Fred Olsen Cruise - Secrets of Norway

Trevor Smith on 26 July 2008
My first experience of Fred Olsen, I believed “ticked all the boxes” to ensure that we would have a fantastic holiday.

A tremendous start to our holiday with our cases placed in our cabins as we boarded, and after a quick check in and embarkation, I felt immediately that the right choice had been made!

We were soon addressed by Captain Olav Sovdsnes and our Cruise Director Alison Bellamy.

Into the North Sea - the tour programme was studied and we understood its busy itinerary that would take us to one of Europe’s most scenic areas on our Cruise - “Secrets of Norway” - What would the Captain and crew have up their sleeves?

A leisurely sunday was spent exploring our ship - Black Watch and all it had to offer, meeting the many “charming” characters that would be “friends” within days.

Was there time between lectures, presentations, quizzes, eating and drinking for the sleeping and tour programme? YES, of course, we felt totally looked after on board Black Watch and we were eager to start exploring a country unfamiliar to ourselves.

Arriving in Ålesund, we were off on foot and only a few minutes from the ships berth to the centre of the town. A recommendation here is the walk to the top of Mount Aksla, just 417 steps to the viewpoint with its many points and seats en route!

Tuesday and the first of our planned escorted tours – “Glorious Fjordland”. We started by launching into the small harbour of Hellesylt, our coach immediately came across the mighty Hellesylt Waterfall cascading into the aqua Fjord with a backdrop of a lovely mountain valley dotted with small farms and livestock. We then descended to the shore of Europe’s deepest lake, Hornindalsvatnet, with its amazing depth of over fifteen hundred feet and glorious panoramic vistas.

Then the lovely Nordfjord came into view, before continuing on to the village of Stryn along the Stryn River, infamous for its salmon fishing along the shores of the beautiful turquoise Stryn Lake towards Hjelle and uphill around nineteen hairpin bends along the Strynefjell Road. Crossing the Jolbrua Bridge across the three hundred foot deep gorge, we witnessed the thunderous Buldrefossen Waterfall.

What a great morning travelling through fantastic scenery, passing the Tystig Glacier to reach the Grotli Hotel for lunch. An amazing day followed as we made our way to Fjellheimen, passing lakes to Djupvasshytta and driving the spectacular steep toll road to the top of Mount Dulsnibba and what a fantastic view – with snow-capped mountains, glaciers, lakes and far below us the Geirangerfjord which allowed one last great photo stop at the Flydalsjuvet viewpoint. What a great end to this Fjords Panoramic Adventure!

Wednesday and two short day excursions from Flam and Gudvagen. After Flam we cruised the narrow Fjord into Gudvangen so had some great photo opportunities.

The lovely Sognefjord was followed by a short stop in Aurland to visit the church there before passing Vassbygda Lake and a hydroelectric plant. Some hairpin roads and numerous tunnels gave us some more great photo opportunities of the Låvisdall Valley and the Aurlands Valley before a short refreshment stop at the Sterbo Mountain Lodge.

Travelling along the River Næroy from Gudvangen we arrived at the spectacular Tvinde Waterfall with the afternoon climaxing with a visit to the Stalheim Hotel, spectacularly perched upon a cliff at eighteen hundred feet and a delight to any photographer!

What a great city Bergen is, where old and new combined to make this a great city to explore, perhaps even as a city break by air throughout the year!!

With the historic part of Bergen, Halseanic Port of Bryggen and the famous Fish Markets selling a vast array of seafood as well as the many berries available – all make visiting Fjordland so special and a must is to enjoy just a simple dessert of Vanilla Ice Cream with Cloudberry Jam! We also took a visit to the Floibannen and the funicular railway to the viewpoint overlooking the city of Bergen to the top of the tallest Mountain in Bergen – Mount Ulrik at over two thousand feet.

So what was the “Secret of Norway” mentioned in the brochure description for this cruise? The secret involved guests to stay on deck until after 2330hrs, ( and I also believe some crew members left their posts to witness this amazing experience!) With three long blows on the ships horn, many photo flashes from on board, from shore, from other boats, and with firecrackers going off around us, we had arrived at the Captains Secret.....

Contact me, and I can explain this to you! My next cruise will be with Fred Olsen Cruise lines. A truly unforgettable experience!