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Norwegian Fjords




How I envy you and Gitte! Yours is one of my very favorite itineraries. I don't know which excursion you've pre-booked, but I DEFINITELY URGE you to pre-book the ship's tour to North Cape out of Honningsvaag. It's about a 45-60 minute ride through tundra-like terrain. It probably will be quite windy and cold at North Cape (possibly rainy), so be prepared.

Have a wonderful cruise, and I'll be anxious to read your and Gitte's comments when you return.

Edited to add: if you intend to buy one of the beautiful Norwegian sweaters, I've found the prices in Bergen to be the best.

Post Edited (06-10-04 01:19)


The only trip we pre-booked was Vik to Flam. That sounded too good to pass up! I've written down everything you suggested, and will book everything else on the ship. Its so nice to have the knowledge of someone who's already been to the area. We're leaving Atlanta tomorrow for London. Will let you know how things went!! Thank you so much for all your information. I wish I had found this web-site many cruises ago!!! Thanks again.



If you're checking the board while away, hope you had a good flight to London...and, needless to say, BON VOYAGE!


We are sailing on the Jewel at the end of July visiting Le Harve, Plymouth, Cork, Belfast, Greenock, Bergen, Geiranger, Flam, Amsterdam.
Anyone been to any of these destinations?
Does the Ship dock near the City centres?
What are the alternatives to taking the official tours.

Also we want second sitting but are on the waiting list. Any ideas as to what will help us get a later dinner??

If anyone knows, you cruise addicts will.


Hi, We are just back from the Westerdam Norwegian Fjords and the North Cape.
Mary Ann, thanks again for your information. We got a great time, I just wish I got your captain of the Volendam, our captain was not so kind. :( We saw and hear him once with the drink. Poor PR.

We arranged a private tour to the North Cape and some fisher villages. The have only one Van in Honningsvag. I booked this Van before. We made a tour of 4 hours. We got no rain on the North Cape but is was cold, last week it was 22 Celc., very warm for Honningsvag.

For Flam we booked the train to Myrtall, it is better you booked by your own. In Geiranger we made a tour but we got snow.
For more information feel free to e-mail me.



Gitte - I just saw your note, and am so happy you had a good time. You were lucky that you had good weather at North Cape, but it does not surprise me that it was cold. ;)

Captain van der Zee of the Volendam is very special, as you have seen from our postings. I've met several others on HAL ships who were very pleasant, among them Captain Pieter van Maurik (his ship is the Statendam) and Captain Wilhelmus Eversen (his ship is the Rotterdam). Rotterdam will be doing many more cruises in Europe next year, so perhaps you will have an opportunity to sail on her and meet Capt. Eversen - he and Capt. van der Zee are close friends.

I eagerly await photos!



I've been to most of the cities, but haven't been to Amsterdam in years so I'll leave that to Gitte. ;)

Le Havre is the port for Paris, Rouen and the Normandie beaches. The ship does dock in the city - but Paris is a good 2.5 hours away by train, Rouen and the Normandie beaches are also a good distance away.

I've not been to Plymouth.

Cork - you do not dock in the city. The port will either be Cobh (pronounced Cove) or Ringaskiddy. Cork itself is a lovely city, and there are interesting towns nearby - Blarney Castle with its famous Blarney Stone, Kinsale where you'll find the graves of many of the Lusitania victims, Waterford up the coast...just to name a few.

Belfast - you'll dock in the city, near the shipyard that built the Titanic and some of her sisterships. If you're offered a tour to Giant's Causeway, I strongly recommend it. The sights are fascinating. It's pretty much an all-day tour. I'm not usually one for long tours, but this is well worth it.

Greenock - this is the port for Glasgow. It's at least a 30 minute drive into Glasgow. You'll probably have a number a choices for tours - Glasgow, Loch Lomond (BEAUTIFUL), Ayrshire which is Robert Burns country, Edinburgh on the opposite coast.

Bergen - one of the Hanseatic League cities of the Middle Ages. You'll dock in the city, and it's an easy walk into town. I've always just spent my time meandering around the city which is one of my favorites in Norway.

Geiranger - you'll anchor at the head of one of Norway's most beautiful fjords. The town is quite small, but the scenery is magnificent. Most of the photographs you'll see of ships in the Norwegian fjords are taken at Geiranger, the majority of them taken from atop the highest mountain in the area, Mount Dalsnibba. It's not unusual to find snow at its summit, even in summer.

Flam - another picturesque village, this one at the head of the beautiful Sognefjord. There's a nice dock that was built in recent years, and a number of new buildings clustered near the dock area.

Hope these tid-bits of information will give you something from which to work.

As for dining, if the waitlist hasn't cleared by the time you sail, your daily activities paper that will be in your cabin when you board should list where/when the Maitre d' will be available for dining arrangements. Try to go there as early as possible and speak with him about changing to second seating.

