Category Archives: Norway

Stavanger, Norway JUN 30, 2023

Our final port in Norway was Stavanger, population 131,000. We booked an excursion in this port because the places we wanted to visit were not accessible by foot. The excursion was okay but not great. They combined English-speaking people and Italian-speaking people on the same bus with two guides. One guide would speak in English and then the Italian guide would speak. This is the first time this has ever happened on an excursion and it was rather annoying. On the ship they announce everything five times; in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German. I guess on our excursion there were not enough Americans or Italians to fill a bus so they combined them.

We learned quite a bit from our guide even though he only spoke part of the time. Like many towns in Norway, Stavanger has over 6,000 old wooden homes, mainly from the 18th and 19th century. They are viewed as important historical places that are protected and they cannot be torn down. If the owner wants to renovate or change either the inside or outside, it cannot be done without permission.

This area of Norway is very green because they receive over 200 days of rain each year. There is a lot of farming in this area, but only 5% of Norway is farmed. We passed a large strawberry farm on our tour.

When children turn seven years old they begin to learn English. When they turn thirteen they may pick an additional language. They may pick from Spanish, German or French. Our guide said Spanish was the most popular choice. 

By 2030 Norway’s goal is to be carbon neutral. They also want to have electric airplanes for short distance flights by 2040. Norway is a very wealthy country because of its oil and gas production, which is largely owned by the Norwegian government. There is a 75% tax rate on oil and gas profits. The money goes back to the people through pensions and good healthcare. The most popular car in Norway is Tesla. At one time there were large incentives when buying an electric car such as no sales tax on the purchase of the car, free tolls on roads and being able to use the truck or carpool lanes at all times. Those perks have been cut some as more people buy electric cars. They still get a 50% reduction in tolls if they are driving an electric car. 

We went to see the “Swords in the Rock”, three bronze swords standing 33 feet tall planted into the rock of a small hill next to a fjord. They commemorate the Battle of Hafrsfjord when the Viking king gathered Norway under one crown. The largest sword represented the victorious king and the other two the defeated kings. The monument also represents peace since the swords are placed in solid rock and can never be removed.

We visited the Sola Ruinkyrkje church, dating back to the mid 12th century. It was in use until 1842. The church was left in ruins until 1871 until it was acquired in 1907 and then discarded again. It was torn down by German occupation forces in 1940.  Reconstruction began in the 1980s and completed in 1995.

We passed ancient reconstructed long houses from an “Iron Age Farm” dating from 350-500 AD. It is the only one of its kind in Norway. It shows what life was like in Norway 1,500 years ago.

We rode past the Stavanger Cathedral on the way back to the ship. Unfortunately not only was it closed, but we couldn’t see any of the church itself since it was shrouded in scaffolding and tarps since it is undergoing a significant renovation.

Near the Ship was Vice Admiral Thorne Horve (1899- 1990)

The harbor where our ship was docked was having a Food Festival.  Our guide said they are expecting 25,000 visitors to this popular festival over the weekend. It is called the “Happy Festival” because food makes people happy.

Many Food Tents

And with that, our time in Norway came to a close.

That evening we headed south in the Norwegian Sea. The first people to sail in these waters were the Vikings in the 1200s. They were the ones who drew the first nautical charts of the area. Bill thinks we both have ancestors who were Vikings. 

During the night we will leave the Norwegian Sea and enter the North Sea.  During the sea day on Saturday we will once again enter the Baltic Sea. 

Next up:  Copenhagen, Denmark


Nordfjordeid + Olden, Norway JUN 28, 2023

Leaving Bergen, we sailed throughout the night to Nordfjordeid, Norway, pop 3,000, situated in the fjords of western Norway. This was a tender port (our ship is anchored in the harbor). Not a lot to do here but the scenery is breathtaking. 

On Thursday, June 29th we reached Olden, Norway pop 479.  It is a popular cruise ship destination with over one hundred cruise ships visiting in 2019.  It is popular because of its glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, and natural beauty. Again, not much to do here but we enjoyed the beauty of the area, which is just fine with us.

