Day 16/Kristiansand

Thanks to pharmaceuticals, I slept well. Alarm woke me up at 7:30; & room service was here right away. I only ordered yogurt & granola. Remember that salad I brought down w/ me from last night’s dinner? Well, duh, do you think I had a fork w/ which to eat it? It made a fine breakfast though (thanks to my cereal spoon). The view from the bridge showed wet streets outside; so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to another sailing excursion today. The highs were supposed to be near 60; but I don’t think it made it close. My tour was to meet in the lounge at 8:20; we were off by 8:40. Just as we walked down the gangway, the sun came out (as if a gift from the Gods).

Our tour started by bus through Kristiansand. The guide pointed out the few wooden houses that remain. Most had been destroyed by fire over time; & now they don’t even build w/ wood any more. We had delays along the roadways outside of town as there is heavy road construction. They are trying to widen the roads to 4 lanes & have to blast through solid granite mountains to do so. A few tidbits of info I picked up from the guide: Norway is 52% forest & only 4% farmland. The country is extremely long, very narrow except at the south end. If you were to look at a map & turn the country 180 degrees, the end of it would reach northern Italy. Yet, there are only 14 persons per square kilometer (you can do the metric conversion hopefully). But that’s not very many considering the country’s size. They have such little demand for oil that they export 90% of what comes from the North Sea off the western coast. They have so much water (waterfalls) to produce hydroelectric power, that they’ve recently built a pipeline to both the Netherlands & Denmark so they can sell power to them.

We finally arrived in the small seaside resort town of Lillesand. We were to have 20 mins. to walk around. After 5 mins., I wondered why we even stopped here. Unless it was just for a “potty break”. A parking lot in front of a souvenir shop, a few local stores (florist, grocery, sporting goods) weren’t even open. There wasn’t enough time to walk to the small cathedral (which is probably their biggest tourist attraction). Don’t get me wrong it is charming, but what was the point??? Back on the bus we drove another 20 mins. on winding roads through the forests to the settlement (I won’t even call it a town) of Skottevik. Here we boarded a motor boat that was to take us around the small islands & little coastal towns along the way back to Kristiansand. There isn’t much indoor cabin space; so most of us went up top. Thinking that we would be sailing in protected waterways, I didn’t bring my coat or my gloves (BIG MISTAKE). When we pulled away from the protected cove, we headed out to open sea for about 20 mins. (This is not what I bargained for.) The wind was whipping; the boat was bouncing wildly (that part wasn’t so bad); & within minutes I was freezing. I had the blanket around my legs & up around my nose & ears. I only had a small slit to see through.

We finally pulled into a channel where we could view some beautiful cottage style homes, all w/ perfectly sculpted flower gardens in the yards. We passed swans everywhere. It was the first day of school vacation; & kids were out in kayaks waving at us. There was some gorgeous scenery, especially w/ the bright sun showing off the colorful houses. Then it was back out to open sea again. I’d had enough; so I went down below.

After I had time to warm up, I found a small spot aft where I could stand & see out of both sides. I dropped my camera; parts started rolling on the deck. The lens itself fell out; I freaked. Some guy said, “oh, you can just drop that back in there & pop the ring around it to hold it in place.” I thought, “this isn’t so bad”. The telescoping lens “thingy” was bent slightly upward & it was frozen in the out position. I couldn’t zoom in or out, camera wouldn’t focus, shutter didn’t move; I couldn’t even turn it off. If this had to happen, at least it was on the last day. I finally was able to turn it off & back on; but you couldn’t zoom. The shutter worked; so I shot hoping that I was getting something (I did). I was afraid to turn it off for fear that itwouldn’t work when I turned it back on. So, I left it in “standby” mode; until I heard the dreaded beeping dead battery sound. Oh shit! I changed batteries; & had a helluva time getting it to come back on. I think I must declare this camera “dead”.

The boat arrived back into “downtown” at 12:15. Some wanted to walk around a bit & make their own way back to the ship. The rest of us just stood there on the dock w/ the guide…….waiting & waiting. No bus! She gets on the phone, calls our shore exc. Mgr. & asks “where is the bus”? “What do you mean no bus is coming?” “They’re supposed to walk back?” “What about the handicapped people?” “I can call them a cab; but you’ll have to pay for it on your end.” The phone call ended. She apologized. Most of us took off walking. She then offered to walk back to the pier (almost a mile), get her own car, come back & pick them up (which she did). Just another example of the pitiful inadequacies in the shore exc. dept. A flaw that I had been reading about on the Cruise Critic message boards for quite a while.

So, I proceed to walk toward the ship. Then I got to wondering if Bill & Melita had gotten off; & where they might be. I called Bill’s phone; & they were somewhere having an outdoor lunch. He couldn’t tell me exactly where they were; but he was describing the traffic that was passing by. He asked if I saw that bus or that motorcycle on the main road. It was another one of those “Laurel & Hardy” moments; but I finally found them in this charming seaside square very close to the ship.

I sat down w/ them & ordered lunch at Restaurant Rett-I-Garnet next to the fish market. They both had a huge bowl of mussels (which I normally don’t care for, but these were quite good & expensive). I ordered a huge shellfish salad ($33 US). There were baby shrimp, baby lobster, whole crawfish (in the shell) over lettuce w/ a fabulous sort of sweet & hot dressing. The setting was lovely. Even though there was bright sun, it was still quite cool. So at 2 pm we walked the rest of the way back to the ship.  I just had to doa typically tourist thing; have my picture made beside this huge moose that was "standing" right beside the gangway.

I went up to get a cappuccino; & to the internet café to print out tomorrow’s boarding pass. Melita & Bill stayed in the cabin & started that awful packing & took a nap. He had gone to the purser’s office this morning to purchase Danish krone for their stay in Copenhagen. He told me that he got all they had. I desperately need 200 krone for the cab ride to the airport myself. So, I visit the purser; & find out that they weren’t able to get any more in town today (I don’t buy that for a second). Can you say, “incompetent”? I’m not a happy camper. But Bill, being the generous person that he is, sold me 200 krone (for which I paid him $50 USD). Good thing I hadn’t filled out that comment card yet. I got back to the cabin; & started packing. This seemed to take forever.

