Every year we try and spend a quality week with our Dad’s, Bo and John and go on a cruise. We joined the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Explorer of the Seas ship in Southampton for an 8 night Netherlands and Norway Fjords Cruise. We booked a balcony cabin on the 12th deck and were not disappointed!
After a day at sea, our first port of call on our Netherlands and Norway Fjords Cruise was Rotterdam, a city in south Holland, the Netherlands. We sailed directly from the North Sea to the cruise Terminal Rotterdam at Holland Amerika quay in the city centre which took about 2 hours. We really enjoyed the sail in we had a great spot sat in the Viking Crown Lounge with is on deck 14 and has panoramic views over the pool area towards the front of the ship.
The terminal is situated within the so called ‘Manhattan on the Maas’ right in the City Centre, right by the Erasmus Bridge which is one of Holland’s most famous bridges. The bridge is 800 meters long and has a 139 meter high pylon which is fastened by 32 stays. The bridge is also known as ‘The Swan’ and is spectacular to see.
Getting off the ship was easy, there was a covered walkway into the terminal where there were a selection of stalls with local produce including the traditional wooden clogs.
Always make sure you have your sea pass on you as this is your identification and proof that you are a passenger on the ship, you can learn more about your sea pass here. The terminal has free wifi available throughout which was a great bonus as wifi on the ship is very expensive. Rotterdam is within walking distance of the cruise terminal, and for more information visit here.
Our next port of call on our Netherlands and Norway Fjords Cruise was Olden, a village that has been voted as one of the best ports in Norway. Olden is located at the inner end of the Nordfjord and is characterized by varied and dramatic scenery, peaceful valleys lie in contrast to gleaming glaciers, foaming waterfalls and towering mountains. Olden is the gateway to the Jostedal Glacier, the largest glacier on the European mainland.
It was fascinating watching the pilot and captain navigate this huge ship, down this fjord. We all nervously watched as we passed hanging overhead electric cables, the ship needing to go so close to the edges, so it could pass safely.
Straight in front of the docking area is a bar/restaurant and a line of tourist shops, but if you turn right and walk for approximately 15 minutes you come to the village, which is lovely to walk around and so picturesque with the background of the snowcapped mountains.
Leaving the port was also entertaining as the ship reversed and then turned 180 degrees, amazing feat in such a small space! The village of Olden is beautiful, should you choose a cruise to Norway make sure it is on your itinerary.
Our next port of call on our Netherlands and Norway Fjords cruise was Flam. This is situated at the end of the 126 mile long Sognefjord which is the 2nd longest fjord in Norway. We got up at 0530 to watch the sail in, unfortunately, the weather wasn’t in our favour with very low clouds and rain, but it was still pretty spectacular.
Flam is the start of the famous Flamsbana Line, one of the steepest train lines in the world, where almost 80% of the journey has a gradient of 5.5%.
The train takes you from the ocean level, to the mountaintop at Myrdal mountain station on Hardangervidda, 863 meters over the ocean. We talked to passengers who had completed the journey, and they all said it was amazing, so it should be on your to do list if you are planning a visit and not got a problem with heights! Due to the weather the Dad’s stayed on the ship, we had a wander around the small village, mainly full of souvenir shops and met a lovely friendly troll.
The rain unfortunately didn’t stop so we headed back to the ship to find the Dads. This didn’t prove difficult as they were sat in their normal position outside the Crown and Kettle pub on the promenade!
The next day on our Norway Fjords Cruise we docked in Alesund, a town that sits at the entrance of the famous Geirangerfjord. Destroyed in a catastrophic fire in 1904 the town was completely rebuilt in the Art Nouveau design with towers and turrets and had quite a medieval feel to it. We spent a couple of hours walking round the town and found a hotel that sold coffee and wifi for less than £2 which is a rarity in Norway! There are 418 steps up to the famous viewpoint, however with my fear of heights we decided to stay safely at sea level! Alesund is within easy walking distance of the cruise terminal and great port to spend the day.
After a very windy night and lots of rain we arrived in our last port of call on our Netherlands and Norway Fjords Cruise, Stavanger and the sun came out. The old town and the shopping area were all within easy walking distance of the ship, we really enjoyed wandering the narrow streets of the Old Town in particular. Tiny streets with the white houses gives you a glimpse of norwegian life.
Great surprise when we docked in Stavanger, Norway, docked next door was one of the cruise ship’s I had worked on in the early 90’s, Horizon, formally owned by Celebrity Cruises. Now operating under a Royal Caribbean company, CDF Croisières de France. Bought back some superb memories of a special time in my life!
Stavanger is a great port to visit, easy to navigate and plenty of restaurants and bars to visit. If it’s souvenirs you’re after then you will be able to pick up a troll or two!
We had one day at sea before we returned to the starting point of Southampton. We had a fabulous time on our Norway fjords cruise and the itinerary was excellent. Norway is a beautiful country and I know we will be returning at some point in the future.
Thanks for reading!
Here are some interesting facts about the Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.
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