Cruising with the Morrisons: Their final days on the Sojourn are in Norway

 

The Morrisons continue their cruise through Norway

We saw Copenhagen and had a good look around even though it was a little wet. We found out where our hotel was situated so we can get the taxi to take us there when we return next week. There is a train that goes from the airport, but we have to take our bags. We are getting a little old for that so we will get a cab.

We went to the info desk and got a load of info and we have planned our time.

We sailed off to Norway on May 25 and had one sea day before going to Flam and was it great. We came into the fjord about 2 a.m. and took about six hours to go up the fjord to the town. It was so beautiful but cold. I got some great photos and even managed a short movie which is yet to be edited.

Owen and Lesley Morrison

The Flam railway and bus trip is done two ways with over 200 passengers going on the tour. Some had  the bus trip first and the train second and other groups from other ships and other tourists did the train first and then the bus trip.

We booked an expensive tour with the Flam railway in which we were to experience one of the most interesting and beautiful stretches of railroad in the world. We started in the pretty village of Flam and left by coach where we stopped at the Tvinde waterfall to watch it cascade down the mountainside. Then passed by Oppheim Lake before reaching the serpentine bends in what is called Stalheimskleivane, the steepest road in Norway. It is a series of hair-pin bends and there is not much room between the bends. Most of this leg is through a mountain with two tunnels: the first almost seven miles long, and the second approximately four miles long. We ended up in Voss where we had lunch.

After lunch we boarded the train to take us on a an incredible train journey from the mountain station at Myrdal on the Bergen Railway, down to Flåm station nestled in the innermost corner of the Aurlandfjord.

Each year, this exciting stretch of railway attracts people from all corners of the world, making the Flam Railway one of Norway’s major and most spectacular tourist attractions.

The train journey provides some of Norway’s wildest and most magnificent scenery. On the 20 km train ride you can see rivers that cut through deep ravines, waterfalls cascade down the side of steep, snow-capped mountains and mountain farms cling dizzily to sheer slopes.

The Flåa Railway is one of the world’s steepest railway lines on normal gauge. The gradient is 55/1000 on almost 80 percent of the line, i.e. a gradient of one in eighteen.

Kjosfossen waterfall

The twisting tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountain are manifestations of the most daring and skilful engineering in Norwegian railway history.

At Kjosfossen waterfall we got off to take photos of the 300-foot waterfall plunging down the mountainside beneath the train track. There were some girls dressed as trolls dancing to music for the train passengers.

At the foot of the mountains you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Flåa Valley and admire the majestic Aurlandfjord, a branch of the world’s longest fjord, the Sognefjord. We went to the patio grill for dinner and even there was only four of us braving the cold and we were rugged up like nanook of the north. It was a great experience coming out through the fjord and the views were spectacular.

Our cruise continued and we went to Alesund and did a tour of two islands: Giske Island and Godoey Island. To get to the islands you have to go under the fjord through tunnels and on bridges over the water. The tunnels go through sheer rock and no cement is used in the roof or sides of the tunnels. Norway is definitely not a place to be claustrophobic as they have tunnels everywhere.

One of many tunnels was 2.5 miles long. Before we went to the islands we went to a lookout and saw where we were going. On the way we saw a cement bunker built into the side of the mountain by the Germans. You had to look close to find it. We looked all over Alesund and down to the ship. Great views, but once again cold.

Giske consists of several islands. Giske is known as the Saga Island for the Viking chieftain Rollo, who was born there. Giske Island is fairly flat and fertile and there have been settlements there since the early Bronze Age. We went to Giske Church which dates back to 1150 and was originally a chapel belonging to the Giske family. The graveyard was very interesting. People died very young and there was a high infant death rate. There were a lot of graves that must have been during the war years when the German occupied Norway.

