A little windy in the English Channel last night but the weather has improved as we passed Dover and made our way into the North Sea, heading north towards Bergen. Many guests are in high spirits hoping for an early view of the northern lights in a few days....let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Being the 1st March it is St David’s Day, so a bit of a celebration onboard for all our Welsh contingent!!! Lots of entertainment going on throughout the day, and with a great show set for the evening with our Explosive Productions and ‘The Best Of British’ show!!
On the 2nd March as we are approaching the Norwegian coast the temperatures are dropping all the time –bit chilly outside!! At 6:15pm I hosted my welcome onboard Cocktail Party, which was attended by everyone –or seemed to be! The line to meet the Captain was a long line –must be popular J. We were honoured to be served a great formal dinner, prepared by our Executive Chef John and then early to bed for me as I had an early pilot time in the morning of 5:30am. Bergen tomorrow –one of my favourite ports!!
Well bit of an early start at 0530 at the pilot station this morning but greeted by no rain –so that is a big bonus for Bergen. After 24 miles of pilotage waters passing under two bridges we approached our berth ‘Skolten Nord 1’and went bow in starboard side alongside –it is always nice to see the town from the bridge. I really enjoy Bergen’s majestic feel and it was certainly a very important outpost in medieval Norway and as I say again, it is NOT RAINING!!! Excellent for everybody.
Some great tours on offer today including the Taste of Hardanger, Images of Grieg and Bergen City Panoramic. I have done the panoramic tour before and what better way to see the highlights of Bergen, but from the comfort of a bus!!!
3:30pm all aboard time came about quickly and as soon as we had everyone onboard we let go our lines and moved the vessel astern. When the bow was clear to swing to starboard we brought her round and faced the correct direction to head out of the port. We then sailed towards the Northern Pilot station serving Bergen (Holmengra pilot station). Our pilot disembarked just after 7pm.
We were greeted by the fine music from our Award winning Flautist Suzanne Godfrey in the Discovery Lounge in the evening. Early start for the Captain at 0330 for the pilot station for Aandalsnes. Off to bed........hopefully Northern Lights tomorrow!!!!
Bit of an early start this morning at 3:30am, but we picked up our pilot with normal Norwegian efficiency –exactly on time –and proceeded into the fjord route towards Andalsnes.
When proceeding along the route to Andelsnes you go past some other popular cruise ports such as Alesund and Molde, but Andalsnes, in all its natural beauty, is known as the gateway between the mountains and the fjords. When you see the scenery in the rising sun you can certainly appreciate why it has that reputation –the views are breathtaking. We have been blessed with beautiful clear skies again and what a privilege these sights are.
We docked the ship just after 8am, bow in and starboard side alongside, and we had our guests keen and eager at the gangway (with their red coats on so we now call them the ‘Red Army’ HAHAHA). Tours or hiking were the popular choices for today. We had the scenic Rauma Railway tour and the scenic Romsdal tour on offer. We got some great photos of the area and some hiking routes, and I hope you enjoy those photos.
5:30pm was our all aboard time and the Red Army was back and ready for sail away. We departed the berth and moved the ship away from the berth and proceeded astern, as soon as the bow was clear to swing to starboard we did so and made for a good course to proceed out of the fjord. We were aiming to disembark our pilot at ‘Grip’ pilot station just before 11pm and it was around 70 miles to the pilot station.
At around 9pm we were blessed with our first viewings of the Northern Lights and I have attached some photos for you –it was amazing and most of the guests were outside to view this spectacular show!! I have a feeling this is not the last time we will see the Aurora Borealis.
We will cross the Arctic Circle tomorrow on our seaday at around 1:30pm –remember the circle does change so this is working with the last available co-ordinates. Then at 2230 we will pick up our Tromso pilots and proceed to the inner fjord route for our Tromso arrival on Monday 6th March.
A nice day at sea today as we travel from Aandelsnes to Tromso. Beautiful Norwegian coastline on our starboard side, what a great part of the world this is. I think sometimes we think sunshine and heat is what a holiday is all about, but I think the beautiful sunshine on a snow capped mountain in a colder climate is just as glorious.
Lots of activities planned for our guests today, starting with Sunday Worship and then followed by numerous lectures and activities hosted by our cruise staff team.
At 6:30pm I hosted our Britannia Club Party in the Discovery Lounge and it was attended by our over 200 members. We then were treated to a great formal dinner by our Executive Chef, John.
I walked up to the bridge at 9pm to complete my night orders and it was like a light switch with the Northern Lights and we were treated to a great show. I have included some photos, hope you enjoy them and yes they are real and not downloaded from the internet!!!