Before departure time, the skies got grey again & a few raindrops fell. Somehow the weather Gods salvaged most of our last day. As we pulled away from the dock, the Capt. announces that the seas will be rough for a few hours as we cross a channel. We really started rockin’. I’d bang into the walls or the closet doors as I was walking back & forth to the suitcase. What I wouldn’t give to feel this all through the night. When I finished packing, I caught up on today’s journal & picked out the photos to send to my website.

I met Melita & Bill at 7:30 for our last dinner in the Lido Café. Another dining dilemma, I wanted everything. Bill & I both a fabulous beef carpaccio w/ olive oil, mustard sauce & shaved parmigiano. They let me have a taste of their 2 soups: cream of double baked potato w/ sour cream & chives (divine); & an Indnesian Laso (I think) soup which was pureed banana, yogurt & a touch of cumin (so-so). Melita had the vegetarian entrée which was curried vegetables. Bill & I had the short ribs in red wine sauce w/ diced cherries & (overdone w/ no visible taste of onion) potato pancakes. Since I had an entrée dilemma, I also had some calf’s liver w/ applewood bacon & caramelized onion. Both entrees were perfection.

Even though the 2 nights in the main dining room were delightful; we have had so much fun in the Lido. My favorite deck waiters, Adi & Heru (from the Philippines, who’s smiles could light up a room), always bring smiles of equal proportion to our faces. Melita, Bill & I get involved in some of the funniest conversations; & we laugh till our faces hurt. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy traveling w/ them. I didn’t think anything could have been more pleasant than our previous trip to Amsterdam, but this far exceeded it. I’ve gotten so used to seeing them every day, it’s going to be hard to go back to the “real world” where we get so involved in our separate lives that we don’t even talk that often.

I went back to finish packing; & will be running up to Explorer’s Lounge shortly to (hopefully) quickly upload this to AOL. I must come back shower, wash my hair; & hopefully get a full night’s sleep in preparation for 2 days of travel. Unless something earthshakingly important happens Tues. & Wed., I will end this saga tonight. I’m kinda glad to be coming home, where it’s WARM. It’s been an awesome adventure. And I hope I haven’t bored you too much w/ the details. But, then again, if I did you could have stopped reading a long time ago………..


Day 15/Stavanger

6/22 Stavanger, Norway

Slept well; but again, up earlier than I needed to be (7:45). I think the anticipation of each day’s adventures is like a burst of adrenaline that just propels me out of bed as soon as my eyes open. The view from the bridge camera looks dismal. Dark grey skies & everything shoreside looks wet. Not the greatest day for a cruise tour in the fjords. I piddled & played w/ my photos on the compt. for over an hr. before room service brought breakfast. A cup of mixed fruit, raisin granola & peach yogurt. I’ve finally figured it out….the reason I can’t get strawberry yogurt is because all the cups of yogurt have the same picture on it. And if you don’t happen to read Norwegian, you can’t tell raspberry from pineapple.

I went out on deck to take some photos; but there’s not a whole lot to see from this vantage point. The first thing I saw on the starboard side was what appeared to be metal scaffolding about 100 yds. from the side of the ship. It wasn’t until I got way up on top & looked down into the middle of this wall of steel that I figured out it was a sandy volleyball court & bleachers on all 4 sides. There is an int’l tournament here the next few days. I still had half an hr. to kill before I was to meet w/ my tour on the pier, so I went to the Lido Café for a cup of hot chocolate. They were opening the buffet line early, so I snuck a little snack. A tiny bit each of Thai beef salad w/ onion & snow peas & a sweet corn salad w/ roasted chicken, bell pepper & hearts of palm. Both were delicious. I got a thin sliver of leg of lamb. I was off the ship (still raining) at 11:40.

We only had to walk a short distance to a waiting high speed catamaran that was to take us on a cruise through the Lysefjord (pronounced LOSA fjord). (Lyse means “light”, called this because of the light stone walls on the sides of the mountains.) The main cabin was huge w/ airline type seats of 3-3-3-3, w/ an aisle in between. The windows were spotted w/ rain; & I thought I’d step up on the open top deck & see if I could stand the cold. There were a few brave souls up there; so I decided to tough it out. I offered my inside front row seats to Mary & Angela (Barbados/Toronto); & they took them. I had on a blouse, my fleece hooded sweatshirt & my rain poncho w/ hood & gloves. That provided enough insulation; but they were flapping wildy in the wind. I could tell some of the people standing behind me were fighting off the plastic. They had stackable chairs; & I took one & put it facing aft behind a pillar to protect me from the blowing wind & rain. It wasn’t too bad. Once we left the harbour area, the rain was more intermittent than constant; & there were even some sunny spots.

We passed many tiny islands & a lot of small settlements w/ brightly colored houses next to the shoreline. You’d see resort areas along the way w/ the cutest cabins. There were abandoned settlements where the copper mines used to be. I saw several fish farms w/ large areas of nets marked by circles of buoys. We made a stop at a small marina at (a very rocky) Helleren Beach w/ a glass enclosed restaurant w/ beautiful views into the fjord. Here we were treated to huge waffles w/ whipped cream & the most awesome strawberry jam. The waffles must have been at least 10” around & were in the shape of 6 small hearts joined at the point. Unlike the waffles we had in Flam, these were perfection. That jam was to die for. I had the pleasure of sharing the table w/ Viviana Guzman, the Chilean flautist that is a featured entertainer on this cruise. She’s a lovely lady; & she had a good friend of hers traveling w/ her.

While we were eating, it poured rain; but when it was time to go, the sun had come out. This brought a lot of the “downstairs people” up to the open deck. I went all the way forward beside the bridge; & the Capt. opened the door & invited us to come into the bridge. We then headed deeper into the Lysefjord. Shortly the boat began to slow down; & I could see he was heading into a dead end gorge. He aimed the bow of the boat into this dark corner; & it was quite spooky in there. This spot is called “Vagabond Cove” (Fantehola), where in ancient times a group of vagabonds were trying to avoid paying taxes; & they escaped by climbing up this crevasse. When the sheriff tried to follow them up, they threw huge rocks down on him & scared him away. We backed out of the tight opening; & proceeded further up into the fjord to “Pulpit Rock” (Preikestolen). This perfectly flat (82’ x 82’) platform 2,000’ up looks like a high diving platform. Legend hasit that Pulpit Rock will fall down when 7 brothers marry 7 sisters from the same district. Hmmmmmm…

A little further down, a humongous waterfall appears. Just as we approached it, one of those jet boats made a banking turn right up next to it. The people onboard were dressed in wet suits; & I’m sure they got a cold drenching. We could feel the spray onboard even though we didn’t get that close to it. These falls are called “Whiskey Falls” (Hengjane foss). It got it’s name from a German bootlegger named Heinrich. We passed a goat farm about this time; & we could see some that had separated from the flock & were clinging to the side of the mountain. We were supposed to pass a sea lion colony; but they must have been “out of town” since no one sighted them. We soon reached the turn around point of this cruise. The skies were partly cloudy as we sped back to Stavanger. But just before we reached “town” it started drizzling again. Such a shame, as this town probably looks lovely in the sunshine. Melita & Bill got off for about 45 mins. (rain drove them back in); & they said that the houses all had pretty flower gardens.

