Lots of people have a standard or preferred mode of travelling. For Shobha Rani, a cruise is what does it for her. Having experienced the Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and other mega ships, her trip across the fjords of Norway on another magnificent cruise was as exhilarating as her previous holidays. This week, You & I skims across the turquoise waters, lush mountains, pristine glaciers, and picturesque fjords, to a place that belongs in a world of fantasies.
On this trip I was accompanied by my family and friends. It was a big group of 15 that set out on a journey to Norway on the MS Serenade of the Seas, part of the Royal Caribbean International fleet. We learned that the Norwegian fjords came into existence when the glaciers melted over millions of years. The fjords then created a wide tangle of picturesque islands, lakes, and valleys. Excursions to the shore included visits to the quaint villages and towns of Geiranger, Tromsø, Honningswåg, Ålesund, Olden, and Bergen.
Before embarking on the ship we first spent a day in Denmark. Our short visit in Copenhagen started with a tour of the Christiansborg Palace, located on a tiny island. The large family portrait of the Danish Royal family in the great hall was quite an impressive sight. Here we learned that Alexandra, the Danish princess, was queen consort of Great Britain and empress consort of India as the wife of King-Emperor Edward VII. Edward VII was the eldest son of Queen Victoria. Alexandra’s brother became king of Greece and Alexandra’s sister married the Tzar of Russia.
Once we set sail, it was quite fun to meet our fellow passengers. The ship carried around 2,500 passengers and more than 850 crew members. Apart from the destination itself, there was quite a lot to explore on the vessel as well. This included fitness facilities, Zumba classes, line dancing classes, belly dancing classes, and more in the Atrium, and a variety of entertainment shows in the evenings in the ship’s Tropical Theatre.
Deck 11 was our favourite spot, where the Windjammer cafés and buffet stations were always laden with a lavish spread. Apart from the variety of continental dishes, there were also many Indian options to choose from. One night we were entertained with an Indian feast at the Windjammer Café, as Bollywood songs blared in the background!
On our second day we docked at Geiranger, which I found to be a lovely place with quayside souvenir shops and cafés teeming with tourists. From the quay we took the shuttle coach to Tromsø, an equally pretty town. We walked down the main street which was lined with little shops. Here we shopped to our heart’s desire and bought soft and sleek sweaters and shoes, as well as mouth-watering chocolate-filled mint candies.
The coach ride to the outer islands of Giske, Godøy, and the fishing village of Alnes from the adorable town of Ålesund took us through three subsea tunnels. Something that can only be described as engineering feats, each tunnel was about three-four kilometres long and about 150 metres deep beneath the sea, which connected the islands to the mainland.
On our fourth day we were fortunate to catch the famous midnight sun from our cruise. During this remarkable natural phenomenon, the sun remains completely visible at night and there was no sunset. It was a wonderful experience to be able to stand on the deck of the Serenade and watch the midnight sun over the waves.
We then crossed the line to the top of the world – the Arctic Circle. Crossing the Arctic Circle was a big ceremony on the ship. The crew and passengers noses were all painted blue and it was followed by a lot of fun, foolery, and the tradition that sailors follow in the presence of Neptune –
king of the seas. This was followed by sailing towards the North Cape plateau to the tip of the island of Magerøya, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean in a stunning panorama. This is Europe’s northernmost point.
After this phenomenon was another fjord, another village. We took a miniature train at the quay to go around Olden, a very delightful village set in lush green meadows. We came across meadows that were ablaze with colourful flowers and babbling brooks meandering between pretty houses. The Olden valley was flanked by snow-clad cliffs, glistening glaciers, and shimmering waterfalls.
In Bergen we visited the Magic Ice Bar. Here we were given warm ponchos and gloves before we stepped inside the freezing ice bar. It was filled with works of art by the world’s renowned ice carvers, who craft and re-craft almost everything in the bar each year!
And then before we knew it, our time on the ship – with all its exciting activities and discoveries on the shores – came to an end. However, one thing is for certain: not having satiated my fascination for cruise holidays just yet, another journey across the seven seas definitely awaits me! – Shobha Rani