Some Pylons to Anchor Our Ship Actually Float

Here are pictures of the fjords as we traveled between the cities.

It is usually dinnertime when we pull away from the port and we enjoy seeing the view from our table by the window. Birds are always flying around the wake of the ship.

The entertainment show cast dazzled us with another unique performance.

Next up: Stavanger, Norway


Bergen, Norway JUN 27, 2023

When we booked this cruise which included four ports in Norway, we wondered if it was going to be too much Norway after visiting three Norway ports on our last cruise. After seeing the beauty of Norway, we knew there could never be too much of. This gorgeous country. These four new ports are all different from the Norway ports on the previous cruise. 

Our day at sea from Kiel, Germany to Bergen, Norway was chilly and rainy. Disappointing for those who had embarked yesterday and were hoping to lounge by the pool.  During the morning we crossed the “Skaw Point” of the Danish peninsula of Jutland. This is a famous point because it is where we leave the Baltic Sea and enter the North Sea. We thought perhaps the water would be a little rougher here but we noticed no difference. In the early afternoon we approached the part of the North Sea known as “Skagerrak”. This sea area is famous for being a junction point between the Gulf Stream originating in the Gulf of Mexico and the cold Jutland Current from the Baltic Sea. Around dinnertime the sea became very rough and continued to get rougher during the evening. We went to the nightly show and I wondered how the dancers managed to keep their balance with the movement of the ship. We noticed seasick bags had been put by the stairs on each deck. It doesn’t bother Bill but definitely bothers me. Thank heaven for seasick pills! 

On Tuesday, June 27th we arrived in Bergen, Norway, (pop 286,000) to chilly, rainy weather. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. It was the capital of Norway in the 13th century. We waited until after lunch to go out and it was a good decision because the weather was warm and sunny. Located between the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord, Bergen is nicknamed “Gateway to the Fjords”. We had researched the town and decided to walk around on our own.

The old Hanseatic Wharf at Bryggen, a World Heritage Site, is located by the city’s fish market.  The wharf was built around 1070. We walked through the fish market.

The wooden houses in Bryggen are very old. There are 61 listed historic buildings here. The Bryggen area of Bergen is the third most visited tourist attraction in Norway. As to be expected from wooden houses, there have been many fires in this area so there has been much reconstruction and preservation done throughout the years. The  UNESCO designation was awarded because the area is seen as an illustration of 14th century  merchants and housing which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Above one of the Doorways

Seven mountains surround the city center. You can get to the top of Mt Floyen by funicular Fløibanen and the highest mountain, Mt Ulriken by cable car. In the Klosteret district of the city, narrow alleys and cobblestone streets are found.

The Bergen Cathedral includes the remains of two older churches dating back to 1150.  The church is a long stone church which has been damaged in several city fires. The cathedral was hit by a cannonball in 1665.  The cannonball is still visible in the wall of the church tower.

The Maritime Memorial has twelve male bronze statues of sailors beginning with the Viking Age to the present.

Above the statues are bronze panels representing the spiritual and imaginative aspects of seafaring ranging from Christ to Viking ships to native Americans to sea monsters.

The National Theater, built in 1850, is one of the oldest permanent theaters in Norway.

Ole Bull (1810-1880) was a famous Norwegian violinist and composer. Developing violin skills during his early years in his hometown of Bergen, his reputation secured him concerts throughout Europe.

Narrow streets and alleys are found throughout the city.

We stopped in McDonald’s and each got a chocolate milkshake. Not available on the ship! Even the McDonald’s building is quaint and charming.

The Rosenkrantz Tower is where one of Norway’s most important kings, Magnus Lagabote, lived in the 13th century. The 16th century dungeon is in the basement and the cannon loft is in the roof. The cannons were used only one day, the same battle that left the cannonball in the side of the cathedral.

We also managed to find two geocaches.