We got back to the ship at 3:30 just before the gangway was removed. I went back to the cabin & started work on the pictures. As we sailed at 4 pm, the Captain announced that we would sail into the Lysefjord & view “Pulpit Rock” & “Whiskey Falls”. Had I known this I would have saved the $100& stayed onboard for the “free show”. Of course, then I would have missed out on those fabulous waffles. I figured Melita & Bill were up in the Crow’s Nest to watch the scenery; so I went up there to give them the fjord map we had received on the tour. I looked everywhere for them; no luck. I came back & left them a phone message. In a little while I realized that the final bingo game was going on; & I knew right away that’s where they were. Melita stopped by the cabin about an hr. later; & sure enough they were playing bingo. She said a couple did win the free 7-day cruise; & then the husband later won the big jackpot. Sounds fishy to me! She also had a little trinket that Bill bought for her, a lovely pave’ diamond necklace. Nice souvenir. From the bridge camera I could see we were approaching the “rock’ & the “falls”, so I ran up to the promenade deck to take more photos (as if 224 were not enough).

I met Melita & Bill in the Lido Café for dinner at 7:30. We felt like doing casual again. I had lunch so late, I wasn’t too hungry. So, I had an appetizer of small eggplant medallions in a garlic, tomato, basil topped w/ crumbled feta cheese. I tasted Bill’s bean & ham soup; & it was fabulous. I couldn’t decide between the herb crusted baby lamb chops & the broiled snapper; so I had a little of both w/o the side vegetables. I know, I should have just had the vegetables. The snapper was mushy, funny tasting & therefore, inedible. But the lamb chops were pretty good. I made a salad which I brought back to the cabin to have as a midnight snack. Melita & Bill went off to feed the slots & then attend the late show. I came back to do a little “work”. Got up to Explorer’s Lounge about 10:30 to upload the journal to AOL. It had to be an early night because my tour is early in the morning. I refuse to start packing tonight cause it’s so depressing. There’s plenty of time for “depressing” tomorrow.


Day 14/Bergen

I was awakened about 7:45 by a group of people talking loudly out in the hallway. Probably could have taken another short nap before the alarm was to go off at 8:45; but decided to get up & do something productive. So I gathered my blanket & curled up on the couch & worked on the computer. The view from the bridge camera didn’t look real promising. It’s raining; but an hr. later after we pulled into Bergen, the sky lightened up somewhat. Breakfast came at 9. Back to the raspberry yogurt, granola & a scrambled egg.

Melita, Bill & I had decided that we wanted to just amble around Bergen on our own. The historic area, known as Bryggen, is easily walkable. So, we struck out on foot; & maybe a half a mile later we were there. There are rows of brightly colored, 3 story buildings on both sides of the rectangular shaped water basin. Some of the houses are perfectly upright; some lean a little towards the right; some a little to the left. Bill said it was because the wharf is so old; but I never know if he’s pulling my leg or not. How I wish there was bright sun to show off the gorgeous colors; the photos all looked washed out to me.

We headed toward the Fisketorget (the fish market for you non-Norwegians), which is a series of tents set up at the short end of the basin. Every fish, vegetable & trinket imaginable. I had read that the market was no longer a big deal. Maybe it’s size has diminished over the years, but it has anything you could possibly want. As soon as we arrived, it began to rain. For the rest of our day “in town”, it went from a light rain to drizzle & back. Our luck has finally run out. Anyway, back to the fish….. There were humongous king crab legs, raw salmon, marinated salmon, smoked salmon, reindeer sausage (didn’t care for it), moose sausage (even worse), elk sausage (not too bad). They gave samples of just about everything; & we tried it all. There were even freshly made sandwiches to eat on the run; piles of tiny shrimp or salmon on a thick roll. One of the things that caught our eye (& noses) was the fish cakes. They were about 3½” round & some contained onions. Melita wanted to try it; & she let us have a bite. Luscious!

Not wanting to take a chance that the weather could get worse, we decided now was the time to take the funicular up to Mt. Floien (elevation 1,050’) for the (supposedly) fabulous city view. Tickets were 70 NOK round trip ($14 US). Melita & her fear of heights & inclines had to sit in the middle of the car looking at the floor; but the trooper that she is, she did it for us. At the top we stepped out on a very chilly concrete platform to shoot photos. On a sunny day, I’m sure the view is breathtaking. At first it was drizzly; had to get out the rain poncho & umbrella.

There is a nicerestaurant up there; & the obligatory souvenir shops. We stepped in there to look around. While we were in there the rain stopped. So Bill & I went back out to take the pictures again. Melita was on a mission looking for something in particular (I’m not spoiling the surprise for her family); so she was lost in the shops somewhere. As soon as we decided to take the next cable car down, the sun peeked through for just a min. I run back out to retake the photos. (Anything for a good shot!) Bill & I were able to wrangle the front seats in the car; but Melita parked herself behind us facing the other way & looking anywhere but out.

Bill had asked one of the fish mongers (a lady) if she’d recommend a good fish restaurant. She gave him a pamphlet on one that was kinda off the beaten path. It looked far enough away & w/ the rain, we hailed a cab to take us there. $20 US to go about 3 miles; we arrived at the restaurant only to find that they weren’t serving today (come back on Mon.). The fish market part was open; & you’d think the fish monger lady would have known that. So, we had to walk back to civilization to hail another cab to go back to the wharf area. We ended up at a restaurant in that row of “crooked” buildings where we had stopped earlier to look at their menu. The place (Bruggeloftet & Stuene) was charming w/ stained glass windows & murals on the walls.

