much. It was a very pleasant trip providing a great introduction to Norwegian mountain scenery. The grade is very steep, and you go up over 2400 feet in a comparatively short distance. After our return we visited the small museum attached to the souvenir store and were impressed by how much work and time went into the construction. Geiranger The reason for this destination is the very spectacular fjord, quite deep and comparatively narrow, with the Seven Sisters waterfall along the way. We had bought very reasonable tickets on a local tour in a boat that holds about 200 people. It provided frequent stops which gave us a great many fine photo opportunities in a 90 minute circuit. This was a tender port, with a number of other ships visiting, but the tender trips were fast and easy since the fjords are very calm. Svolvaer-Lofoten Islands – Troll Fjord This is a small town, but we had rented a car and with another couple drove about 50-60 miles south on this island which has a fjord on one side and the North Sea on the other. The car rental, with gas, cost about $120.00 for two couples, so we got to see a lot for very little, since the trip down and back took about 5 hours. There were a number of spots providing wonderful views, and at the south end there was a small harbor with a Norwegian Coast Guard cutter docked. We managed to find a spot with coffee and pastry, and generally enjoyed being on land all day and seeing real Norwegian living. After departing Svolvaer the Captain took us into the Troll Fjord, about 2 hours away. This is a very narrow passage, and while we were not quite able to touch the sides of the mountain as hinted by the Cruise Director, we were within a few feet. This was quite entertaining. When we reached the end of the fjord the Captain did a 360º turn, within the ships length, by using the bow thrusters and stern thrusters in opposite directions. Since Quest is only 593 feet long, it could do this but I doubt that many other cruise ships would be able to accomplish such a maneuver. In fact, while we saw a number of other ships in several ports, they all seemed less than 75,000 gross tons – none of your massive floating hotels. It is not the depth of the fjords that limits ships, they are all quite deep; it is the narrow quarters. Tromsø Tromsø is a good sized city of more than 70,000 people, partly on an island and partly on the mainland with a bridge connection. It has a number of attractive buildings. I stayed on board, but Edith walked through the town up a hill to a pleasant lake surrounded by nice homes. The weather was very mild, and she said that this was one town she would like to visit for a few days. It has an airport capable of handling jet flights to Bergen and Oslo. Honningsvåg This is the gateway to the North Cape, the northernmost mainland point in Europe at 70º10” North. Six of us rented a car and first proceeded to the Bird Safari located on the west side of the peninsula. This provided a 90 minute sea tour through neighboring islands, in a boat holding about 60 people, for the purpose of seeing the nesting places of a wide variety of sea birds, and photographing them. They included cormorants, gannets, puffins and Norwegian eagles which is about the size of the bald eagle, with grey markings, and the classic raptor flight. We also saw seals, but they were difficult to photograph against the rock backgrounds. The boat provided complete waterproof coveralls, which kept us totally warm and dry, although the weather was basically good. This was a good trip, which cost us $80.00 per person on line; but $264.75 on a ship’s tour. We then drove up to the North Cape itself, about another 30 miles. There is a 225 NOK ($28.00) per person entrance fee which lets you into a modern building with a cinema room featuring a 20 minute film about the Cape, a small Thai museum commemorating the 1907 visit of the King of Siam to the cape, a small chapel, a large souvenir store and a buffet restaurant featuring reindeer stew. There was an outside area leading up the Cape itself. It was extremely windy, with some rain, and we felt that the high fence was necessary, but we could see the neighboring capes and get a sense that we really were at the top of Europe. We then drove back to the ship. The cape area has no trees, and is quite barren, but we passed several reindeer herds, and were thrilled when one herd, stags, does and fawns decided to cross immediately in front of us while we stopped to let them by and had a good look at these very attractive creatures. The fawns are dark brown, which makes them highly visible, while the adults are a soft dun color. Our stop in Honningsvåg was from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M, and we would have had a midnight sun if it had not been cloudy, but it still was light out at midnight. Our car rental was $26.00 apiece, so the total day was $132.00 per person. The ship’s tour of the North Cape was $179.75. per person. This meant a total of $444.50 compared to our cost, and we had the freedom to take as much time as we wanted, and travel in a nice small van while saving over $300.00 apiece - $600.00 per couple! Altogether, we were delighted with this adventure. Olden This did not work out well. I had booked a tour of one of the few attractions at this stop, the Briksdalen Glacier, for a five hour van tour. I was a little concerned when I received no response to my request for an e-mail telling us where we would make contact. The firm I dealt with was called “Porttrips International” which still has a website. I had paid for 8 people by credit card, and received checks from the three couples joining us. When we walked off the ship, there was no Porttrips vehicle in sight in the very small dock area. We walked into the small town (about four stores) and back, and contact with the locals told us no one had heard of this company. We had little choice but to take either a local bus up to the glacier for a quick round trip tour, or take a small ”train” trolley with two small open cars around a local lake for 150 NOK, about $18.00. We chose this option which took about 80 minutes and was quite pleasant. The good news is that my credit card company has issued me a full credit, and my fellow passengers have all been reimbursed. Disembarkation The passengers taking a ship provided bus directly to the airport seemed to do quite well; while those of us taking taxis had a wait, mostly spent on board with trips outside to check the line for cabs. There were seven cruise ships docked in Copenhagen, but Azamara seemed to have the pier closest to town, which was nice. When we got our taxi the fare to our hotel in central Copenhagen, near the Tivoli Gardens and main railroad station, was less than $10.00. Reflections and Miscellaneous Norway is a pleasant, very scenic country, with a population that by and large speaks excellent English. While it has the fourth highest standard of living in the world, there is no great display of wealth and little of poverty. There is a lot of graffiti, which surprised Edith. We were surprised by the fact that homes were scattered all along the fjords, seemingly far from anything. While some remote farms were abandoned, most of these homes were served by roads with regular auto and truck traffic. All the homes appeared to be in excellent condition, and the neighborhoods well cared for. Everyone we spoke to or dealt with was very pleasant and helpful. If one can deal with the dark, cold winters, it is a fine country to live in. Our fellow passengers were mostly American, with the usual leavening of our northern neighbors from Canada, and a fair representation of New Zealanders and Australians. There were few Germans, perhaps because it is easier for them to cruise on ships based on the continent. And the English travel on Fred Olsen and P&O cruise lines. Most passengers were in the retired age bracket, but there were others and three or four teen-agers. Final words Was this a worthwhile trip? I felt so although Edith was perhaps not as enthusiastic. There were times when it was a bit boring, and the fjords have a lot of similarity. But I felt it was so unique and beautiful that a bit of repetition was acceptable. I would recommend this cruise, and Azamara has a lot to offer; a neat small ship, really excellent food, great service and friendliness. If the activities are weak, and the standard veranda cabins on the small side, these defects can be tolerated. So my overall rating would be 4+. Bon Voyage! 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Sail Date July 2015

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