Bergen is perhaps the prettiest Norwegian town we have visited so far. 

The ship departed as we were beginning dinner and we got a picture of the Askøy Bridge as we were leaving.  The Askøy Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the Byfjorden between the municipalities of Bergen and Askøy in Vestland county, Norway. It is 1,057 meters (3,468 ft) long and has a main span of 850 meters (2,789 ft). Its span was the longest for any suspension bridge in Norway, until the Hardanger Bridge was opened in August 2013. Now the bridge is the third longest in Norway.

The show that night was flamingo dancing. An excellent show. By the end of the evening we had logged seven miles on our watches. We were tired!!

Next up: Nordfjordeid

Goodbye Norway, Hello Sweden JUN 16, 2023

As the ship sailed from Flam, Norway, we went to an upper deck to take pictures of the amazing views of the fjords. Just breathtaking. Norway is everything we expected and more.

The Sognefjord or Sognefjorden Fjord, nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway. Located in Vestland county in Western Norway, it stretches 205 kilometres (127 mi) inland from the ocean.

We had one more day at sea. Mid morning they had a parade down the promenade of some of the ship’s crew and officers. Our captain was at the back of the parade on the right. With over 1,700 people working on the ship, the parade represented only a handful.

The roof of the promenade changed motifs often, see the tulips. On disembarkation day the roof displayed photos of different crew members waving goodbye.

Each evening they had live music on Deck 5 near Guest Services. It varied from classical music to modern ballads. Since our cabin was on Deck 5 we often passed through that area and enjoyed the music.

In the late afternoon the ship passed by the white cliffs of Dover as we sailed through the English Channel. Too far away and too much sea mist to see anything.

June 17th found us back in Southampton, England for disembarkation day. It turned into another long, tiring travel day. Up at 6:00 A.M. for breakfast and off the ship by 7:15, MSC is to be commended for an efficient, quick disembarkation. Easiest we have ever had. We were impressed. After a wait, the ride we had booked from Southampton to Heathrow Airport arrived for the 90 minute drive.

Things fell apart at the airport. We arrived by 11:00 A.M. for our 3:30 flight. Plenty of time to have a relaxing lunch and get through security. The first hint of trouble was British Airways had our flight listed on the board but no gate number. As time for departure inched closer, still no gate number. While other planes departed, no gate number for our flight was displayed. Long story short, our flight was delayed for two and a half hours. When they finally announced a gate, from the gate we took a bus to the tarmac and used steps to board the plane. The captain had multiple excuses for the delay. Our seats were unbelievably tight in leg room. British Airways should be ashamed. Bill had to almost sit sideways in his seat for his legs to fit. It was a long two and a half hour flight to Stockholm. After delaying our flight for two and a half hours, they offered us a tiny bag of pretzels. Nothing to drink. They should be ashamed. 

Stockholm is an hour ahead of England, so with the long delay, we arrived in Stockholm at 9:30 P.M. instead of the 7:00 P.M. we had planned for. We got in a long, slow line at Passport Control with only two officers working. After making our way to baggage pickup, we next had to find our way to the train station under the airport. After walking forever we found the train station and bought two seven day passes from a very nice railway worker. His English was a little rough but he kindly told us step by step how to get to our hotel. He even brought the map up on his phone with each connection and had us take a picture with our phone. That was the good news.

The bad news was that due to some rail repair, we would have to take a bus to another rail station to catch the train. By now it was well after 10:00 P.M. Fortunately, this time of year in Sweden it doesn’t get dark until almost midnight. Since it was a Saturday night, there were lots of people out and about and it felt very safe. Sure enough, following directions, we took the bus to the train station, found the right train, got off at the right stop, found the right subway line, and got off at the correct subway stop near our hotel. Our day went from ship to car to plane to bus to train to subway!! And plenty of walking!! We walked from the subway to our hotel and arrived shortly before midnight. We had an electronic entry into the hotel and our room since the hotel had emailed us all the codes earlier in the day. For dinner in our room we had crackers and a Snickers bar with soft drinks from the vending machine at the subway station. To say we were tired is an understatement. When my watch went to a new day at midnight, I lost all the data, so I don’t know how far we walked, but it was a lot

The next day was Sunday. We slept late and then walked to a nearby large grocery store. It was multiple levels and took us a while to find things because everything was in Swedish. We liked the escalator/ramp that takes people with their grocery carts up and down. We bought some things for breakfast, drinks and snacks. We are finding food, especially restaurant food, is very expensive in Sweden. 