So many things on the menu looked good; we ordered 5 items & shared everything. We had garlic marinated (raw) scallops salad (Hvitloksmarinert Kam); marinated gravlox w/ dill mustard sauce (Husets Gravlaks Servert M/Dillsennepsaus); marinated filet of reindeer w/ lingonberry cream (Gravet Reinsdyrfilet M/Tyttebaerkrem);fish soup (Bergensk Fiskesuppe M/Skalldyr) & soup of dried cod w/ onion, garlic, tomatoes, chilies & potatoes (Bacalao). (I’m throwing in the Norwegian names; because, believe it or not, it’s beginning to make sense.) Bill tried another local beer; but this one was a little too “beery” for Melita & I. The scallop salad was a little on the bland side in my opinion. The gravlox was a big hit, freshness makes all the difference in the world; & that dill mustard sauce was excellent. The reindeer was shaved thinly & was a dark reddish purple color. I’d rather see my reindeer w/ horns on the side of the road; but Bill thought it was good. Can’t really tell you what it tasted like; cause I’ve never had anything close. But I won’t try it again. The fish soup was a white cream sauce base w/ baby shrimp, a few scallops & some sort of shredded white fish. It was very good; but the real hit of the meal was the Bacalao. It was thick like a stew; & easily falls into the category of “orgasmic”.

After the waitress brought the check, Bill inquired about another item that was on the menu, marinated whale carpaccio (Bryggecarpaccio Av Rokt Hval M/Cumerlandsaus). The waitress went back to the kitchen & came out w/ a tiny sampling of it. I expected it to be “whale color”; but it was darker, like a meat. Bill thought it was pretty good; but it’s another thing I won’t be trying again. This exotic lunch divided 3 ways was $44 (US) per person. Now let’s recap here…..moose, reindeer, elk & whale. That’s enough adventure for one day.

We decided to stop back by the fish market; & get some smoked salmon tobring home. We’ve learned how different, different parts of the fish taste. So, we actually tasted our salmon before it was vacuum packed for travel. They’ve assured us that it will be fine up to 7 days w/o refrigeration. Since I get home 3 days before Melita & Bill, it was decided that I should bring it all home w/ me. I don’t know what it is about being at the fish market; but every time we went there today, it started raining harder. So, we ducked into the Radisson Hotel in hopes of grabbing a cab. The front desk called us one; & we were back onboard ship by 2:30.

We dropped off our bags; & headed up to the coffee shop for cappuccino & lattes. Then we parked in the Explorer’s Lounge about 3 pm. I brought the laptop to do some “work” & watch the scenery as we pulled away at 5 pm. It was pouring down rain by the time the ship left. Melita & Bill decided to take advantage of the lull in the action; & do one more load of laundry. I stayed up writing & editing photos for over 3 hrs. On my way back to the cabin, I decided to check at the purser’s desk to see if there were still any small refrigerators to rent. I had read online that you could have one in your cabin for $2/day. I made arrangements for one to be sent so I could keep the salmon as cool as possible for as long as possible. It’s formal night; & we chose to go more casual; & eat at the Lido buffet again tonight. They went up early for drinks; & I joined them at 7:15. It was a good menu tonight.

Melita & I started w/ the Thai chicken lettuce wrap w/ cilantro, lime juice, ginger, red chili, mushrooms & hoison sauce. Neither of us were impressed. Bill & I had the sweet potato soup w/ leeks & cream. Two thumbs up. I had escargot bourguignon; & it was very good. Bill had a chef salad for his second appetizer. Melita had them prepare her a bowl of spaghetti puttanesca; but when she got to the table w/ it, she realized it was Bolognese (not puttanesca). Bill & I had the lobster tail; me w/ asparagus & him w/ cauliflower & potato puffs. His lobster was mushy; mine was perfect. I could easily have eaten another. There was an awesome dessert on the D.R. menu, which unfortunately (or rather fortunately) they were not serving in the Lido. It was a chocolate cake, soaked w/ condensed milk & chocolate cream sauce. I wanted it so bad.

We parted ways at 8:15; they were going to bingo (trying to win a 7-day Caribb. Cruise). I think they were going to the late show, a vocalist. I came back to the cabin to finish this; & found that they had delivered the small fridge & my steward had put the salmon in there. The room smells of salmon; so I took it out & washed each vacuum sealed package w/ soap & water. It helped some. But the fridge has to fit under the desk where I usually work. So, now the room is crowded w/ furniture in the middle of the floor. As I sat here typing, it dawned on me; “why don’t I call room service & see if they can get one of those chocolate desserts?” It took several calls back & forth before they discovered that the dessert I saw had been on the lunch menu. I was heartbroken. You would think there had been some left over. Guess it was a sign from the God’s. Went up to the Explorer’s Lounge about 9:30 to transmit this journal entry. My intention is to get comfy under the warm covers as soon as possible; & sleep til I can’t sleep no more…….

Day 13/Geiranger

6/20 Geiranger, Norway

Woke up at 6:45 to the sound of the winches lowering the tenders. We were making a 1 hr. service call at the town of Hellesylt to let some passengers off who were taking full day tours. I wanted to but couldn’t go back to sleep. I turned on the TV to look at the view from the bridge. It looked mostly sunny. Could the Capt’s forecast be wrong again? Room service came at 8:10; the usual breakfast, only this morning I got pineapple/orange yogurt (that’s a new one on me). Melita & Bill have been getting these exotic flavored yogurts; & so far they kept bringing me raspberry.

I rushed to get up to the Queen’s Lounge by 8:50 for our tour’s departure. We waited & waited….. Seems they were having trouble w/ the gangway platform; we are tendering this morning into the town of Geiranger. The tour left 35 mins. late. When we boarded the bus it was 9:50. Our driver, Jesper & lovely guide, Kristina were delightful. Kristina is Italian; but spoke perfect English (& very good Norwegian, at least well enough to converse w/ Jesper). She was funny, informative, & didn’t babble any boring nonsense as some of them have.

Our drive up to Mt. Dalsnibba is 19 miles; 70 (180 degree) hairpin turns. Melita would have fainted, I’m sure. It was partly to mostly cloudy, mid 50’s, w/ an occasional mist of rain. There are waterfalls everywhere you turn. The higher we went the snow got deeper & deeper & the lovely spring flowers & green grass became very sparse. She told us that some of it was fresh snow from last week. About halfway up we passed a resort area on a huge lake (called Deep Lake), that stays frozen 10 months of the year. When it does thaw, the water is a pale electric blue. We could see the beginnings of some melting around the edges.

