I booked this cruise about a month before departure date. Price and value are the most important factors when I book a cruise for myself. I booked a Single Interior Guarantee cabin for a great price.
I didn't think too much about the itinerary, although I of course realized it would be cold. I have lived in a warm climate almost my entire life. Normally, I would prefer an extra month of summer as opposed to an extra month of winter. In this case, though, I made the reverse trade-off. I bought two pairs of heavy socks and a fleece neck warmer. I brought them and other appropriate clothing with me. While we did get lucky with the temperatures and the weather, it was nonetheless cold, although it was never an issue for me. In fact, I often went into the open-air jacuzzis and laid out on deck (as did others) when the sun was shining. The bathrobe I rented for GBP 10 came in quite handy.
Because almost everything was so wonderful, areas with room for improvement were conspicuous. I simply can't mention everything that was great, but I will mention and describe the areas with room for improvement.
The cabin was great, perfect for me, with one exception. At first, I was worried about 5085 being under the Neptune Lounge. While I could hear sounds from there, it never bothered me nor affected my ability to sleep.
Considering the relatively long Black Watch itineraries, I was surprised at the lack of storage space in the cabin and how inefficiently that space was used. For example, it is basically not possible to use three quarters of the closet for clothes. A small refrigerator takes up the lower-right quarter of it. Having a refrigerator is fine with me; I used it for water, whiskey, and food every once in a while. The coffee and tea tray was on top of the refrigerator, which rendered useless the upper-right quarter of the closet. Although there was no other place to put it without sacrificing precious shelf or desk space, I guess I could have moved the coffee and tea tray. Then again, I guess I could have asked for it to be removed from the cabin altogether; I never used it.
There were no shelves or drawers in the lower-left quarter of the closet. It served only as a place to put my dirty laundry bag; again, not an efficient use of this space. Finally, the only other space really designed for clothes and accessories was a ridiculously small storage unit with two small drawers, a shelf and the top. In the recessed area it was located, a storage unit four times as large would easily fit without sacrificing any of the cabin's usable floor space.
As a light traveler who dresses casually, even with clothing for cold weather, I fit all of my clothes and accessories in the space provided. However, I imagine most people would find it impossible to store all of the clothes and accessories they bring onto the ship.
I walked around the Bergenhus Festning (Bergenhus Fortress) and Mariakirken (St Mary's Church). I then walked to the Mount Fløyen lower funicular station, rode the funicular, and walked around part of the top of Mount Fløyen (Fløyfjellet), including to Skomakerdiket (a lake). After I rode the funicular back down the mountain, I walked to and around the city center and the Bryggen (the old wharf), before heading back to the ship.
I walked from Dover Priory rail station to the cruise terminal (2). It took about 30 minutes. Embarkation was smooth. I walked on with my one piece of carry-on size luggage.
After breakfast, I got off the ship and turned right (south), toward the center of the town. I then walked along the road to Floen, a lake in the Oldedalen valley, heading south. After reaching the northern edge of the lake, I sat down for a while. I then walked back to the ship mostly retracing my steps, and ate lunch on board. I then got off the ship again, and turned left (north) this time. I walked for a while and then turned back.
I believe I later discovered that a public bus travels between the cruise terminal and a glacier nearby.
The cruise line or port agent provided a paid shuttle bus to the city center. When I asked Guest Services whether there is public transportation nearby, the woman told me there isn't. Therefore, I bought a ticket for the shuttle bus. However, in a tourist information tent on the pier, I saw information about nearby public bus services. So, I went back onto the ship, returned the shuttle bus ticket and got a refund. I left the ship (again), walked to a bus stop and boarded a 42 bus to its terminus, the town of Eidkjosen. The route included the network of road tunnels under Tromsøya island, Tromsø Airport on the other side of the island, a bridge connecting Tromsøya island with the Kvaløysletta neighborhood, driving along the shore and finally, Eidkjosen. The bus driver recommended walking five minutes in a particular direction. The road led into Kaldfjord, a town on a bay of the Norwegian Sea. It was beautiful. I walked back to Eidkjosen and bought a beer at a supermarket. While sitting on a bench, admiring the views and drinking the beer, I decided to eat lunch at the supermarket cafeteria. I then boarded a 42 bus back to Tromsø. Along the way, I decided to transfer at Tromsø Airport to another bus with a different route back to Tromsø, around the island as opposed to the tunnels under it. I got off near the Polaria building, which is pretty cool, and then walked around the city center for a while. I took a bus back to where the ship was docked, and boarded.