We picked up the pilots at Londingen Pilot Station at 10:30pm yesterday evening and then proceeded into the Fjord inside passage route to Tromso. It has a lot of limited width navigable channels and tight turns so either myself or the Staff Captain are always on the bridge. We also have full Engine room standby throughout –Safety First!! We were just by the berth at 7:30am and then Captain Kim (who will take command later in the year) docked the ship in our downtown Tromso dock. We really felt that the temperature had dropped - experiencing sub zero temperatures now so very cold!!!
We had some great tours on offer today, including the Reindeer Sledding and Sami Experience, City Panoramic and Planetarium and Dog Sledding through the Wilderness -all a lot of fun!!
Tromso is the largest Norwegian town north of the Arctic Circle and has a population of about 75,000 people and is quite an epicentre for the northern fishing industry. It is also a base for the start of many Arctic expeditions, so there is a real sense of coldness and snow here!!
Departure time earlier today due to the fact we are in Alta tomorrow, so shortly after 4:30pm we departed the berth. We had to head south to go round the island, then under the main connector bridge on the west side of the island, and then we could head north on the inside route again to Alta. Well would you believe it –we had a Northern Light show yet again (the third night in a row!!!). It was right in front and over the top of us during the evening. Have included some photos of this as well –so hope you enjoy it as much as we all did.
Well this is the furthest North I have been and what a beautiful place Alta and the entrance Fjord is!!! Our pilots graciously sailed us from Tromso throughout the night all the way up to Alta, also with a great Northern Light show on the way!!
We arrived at the berth at around 7:30am this morning, came alongside the berth and docked just before 8am. The clear blue skies and sunshine glistened off the white snow peaks –but it was cold!!! -10 degrees C cold!!!! Many tours were on offer for our two overnights/2 and a half days here alongside. They included the North Cape Explorer, Reindeer Sledding, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel visit, Husky overnight experience and hunting for the Aurora Borealis......we have all done that one!! We were treated to a great northern light show again on the first evening, and have included some nice photos.
On the 2nd day alongside I was treated to a great ‘Skidoo’ experience. This included time on the Skidoo and exploring and also a visit to the famous Igloo Hotel. What a fantastic experience, I am not into skiing –more a Rugby and Golf man –but Skidoo on snow is fantastic fun. Myself and Captain Tanner (who is onboard to ‘learn the ropes’ of Saga Pearl II and to experience the tours!!!), and most of the deck department, did the tour. You can see some great photos –the scenery was amazing. We then took a visit to the Igloo hotel and this was great to see, took some photos of that as well.
Well all in all a great stay in Alta, hope you enjoy the photos. Next stop Narvik...
Well after a night of pilotage we have arrived at Narvik, our last ‘northern Norway’ port for this cruise. Not a breath of wind at the dock this morning and we were finished with engines at just before 8:30am. Our keen and eager ‘red army’ was ready at the gangway to go exploring, even with a few inches of snow on the ground and cold temperatures. Narvik is well setup for ships as it a port for Iron Ore export. The town is still running even though the snow is on the ground, a little different to the UK when there is snow!
The Ofotbanen Railway tour proved popular today and lots of guests went for a little exploration themselves. I have some great photos of the surrounding area and ship and I hope you enjoy them.
Bit of a later sail this evening and with all our guests onboard we unberthed the ship, moved astern and when we were clear of the iron ore berth ahead we moved the bow to port and proceeded out of the port and the fjord. 2 hours later we dropped our pilot off and then proceeded in a SWly direction along the Norwegian coast. 2 seadays ahead of us and a bit of a rest for our guests.
But lots of fun planned for the next couple of days!!!
After our busy few days in Northern Norway it is time for the guests to relax and enjoy this relatively good weather here in the Northern Latitudes. On the 11th March we held our Arctic Circle Crossing Ceremony and we called all ‘Warm bodies and Blue Noses’ to the aft deck to be initiated into the circle. A great and funny ceremony. Have attached a photo for your viewing pleasure.
Showtime on the 2 seadays had many appearances from our onboard cast along with the fantastic show of Brett Sherwood the ‘Master Magician’–which was very well received.
Next port of call (unfortunately our last) is Stavanger, so full steam ahead.......
Our Stavanger Pilot embarked this morning at spot on 7am and in we sailed. Around 12 miles of pilotage towards our berth at Strandkaien, where we docked bow in starboard side just before 9am. A little warmer today at 6 degrees C and not raining (which is always a bonus in Stavanger). We are in Norway’s 4th largest city. It is renowned for being the Oil Capital of Norway, serving all the oil rigs and offshore supply vessels that work in the North Sea. A busy port most of the time but with a great area for exploring and shopping.
Stavanger city and churches is a great tour to do and you get to see a lot of the sights. Have included some nice photos so you can get the feel for Stavanger and the amazing scenary.
Departure time seemed to come about quickly, and it was time to depart from our last port of call this cruise. After the staff captain completed the astern and swing manoeuvre it was time to drop off the pilot and then go to my Farewell Cocktail Party. We were then treated to another great meal in the Dining room and Verendah and a big thank you to Exec Chef John and his team.