Next up: A day exploring Old Town, Stockholm

Flam, Norway JUN 14, 2023

Before we get to today’s port we would like to start with some pictures taken last night as we sailed away from Maloy, Norway.

Never Enough Glaciers

Wind Turbines and Lighthouse We Went To

Today we entered Flam, our last port of this cruise and our last port in Norway. Flam is a tiny village, pop. 350, located at the end of the Aurlandsfjord, one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords. The fjord is surrounded by high mountains with heights over 4,500 feet.

A Tall Waterfall as Seen from the Ship

One of the popular things to do in this area is ride the Flam railway constructed in 1923.  We looked at the excursion before leaving home and even viewed a YouTube video of the trip. We decided to pass considering all the train trips we made in Austria, Slovenia and Italy.

We wanted to explore Flam on our own which meant we could sleep late and let the crowds eat breakfast and get off the ship ahead of us. 

We were delighted and surprised to find the temperature in the low 70’s  Perfect! First we found two geocaches in the area.

We then took a walk to see a large waterfall near town.

We looked through the Flam Railway Museum and went by the Visitors Center. We finished the day with a little shopping. No Hard Rock Cafe here but Bill found a nice Norway tee shirt. I am not a fan of souvenir tee shirts. I was very happy with a refrigerator magnet. 

We noticed yesterday and today how the front of a boat was used as decoration by hanging on the wall. Here a old locomotive front is attached to this wall to appear as it is coming out.

Norway makes it very easy to get the tax back that nonresidents spend. There is even an office located right next to the ship. If you spend at least $30, they refund the tax (25%) back on your credit card. You just have to have a receipt from the vendor, fill out a form and have your passport number. There was quite a line of cruise passengers in the harbor office waiting to get some tax money back. It could add up to quite a bit if you bought lots of souvenirs and gifts.

Trolls Are Famous in Norway

We were back on the ship in time for a very late lunch. A nice day in beautiful, tiny Flam, Norway. 

Next up: Two days at sea before disembarkation back in Southampton, England

Maloy, Norway JUN 13, 2023

We left Alesund and after sailing the Norwegian Sea all night, we arrived this morning at the tiny port of Maloy, located in southwestern Norway pop 3,200. It is an important fishing port in Norway. The town is so small the streets are not named, merely numbered. There are only elementary and secondary schools in the town. 

We read there is basically nothing to do in port, so we chose to take an excursion to see the area. We booked a three and a half hour excursion called “The Highlights of Maloy”. They had so many of these tours booked throughout the day, we were in the first group and left the ship at 7:15 am. We had to get up at 6:00 and have a quick breakfast. Fortunately the temperatures were in the upper 50’s, not bad.

This Church is Designed To Withstand Strong Winds

We went to three places and calling these “highlights” really seemed a bit of a stretch, but seeing the gorgeous scenery more than made up for ho-hum places. Norway is without a doubt a beautiful country with unbelievable views around every bend in the road. Speaking of roads, the roads in Maloy are very narrow (at times one lane) and the bus driver often had to stop or back up to give the car going in the opposite direction room to pass. Seat belts are mandatory in Norway and you certainly don’t mind wearing them on these narrow mountainous roads.

The first stop took us to Kannesteinen Rock. This mushroom shaped or whale’s tail shaped rock, was formed by loose stones and strong westerly winds which caused the pounding waves over thousands of years to erode and shape the rocks along the shore, including this one. The stones split loose and knocked at the rock face until it became polished and rounded. Loose stones worked themselves deeper into the rock. Over time the holes near the center have been polished for so long the sides have rubbed away, leaving just the middle section. It is a favorite spot of photographers and is a protected location under Norwegian law. An unusual rock in a beautiful location.