We spotted quite a few houses that had grass growing on their roofs. I inquired how & why this is done. She says that they build a wood roof, cover it w/ dried birch wood, some soil & then squares of grass “plugs”. This provides good insulation all year round. Eureka! Another ingenious idea. Kristina kept asking us if we were nervous on the road; & some said they were. Then Jesper got on the mike & said, “Do, what I do…..close your eyes”! They were quite a pair.

We spent about 15 mins. up on the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular. And stupid me on this day decided I didn’t need my heavy jacket & gloves since I didn’t need it up on the top of the North Cape. How cold could it get on a mountain this much further south??? A LOT. I had on long sleeves, & my long hooded sweatshirt. After 5 mins. of taking photos, my fingers were frozen. I know w/ the wind it had to be well below freezing up there. Just before we got back on the bus, a few snow flakes flurried about.

One thing I noticed on the way back down (or rather didn’t notice), wildlife. We passed a goat (cheese) farm w/ a lot of goats; but nothing wild. We made a photo stop at an area called Flydalsyjuvet. How do you pronounce that, you ask? I have no idea. Kristina did tell us that Flydal is a family name; & that syjuvet means gorge. But this is the spot where the photos that you see in all the cruise & travel brochures of the ships at anchor down deep in the gorge are taken.

On the return trip Kristina walked through the bus, personally speaking to everyone & asking if anyone had any questions. In all my travels, I’ve never encountered anybody as good at their job as she is. When we reached the port area, I was surprised that the bus kept going. We were continuing a little further along the scenic Eagle Rd. More hairpin turns (no guard rails) passing some small farms. The purpose of this leg of the journey was to take us to another photo spot to get a (sort of side angle) view of the Seven Sisters Waterfall. It is THE waterfall in this area. Called 7 sisters because the flow branches off into 7 smaller waterfalls. Not sure this stop was worth the trip as the angle was awkward; & we’re going to sail right under it on our way out of the fjord this afternoon.

When our tour ended, I walked around the small “town” area. Even though the temps were cool, the sunshine was warm & there was no wind to speak of. I watched ferries load cars, walked up the hill a ways taking pictures of the beautiful, unusual flowers, looked in the shops & lusted after their special ice cream made w/ triple cream!

I boarded a tender back to the ship about 1:45. I called Melita & Bill’s cabin when I got back; but got no answer. I had called them to say goodbye this morning; & a sleeping Melita answered & said she wasn’t able to go to sleep til nearly 6 this morning. So, I didn’t know if she was still sleeping now or if they were off the ship. I went to lunch in the Lido & had a taste of several of the salads: penne pasta w/ roast chicken; carrot raisin & walnut; ham cheese & onion; & a little “boat” made from an orange filled w/ the most delicious spicy Thai beef salad. I was bad……had a pork chop & a tiny bit of mashed potatoes. See what happens when Melita’s not there to hold my hand???

I stepped out on the aft deck to take some more photos (I shot 295 today); & it was spitting rain. So, I came in & took a 1½ nap. Melita had called & left voice mail that they hadn’t gotten off the ship at all; & that she was about to lay down & take a nap. I woke up just before 5 when the Capt. made the announcement that we were about to lift anchor. (By the way, this is the first time that we’ve actually anchored. The other ports where we couldn’t tie up were so deep that an anchor was useless; & we just had to drift (have I already told you this?). I put on my warmest everything & went up to take photos as we sailed out of Geirangerfjord & then out of Sunnylvsfjord. (It will take 6 hours before we are out of the fjords & back into the open Norwegian Sea.) There was still a light rain & a few spots of sun. At one point there was a small rainbow behind the ship that stretched from one side of the mountain to the other.

We passed in front of Seven Sisters waterfall, Bridal Veil falls & the Suitor waterfall (can you tell there’s a mythological story forming here?). I went all around looking for Melita & Bill; all the while they were walking around looking for me. Funny how you run into the same people over & over; yet when you’re looking for someone it’s like a needle in a haystack. So, I went to their cabin when I came back down; & they were there thinking about getting ready for dinner. We shared the stories from our day; & made plans to meet at the dining room at 8.
Bill asked for a big table; hoping some interesting people would join us. We’d given up hope; when finally at 8:20, these 2 really interesting ladies joined our table. Mary & Angela from Barbados, now from Toronto. They’ve traveled a lot too; & we talked & laughed for hours. Tonight’s dinner was smoked salmon rolled into cornets & filled w/ salmon, chive & caper tartar. Bill let me taste his Dutch bacon & cabbage soup (fabulous); & I had an outstanding cauliflower & roasted almond soup. Melita & I had the Wiener schnitzel w/ green beans & lyonaise potatoes. Bill had the wild Norwegian salmon w/ roasted vegetables & potatoes. For dessert I had sugar free triple chocolate ice cream; & Melita let me taste her pear William flambé (sliced pears sautéed in coffee sauce w/ pear William liquor) & vanilla ice cream. Neither of us were impressed.

We went up to wander around the shops & look in the photo gallery. We parted ways at 10:30. Bill was in the sports bar watching soccer; & Melita headed to the slot machines. I came back to the cabin & spent 2 hrs. working on the journal. Too tired to edit today’s photos; so I’ll wait another day before uploading this to AOL. We actually did have a sunset tonight at 11:20, yet I notice on the bridge camera that it doesn’t get totally dark outside. Sunrise in the morning is at 4:10 (my, the nights are getting so long).


Day 12/Trondheim

6/19 Trondheim, Norway

I was snoozing soundly when there was a knock on the door at 7:15. Room service, 30 mins. early. My regular guy, Abdul, apologized profusely for waking me up so early; but everyone wanted their breakfast delivered at the same time this morning. I had my regular yogurt & granola & some orange segments. As usual, the yogurt was room temperature (I would think this would be a health dept. infraction). I just stuck it in the ice bucket for a while. The Capt. had told us yesterday that there was a 70% chance of rain, highs in the low 60’s. I was pleasantly surprised when I turned on the TV & saw the sun shining. How can we continue to be so lucky? We were a little late tying up at the pier. Bill was noticing that there is such a small finger of a pier that they were moving from side to side working the bow thrusters trying to get wedged in there just right. We were all touring together (for the last time) this morning; & we were to be in the lounge at 8:50. For once I was ready & waiting. When they called our bus #, we trooped down 4 flights of stairs only to come to a bottleneck at the bottom. This took forever; & made us even later (which will come back to haunt us later). It was so pleasant in the sunshine, I shed my sweatshirt on the way to the bus. I would guess that it eventually got into the mid to upper 60’s before the clouds rolled in this afternoon.

