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August might sound like a good time to cruise to the Arctic Circle but it's wise to go prepared. As we discovered, it can be wet and windy, so we were glad we took waterproof over-trousers. We were less prepared for the numerous children on board but, as it was school holiday time, this was probably inevitable. The 14 day cruise from Southampton included just 4 sea days but the weather prevented calling at Flån. On Board Having cruised to the canary Islands in May, we were pleased to find that Princess had made several changes to key Emerald Princess personnel. We liked the new Cruise Director, Paul Chandler Burns and his team kept us entertained. Lyndon Jolley had also joined the ship, as the destination expert, and gave some informative talks. Captain William Kent had recently taken over the helm and, even with his experience, he had some interesting moments with the strong winds in Stavanger. We had hoped for reasonable weather, as it was August, but the rain persisted and we failed to call at Flån, which was disappointing since we had managed to book for the Flån railway. Having booked this trip with Princess (which is unusual for us) the cancellation cost us nothing and the trip in the rain would not have been much fun. Dining We traveled with another couple, so had requested fixed dining at 8.15 pm. For some reason the booking had been messed up, so we were given a table in the Da Vincci dining room, which suited us nicely. Breakfast in the Botochelli dining room was often a frustrating start to the day, even when we arrived at 8 am before it became busy. The waiters were slow to take orders and a luke warm omelet could take 30 minutes to arrive. Afternoon tea was less leisurely and our waiters in the Da Vincci dining room were excellent. Food was of a consistently high standard, as ever, but the menu is now so predictable for any regular passengers. As it was August, there were quite a few children on board, so the dining room tended to be rather noisy at times. Maybe Princess should copy P&O and have some adult only ships! Entertainment We used to enjoy the resident song and dance shows but the same shows seem to run for years, so we no longer bother to go. We also feel that the production teams ruin the shows with the video backgrounds and unnecessary lights. Princess's new Magic To Go show had some of the best special effects we have seen on a cruise ship, being simple but clever, and it did not rely on annoying videos. The theatre was 100% full but many commented that it was not very magical and the music was unfamiliar. Steve Larkin's Freddie Mercury tribute act was good but Princess keep repeating it. Jeff Stevenson proved to be really popular and kept us all laughing with his endless stream of jokes and observations. Jayne Middleton's tribute to Annie Lenox was OK but the songs were not as well known, leading some to suggest that featuring Karen Carpenter or Dusty Springfield might have been better. Peter Howarth, the recent lead singer of the Hollies, sang a good mix of oldies, including several Roy Orbison numbers. We had seen him on an earlier trip but this time he gave a second show, which was equally good. We enjoyed listening to Pingxin Xu who played an amazing 140 string instrument called a Dulcimer. This made a nice change from the tribute singers and song/dance shows. Gregory Scott entertained everybody, on the last night, playing well known songs on his violin albeit with more distracting video backgrounds. Daniel Zafrani's "visual comedy and mime" act was one of the worst we have seen on Princess. It was neither funny nor entertaining so we, and many others, walked out after a few minutes. Whilst we like the tribute acts and enjoy the old 60's and 70's numbers, maybe it is time for Princess to engage some different artists. As ever, there were numerous trivia challenges, dance sessions etc and some extra events to involve the families on board. For passengers dining on the second sitting, there was very little to do between afternoon tea and 8.15 pm. Ports We had just 4 sea days, which suited us fine, as we like to get ashore and explore by ourselves. The scenery is spectacular but, in all honesty, there is not a huge amount to do at many of the ports. We booked a private fjord trip from Stavanger but Pulpit Rock does not look great when covered in mist under heavy rain. As it happens, we had been too late to book the train for our Scheduled Flån stop, so had resorted to booking the similar Princess trip on the same train. So, failing to get to Flån cost us nothing other than the enjoyment of the train ride (in the pouring rain). We had an enjoyable stop in Olden, in spite of the weather. It was easy to get to the Briksdal glacier on the local bus (about NOK 100 each way) and the 3 Km walk is scenic, with numerous waterfalls from the melting ice. There is plenty to see in Trondheim so we opted for a self guided walking tour. The cathedral is really the major attraction and we were there in time for the 1 pm organ concert, then climbed the 174 steps to the top of the tower. The NOK 90 seemed quite expensive, with a further NOK 40 for the tower, especially since photography is not permitted. A further NOK 90 is charged for the Bishop's Palace and again for the Crown Jewels but neither were very impressive. The old warehouses along the river are attractive and the small fish market is worth a visit. Honningsvag is the stopping off place for the North Cape but there is not much to see there other than the wooden church. The North Cape is a bit of a tourist trap and most passengers seemed to head for the visitor's centre there. The local bus charges almost NOK 600 for the return, 30 minute ride (but did include the entrance to the visitor centre) and the other options were even more expensive, so we gave it a miss. Tromsø is a larger town with plenty to see and do. Princess offered a shuttle bus to the centre for USD 5 per trip, You can then catch the bus to the cable car. It is best to get there early as the two cars only carry 28 people each. The trip takes just 4 minutes but costs NOK 170 return. We then crossed the bridge to visit the modern and old cathedrals and even the adjacent art gallery. The Polar museum was very popular too. The stop at Gravdal seemed rather pointless as it required a tender and there is absolutely nothing at the port jetty. It is the stopping place for trips to the Lofoten Islands but they are not readily accessible or exciting. A tender to Nusfjord would be better, if practical. We opted to walk the 4 Km to the town but there is nothing there except for an attractive wooden church. We later discovered that there was a free shuttle bus in the opposite direction to Leknor, which we do not recall being mentioned at the port talk. The penultimate stop, at Ålesund, was more interesting. It was a clear day, so we caught the local busses (662 from the port, then 664), which took us around the islands of Giske and to the lighthouse at Godøy. On returning to Ålesund, we climbed the 418 steps to the viewing point rather than resort to the hop on/off train. We had been to Bergen recently and it was good to return and re-visit the fish market. However, the itinerary only allowed a half day at this port. Forthcoming bad weather then meant the ship increased speed and we arrived at Southampton hours early. Wi Fi Elite passengers get a generous free wi fi allowance but we were unable to use it because the Internet connection was extremely slow or non-existent. Summary We chose August in the hope that we would get reasonable weather in Norway but were glad we had packed all weather conditions. Food was of a consistently high standard and service was always friendly and efficient (except for breakfast times). Everything in Norway is expensive and some of the entry charges are excessive. Norway gets plenty of rain even in August and in the north it can be really cold, so go prepared. There is enough to see and do at most, but not all, ports. Princess could do better with entertainment but they remain our preferred cruise line.

