After a seamless check-in at Port of Tyne, I board the newly revitalised flagship Balmoral. On board, my suite is incredible with a huge balcony and lots of home comforts.
Champagne corks pop as Balmoral sets sail in the early evening on a five night Fjords cruise experience and after the obligatory safety drill, I am free to explore the ship.
There is a wide range of entertainment on offer from quiz time in the Observatory to live music in the Lido lounge and the cocktail of the day - Bon Voyage - will not break the bank at £4.85! You can also shop until you drop in the beautiful boutiques onboard or check out the spa and fitness facilities if that’s your thing.
Dance hosts and instructors are onboard too. Swimming pools and jacuzzis are up on deck, so bring your cozzie!
Dinner in the Ballindoch Restaurant is a sumptuous affair with early dining available at 18.15 or, late sitting, at 20.30. The service and the food are fabulous. What a great opportunity to get to know your fellow cruisers; it’s informal and fun and evokes a sense of belonging. Evening showtime in the Neptune Lounge is not to be missed and a nautical themed show sets the stage on fire.
I rise early and look out to sea as we continue the journey towards Bergen. A day of fun or relaxation onboard with so many choices from guest speakers, wine and cheese tasting, or a wander through the art gallery. At 18.00, the ship enters Lysefjord, the most southern of the largest fjords in Norway. At 40km long, it is flanked by steep mountains some more than 1000m high.
The two most well-known sights in the Lysefjord are Pulpit Rock and Mount Kjerag. The cliff towers 604m above the northern side of the Lysefjord.
This is what it’s all about - gliding past mountains and waterfalls, so close you can touch them, which is the beauty of small ship cruising.
Drinks in the Observatory Lounge is just divine. What a venue, with floor to ceiling glass; I am engulfed in the beautiful scenery and enjoy a cocktail or two and the quick wit and humour of the comedienne who reminds me of Victoria Wood.
Arrival into Bergen is 8.30 am and I prepare for a full day of sightseeing. There are so many organised excursions available but, as Bergen is just a short walk from the ship, I decide to do it myself.
Bergen is a busy colourful port founded more than 900 years ago. I love the wooden houses on the Bryggen. I stroll into town in 15 minutes and take the Froibanen. This funicular railway goes to the top of Mount Floyn, where you can enjoy magnificent views over Bergen. It is the only railway of its kind in Scandanavia and runs from early morning until 11 pm. Don’t miss the Fish and Fruit Market and check out the main shopping area at Bergen Centrum.
Bergen is buzzing with breath-taking views, Viking hats, rain ponchos and sun all in one day; I love this vibrant city.
Tonight the ship sets sail for Eidefjord.
The Hardanger Fjord is the fourth largest Fjord in the world and the second largest in Norway. It stretches 179 km from the Atlantic Ocean into the mountainous interior of Norway along the Hardangervidda Plateau. En route, we visit the Furberg waterfall which comes crashing down to meet us.
I wake up, throw open the balcony doors and look out onto the chocolate box town, Eidefjord, without a doubt, the most visually stunning town I have ever seen. The ship is literally docked in the town and surrounded by mountains, green forests and tiny wooden houses. I’m waiting for signs of life; its early, peaceful, serene and so beautiful.
After breakfast I head into town and board the Troll train which takes me up to the beautiful old Church of Eidefjord with view points above the town. Clean air - I breathe deeply. Funny hats, trolls, souvenirs, trains, waterfalls and snow capped mountains. I’m in love.
I am close to nature, culture and tradition where you can swim, cycle, fish and walk. Excursions include hiking, kayaking or seaplane!
Last day at sea and I am homeward bound towards the UK. I rise early to join in the Pilates and yoga classes before enjoying a hearty breakfast. My clothes are feeling a little tighter. Today I reflect upon what I have enjoyed about this trip. As someone who has always followed the sun, I am blown away by small ship scenic cruising and all it has to offer.
New friends, up close and personal destinations, the barman who never forgets my name or my tipple and the chilled out feel onboard this beautiful ship, Balmoral.
What’s not to love! Choose to cruise; you will not be disappointed.