Our local guide, (Mrs.) Bodil, was very good; told great stories & pointed out all the famous (& not so famous) sites along the way. The plan was to go into the city center & catch a tram that would take us into the neighborhoods & up into the higher country for city views. We pulled up next to the tram; & before we could get the bus doors opened, he pulled away (empty). This infuriated Bodil to the point that we heard her say “shit”. She’d forgotten that her mike was on. She gets on her cell phone; & learns that the tram driver was angry because we were late; so he just left us. She & the bus driver were speaking Norwegian rapidly back & forth trying to come up w/ another plan of action. She decided that the bus would take us up & around; & we’d try to pick up the tram on the way back down.

We wound our way through residential areas. Houses brightly painted. She mentioned all the red houses; & how they got that way. Back in the day, when paint was so expensive, some people went to the copper mines & gathered the leftover “crumbs” & mixed it w/ oil to paint their houses. So many did this, that red because the “signature color” of Norwegian houses. You still see the ladders that are attached to the roofs; & she explained that this was to make the chimney sweep’s job easier. There are also some ladder like railings that are attached horizontally on most roofs. As explained to us before, this helps you keep your footing when you get up there to shovel snow off the roof.

We crossed the River Nid that creates a kind of moat around the city center on our way to a high point southwest of the city center. We pass a lot of lovely homes, “golden rain” trees, huge lilac bushes & forested areas. The bus stopped so we could take photos of the city & harbour below. We could see the ship; & just off shore, Munkholmen (Monk Island). This was originally an execution ground, later a Benedictine Monastery, & today a popular beach & restaurant area. We drove a little further up, where our wayward tram was waiting for us. The trip back down was rather lackluster as it sped past everything. I would imagine that the pace would have been more relaxed & photogenic on the way up the mountain.

Oh, well. Back in the city, we reboarded the bus heading back to the ship. The bus stopped briefly in front of the Nidaros Cathedral; & a few people got off. Bill had told the guide we wanted to visit a special pub that’s written up in the travel guides; & she promised to warn us when it was coming up. As the bus pulled away from the Cathedral & rounded a curve in the road, I looked down by the river & saw the pub. I hollered to Bill from the back of the bus; & told him that we’d just passed it. He asked the guide to stop; but they couldn’t until we reached the next bus stop. We got off in front of the Radisson Hotel; & we thought we should take advantage of their facilities before we took off on foot. We retraced our route on a sidewalk up above the wharf area that had colorful businesses on each bank of the river below.

We made our way back to the Cathedral to get a closer look. It is a huge building, made of soapstone in the 11th & 12th centuries. The soft soapstone crumbles; & from the looks of the scaffolding, they must be constantly trying to restore it. The front is beautiful; but the south side is the most impressive. A huge arched doorway, topped by a very large rosette shaped stained glass window, flanked on both sides by square bell towers. There is a courtyard area here where everyone seemed to sit & ponder & people watch. We rested & took photos. The Archbishop’s house, a military museum/academy & a museum all surround this courtyard. As the clouds started rolling in, we continued our walk back to the wharf area in search of “Bill’s pub”.

We had both read about “Den Gode Nabo” (The Good Neighbor Pub); & Bill had it on his list of “must sees”. They didn’t open til 1pm, so we wandered around photographing the historic area known as “Bakklandet”. You cross an old red wooden bridge to reach the area. The view from the middle of the bridge on both sides is charming. There was still enough sunshine so that the reflection of the brightly colored building on the water made great photos. There was the sweet smell of lilac from the many bushes along the sidewalk. We pulled off a stem to bring back w/ us. We wandered around reading restaurant menus & watching the people. Bill noticed a bicycle lift across the street. I had never seen one in person; & we were anxious for someone to come up & actually try to use it. This one happens to be the first one built in the world. You put your foot on this metal “holder”, put in your tokens or pass card, & the track moves you & your bike up this steep hill. One guy was attempting to use it; but his card wouldn’t work. Bill & I stand there, camera ready, while he went to get another card. He came back shortly; & tried again. Still wouldn’t work, coming to the assumption that it was “out of order”. That was as close as I was to get to seeing this contraption in operation. By this time it was 1; & the pub was finally opened.

You enter this pub below street level. To say it’s rustic is putting it mildly. The tattered wooden floors have little steps up & steps down all the way into the back where the ceiling & walls look to be made of raw tree trunks. Mismatched tables & chairs; 2 bright neon Wurlitzer juke boxes. There is a ramp that goes out the back door to a floating “beer garden” platform on pontoons right on the Nid River. It reeked of neighborhood charm. We were the first customers of the day; & the bar mistress was really sweet. Bill inquired about all the different types of beer that she had on tap. He chose a local beer called “Dahl’s”. Melita & I both tasted it; loved it & had to have some ourselves. Bill nearly fainted & fell out.

The menu selection was very limited (& expensive). We chose a “create your own” pizza & nachos to go w/ our beer. There was a salad/pizza bar to make your selections from. She handed us a pizza crust partially baked w/ tomato sauce spread over it. Melita & I went over & added our own toppings: a shaved (almost proscuitto type) ham, onion, mushroom, red/yellow peppers, jalapenos & lots of cheese. We handed it back to her to be put under the broiler. Soon she came out w/ this delicious smelling pizza & a tray of nachos w/ melted cheese, sour cream & salsa. It was delicious; & we scarfed it down. When in Rome…..Bill ordered a glass of that killer Aquavit; & tried an Oslo brewed lager. We left there stuffed & happy. The bar mistress called us a cab which picked us up at the coffee shop across the street. Melita had heard about this “chile” coffee that she was dying to try. She let us taste it during the cab ride. It was good; tasted nothing of chili or chile. Bill & I decided it was just a plain extra mocha coffee; but who knows. We got back to the ship at 2:30 (sailaway at 4 pm).