NORTH CAPE IN AUGUST

Emerald Princess Cruise Review by Sussex Duo

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
August might sound like a good time to cruise to the Arctic Circle but it's wise to go prepared. As we discovered, it can be wet and windy, so we were glad we took waterproof over-trousers. We were less prepared for the numerous children on board but, as it was school holiday time, this was probably inevitable.

The 14 day cruise from Southampton included just 4 sea days but the weather prevented calling at Flån.

On Board

Having cruised to the canary Islands in May, we were pleased to find that Princess had made several changes to key Emerald Princess personnel. We liked the new Cruise Director, Paul Chandler Burns and his team kept us entertained. Lyndon Jolley had also joined the ship, as the destination expert, and gave some informative talks.

Captain William Kent had recently taken over the helm and, even with his experience, he had some interesting moments with the strong winds in Stavanger.

We had hoped for reasonable weather, as it was August, but the rain persisted and we failed to call at Flån, which was disappointing since we had managed to book for the Flån railway. Having booked this trip with Princess (which is unusual for us) the cancellation cost us nothing and the trip in the rain would not have been much fun.

Dining

We traveled with another couple, so had requested fixed dining at 8.15 pm. For some reason the booking had been messed up, so we were given a table in the Da Vincci dining room, which suited us nicely.

Breakfast in the Botochelli dining room was often a frustrating start to the day, even when we arrived at 8 am before it became busy. The waiters were slow to take orders and a luke warm omelet could take 30 minutes to arrive. Afternoon tea was less leisurely and our waiters in the Da Vincci dining room were excellent.

Food was of a consistently high standard, as ever, but the menu is now so predictable for any regular passengers. As it was August, there were quite a few children on board, so the dining room tended to be rather noisy at times. Maybe Princess should copy P&O and have some adult only ships!

Entertainment

We used to enjoy the resident song and dance shows but the same shows seem to run for years, so we no longer bother to go. We also feel that the production teams ruin the shows with the video backgrounds and unnecessary lights.

Princess's new Magic To Go show had some of the best special effects we have seen on a cruise ship, being simple but clever, and it did not rely on annoying videos. The theatre was 100% full but many commented that it was not very magical and the music was unfamiliar.

Steve Larkin's Freddie Mercury tribute act was good but Princess keep repeating it. Jeff Stevenson proved to be really popular and kept us all laughing with his endless stream of jokes and observations.