Hendanes fyr Lighthouse

We quickly learned that even though we only had three locations to visit, you didn’t get anywhere fast in Maloy, having to backtrack where you came from to get to the next location. That requires time and patience on the narrow mountain roads. Along the way we saw quite a few goats along the roadside.

Our second stop was the Krakenes Lighthouse. This was the most disappointing destination of the day. There was a rather long, uphill climb from the parking lot to the lighthouse, only to discover once we were there that we really couldn’t see the lighthouse at all! The 33 foot tall lighthouse is attached to the seaward side of a wooden lighthouse keeper’s house. The way the keeper’s house and lighthouse are built into the rocky shoreline, it is impossible to see the red lighthouse unless you are seeing it by boat. Originally first lit in 1906 and automated in 1986, it emits a white, red or green light depending on the direction every six seconds. It can be seen for up to 14.7 miles. Interestingly, the original lighthouse was destroyed by fire following an Allied air raid in 1945.

Once again we backtracked and ended up at our third destination, Refviksanden Beach, a 1.5 mile beach with white sand. It is also a popular place to camp and the location of a big music festival each summer. Our guide said the wind is so strong in this area, homeowners build the wall of their homes that faces the southwest out of rock or thick concrete to protect it from the strong wind. As we rode around we could see one wall on the houses made of rock. Once again, the beach itself wasn’t spectacular but the surrounding views were amazing.

As I said, the highlights were a bit underwhelming but the scenery was beyond our highest expectations. What a beautiful country!!

These three pictures where made from our ship.

The Maloy Bridge connects the town center to the mainland.

Next up: Flam, Norway

Alesund, Norway JUN 12, 2023

After 2 nights sailing in the Norwegian Sea, we pulled into the port of Alesund, pop 67,000, on the west coast of Norway. What a beautiful, picturesque city!

On the night of January 23, 1904, practically the entire town was destroyed by fire. Only one person died but more than 10,000 people were left homeless. After so many homes formerly built of wood were destroyed by fire, the town rose from the ashes with new homes rebuilt using stone, brick and mortar. Most buildings were rebuilt from stone in Art Nouveau style between 1904 and 1907.

A WWI Ship Mine

Alesund was often given the term “Little London” during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany because of the resistance work that took place there. 

Alesund also has the most important fishing harbor in Norway with one of the most modern fishing fleets in Europe. It has a large shipbuilding yard as well as a large furniture industry. 

We were thrilled to see temperatures in the early morning in the 60’s and no rain. What a welcome relief after the cold weather in Iceland! 

We had a choice of a Hop On Hop Off Bus, a miniature sightseeing train or exploring by foot. We wanted to see the spectacular view from Mt Aksla but didn’t relish the idea of the 400 steps up and 400 steps down to the viewing platform.

So we decided on the sightseeing train that took us right to the top as well as giving us a nice commentary of the town.

WW2 German Bunkers

After visiting Mt Aksla we rode throughout Alesund, including by The House That Didn’t Burn. The story is during the devastating fire of 1904, this small wooden house survived the fire while others around it were destroyed. The day before the fire an angel visited the owner, Anders Nor, and told him something was going to happen that was very bad, but he was not to be afraid and not to leave his house. If he did not leave, his house would be spared. He stayed and the house is still standing today. Furniture that had been removed from the house caught fire and burned. The miracle house is a museum today and the story of Anders Nor’s miracle is still being shared today.

It was an enjoyable ride. We did a little shopping but found souvenirs very expensive in both Iceland and Norway. So no shirt today but we have two more ports in Norway so there is always hope.  We did manage to find a geocache on our way back to the ship as well as a supermarket for some Diet Coke and Coke Zero. 

Next up: Maloy, Norway