So sad to be back at work after an amazing vacation, so I'm reliving it here on this thread, with the excuse that others on upcoming cruises may benefit from recounting our experience For background, we're active 40-somethings ... Read More
So sad to be back at work after an amazing vacation, so I'm reliving it here on this thread, with the excuse that others on upcoming cruises may benefit from recounting our experience For background, we're active 40-somethings with no kids, and this was our 6th cruise. Overall, the bed was very comfortable, ship was clean and staff ever friendly (except the one gruff "casual" photographer who kept ordering people around), food delicious. We went to most of the shows (note we had to get our seats by 7:15 for the 8pm show!); the comedian and ventriloquist were good, and 50% of the ship's singers were good. We did laundry several times, and were pleased to never have to wait for a washer or dryer - that was a first! Here's what we did in each port:
London: we arrived on Thursday morning so we'd have 2 full days to enjoy our favorite city and adjust to the time zone. Our American flight was on-time and smooth, and we enjoyed a 1-bedroom Airbnb flat right in the middle of Soho. We hit our favorite stores and restaurants, and saw both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
Southampton: we took the train from Waterloo to Southampton on Saturday morning, then a 5min taxi to the port from the station (train was 40 GBP each and taxi was about 10 GBP). Checkin began shortly after we arrived, and proceeded fairly quickly and smoothly. The dining rooms were closed "for a private event" so we were forced to eat lunch in the buffet. They were encouraging passengers to use the actual sinks to properly wash their hands, not the hand sanitizer dispensers.
Sea day: the first day we were at sea, and we enjoyed exploring the ship and playing trivia
Stavanger: we got off as soon as we docked and explored the adorable little old town (note it was hilly and cobbled). We found an ATM to get NOK for the next day's cash-only tour, then made our way to our 10am reservation with Rodne for the pulpit rock/fjord cruise. As the poster above said, the boat was docked at a different place than shown on the map, but it was obvious and easy to find. The ticket said to arrive 30min early, but the boat was almost full an hour before sailing time! People were kind of fighting over seats, but we stood and walked around the whole time taking pictures anyway. It was windy and overcast but we still enjoyed the pretty views.
Skjolden: this port was so, so beautiful! We took a dozen pictures just walking into the tiny town from the ship. We had prebooked "Tour F" to the stave church and mountain views with Turid; her booth was easy to find but rather chaotic - people were just crowded all around the window, it seemed overwhelming with no apparent order. Even though Turid repeated "we only take cash" in every single email she sent to me before we left, there were still a bunch of people upset that she wouldn't take their credit cards on the day of the tour. Anyway, we finally got our ticket, got on the comfortable air-conditioned mini-bus, and had a lovely tour up to the Nordic ski center (which still had natural snow and Olympians training on it!), then to the Urnes stave church (which she timed perfectly between the large bus groups so we had it to ourselves). When we returned, the mini-bus dropped us back directly at the ship rather than in the town.
Geiranger: sail in/out of this port was BREATHTAKING!! So many waterfalls and beautiful views around every corner. We probably took 50% of our photos this day. Tendering opened much earlier than stated in the Patter; once the ship docked, we waited near the tender ticket distribution point until the announcement about tickets, then got Group 1 and were off the ship in no time. We had prebooked a 3-hour Twizy e-car to drive up the mountain; it was a short walk from the tender port, they allowed us to check in more than an hour earlier than our reservation, and gave us a quick tutorial on the car. Then we squeezed ourselves into this tiny car and headed up the mountain! So many beautiful views everywhere, but you're not supposed to stop on the way up so you have enough charge to make it to the top. We took a bunch more pics at the top, then took our time driving back down so we could take all our pics. We actually had the car for closer to 4 hours, but they didn't say anything or charge us extra. After we returned the car, we walked up the side of the waterfall and enjoyed the sights and sounds of a waterfall that you can see from the top of the 5000 ft mountain all the way down to the fjord! The town also had a few lovely restaurants and some booths selling souvenirs, chocolate, etc.
Trondheim: This was one of 2 rainy days, but luckily we didn't have much planned. We walked to the cathedral and fort but didn't care to pay the entry fees (the fort especially was expensive), but we did discover free wifi in the church's cafe, and a free armory/WW2 museum in the back corner of the fort. I looked at the Art Nouveau sites I had read about in advance of the trip, but nothing was particularly exciting (it's nothing like Helsinki or Prague). They had a very large market setup in the streets, so we enjoyed sampling cheeses and sausages, then made our way back to the ship.