On Monday morning, July 24, the ship anchored off shore near Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian/Soviet mining town. After breakfast, I boarded a tender, and went ashore. It truly is a ghost town, and the first Russian area I have ever been to. Wild. After I walked around for a couple of hours, I eventually found myself at the Pyramiden Hotel bar. I bought a pint of beer brewed elsewhere on Spitsbergen; I believe in Barentsburg, another Russian settlement. I then walked back to the dock, boarded a tender, and returned to the ship. Later that afternoon, the ship departed and sailed to Longyearbyen, where we docked in the evening.
On Friday, July 28, after I ate lunch on board and we docked in the early afternoon, I left the ship and walked toward the city center. I found information about the public transportation system and decided to take the circular A6 route around the city. I saw many of the city's residential neighborhoods, which was interesting. I didn't take the bus all the way back to city center. I decided to get off near a couple of the city's museums, including the Akureyri Museum. I went inside and bought something at the gift shop, but I did not see the museum exhibit. I then took a meandering walk to the city center and then I wandered around there for a while. I then decided to try to find a place to have a beer or a drink, and I discovered Akureyri Fish and Chips - with a 1 + 1 Happy Hour. Prices are relatively high in Iceland, as they were earlier in Norway. So, I paid about ILS 35 for two pints of locally brewed Gull beer. Considering the source of the water, I thought the beer could be better. I think it was a lager, which is not one of my favorite types of beer. I also drank some of the restaurant's tap water, and it was just as good as the beer. After relaxing at the restaurant for a while and checking email and Facebook, I then headed back to the ship. On my way back to the ship, I came across the Hof Cultural Center that I had walked past earlier in the afternoon. With plenty of time before the ship was scheduled to depart, I decided to go inside, and I'm glad I did. Amazing architecture and design, along with interesting art inside. Right along the water, too. Nice.
With the ship docked in the cargo area of the port, I ate breakfast on board and then took the mandatory port shuttle bus to the terminal. Without cellular service, a fellow passenger handed me information about the public buses and I also gathered some information on my own. Along with fellow passengers, I walked toward and then through the city center.
I soon came upon a central tourist information office with bus stops outside. The buses were free, and I decided to take advantage of them. I wouldn't realize until later that the bus route I took, 1, while ostensibly a circular route with one terminus, actually consists of three "fingers." The route passes by that central location a number of times. I initially noticed that the same bus stop appears twice on the list of stops along the route, and advised fellow passengers based on that. However, I did not notice until later that morning that the stop appears three times, along with a stop around the corner, with a different name. In any case, I took a bus 1 to its terminus in the Argir village along the southern edge of Tórshavn. I walked around the neighborhood and then boarded a bus 1 back to the city center.
I got off that bus at Steinatún, but then decided to board the next bus 1 that stopped there, and got off next to Tórsvøllur, the national football (soccer) stadium. A door into the Faroe Islands Football Association offices at the stadium was open. I walked in and took an elevator up to a higher floor. Somebody working there told me it was OK to walk around the stadium, so I did.
I then boarded another bus 1 and rode on it for a while, as it passed through residential neighborhoods, the city center another time, a commercial/industrial neighborhood, and then back to the city center, at which point I got off. The ship was scheduled to depart in the early afternoon, but I still had some time before I had to be back on the ship. So, I walked around the city center some more.
At one point, I came across the Irish Pub. I went inside and decided to order a pint of Föroya Bjór Classic Dark Lager. I walked downstairs and sat down at one of the tables in the patio overlooking the harbor. Nice.
Earlier that morning, I had not walked through the Tinganes neighborhood, "the oldest part of the town," according to the cruise line, so I headed there at this point. I then walked back to the cruise terminal and took the port shuttle bus back to the ship.