Seaday 14th March
I cannot believe the time has gone so fast and the end of the cruise is approaching. I mentioned last night to the guests that I think this has been one of the best cruises I have ever done. Fantastic weather combined with many viewings of the northern lights and great ports. What more can you ask for!!! Homeward bound for Dover.
Well here we are for our first call of the year into Dover, and the first cruise ship in. A beautiful day here for this time of year and what a great way to start off our ‘St Patricks Day Getaway Cruise’. The sun was out and the wind was calm, all of this combines to make a Captain happy!!!
3:30pm and with all our guests onboard we conducted our Passenger Emergency Drill. As soon as we finished re-fuelling the ship we departed and then at around 5:15pm, when we were clear of the Dover Western Breakwater, in a fitting tribute to Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th Birthday this month, we had a wonderful Spitfire show over the ship and the white cliffs of Dover in the background. We had, of course, the famous song playing on the outside decks. It was a really good day to combine all of this together and Happy Birthday Dame Vera!!
Now off we go towards Dublin, where we will be on St Patricks day and the day after –maybe we can catch the Rugby from the Aviva Stadium in Dublin when England play Ireland in the 6 Nations final game!!!
On the night before Dublin we held our Welcome Onboard Cocktail Party, which was well attended by all. Again we were treated to some great food at our formal dinner afterwards –thanks to Chef John and his team.
Well no St Patricks Day getaway cruise would be right without visiting Dublin on St Patrick’s Day –and there we were!! We had an earlier pilot today at 4am due to wind conditions increasing later in the day. Just after 5am we were nicely alongside Pier 33. From the early hours our guests were keen to get ashore, either on tour or walking independently, or grabbing a pint of authentic Guinness.
With the benefit of an overnight call it is always great to soak up the ambience of the location and St Patrick’s Day –wish I had time to go ashore today but busy Captain. Myself and the Staff Captain did find time to put on a St Patrick’s Day Hat and Beard and have our pictures taken for Twitter on the Bridge –hope they make you smile.
After a chance to catch up with my sleep, it was day 2 in Dublin. Many tours were popular today and the weather improved with sunny spells and less wind. I had my radio set up to listen to the Ireland vs England Rugby game which kicked off at 5pm and we could see the Aviva Stadium in the not too far distance –so close but yet so far away. Let’s not talk about the score!!
Well 7:30pm came about quickly and with the assistance of 2 tugs we moved away and astern from the berth. When we were clear to swing the bow to starboard we did so, with the aft tug keeping us up into the wind and tide. We then proceeded on an Easterly heading and out of the port.
Next stop Liverpool –so off to bed as an early start!!! See you soon.
Bit of an early start today as we picked up our pilot at Point Lynas at 2am, as the wind chop at the bar pilot was going to make it difficult for the pilot boat. At around 5am we were at the bar and entrance to the River Mersey. It was a windy day, but I was hoping for a bit of shelter in the river towards the berth. We approached the cruise ship pier at around 8am and with the assistance of 2 tugs we docked the ship port side alongside the floating pontoon. We had pier head in great view with the Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building (known as the 3 Graces) in the prominent position and the Anglican cathedral in the background. Have attached a photo for your viewing pleasure.
Many people were on tour round the city or doing the Beatles Experience. Many of our crew visited Poundland, which is very popular!
At just after 5pm we departed the berth, and with the assistance of 2 tugs we span around in the river, bow to starboard and proceeded out of the River Mersey. We dropped off our river pilot at just before 7pm, then after a long day it was time to relax, ready for Cobh tomorrow. Ireland here we come......
Well a little bit of a later start to today, as we picked up our pilot at 1030 for Cobh. I really like this port and it is so picturesque, very similar to Falmouth, with nice scenery and rolling hills of the countryside.
I decided to turn on arrival and go port side alongside as I had a tugboat booked. We had one pontoon ready and then with some neat shiphandling we came alongside!! We are the first cruise ship of the season so we were greeted by lots of onlookers from ashore.
Many of our guests were keen to explore or grab the train to Cork and have an authentic pint of Guinness. I took a nice picture from the bridge with the sunshine out –hope you enjoy it.
I did a TV interview with a local Irish channel as the first cruise ship of the season, so hopefully somebody can find it on youtube or one of the internet iplayers??
Late sail tonight and after our local act (very well received in the Discovery Lounge) finished, we let go our lines just before 10pm and sailed out of the harbour.
Cannot believe this cruise has gone so quickly and it’s time to head back to Dover.
Lots of goings on planned for the seaday back to Dover, and of course we will hold our Farewell Cocktail Party. I really hope everyone has enjoyed our St Patrick’s Day Getaway cruise.