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Norway gets Independence

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    Norway gets Independence

    I have eventually got around to the review of our Fjords cruise in May.

    It hasn't appeared yet on the review section but thought I would add it here.

    As we are still unable to add photos on here without using external sites, I have put some into the photo section under the same heading.


    We had the pleasure of sailing on Independence of the Seas inaugural sailing to Cobh, Ireland in 2008. Unfortunately we didn’t sail on her again, until this year when we took the only Norway cruise from Southampton as part of her last UK based season. This was the first cruise from the UK for this year, and therefore had many passengers that had made the Transatlantic crossing. One American couple that I spoke to were really doing it in style by coming TA on Independence, then staying on for the Norway cruise, disembarking in Southampton for a few days before returning to the USA on the QM2.

    Embarkation
    This was being anticipated as a problematic day for Southampton, with 6 ships in port and the city still having problems with the ongoing major road works that had led to massive delays in the previous months.
    Just four days before departure we received an e-mail from RCI outlining a new embarkation process – basically boarding by deck number. The e-mail specifically asked that loyalty club Gold members should check-in at the time allocated which in our case was 2:15pm. Having already made travel plans to arrive at around midday – we were not very happy! One of the few benefits of ‘Gold’ membership is supposed to be priority check-in at your own leisure, so a phone call to RCI was made and they said that you can check-in whenever you wish. Right hand and left hands definitely not part of the same body!
    We stuck to the original plan and it ended up being one of the quickest embarkations ever and we were on board soon after midday.

    Food
    We thought we would avoid the usual crush in the Windjammer for breakfast and have a leisurely start in the MDR. This ‘leisurely’ start took the best part of an hour and a half so this was not to be repeated. A better compromise was a self-serve in the bottom level of the MDR with just drinks and toast being waiter served.
    We were on my-time dining, which mostly worked without too much waiting for a table. Although we are vegetarian, there is usually a suitable choice on the menu – until one of the dishes marked with the ‘v’ mark clearly wasn’t suitable. The waiter checked and confirmed that they had it wrong and arranged for the head waiter to offer the separate vegan menu to pre order for each of the following evenings. American lines don’t seem to grasp the notion for any non ‘standard’ meals and peoples dietary requirements. Taste and quality of the food that we did have was good.

    Entertainment
    The production shows in the Alhambra theatre were of the usual style and quality. The ‘Headline’ acts on the other nights ran from Berni Flint (Opportunity Knocks) to a Queen tribute (The Bohemians) to a BMX stunt rider! All were surprisingly very entertaining with the Queen tribute being especially popular.
    One thing that Royal Caribbean do especially well are their unique and famous ice shows. Back in 2008 we managed to see 2 different shows during just a 4 day cruise. This time tickets were allocated on the first full day, on a first come basis for the only 2 performances on each of 2 days performing the same show. When they have the ice rink and performers already there, I could not understand why they didn’t have more shows. This resulted in large queues of the ‘unlucky ones’ without tickets forming outside each performance. We managed to get in via the queue and watch from the back. It was such a pity about the poor organisation, because the show itself was wonderful.
    Although the street parades are starting to look a bit dated, the Rock Britannia street party was great fun led by one of the best cruise directors we have had – Joff Eaton. Mention must also be made of the best resident band we have ever seen at sea – Rock the Boat in the Pyramid lounge. At the beginning of the week there were plenty of seats spare in the lounge but by the last day it was standing room only.
    Ports
    After a sunny crossing of the North Sea, the second day was spent cruising the length of the Sognefjord which was a lot cooler but drew us into the wonderful scenery that we would be enjoying for the next few days. Late in the day we docked at Skolden which is a very attractive small port and a chance to stretch the legs ashore.
    The next day was very comfortably warm in Flaam. Having heard all sorts of stories about obtaining tickets for the famous train trip, I went across to the station before 8am to find them already open with no queues and so booked our tickets for later in the morning. Lovely trip and highly recommended but very overpriced for those who had booked via the ship.
    Next stop was Olden where we did the ‘Glacier Express’ which was very enjoyable but doesn’t actually take you to the glacier – just views from a distance. We had it pointed out that the waterfalls had only started flowing about a week before and there was still a good amount of snow on the mountains making for stunning scenery.
    Alesund was the following day where the thing to do is take a land train or walk the 418 steps to a viewing area overlooking the town and outlying islands which are apparently linked by a road tunnel. We started the steps route but Harriet bowed out around a third of the way – I collected her on the way back! Unknown to us at the time the Independence had been arrested by the Norwegian authorities because of non-payment of pilot and security fees from the previous year. After RCI head office paying up around $100,000 the ship was released to continue.
    Last port was Stavanger, which is called the ‘Oil Capital of Norway’. Here we had a walk around the town and visited the surprisingly interesting Petroleum Museum. The old town which consists of very attractive white wooden houses in narrow streets is well worth exploring.