We then went to Godoey Island, over a bridge that is closed during bad weather, and then to the small fishing village of Alnes, which faces the Atlantic Ocean and if you went straight ahead over the water you would end up in Greenland. We went to its lighthouse. We had a great view of the ocean and surrounding islands. Some climbed the stairs to the top of the lighthouse for great views. We thoroughly enjoyed coffee, great cake and typical Norwegian pancakes at the café below the lighthouse before returning to Alesund and the pier via the Aksla viewpoint.

The Heights and Highlights of Bergen

We did a tour of Bergen called “Heights and Highlights” and it was very well named in the height department. We went through the city via the cable car system. It goes up 2,100 feet. I couldn’t tell as I had my eyes closed all the time, teeth clenched and hanging on to the side of the car. Owen didn’t come up as the stairs up to the cable car were very steep and had no handrails and there is no seating on the cable car. It only takes a maximum of 15 people. They say it only takes five minutes to get to the top but it was more like 10 to 15 minutes. Once up there the 360-degree views were spectacular. The wind was blowing and very cold, so I am not sure if the photos came out as my hands were shaking so much from the cold. Unfortunately, you have to come down the same way. They have a bicycle race down to where we started from and you would have to be mad to do it.

We then drove to the Fantoft Stave Church which was built in 1150 but destroyed by fire in 1992. It was rebuilt from timber north of Bergen and they used the same construction methods that were used when it was first built in the Middle Ages. The only thing original was the wooden roofed gate. The whole church is made of wood with elaborate carvings on the roof. Unique to Norway, the stave churches were all built before the year 1300, and this was the first time in 700 years that this type of church was constructed. It is set in lovely treed parkland. We then had to fight peak hour traffic to get back to the ship.

We went on a tour called scenic Nordfjord. We started at Olden where the ship was berthed along the fjord through pretty villages with waterfalls, farmland and lovely trees all along the way. The road was quite narrow and winding but there wasn’t much traffic so it was okay. We went through a lot of tunnels and some of them were only one lane with passing lanes. We followed another bus as our driver was Swedish and it was his first time driving tour buses in Norway and he didn’t know the way. We stopped to take photos at a lookout 1,600 feet looking down into the fjord. It had spectacular views of the fjord and the opposite side mountains with snow-capped peaks. We had a welcome afternoon tea at a local village on the edge of the fjord. There were men fishing off the banks. We stopped for photos at Hornindal Lake which is the deepest in Northern Europe.

We arrived back at the ship with the staff standing on the pier holding up a “Welcome Home” banner. The band from the club was there and they were playing jazz and hot mulled wine given to us all as we boarded the ship. Some locals, all dressed in national costume, were out on the balcony opposite cheering. It was a lovely welcome back to the ship.

In Stavanger, just a five-minute walk from the pier, the Rygerkatt catamaran will take you on an exciting cruise deep into the Lysefjord. Cutting over 30 miles into the countryside, the Lysefjord is surrounded by steep glacier-polished mountainsides dotted with beautiful waterfalls and the occasional small farm perched on a mountainside. On the southern side of the fjord is Helleren, an overhanging cliff that in former days gave shelter to the people that fished and hunted in this area. On the northern side of the fjord, view high above the well-known protruding rock formation, Pulpit Rock. Completely flat on the top, Pulpit Rock extends some 80 feet out over the fjord, and is over 1,800 feet above sea level. Made a stop along the way for a coffee break with Norwegian delicacies at a rustic fjord side restaurant, before commencing the return cruise to the pier in Stavanger.

We then went to Oslo where we did not do any ship excursions, but instead when into town to the information building and got some information, so we could plan our return in two days’ time. The ship was berthed right in the town and you did not have to go far. The was one major thing that Seabourn did was always to get the best mooring possible and have the shore excursions well organized and on time.

Now that the cruising part of our holiday is over, one final postcard will be needed as some has asked us for a comparison between the 220-passenger ships the Spirit, the Pride and the Legend and the 450-passenger size ships, the Sojourn, the Odyssey and the new ship just launched, the Quest.

