7 days of picture postcard views, amazing food and Scandinavian sunshine.
Having cruised the Mediterranean a few times and loving the sun, cities and famous sights, Norway was never at the top of my bucket list stops. However, my mind was changed very quickly and would recommend this cruise to everyone I meet.
Day 1 – Embarkation
We started off our journey on an almost 5-hour road trip down to not so sunny Southampton (we’d always recommend going down the night before if you can get a good deal on a hotel. You can also grab a cheap Ikea breakfast before you get on the ship!) Once at the port the boarding process is easy. We’d pre-booked parking so we dropped off our keys and headed to the gangway. Boarding a cruise ship is always much less stressful than an airport – one of the reasons I love cruising from Southampton so much.
We were on board by lunchtime meaning one thing – straight to the buffet. We grabbed some food and met up with the rest of our travelling party – did I mention there was 19 of us?! The holiday could begin.
After a few drinks and an explore of the ship we could go to our cabin. We’d booked a balcony cabin for this one as everyone had recommended a balcony for cruising through the Fjords. This was the first time I’d had a balcony and it did not disappoint. We did some unpacking, headed for dinner, and enjoyed the rest of the night whilst we sailed away from England towards the North Sea.
Day 2 – Sea Day & Formal Night
I always get the best night’s sleep on cruises – it must be a combination of the gentle rocking and the comfortable beds. Breakfast in the buffet was on the cards and with the sun shining the next stop was sunbeds. Looking at the forecast before the trip I wasn’t hopeful, but it was warm and sunny 95% of the time and I couldn’t have been happier about that!
Formal nights are a staple of any cruise and we love getting dressed up for some drinks, photos and dinner. Don’t worry though if getting dressed up isn’t your thing, there are plenty of people who swerve this tradition.
Day 3 – Stavanger
Our first port of call is the beautiful city of Stavanger. We pulled up alongside picturesque white houses and took a stroll into the centre. There was plenty of excursions we could have booked to go on but sometimes it’s just nice to wander off on your own and explore.
Day 4 – Ålesund
The next day we arrived in Ålesund, the seaport town famous for its Art Nouveau architecture. We had no specific plans but spotted a little train that would take us around the town and up to the Aksla viewpoint (this would avoid the 418 steps to get there). That evening we went to one of the speciality restaurants which costs a little extra but is usually well worth it.
Day 5 – Olden – Briksdal Glacier & Loen Sky Lift
With a population of only 479 you would think there’s not much to Olden however this was the most anticipated port of the trip. The weather got off to a shaky start with quite a bit of low cloud but it brightened up quickly and was perfect for our walk to the Briksdal Glacier and our trip up the Loen Skylift. We didn’t pre-book these trips which is sometimes a risk but we managed to get on the 9am shuttle bus to the bottom of the Glacier trail. The walk up was around 45 minutes and was filled with views of waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Once at the top we saw the beautiful clear lake at the bottom of the Briksdal Glacier and had some time to take some pictures as well as take in the breath-taking views. This trip was amazing but also filled with a solemn undertone as you could see just how far the Glacier had receded in a relatively short period of time.
Now back at the port we grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped straight on the next bus to the Loen Skylift. The cable car takes 5 minutes to get to the top where a viewing platform boasts the best view you’ll have of Olden. Again, we were very lucky with the weather as on a low cloud day, you’d see absolutely nothing!
This sail away was also something special with the residents of Olden blasting ’80s songs and waving flags from around the world.
Day 6 – Haugesund
Our last port of call was the Viking town of Haugesund. Again, we didn’t have anything specific planned but we’d seen others suggest a visit to The Rising Tide sculptures. This port really challenged our tourist abilities having to translate Norwegian bus ticket instructions and except for missing our initial stop we didn’t do half bad! Originally an exhibition in the River Thames, The Rising Tide by Jason DeCaires Taylor is located just north of Haugesund centre. The 4 horse and rider statues fuse oil extraction machinery with the equine form which references the retired working horse and the change to our dependency on fossil fuels. After viewing the sculptures we made our way back – to the correct bus stop – via a calming coastal walk.
Day 7 – Sea Day
Our last sea day, much like our first, was sunny and warm which meant ice cream, cocktails and sunbathing. We slowly made our way back to Southampton on calm seas and awoke the next morning to rain. Welcome home.
As I briefly mentioned at the beginning there were 19 of us booked onto this trip together to celebrate a 50th and 21st birthday. Although it was somewhat tricky to find enough chairs in bars to fit us all we had more than enough choice of food and drink venues on P&O’s Iona. The staff were also more than helpful when sitting us all together for dinner on a couple of occasions.
This trip was filled with grounding moments that put things in perspective, and being close to nature, at sea for a week, was a perfect way to take a break from day-to-day life.
To end this blog I thought I’d share some of my favourite aspects of cruising:
- The quietness of the sea – albeit sometimes a bit scary at night with the vastness of the pitch black
- The food
- The ease of boarding and checking in – a lot less hassle than airport security!
- Visiting multiple ports and cities within 1 trip
- Going to destinations you wouldn’t normally think to visit e.g. Norwegian Glaciers
- The food
- Formal nights
- The FOOD
I also didn’t have an ounce of sea sickness on this cruise which is always a bonus!