    For anyone interested, I will be creating a photo album of the sights on cruise dot.

    Overall a lovely cruise with stunning scenery and so pleased to revisit Independence before she leaves our part of the world.

    #2
    Great review, i am looking forward to seeing your Photos, thank you George.

    Comment


      #3
      I am glad you have finally got to see Norway and it seems in good weather,glad you both had a good time. Tracey

      Comment


        #4
        Reading your review, brought back memories of some places we visited during our trip last year.

        Comment


          #5
          The Fjords get our vote any day, plus last time we really enjoyed our Skolden as our last minute change of port
          Lancashire Cunarder

          Comment


            #6
            Great review, Harry
            .
            Just another one about the train ... despite dire warnings about it "always being full" we also saw no queues at the booking office and most trains were leaving with plenty of empty seats. Granted we were the only ship in port (worth checking for anyone else going?) but I'm afraid it looks like another cruise line tall story to encourage excursion bookings

            Despite this, we didn't actually go on the thing; we had a trip on the little land train which goes up the valley instead - great!!

            Cheers,
            Lynn

            Comment


              #7
              Great review Harry,looking forward to the photos. Jan.

              Comment


                #8
                Great review Harry. My favourite destination!! We were there in June. Just to point out on that day the train was fully booked as a school party had reserved several coaches so we were thankful that for once we'd booked the overpriced ship excursion as we really wanted to "do the railway"!! Looking forward to the photos

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thank you Harry, I'm off to the Fjords next month, my 2nd time, but different ports of call.............................................. ...Carol

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Mitchell Derby, Derby View Post
                    Great review, Harry
                    .
                    Just another one about the train ... despite dire warnings about it "always being full" we also saw no queues at the booking office and most trains were leaving with plenty of empty seats. Granted we were the only ship in port (worth checking for anyone else going?) but I'm afraid it looks like another cruise line tall story to encourage excursion bookings

                    Despite this, we didn't actually go on the thing; we had a trip on the little land train which goes up the valley instead - great!!

                    Cheers,
                    Lynn
                    Thank you Lynn.

                    We did the train in the morning and after lunch I had the brainwave to walk to the 'pretty church' we had seen from the train. What I hadn't appreciated was how far it was. I seemed to be walking for ages and asked a lady sitting outside her shop where the church was and she replied with her lovely Norwegian accent 'You're about half way there!'

                    I did make it though and pleased I made the effort.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Many thanks for the kind comments.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thanks for the report Harry, having booked my first cruise to the Fjords recently I am very interested in reading what is on offer and to take onboard any advise that is offered.
                        I assume that the anticipated traffic delays in Southampton were not as bad as you thought they might be?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Alan V., Southampton View Post
                          I assume that the anticipated traffic delays in Southampton were not as bad as you thought they might be?
                          Hi Alan.

                          We travelled to Soton by train and went from City Cruise terminal so we only had a short distance but got a taxi easier than I thought we might and no problems. The main holdups are around dock gate 4 where I believe the works are ongoing until next April.

                          Hope you have a great Fjords cruise - it really is beautiful.

                          Comment


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