We each went back to our cabins; completely sated w/ food & drink & everyone fell asleep. I slept 3 hrs. Bill’s decided that instead of Ambien to get to sleep, he should buy a bottle of Aquavit for the cabin. Melita’s take on it was all the carbs we’d had at lunch. Whatever it was, we all took really nice, long naps. Bill said it rained lightly while we were sleeping. Melita called at 6 to say we’d eat up in the Lido restaurant again; & to meet there at 7:15. I cranked up the computer & started on the journal & photos until time to go up.

Melita had already lectured me that since I had been so “bad” at lunch w/ the pizza & beer, I HAD to be careful tonight. She wouldn’t let me have any beef or pork; & I didn’t want wahoo. So, I had a stuffed bell pepper (ate more pepper than rice); a few spoons full of 5 onion soup (Vidalia, Spanish, shallots, red & white onions in a cream base); & a big salad from the salad bar. This seemed to make her happy w/ me again; & I was full. They went to the 8:30 “Liar’s Club” show, played in the casino awhile & then visited the Chocolate Extravaganza buffet by the Lido pool at 10. I went back to the cabin to “work”; & then up to photograph (but not partake of) the chocolate. Long tables laden w/ chocolate confections & ice carvings completely surrounded the Lido pool. I got my pictures & quickly left to avoid the temptation. Then I took my normal seat in Explorer’s Lounge to upload my journal entries. Went back downstairs about 1 am. Still need to shower; have another early morning tour tomorrow.

Day 11/At Sea

6/18 At Sea

I woke at 7:45; & turned on the TV to see what the weather looked like from the bridge camera. Looked like a yucky, drizzly day at sea. So, I thought…..good day to wallow in bed! I laid there another hour & tried to go back to sleep; but guess I’d had enough. You’d think so being as I went to sleep around 10. I had ordered room service for 10 am; so I had my leftover raspberry yogurt & granola from yesterday. I made me a pallet on the sofa w/ a blanket & several pillows; pulled the coffee table over for my laptop & notepad. I spent the next couple of hours happily typing my journal & editing yesterday’s photos. A lazy day felt good for a change. Just like being at home in my lay-z-boy; only nothing good to watch on TV. And since this was to be our last sea day of the journey, better to rest up for the next 5 days of extensive touring. Room service finally came w/ hot chocolate, grapefruit & a tiny chocolate croissant (am I bad???). Melita & Bill knocked on the door about 10:45 on their way to the Mariner’s (past passenger club) brunch. I passed on this event not wanting to commit to anything in case I was feeling real lazy. I finally got around to washing that massage oil out of my hair; dressed & went up early & looked around the shops before our noon cooking class.

On the first day, Melita & I signed up for a “hands on” cooking class led by the Chef Shawn McKerness from the Pinnacle Grill restaurant. It is held in their Culinary Arts Center, which actually is a demonstration kitchen that’s set up behind the screen in the movie theatre. Long U-shaped marble countertops surround the chef’s working area. They provided aprons, notepad, pen, recipe cards & a bottle of water for our $29 fee. Class lasted a little over an hour; & he got everyone involved in dicing, chopping, mixing, & cooking. Melita had no idea when she came on a cruise that she’d be standing over a hot stove caramelizing fresh apricots, browning chicken breasts & chopping red peppers. My job was to chop shallots & make the spicy rub w/ a mortar & pestle. We completed 3 dishes: chile-rubbed swordfish kebobs w/ cucumber salad, chowder made w/ fresh corn, & baked chicken w/ apricots, ginger & roasted macadamia nuts.

After we finished cooking, he brought out those neat plates that they serve on in the Pinnacle Grill. He plated everything; & then we walked across the hall w/ it & sat at a huge table in the Grill to eat. They poured wine; he sat w/ us & talked a while. I thought the kebobs could have been spicier (would that be my fault since I made the rub?). And the chicken was tasty except it was white meat. The corn chowder was outstanding. We both had a fantastic time. Well worth the time & money. Bill occupied himself somehow while we were cooking. He forgot to each lunch.

We all ended up back in our cabins for a little more rest. I slept over 2 ½ hrs. I went down to their cabin to borrow Bill’s sewing kit; & sat & talked for a good while. I told them to call me whenever they were ready to go up for dinner. We all agreed that the Lido buffet would suit our mood tonight better than dressing for the D.R. We went up about 7:30; & were surprised there weren’t many people there. We all had the mixed fruit salad compote & the lobster spinach dip made w/ a hot mustard based cream sauce served w/ home made nacho chips. I had Alaskan king crab legs w/ new potatoes & julienned mixed vegetables. Bill had apricot & prune stuffed pork loin w/ mashed turnips/potato. Melita had them make her a plate of all the vegetables that were being served tonight: turnip/potato mash, broccoli, asparagus & mixed vegetables. I had a scoop of frozen yogurt & Bill had a delicious looking rhubarb crisp w/ a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We parted ways about 8:30. They were going to the casino (their luck has taken a turn since Melita won big the other night); & I went back to the cabin to finish writing postcards & typing today’s journal. About 11, I went up to the Explorer’s Lounge w/ the computer to upload 2 days worth of journal & photos. Unfortunately, I couldn’t log onto the internet because the ship’s server is down for maintenance (like, couldn’t they do that in the middle of the night). By the way, there will be a “night” tonight. Even though we’ve only traveled a few hundred miles south, the sun will set about midnight; & sunrise is around 3 am. So, it’s back to the cabin & hopefully to sleep right away. It’s an early day tomorrow.

Day 10/North Cape

6/17 Honningsvag, Norway (North Cape)

I went to bed last night w/ the TV on so I could watch the “pseudo” sunset & sunrise. It went from a cloudy “dusk” just before midnight to a colorful “sunrise” a few mins. later. We were headed almost directly into the light; so I had to turn the TV off or else it would have kept me awake. I slept well; but not long enough. Got up at 8:45; & just couldn’t get going. Room service this morning was a ham & cheese omelet, a little bacon & milk. I’m going to save my yogurt & granola for later.

My tour to the North Cape was to depart at 10:30; but was delayed (who knows why) til just before 11. When I stepped outside it was drizzling rain. I guess our luck ran out w/ the weather. While all the older crowd is fighting for that front seat on the bus; I’m making a mad dash for the back row (5 seats & 2 windows all to myself). This tour does not have a guide, just an escort, Matt (who is one of the ship’s musicians). The skies are grey; but the rain stopped the min. we drove out of the small town of Honningsvag.

