Monday, 13 July 2015

Alas, everything comes to an end!

We haven’t had many “sea days” on this cruise and so the formal dress evenings, daytime lectures and deck activities have been less than usual.


However, during the sea days James enjoyed a brilliant set of talks by Michael Kushner who has a superb knowledge of wartime code breaking at Bletchley Park, World War II sea battles and espionage. Did you know that we warned J Edgar Hoover about a possible attack on Pearl Harbour in Dec 1941 but he decided not to do anything about it? Well, we heard some amazing facts from him. Great stuff!


We also had the pleasure of being entertained by Roy Walker – here being interviewed about his life. He’s a very funny man and we spent quite a lot of time with him on and around the ship just chatting and ‘chewing the cud’.


Yesterday evening (Sunday) at dinner Christabelle and James arrived in matching outfits – don’t they just look soooo smart together?


Being the penultimate evening of the cruise, last night’s formal dinner included the opportunity for us to show our appreciation to the ships’ chefs and catering staff staff. What would our waistlines be like if it wasn’t for them!


Talking of food and catering: here are “our wonderful boys” who’ve looked after our every need at dinner each evening. You know when you’ve had a good cruise when your waiters start telling you what’s good for you and what you’re going to eat and drink that evening! Flanked by our waiters Sidesh and Sheldon, Doug stands next to our dear friend (and, coincidentally, our wine waiter – what a surprise!) Dolreich.


Sheldon and Sidesh – the terrible two ……..


…….. and Sheldon wanted a close up (showing his best side) if he was to go “viral”.


Always the last table to leave of course, we include another pic of most of us: Willie, James, Sandy and Steve, Christabelle and Doug. (Eileen and Ian had to leave us early for the cinema)

“Aurora” was our first cruise ship in November 2013 (since then we seem to have lost count!) It gave us a fabulous cruise back then and has done so again this time. The itinerary, the weather, the people we’ve met and, of course, the ship’s company have all come together to give us something we’ll not forget!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Norway–Geirangerfjord and Mount Dalsnibba.


On the rear deck of “Aurora” enjoying a bit of the remarkable and everlasting sunshine we’ve had on this cruise.


On the Promenade Deck, still inside the Arctic Circle, enjoying the warmth and the sunshine at 11:45 at night, after the evening theatre performance.


So blatantly self indulgent! (sun filter on the camera – it’s not getting dark!)


It must be about midnight by now!


We’ve had some of the loveliest  of dinner companions during the cruise – we all gelled straight away.  Here’s Christabelle and Willie (seated left) Ian and Eileen (standing left) and Sandy and Steve (right). We’ve had a real hoot every evening.


We anchored at Geiranger at the top of its 9 mile fjord on Saturday morning. The surroundings at sea level in this lovely place are just pure, wild beauty and very fitting as it’s a World Heritage site.


Twins do you think?


All the melt waters from the Geiranger valley gush down this tremendous waterfall. The recently constructed steps up from the village allow some great close up experiences. You need to be fast at taking photos as the lens gets wet very quickly!


At the top of the waterfall you get a super view of little Geiranger and the head of the fjord. There are only 300 hundred residents in the village but they welcome over 600,000 visitors every year. The acclamation that it’s “the most magnificent and the most beautiful of Norway’s fjords” is well founded.


We half expected a Troll to emerge from this little shed!


From the top of the waterfall it’s a short walk to the fascinating little octagonal church built in 1842. In true Norwegian style all the gravestones are perfectly upright and in line!


We took a bus ride up the precipitous road to Mount Dalsnibba, 4,500 feet above the village. We stopped briefly at Flydalsjuvet on the way up to take in this spectacular view towards the village and the fjord.


There are six little mountain houses dead centre in the pic. They’re constructed of wood and stone with grass roofs – almost impossible to see.


After countless hair-pin bends and shear drops down the mountain side we arrived above the snow line where, in some places, the snow was still several metres deep.




Passing a huge frozen lake we took the even steeper road up to the top of Mount Dalsnibba ……


…… where, in places, the road had been cut out of several metres of deep snow.


And then we arrived!


This is nature at its very best – words are unimportant in this level of adventure. Much of the the road from Geiranger can be seen as it snakes its way up the valley. All praise to the young driver that so skilfully got us to the top of the mountain and back again.  “Aurora” is the little white spec in the distance.



Just to prove we were there!


The ride back down had a lot of us on tenter hooks – this is a relatively level bit of road but in some parts it was very steep. Everywhere the water tumbles down.


We left Geiranger in the evening having had a truly memorable day. Mount Dalsnibba is the one just right of centre.


Many of us enjoyed the Great British Sail Away on “Aurora’s” rear decks while the awesome scenery of the Geirangerfjord passed close by on each side.


