I took my elderly mother on this cruise as she felt she didn’t want to fly-cruise any more. We had arranged assistance boarding at Southampton Mayflower Terminal. This worked brilliantly. Having bypassed the queues we were through security and on board within 15-20 minutes of being dropped off. We found our stateroom in very good order with a stocked minibar in line with Moms ‘Elite’ status. Our bags were delivered in a timely manner and once unpacked we explored our home for two weeks. The itinerary included a number of sea days which we found plenty of activities to fill our days. For a large ship with over 2500 guests there was never not a place to find some ‘space’. There was never a shortage of loungers on either decks outside or inside. We were assigned late dinner in the International Restaurant, the booking confirmation stated 7:15pm when in fact dinner was at 8:00pm, not an issue for us but was for our Canadian table mates. We took breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Buffet restaurant mainly due to my Mom’s fussy taste. There was for the most part a good choice, some lunchtimes their meat that we had been served for dinner the previous evening would appear in the form of some kind of salad. Only on the last day of the trip did I find that I could actually order a portion of chips which would be cooked to order instead of me having to walk through the indoor pool area, around the outdoor pool to the burger bar to fetch these and then carry them back to the buffet! The service in the International Restaurant was impeccable, the menu choices were varied and they were always able to make changes to suit Moms palate!
We went to the theatre most evenings, the Sapphire orchestra was superb, accompanying the varied visiting performances, all but one we really enjoyed (fiddle playing is not our thing) the cruise cast were particularly good, two male and two female lead vocalists lead very well. We didn’t attend the other evening entertainment part from the ‘Land of the midnight sun deck party’ which started about 11:15pm and lead to a countdown to midnight. This was very well attended and great fun. It was hard to believe that it was midnight with the sun still shining brightly in the sky.
With regard to the ports and shore excursions, due to my moms not being able to walk too far we could only book two excursions. Stavanger was great, docked right in the port we were able to stroll around and see some of this pretty town. Flåm was was very pretty, we had booked the ‘Easy Flåm’ excursion which was fine for us. Gerainger was very pretty, we were able to go ashore by tender and explore under our own steam. Trondheim was great, our second excursion was on a 1950s tram which took us up into the suburbs in the hills, very pretty. We were met by a coach which took us to a ski jump arena where some young jumpers had been arranged to show their skills.
Honningsvag again docked right in port was fine, the town was within easy walking distance. The Christmas shop was full of mass produced junk, we went further around the harbour and came across an outlet store which had a cafe and a bathroom, here I did find a beautiful hand painted Christmas ornament. Tromso we arrived on a Sunday, there was a shuttle bus into town at a cost of $20 but nothing in the town was open. The only visiting place that was in walking distance was a botanical garden but we were advised that it was very uneven under foot and it was raining, we stayed aboard. As we departed the captain advised that we had been assigned an inadequately qualified pilot which would result in us having to add four hours to our journey time and as a result a late arrival in the Lofoten Islands, departure was delayed accordingly. The issue here was that, 1 it was pouring with rain, 2, The tender was docking in the middle of nowhere, a four kilometres walk to the nearest town or a taxi ride. Our table mates went ashore and quickly messaged that Mom would really struggle. Our next stop was Alesund, having been tipped off by our table mates we booked a land train. This was great, an hour and a half for approx $20 each. Mom then returned to the ship and I was able to walk to a number of areas I had seen to take photos. Bergen was a bit of a mix up. We had no excursions booked. There was a ‘shuttle bus ‘ provided, this took us from the shop to the other side of the container port where we were docked. This meant we were a minimum of 1 km from the old port where another 4ships were docked. We had planned on going on the funicular railway which the tourist information said was within a few minutes walk of the main shopping street. This was far too far for us to walk. I had to sit mom on a park bench whilst I went to take photos. Having watched the ships lecture of the city I feel that we missed out on so much because of where the ship was docked (second occasion). Again the final sea day was great, a rest, no problem finding space to relax. On docking in Southampton we again had assistance for disembarkation, this was superb again this time at the Queen Elizabeth Terminal.