Jayne Middleton's tribute to Annie Lenox was OK but the songs were not as well known, leading some to suggest that featuring Karen Carpenter or Dusty Springfield might have been better. Peter Howarth, the recent lead singer of the Hollies, sang a good mix of oldies, including several Roy Orbison numbers. We had seen him on an earlier trip but this time he gave a second show, which was equally good.

We enjoyed listening to Pingxin Xu who played an amazing 140 string instrument called a Dulcimer. This made a nice change from the tribute singers and song/dance shows. Gregory Scott entertained everybody, on the last night, playing well known songs on his violin albeit with more distracting video backgrounds.

Daniel Zafrani's "visual comedy and mime" act was one of the worst we have seen on Princess. It was neither funny nor entertaining so we, and many others, walked out after a few minutes.

Whilst we like the tribute acts and enjoy the old 60's and 70's numbers, maybe it is time for Princess to engage some different artists. As ever, there were numerous trivia challenges, dance sessions etc and some extra events to involve the families on board. For passengers dining on the second sitting, there was very little to do between afternoon tea and 8.15 pm.

Ports

We had just 4 sea days, which suited us fine, as we like to get ashore and explore by ourselves. The scenery is spectacular but, in all honesty, there is not a huge amount to do at many of the ports.

We booked a private fjord trip from Stavanger but Pulpit Rock does not look great when covered in mist under heavy rain. As it happens, we had been too late to book the train for our Scheduled Flån stop, so had resorted to booking the similar Princess trip on the same train. So, failing to get to Flån cost us nothing other than the enjoyment of the train ride (in the pouring rain).

We had an enjoyable stop in Olden, in spite of the weather. It was easy to get to the Briksdal glacier on the local bus (about NOK 100 each way) and the 3 Km walk is scenic, with numerous waterfalls from the melting ice.

There is plenty to see in Trondheim so we opted for a self guided walking tour. The cathedral is really the major attraction and we were there in time for the 1 pm organ concert, then climbed the 174 steps to the top of the tower. The NOK 90 seemed quite expensive, with a further NOK 40 for the tower, especially since photography is not permitted. A further NOK 90 is charged for the Bishop's Palace and again for the Crown Jewels but neither were very impressive. The old warehouses along the river are attractive and the small fish market is worth a visit.

Honningsvag is the stopping off place for the North Cape but there is not much to see there other than the wooden church. The North Cape is a bit of a tourist trap and most passengers seemed to head for the visitor's centre there. The local bus charges almost NOK 600 for the return, 30 minute ride (but did include the entrance to the visitor centre) and the other options were even more expensive, so we gave it a miss.

Tromsø is a larger town with plenty to see and do. Princess offered a shuttle bus to the centre for USD 5 per trip, You can then catch the bus to the cable car. It is best to get there early as the two cars only carry 28 people each. The trip takes just 4 minutes but costs NOK 170 return.

We then crossed the bridge to visit the modern and old cathedrals and even the adjacent art gallery. The Polar museum was very popular too.

The stop at Gravdal seemed rather pointless as it required a tender and there is absolutely nothing at the port jetty. It is the stopping place for trips to the Lofoten Islands but they are not readily accessible or exciting. A tender to Nusfjord would be better, if practical. We opted to walk the 4 Km to the town but there is nothing there except for an attractive wooden church. We later discovered that there was a free shuttle bus in the opposite direction to Leknor, which we do not recall being mentioned at the port talk.

The penultimate stop, at Ålesund, was more interesting. It was a clear day, so we caught the local busses (662 from the port, then 664), which took us around the islands of Giske and to the lighthouse at Godøy. On returning to Ålesund, we climbed the 418 steps to the viewing point rather than resort to the hop on/off train.

We had been to Bergen recently and it was good to return and re-visit the fish market. However, the itinerary only allowed a half day at this port. Forthcoming bad weather then meant the ship increased speed and we arrived at Southampton hours early.

Wi Fi

Elite passengers get a generous free wi fi allowance but we were unable to use it because the Internet connection was extremely slow or non-existent.

Summary

We chose August in the hope that we would get reasonable weather in Norway but were glad we had packed all weather conditions. Food was of a consistently high standard and service was always friendly and efficient (except for breakfast times). Everything in Norway is expensive and some of the entry charges are excessive. Norway gets plenty of rain even in August and in the north it can be really cold, so go prepared. There is enough to see and do at most, but not all, ports. Princess could do better with entertainment but they remain our preferred cruise line.
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