Cruise through the majestic Norwegian fjords- a magical journey by sea to the beauty of the North
CRUISE LINE - HOLLAND AMERICA
The cruise departs from Dover Western Dock cruise terminal at 4pm, so there's plenty of time to travel down to Dover in time for check in from 1pm. The train from St.Pancras to Dover Priory takes just over an hour and the taxi from the station to the terminal is only a 5 minute journey. If driving, there's plenty of parking available, especially if booked ahead.
The check in for the cruise is simple and efficient. During departure, wave off those left on the quayside, and enjoy the first of many cocktails out on the deck, as the ship slides elegantly away from the famous white cliffs. The rest of the day is spent relaxing and getting to know the ship, and all the luxuries it has to offer.
Days 1 - 3
The second day of the cruise is spent crossing the North Sea. There's plenty to do on board the ship, with two pools, a library, online access, cooking demonstrations, a spa and a gym- and there's always superb food and drink available. However, many passengers simply choose to sit out on the decks. Looking out to sea can be a spiritual experience, with nothing on the horizon but clusters of sea birds that have flown far from shore.
Children are well looked after on board too as there are activities for all ages from 3 up until teenage, which means that parents can relax.
In the evening there's a variety of restaurants to eat in, a cabaret show most nights and a nightclub. The ship is big enough, though, to always offer a quiet space where guests can watch moonlight shimmer on the surface of the water.
The ship arrives in Bergen, Norway's second biggest city and, after breakfast, it's time to go ashore and explore this charming city of wooden houses and cobbled streets. It's known for its rainfall, but that's no reason not to wander around the UNESCO area around Hanseatic Wharf in Bryggen or take the funicular railway up to the top of Mount Floyen. There's also plenty of museums and some joyously cluttered antique shops.
Fleets of willing coaches are on hand for the journey from the ship into the city centre and so getting around is very easy. Holland America also offers guided tours if passengers would rather not meander through unfamiliar streets by themselves.
Once everyone is safely back on board, full of tales about spectacular mountains, extraordinary fish markets and cute white, wooden houses, the ship glides quietly out of port just as dinner is served.
Overnight the ship has crept quietly into Flaam, in Sognefjord, the deepest fjord in the world and cabin curtains are pulled back to reveal a breathtaking view of high, snow-flecked peaks and the stillest, deep blue water. Flam itself means ‘little place between steep mountains’ and has been a popular destination for tourists since the 19th Century.
The town is home to the Flam Railway, one of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world. The train climbs nearly 900 meters from the fjord, revealing extraordinary views, and up to the mountain top through a tunnel that twists in a spiral inside the mountain.
The ship eases its way back through the fjord in the early evening and dinner conversation may well be dominated by awe at the fjords’ majestic beauty.
On day 5 Alesund is the sight that greets passengers as they awake, the ship having arrived during the early hours. Alesund is Norway's most important fishing port , surrounded by exquisite scenery. The view from the top of the town's mountain cures any troubled soul, with its extravagant panorama of the surrounding islands and mountains, the paint box colours of the town and the limitless sea.
The town itself, rebuilt from the ashes of a major fire in 1904, is known for its Art Nouveau architecture and has a museum to celebrate it. The harbour and river that runs through the town provides a delightful backdrop to any walk and it's easy for several hours to pass, just wandering around the streets.
Today's departure is in the late afternoon, which gives time to gaze at the mesmerizing landscapes as the sun begins its reluctant departure from the day. It never quite feels dark in the Summer, more like an eternal dusk, and there can be few greater travel experiences than sitting quietly in the absolute calm of late evening, looking out at ancient mountains pinpointed only by the twinkling lights of passing ships and remote villages.
Today's dose of overwhelming wonder is provided by Eidfjord, which is part of the larger Hardangerfjord, south of Bergen. In Eidfjord Norway has its most famous waterfall at Voringsfossen, which has water cascading over 180 metres into the ravine below. After several hours exploring the area, the slow journey back home begins towards the middle of the afternoon, as the ship moves gently between the solid rock of the immense mountains that flank the tranquil waters.
Today is spent on board, relaxing and admiring the continuing magnificence of Hardangerfjord, the third largest fjord in Norway, as the cruise makes its way back towards the open see and home. By now the ship will have become familiar and passengers will have found their favourite places to sit and watch the scenery of glaciers, snowy mountains and tiny settlements pass smoothly by. There will be plenty of activities on board for those who simply need respite from the wonder that they've seen over the past few days.
Days 7 - 8
The fjords are left behind as the cruise heads for home over the open sea. The open, empty spaces of the North Sea are in direct contrast to the mountainous gorges that have filled the trip over the week, but there is still a magnificence to the journey back towards Dover. It's a good chance to enjoy all the facilities that the ship has to offer and is the perfect way to end such a relaxing holiday.
The ship docks at Dover at 7.00 am the following morning and disembarkation is completed by 9am, leaving the rest of the day to travel home either by train or car. The terminal is well staffed and porters help with luggage.
There'll be more than enough taxis waiting to take you up to Dover Priory station. It may take a few hours to readjust to normal life, having just completed a voyage through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. Have a safe journey home....