Sea day: Formal Night
Honningsvag: seas were a bit rough in and out of the Cape, enough that we were amused watching the crowds 'flow' from one side to the other as they tried to walk down the halls of the rocking ship. It was so cold and windy - I don't know how hard the wind was gusting, but the poster above is accurate in saying it was blowing people over. It blew me off the steps at one point; my husband caught me just before I hit the rocks! We had prebooked a rental car, which was easy to find from the dock. We drove straight to the North Cape since it was relatively clear, got our picture and explored the visitor center, then drove around to a few of the other little villages on the island. Other than the visitor center, there was not much shopping or restaurants on the island. The landscape is bleak - no trees, lots of crumbling rocks everywhere - very unusual. We saw a lot of reindeer roaming the slopes. The ship had a 'midnight sun dance party' this night, but it was so cold and rainy we only stayed 10 minutes (certainly not until midnight).
Tromso: A really beautiful day for a cable car ride! We took the $16pp shuttle to town, then walked over the long, steep bridge to the cable car. We waited in line 30-40min, but several buses arrived just after us and the line must've been at least an hour long behind us! The ride was short, and at the top there's a nice viewing platform but it was more enjoyable to stroll around the many paths on the mountain and get away from the crowds. Late that night, we went to the deck for our obligatory midnight sun photos. Too bad the ship staff didn't move the party to this beautiful clear night instead!
Gravdal (Leknes): we messed up our rental car arrangements and did NOT get a car from Avis or Europcar (which delivered straight to the port), and instead had to pay for the $10pp shuttle into Gravdal to pick up our car from Sixt. We drove all the way to A, then took our time coming back, enjoying the beautiful little towns of Reine and Nusfjord (yes they charge a fee but it was only like 8 NOK; I think it was reasonable). NOTE: always check what time the last shuttle runs! The shuttle stopped running an hour before all-aboard, so we missed it, then discovered the taxi office was closed, and we were panicking trying to get back to the tender dock on time! Luckily we saw another Princess passenger grabbing the only taxi around, and we jumped on with them and made it just in time - I think we were on the next-to-last tender back. Way too close for comfort!
Sea day: for some reason, this sea day seemed particularly boring. It seemed like there were restless crowds in all the public spaces and not much at all to do. Also, the dinner menu was very limited; fewer options were offered. Not sure what that was all about.
Alesund: we had originally thought we'd hike in this port, but by now our legs were very tired and sore (we were averaging 5 miles/day of walking). It was a beautiful day, so we just walked around the harbor, and I enjoyed the Art Nouveau (much more to see than Trondheim, and the little Jugendstil museum was decent). I caught the public bus out to the Open Air Museum. It was so peaceful and lovely, like a forested park with old farm buildings here and there. Somewhere I had read there were viking exhibits here, but the only thing was a reconstructed viking ship. I followed the path with the sign reading "to the medieval museum" and checked that out too (included on the same ticket); it was interesting but not worth the walk if you're tired or limited.
Bergen: the timing in this port (7am-2pm) was really unfortunate; we would've loved many more hours in this port, but the captain said even leaving at 2pm we had to travel at top speed to get back to London. By now we were 'over' taking rides to viewpoints, so we skipped the funicular. Even though it had been forecast to be another beautiful clear day, it was overcast and a little rainy, so I'm not sure how much visibility there was anyway. We took the mandatory silly bus ride (literally less than 3 minutes, it took longer to load and unload than the ride itself), then walked into town. It was nice to be there really early in the morning and see Bryggen without hordes of people! We got some cool photos of the old wooden buildings. We walked over to the fortress, but it wasn't very interesting, especially since the old Rosencrantz Tower was covered in scaffolding. Once the shops and market opened, we enjoyed shopping for our last few Norwegian souvenirs. The 3rd formal night was this night (I can't remember when the 2nd formal night was lol).
Sea day: much needed downtime and packing time. Was not nearly as boring as the last sea day.
London: we were so sad to leave the ship! We enjoyed one last elegant breakfast in the dining room, then had a very easy disembarkation, short taxi to the train station and back into London. This time our Airbnb was in Hampstead Heath, a more distant, leafy area of London we wanted to explore. Temps were in the 80s, which would feel cool to us EXCEPT we had no a/c, so sleeping at night on the hot 2nd floor was difficult. We enjoyed exploring the Heath (so many exquisitely happy pups!), and found all the air-conditioned shops and restaurants in the area We tubed down to Picadilly to get some last souvenirs, but the crowds were so overwhelming we quickly retreated. When it was time to head back home 2 days later, we taxi'd to Heathrow for our sad but smooth British Airways flight back. Read Less