They smaller ships are great but do not have the areas that the larger ships have been purposely built into the ships, namely the Patio Grill and Restaurant 2. On the smaller ships those areas are converted from other areas at dinner time.

The larger ships have a great area named, in our case, the Seabourn Square, when many functions happen in a peaceful place. Check in happens there, the pursers are all stationed there; there is a wonderful coffee shop where you can get snacks, coffee and drinks from 6:15 in the morning until 6 p.m. at night. In the same area is the library, the boutique, the future cruises consultant and plenty of areas to simply relax and read the papers or books. There is a large area outside with very comfortable chairs and tables to sit and again relax.

The larger ships have more areas outside to sit and relax:

  1. Deck 5 out the back of the club, there is a small pool and two hot tubs and many lounges and tables and chairs
  2. Deck 6 in the front of the cabins there is another hot tub and lounges and chairs
  3. Deck 7 is the area mentioned above
  4. Deck 8 is the Colonnade at the back of the ship which is a buffet area for lunch and breakfast and a restaurant for dinner, restaurant 2, which is only open for dinner and in the front of that deck is another pool and hot tubs together with more tables and chairs and lounges and the best place to eat, the Patio Grill and bar, which is open for lunch and dinner.
  5. Deck 9 there is an outside bar and that is also a great place to relax
  6. Deck 10 is the Observation Deck where early risers are catered for from 6 a.m. each day. Aternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks are served there and you can relax well into the wee hours
  7. Deck 11 is where you can play deck sports

We have travelled on the Spirit and the Pride and now on the Sojourn and for us the larger ship is for us, but we know many who much prefer the smaller ships and that is why Seabourn has the two sizes of ships. The main advantage of the smaller ships they can get into many places the larger cannot go and that is why many passengers prefer the smaller ships. Many say it is the more personal nature of the crew knowing your name and your quirks. We know the staff knew our names and we try to know and remember their names in return as they are people and not just a person to serve you.

We will again travel on Seabourn because we firmly believe they are value for money because when you pay for your cruise you know the only extras will be your excursions and anything you buy on the ship, unlike other cruise lines where to have to sign for everything you have on the ship and there are NO PHOTOGRAPHERS CONTINUALLY

The last day on the ship…

We are on our last full day of our cruise, tomorrow we will be in Copenhagen and hopping of the ship for the final time. We have been on a cruise ship since April 18 and tomorrow is June 3 and we are ready to go back to the land.

We have today picked out our seats on the plane for tomorrow’s flight. I was able to do it online and that made it easy. Hope it works out. I guess we will find out tomorrow.

We have finished our packing, almost; we are having a little trouble fitting everything in as we seem to have more than we started out with. It is good we can leave some with the hotel in Copenhagen as that bag almost weighs 30kg by itself. We can only take 23kg each on SAS airlines for checked baggage and 8kg each carryon luggage. No extras with them unlike Singapore Airlines.

We only paid $22 each for the SAS air tickets, but the taxes amounted to more than $120 each, still a lot less than normal.

We have arranged to be one of the first off the ship, so we can go to the hotel and drop off one rather large bag and then take a taxi to the airport for our flight leaving at 1:30 p.m. We did it that way because we do not know how long it will take at the airport to check in and go through customs and immigration. The flight time is only one hour. (It takes five hours on a train and eight hours on the ferry.) If they want to put us on an earlier flight we will take it.

We go to Oslo for three nights from June 3-6, then we fly to Stockholm and stay there four nights and then on June 10 we fly back to Copenhagen for five days. We paid for all our accommodations before we left Australia and have breakfast included in two places.

On June 16 we start on our way home from Copenhagen to Singapore. We arrive there at 5:20 a.m. after a 12-hour flight. We have a hotel booked in the airport, so we do not have far to go to our bed. We have four days in Singapore, before arriving home very late on June 20.

We will be more awake on June 21.

Lesley is already planning to go up to Hervey Bay on July 12 to stay at our timeshare at the Ramada. She is anxious to see our new grandson.

 

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise.com. She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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