TRAVEL BLOG: Norway Part One: Setting Off Into The Sunset (05/05/23)

Part one of a travel blog about a cruise around the Norwegian fjords. Don’t expect any revelations or insight to lost tribes or anything, it’s a bleeding cruise after all. But we did visit some stunning locations that are a little off the beaten track.

When it was first suggested that we could go on a cruise, I thought, ‘Nah, not for me’. When it was pointed out that it was a bargain, I thought, ‘Nah, not for me’. When it was pointed out it was the Norwegian Fjords, I thought, ‘Oooh, how much?’

For some reason, the idea of a cruise somewhere warm, like around the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, leaves me cold, if you excuse the pun. But the Fjords, now that is a little more stimulating. I liked the idea of going somewhere ‘different’ with spectacular scenery (hopefully) and … and I’m not sure what really. I can’t put my finger on it, it just seemed more interesting.

The cherry on the cake was that, after we booked, the powers that be decided this trip would coincide with the coronation of King Chuck III, so we would miss all the cap-doffing nonsense.

And so it was, we booked, and for several weeks forgot about it. As the trip grew closer, we started researching where we were stopping. I bought chinos (and I’m not ashamed of it) and I bought a bow tie (which did grate a little). I even splashed out on a wide-angle lens to capture the Norwegian landscapes.

The website for P&O cruises contained the most basic of information but left a lot of questions unanswered – like what time we were landing and departing the various towns we were visiting and how much a pint of cider would be. All the important stuff.

“Don’t eat that, it’s got Listeria in it”.

The journey to Southampton was smooth and unremarkable, other than Posh spitting out a mouthful of chocolate buttons because Becks told her they contained listeria.

Our boarding could not have been quicker or smoother. We arrived bang on time, 1pm, walked straight past the queue of people who had arrived too early for their boarding, through security and on board.

The trouble was, Posh and Becks had a 3pm boarding slot, so had to stand in a queue for two hours with the people who had arrived early. We didn’t quite have the last laugh, because our cabin wasn’t ready, we had to sit in a lounge and wait. Why they couldn’t have had it sorted before now is beyond me.

We didn’t have to wait long for our cabin, and our luggage got there before us. We were soon sat on our balcony surveying the picturesque vista of Southampton Docks.

It wasn’t long before we were on the deck, being waited on by the bar staff of the Sunset Bar. It’s a cashless ship, so you have to register a bank card in advance then pay for all your drinks with your room key. We had considered paying for a drinks package, but it turns out the beer is less than a fiver a pint (expensive, but way cheaper than I had expected). So, for tonight at least, it was cheaper to just buy drinks than get a package.

When on a cruise, drink what the cruisers drink

We were soon joined by Posh and Becks and we found ourselves lying on sun loungers basking in an unexpectedly pleasant sunset, debating the definition of ‘smart casual’ and ‘dark denims’ that were the dress code of the restaurants. All the while observing those around us that appear to have completely ignored the dress code. Scruffy oiks.

There was a buffet which was open, so we helped ourselves to some incredibly average munchies, before heading back out for more cider.

As the sun was bidding farewell to the Elizabethan era, the good ship Britannia was bidding farewell to Great Britannia – and we said goodbye to jeans.

Heading down to the Oriental Restaurant for our allocated eating slot there was a big queue of disgruntled cruise veterans moaning about how other cruises they had been on were better organised.  I shrugged it off. A) I have no other cruise experience to compare it to B) I’m not really here for the cruise experience, I’m here to see the Fjords.

In the week running up to our departure we had spent several hours listening to hold music to link our booking with Posh and Becks, so we would be allocated to the same table to dine. And on the day…. we were thirty-eight tables apart. We were sat at a large table with just two other guests.  A lovely couple who, for the sake of this blog, we will call Sven and Jane. Because that was their names. They offered to swap with Posh and Becks but the head waiter was having none of it. Turns out they wouldn’t even have needed to swap because we had six empty seats at our humongous table.

It worked out nicely though because Sven and Jane were as charming as they were interesting. By the end of the almost adequate meal, we were trying to work out if we could swap Posh and Becks for Sven and Jane for the rest of the trip. Maybe longer.

After we had eaten, Posh and Becks joined us. Turns out they had been sat at a large table on their own all evening.  Whilst we had been eating, Sven had dropped into conversation that he makes bespoke model trains for a living. When he discovered Becks is bilingual, he got excited about the prospect of recording him making platform announcements in Welsh. Vague plans were put in place.

We then retired to the Sunset bar for more drinks and debated the merits of a drinks package for tomorrow, which was to be a full day at sea.

I don’t care if I have just hsad a three course meal. this buffet is free!”

Come 11pm the late-night buffet opened in the Horizon restaurant. We thought we would have more food just for a laugh, because we could. We weren’t expecting many people to be there, but at the stroke of 11 we felt the ship tilt slightly with the weight of all the people rushing to the aft end of the ship to feast on the late-night munchies on offer.

Eventually, we decided to hit the bunk. In a remarkably sober state, for a ‘first night of holiday’ night. We would be well rested for our full day of organised activities at sea.