The Seven Sisters waterfall - falling a thousand feet into the waters of the fjord.


At this point along the Geirangerfjord we counted 23 waterfalls within sight.


Another fjord branches off the main waterway. The regular car ferry, which had been journeying with us from Geiranger left us at this point (far left).


There were miles of the Geirangerfjord left to travel before we got to the sea and the start of our two day journey back to Southampton. With heavy hearts we now make our way back home.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Norway – things we didn’t know!

The grandeur and beauty of the Norway’s Fjords and the wilderness that surrounds them is sometimes bewildering. The exquisitely presented buildings, both large and small, are just a joy. However, leaving aside the visual, Norway can be presented by some fascinating hard facts:


At 125,000 square miles Norway is two and a half times larger than England, but with a population of only 4.5 million that means just 30 people to each square mile. England has 1000 / square mile!


From its southern end Norway expends northwards for 1,100 miles – that’s the same distance between London to Gibraltar. Its frontier with Sweden is a 1000 miles long.


Norway’s coastline is officially 1,656 miles long but if the inlets and Fjords are taken into account it increases by 10 times – equivalent to two thirds of the earth’s circumference.


Only 3% of the country’s land is cultivated, 23% is forest and the rest is high pasture or uninhabitable mountain. Thanks to the gulf stream Norway enjoys temperate weather which allows them to produce crops on land (3%) which, in other countries of the same latitude, is perpetually frozen.


The western coastline of the country is populated by about 150,000 islands and islets which, in total area, only equal the size of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire together.


Fjords are a result of massive glacial movement during the Ice Age. Inland the ice thickness was so great that it gouged out depths below sea level as much as the mountains above but at the coastal regions, where the ice was much less thick and the pressure much less, it didn’t have the same force. As a result the mouths of some fjords can be as shallow as 100 feet. Sognefjord is the most expensive fjord at 115 miles long, 3700 feet deep and mountains at the head reaching 6000 feet


The most amazing “fact” however might be that, despite having to live in darkness for most of the year and then perpetual daylight for about two and half months in the summer, the Norwegian people remain perfectly sane and, indeed, are delightfully friendly and helpful. They keep their beautiful country in superb condition.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Honningsvag, North Cape and Tromso.

The port stops come up thick and fast on the this cruise! On Tuesday we visited charming little Honningsvag. P1020519

The most northern habitation on mainland Europe. It’s very much a working fishing port but very clean and tidy.


We spent a great few hours just wandering around this lovely town.


The beautiful wooden church has managed to survive the centuries.


We left Honningsvag at 8:00pm on Tuesday evening, turning west to pass the North Cape at 9:30pm just as the sun started to produce the most amazing light onto the cliffs. the North Cape, at 71 degrees on the island of Mageroy is the most northernmost point in Europe. This part of the world enjoys 77 days of 24 hour daylight each year.


The famous “globe” on the cliff top of the North Cape was possible to photo with a bit of zoom!



James had to take a picture on the opposite side of the ship – nothing to see but the Barents Sea, considering the “normal” things in life, it’s not something most of us see every day!


After the excitement of the North Cape we were treated to the most astonishing sight of a blazing midnight sun. Crowds of us filled the promenade deck to enjoy the warmth and the spectacle. It has to be experienced to be believed, full daylight, lovely warm sunshine (we didn’t need all those jackets you can see”) – just surreal!


Here we are – the sun still fairly high in the sky at midnight and then it starts its ascent for the next day!


Just a souvenir pic!


Today we stopped at Tromso, situated on Tromsoya island. After spending the entire morning on the ship chatting to Roy Walker, famous for his TV show “Catchphrase” and who’s on the ship and giving us some wonderful comedy acts, we ventured into the town. It’s cathedral is one of the largest wooden churches in Norway. (1861)


The main shopping street is home to a host of old wooden buildings which makes for a very attractive appearance.


Across the water, and the harbour area, is the lovely white “Arctic Cathedral”.


We took the cable car to the top of the mountain to get the most perfect views of Tromso ……


….. and to get some “travels shots” of the two us!


We spent the day with Kate and Jay, two members of the Headliners Theatre team.


At the top of the mountain we found a little “glacier” all of our own and Doug and Jay just had to have their photo taken in the snow! ……….


…….. and so did James(!) but he was forbidden to walk on the snow with his new hip so here he is with one foot on it! By the way, he’s doing fantastically well but, in the most most northern reaches of the European land mass, we don’t really want any mishaps!  This is an awesome journey – full of the most fantastic sights and sounds and we’re blessed with the most amazing weather. We have some terrific facts about Norway (later) but we’re heading now for the beautiful Fjord of Geiranger – can’t wait!