Many, many moons ago I went on a cruise for my honeymoon – I took my wife with me as it seemed appropriate to do so – and followed that up with a post on this site giving out cruise tips for first-timers: Your First Princess Cruise. This proved to be a popular post for those people looking for hints about cruising the seas. More importantly, it gave me and my wife a bit of a taste for holidaying aboard large ships. So much so, in fact, that we decided we’d do it again some day. We just did.
In the first week of September we took our second cruise, again on board one of the ships run by Princess – the Crown Princess – and this time taking a short little vacation to the Norwegian Fjords. This post forms the first of five posts describing the trip; the posts will be spaced out according to just how long it takes me to go through the photos I took on each of the days (I might have taken quite a few).
The cruise started and ended at Southampton. This was due to Princess’s UK policy of surrounding a lovely holiday with something truly terrible just to make it seem even better. No, of course it isn’t! However, I am from Portsmouth and am obligated by law to mock the city down the coast at every opportunity under penalty of mutilation.
Anyway, the cruise started at Southampton and thanks to a wonderful piece of luck with regards to timing not only was our cruise ship leaving that day but so were three others, and preparations were underway for the Southampton boat show too; the result of all this a long delay getting from the car park to the ship. Somewhere in the order of three hours to be precise. Still, we were calm and relaxed because we’d arrived early. Some other people weren’t so calm and relaxed and we can only wonder what the fellow passengers of the woman due to depart on the Ventura had to deal with when she finally got on board her ship.
When we boarded the Crown Princess, however, we had a very pleasant surprise almost immediately. We’d paid for an inside cabin – it’s because we’re not millionaires in case you’re wondering – but the reason we went on this cruise was due to an email deal where we could get a free upgrade to ocean view (i.e. a window). I’d actually had a very nice email discussion with one of Princess’s cruise specialists – Rachel Vane – in order to confirm this very thing. However, as soon as we entered our cabin – Riviera deck, room 209 – a thought leapt from my head, ran across the room, looked out, hurtled back, and slammed into my face with a yell: A balcony! A balcony! We’ve got a balcony!
We had a balcony.
I’ve no idea why we had a balcony and I have my suspicion that everyone gets an upgrade every now and then just to encourage people to pay for the better standard of rooms on future holidays, but still: a balcony!
I really liked my balcony. Thank you Princess for that.
And so we left Southampton – hooray! – and watched bits of England pass by from our balcony – hooray! – at the front of a flotilla of four cruise ships – that’s not really worth an hooray but it will get a smile and two thumbs up because I’m still giddy with post-hooraying joy. Our cabin was on the starboard side so we got to wave at the Isle of Wight and witness a wonderful aerobatic show by some planes.
Speaking of starboard side, here’s a helpful hint in working out which side of the ship you’re on and which way you’re facing when you find yourself in one of the corridors on one of the decks after one too many cocktails: a fluorescent strip on the floor is always on the inside of the ship and, more importantly, there’s a green trim to the carpet on the port side and a red trim to the carpet on the starboard side. So, for us, getting back to our cabin meant getting to deck 14 (13 really, but you know sailor-folk and their superstitions) and making sure that the carpet in the corridor had a red trim with the fluorescent strip to the left; that meant we would be on the starboard side heading forward.
See! Actual useful information about taking a cruise with Princess! Will wonders never cease?
The North Sea
The first full day of the Norwegian cruise was spent heading northwards up the North Sea. It was a little choppy and led to most of the water in most of the swimming pools leaving their tiled incarceration in favour of some deck-wetting action. This further led to said pools being emptied as punishment.
Views during the day included oil rigs and ships, waves and clouds; your typical Things You See In The North Sea sort of things. Smells during the day included vomit and disinfectant; the former was not ours, you’ll be pleased to know. And neither was the latter come to think of it.
There were a number of activities to distract passengers through the day and other than working our way through the drinks menu we elected to attend an art auction.
We didn’t buy any artwork in this particular auction on board the ship but we did purchase a piece by Michael Godard during the silent auction held a few days later; he was an artist whose work we’d seen on our honeymoon cruise so it held a special memory for us. Some of the American bidders only bought art in order to sell it for a profit later and fund future cruises. That seemed like such a coldly calculating capitalist thing at the time. It seems like a pretty good idea with the benefit of post-cruise holiday blues hindsight.
The second full day of the cruise saw us arrive in Norway – although there was no sign of the Norwegian fjords during this part of the trip – and the city of Bergen in particular. This was the only day of the cruise where we didn’t arrange an organised excursion, electing instead to peruse the Norwegian city for ourselves.
We had some important things to do in Bergen:
- hunt for some silver jewelry for my wife; this was done,
- see the big lake and fountain thing in the middle of the city; this was done,
- see the fish market; this was done,
- find something incredibly Vikingy, like a ship or a Norse god; this was done,
- photograph many, many Norwegian things and people; this was done,
- find a bar and have a Norwegian drink; this was done.
And to prove it, here are some photos of some of those things:
The tourist destination of choice in Bergen for many, er, tourists was the funicular railway up the hill overlooking the city. We didn’t fancy it as we’d been on a funicular train before in Hong Kong. You know what they say: you’ve seen one funicular railway, you’ve seen them all. As it turned out the sky was overcast and the clouds were low too so we were also particularly happy that we didn’t arrange to take a trip on it because it didn’t seem like the view was going to be especially interesting to anyone other than enveloped-by-suffocating-greyness fetishists. That didn’t stop it being very popular, nevertheless.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t want to drag my wife off around a foreign place looking for some atypical photos to take. So I did that too.
So, a nice start to the holiday on the Crown Princess and with the promise of spectacular scenery and interesting excursions to come. Further updates on the cruise will include Geiranger, Olden, Flaam, and Stavanger. When I get through the pictures. If I ever do. Oh, I’m sure I will.