The roads are serpentine, no guardrails. Some curves I could look down & ponder the scary prospect of falling down these steep cliffs into the icy waters. There would be a house about every 5 mins; most live out in the remote areas because of the high cost of living “in town”. Just above the town & out along the mountain you’ll see rows of fencing up very high. Some is made of steel; some of wood, 4-5 horizontal rows maybe 100 yards wide. These are there to protect the town/settlements from avalanche during the heavy snows in the winter. Quite ingenious.

About half way through our journey we made a stop at a Sami camp. It really is just a place for tourist buses to stop for photos of what their life was like centuries ago. They had 2 tents set up along the road in which they displayed reindeer skins on the floor, hangers w/ clothing that was typical of that time, a small fire in one w/ a black iron kettle. I don’t know what kind of wood they were burning; but the smell was prominent & sweet (someone thought it was birch). One man dressed in Nordic costume stood outside alongside a reindeer. They kept a bowl of food in front of it; I suppose, to keep it standing still so we could take photos. I was surprised to see that reindeer are a whitish grey, not like the pictures of “Rudolph”. Then there was the obligatory souvenir shop, which I perused. By the time we reboarded the bus, there were a total of 6 buses. By the way, when I sat back down & looked across the street, I saw the house that these people live in. It looked like clapboard, dark green, lace curtains w/ a satellite dish mounted on the side of the house. You can say they’ve come a long way in the extreme North.

I had read about these “monuments” that the native people erect (usually up on a hill or mountain top) in honor of their dead family/friends. They take stones of varying sizes & pile them into a pyramid as a gift to the Gods. You see them everywhere. Just before & after the “Sami stop” we saw a total of maybe 50-75 “reindeer” grazing along the mountain side (at least that was what the other passengers would call these things they spotted along the way). They were in clusters of 3 -10. It wasn’t until I came “home” & loaded my photos on the computer & blew them up, I realized that some of them were moose (or would that be mooses?). Some of the reindeer were along the side of the road or walking down the middle of some of the cross roads we passed. They don’t seem to be fazed by vehicles.

By the time we made it up to the North Cape, there was a tiny bit of sun trying to peek out. Thank God there wasn’t much wind or else it would have felt frigid cold. I had on a blouse under a fleece hooded tunic under a reversible nylon/fleece jacket. Only time I put on my gloves or pulled up my hood was out on the edge of the platform. There is a huge black iron globe monument marking the spot of the northern most settlement in Europe. There is actually a little more land further north; but it is uninhabitable. There was quite a long line to wait in if you wanted your picture under the globe. I thought what the heck; & asked a German man standing behind me if he’d take my picture & I’d take his. I also saw some interesting colored rocks; so I picked up a few as souvenirs.

The Visitor’s Center is a large complex which includes tunnels through the rock where they house some historical memorabilia & a small chapel. The chapel walls are rock; dark blue ceiling w/ twinkling lights, blue lights that shine up from the floor, a simple carved wood alter & meditative type music playing. There is a two story high “Grotto Bar” w/ tiered seating overlooking a huge wall of glass that looks out on the monument & the Arctic Ocean. Quite breathtaking up there. There is a restaurant, a coffee shop & a large shop w/ overpriced souvenirs. They even have a tiny post office where you can send postcards (sorry, only 2 to a customer; they’re very busy). Unfortunately, I didn’t have mine written yet; & there are too many anyway.

As we were making our way back to the ship, we passed this huge wooden "rack" on the side of the road.  We asked the driver what it was; & he said that's how we dry our fish.  He was nice enough to back up; & let us off so that we could take photos of this most curious sight.

We returned to the ship about 2:30; & they were kind enough to keep the Lido buffet open a little late to accommodate those on tour. I had a roasted Portobello mushroom & veggie club sandwich; a big fat meatball & iced tea. I had to rush back to shower before my 4 pm massage. I explained to the masseuse that I had been having so much trouble w/ my lower back & headaches. She worked on me way longer than the 50 mins,; but she worked me over good. She must have spent 10 mins. trying to get a spot near the tailbone to let loose. My headache got some better. I know tomorrow I’m going to feel like I was hit by a mack truck.

I was in such a relaxed state, I came back to the cabin & laid down. Had nearly dozed off when Melita called to talk about their day.  Melita & Bill chose not to do a tour today. She said they had walked in town; & had (a very expensive) lunch at a hotel restaurant that he’d read about on the internet. Back onboard, they also took advantage of the empty laundry room; & got that out of the way.

Ship left port at 4:30; & we were going to pass the North Cape monument at 6 pm. So Bill wanted to go up & take photos. They said they would eat in the Lido area; & they would look for me. Since I ate lunch so late, I wasn’t in any hurry to have dinner. So, I decided to get up & take my dirty clothes to the laundry room (2 doors down the hall). I worked on editing today’s photos while I waited on the laundry. They were having a BBQ out by the Lido pool w/ live music & frivolity. It was 7:45 before I got up there. I walked everywhere looking for Melita & Bill. They had the dome over the pool cracked open a bit so the BBQ grill smoke could escape; it was cold as shit up there; & I didn’t put on a coat. So, I quickly filled my plate & went inside to sit down. The ribs were okay; quite fatty & could have used a good dousing of BBQ sauce. The kebobs were good, cubes of beef, onion, peppers & bits of hot dog (?). I had a delicious cabbage, carrot & raisin slaw & some mixed fruit.

I continued to search for Melita & Bill. I hadn’t seen them all day; & I missed them terribly. I should have started in the casino, cause that’s were I found them. Hard at work on the penny slots. We chatted about our day; & decided that we’d make it an early night. When I got back to the cabin, my steward had made the cutest (yet) towel animal on my bed – an elephant along w/ a certificate stating that I had crossed the Arctic Circle. I was in my jammies by 9. Too tired to even sit at the computer or even to read. I was just about to doze off when Melita called at 10 to say they were ready for bed also. (I later learned that they weren’t able to get to sleep, partly because of the midnight sun coming in around the curtains. And Bill eventually got redressed & went up to take photos at midnight.) I guess I was just so wasted that I fell right asleep (w/o drugs) & slept 9 ½ hrs. It was glorious sleep.