Exploring the Norwegian Fjords in early Spring by cruising from a port near my home. This was a truly tempting prospect. Finding an archive photo of a 1960's family holiday in Norway - coupled with the thought of only having to unpack one's luggage once - 'sealed the deal'. In late April last year, I drove a mere 20 miles to Avonmouth near Bristol and boarded CMV's 'Discovery' – my comfortable floating hotel for the 8 day voyage.
Being a solo traveller, I was well looked after. There were informal meetings and lunches arranged with others who were travelling on their own. As usual with any cruise, guest lecturer talks, good meals, entertaining shows and a plethora of daytime activities made the sea days as enjoyable as the times spent ashore. It was fascinating to see the Isle of Skye, Cape Wrath and the Orkney Islands from the deck of the ship as we took this unusual sea route to Scandinavia. The smaller sized ships like 'Discovery' seem particularly friendly and sociable. Your cabin is a haven of peace – and a good place to read up on the destination ports always well described in the daily programme bulletins delivered to your door each evening.
Highlights of the cruise were the ports of call of Stavanger, Flåm and Bergen. I booked an organised excursion from Flåm and explored the other places independently. It is good to pal up with other passengers. In Stavanger, three of us walked round the old town with all its white clap-boarded timber houses then made a bee-line for the impressive Cathedral. The local shops and the central lake with its ornamental fountains were good to view.
Penetrating deep into the heart of Fjord-land, the cruise took us to the little village of Flåm. We arrived there after a breathtaking voyage up the Sognefjord. En route, the mighty ramparts of the surrounding mountains rose dramatically on either side of us. I had opted for the 'Norway in a Nutshell' excursion tour. Boarding a coach in Flåm we drove through long tunnels and across country on roads that eventually led us to the town of Voss. Later on in the season, the same journey involves a steep road with many hairpin bends but that road was still closed for the winter, Near Voss, we stopped at the spectacular Tvindefossen waterfall. After a delicious smorgasbord lunch at a hotel in Voss, we boarded the main-line Bergen/Oslo train that took us to Myrdal. Thence on to the world-famous Flåm Railway to descend back to the village of Flåm. There were spectacular views from the train that at one stage corkscrewed down through a spiralling tunnel before emerging again on the side of a steep valley.
Bergen had much to offer. I hiked up Mount Floyen and then descended on the Funicular railway. I also explored the old timber buildings on the waterfront; and later took a 'hop on/hop off' bus tour of the city. Back aboard 'Discovery' I chatted with other passengers, hearing tales of their day's adventures. A five-course dinner, available at First or Second sitting to suit one's preference, was followed by a very enjoyable show – an ABBA themed extravaganza – the perfect end to a perfect day.