As seasoned travellers with many years of road tripping under our belts (to most parts of the UK, Europe, Eastern Europe & Canada) we wanted to try a tour of Norway, a country we'd never been to before but had been considering for quite some time. However, as we started planning it, it became evident just how expensive such a trip would be, plus there was also the issue of there being no ferries to Scandinavia from the UK anymore, which would have meant a very long drive via Holland, Germany, Denmark & Sweden before we even reached Norway.
We’d never tried a cruise before, but as an alternative to a road trip we looked at some Norwegian offerings, which appeared to be a more cost effective way of getting / staying there than going by road. We eventually ended up booking with Fred. Olsen for a cruise on the 'Black Watch' leaving Liverpool on 11th May bound for the Norwegian ports of: Alesund, Hellesynt, Gerainger, Olden, Bergen, Eidfjord & Stavanger.
The Black Watch is quite small for a cruise ship, it accommodates just over 800 passengers, its compact size meaning it can access the smaller fjords. Being so early in the year meant that we were the only ship in most ports on a given day which was a plus..
Our cabin, an outside one with twin portholes, on deck 4 (The Atlantic Deck), was small but clean and our lovely little room maid looked after us very well, keeping the cabin spotless, with fresh towels & bottled water coming frequently. Although obviously well used and a bit rough around the edges everything in there worked ok but there was a distinct lack of power points, only the one which couldn't be used whilst boiling a kettle of water. For charging up the trappings of modern life such as mobile phone/camera batteries & laptops etc is was extraordinarlly inadequate.
The toilet smelled a bit “drainy” at times due to there not being sufficient ventilation in there so we left the door open and the air con on when we went out, to air it through a bit. We had one incident where there was no hot water coming out of the shower but it was sorted in a few hours. There were also a few occasions when we couldn't flush the loo overnight, but the ship does appear to have a constant “in service” maintenance programme taking place, so there' are usually maintenance staff around the corridors fixing something or other.
There were a couple of occasions where we had brown water coming out of the cold water tap. They told us at the embarkation briefing that the water from the cabin taps was safe to drink but after the brown water incidents, and the horrible tasting tea it made even when running clear, we really didn't fancy it and started using bottled water at £1.50 a bottle (discounted to 75p as we were on the Inclusive Package).
Alesund has lots to offer, with good bus serivces (careful of bank holidays though) you can get to most places of interest. We didn't see the point in booking and paying for shore tours as we managed to get around just fine without them. On a wet day the Aquarium is very good. A trip up mount Askla is a must, just for the superb view. The steps were closed while we were there - due to re-open after refurbishment the day after our visit!. We took a bus up to the top and walked back down through the park.
The town itself is nice to wander around too but being a bank holiday while we were there most shops were closed