Bon Voyage!


Mary Ann,
Thanks for your reply to my request.
It is an area of the world that I know little about (UK excepted) but thanks to you and other contributors, the globe is made a smaller place and much more understandable.
The ships trips are very expensive but I am sure it will become clearer.


Mike - a little word of advice, if I may, based on years of experience. If the destination of the tour is a good distance from the ship, then take the ship's tour. They are responsible for getting you back to the ship. Should there be a breakdown, or traffic tie-up, or wildcat strike, etc. (which CAN happen) and you miss the ship on an independent tour, you are responsible for getting yourself to the next port - and that will be infinitely more costly than having taken the ship's tour.


Mary Ann,
Very sensible and I will bear this in mind.
Still a little unsure of where to visit when we go to the Fiords, everywhere sounds better than the previous idea.
When I was a kid my late Mum used to say I was a Maven of nothing.
Glad to be able to use your expertise.
Kind Regards



I hope I've given you a little food for thought.

Enjoy your cruise - you have a splendid itinerary, so please report back afterwards!


22 JULY – 03 AUGUST 2003

DAY 0 - 7/21/03
Air travel - I booked this cruise less than 2 months before embarkation day and purchased air from Princess because the price was a couple hundred dollars less per person than the price I could obtain myself (not counting consolidators). Princess booked us on a direct flight via Virgin Atlantic out of Newark to London’s Heathrow (LHR) airport. I did not like Virgin Atlantic for the following reasons: a) their weight restriction for carryon is limited to13 lbs./passenger and b) coach seats were very tight with little pitch clearance between seats. My 5’11†tall DH had his knees pressed against the seat in front of him the whole time. I can see, however, why children would like this airline. They give out little goodie bags with toothpaste/brush, eye masks, booties, and earplugs plus the safety announcement is a cartoon video and there’s a host of games and music that can be played on each person’s seatback video player. Tip – don’t forget to put your Princess tags on your luggage BEFORE you leave home. (No need to put them on your carry-on bags.) Tip – if you’ve never flown into LHR, there’s much to see from the air (castles, Thames, city, countryside) so request a window seat on the plane.

DAY 1 – 07/22/03
Immigration And Customs - Upon arriving at LHR (for the first time ever) there were no problems making our way to baggage claim and then on to immigration. I really didn’t even see anything that resembled “customs.†as I know it in the USA.

Transfers - Once reaching the area where the general public waits for incoming passengers it was not hard to spot the Princess representatives with their Princess scarves and all. (And they had no problem spotting us either as all of checked luggage was marked with Princess luggage tags.) The reps gathered up the incoming arrivals and took us to a “holding pen†where we sat for about half an hour before boarding a bus for the transfer to Southampton. We were on a very nice 49-passenger bus with an air conditioner that worked probably all to well. (We took our luggage to a box truck where it was on its way separately to the ship.)

Since the Brits drive on the opposite side of the road than us, we opted to sit on the left side of the bus with hopes for a glimpse of some of London. There really wasn’t a lot of the countryside to see on the drive to the ship but the driver (a Welsh chap) kept us all entertained by telling us about his “mum†and sharing other tidbits of information. The bus ride took about 1-1/2 hours from LHR to Southampton. (It’s estimated to take 2-1/2 hours from Gatwick airport to Southampton, so we were glad we flew into LHR instead.)

Embarkation - We arrived at Southampton by Princess’ bus about 11:30am. The check-in lines were very light and we were in the waiting room within 7 minutes with our id card in hand! We waited about 15 minutes to be allowed onboard. We were impressed how quick and easy the process was! (Platinum members were allowed to board immediately.)

Onboard Ship - We did the usual things upon boarding, checked out our cabin, checked out our dining room table assignment, and got a feel for the “lay of the land.†We participated in the compensatory muster drill (which is held in the muster assembly areas – public areas – rather than outside on the promenade). It was nice that everyone had a seat and wasn’t lined up like sardines shoulder-to-shoulder like other cruise lines made us. And it was nice that Princess has a system to account for all passengers that does not make us wait until each and every passenger’s name is called and accounted for before the drill is over.

Typically, we opt for late seating at dinner but this time we opted for the first seating (6pm) because I felt it would be best for adjusting our body clocks with the minimum amount of impact. (In hindsight I’m not sure that strategy made a difference for two hours or not! But we did appreciate not having to stay up for a late show or having to digest our food at 10pm at night!) On the other hand, we traveled past [magnificent?] scenery when we were at the tableâ€â€and our table was NOT at a window.

We shared dinner with a lovely couple from Calgary, BC and another lovely couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan. And, the group “clicked.†Our server and his assistant did their jobs amply well (although the assistant managed to spill a drop or two of wine on the tablecloth almost every night). The dining room staff worked hard to earn our complete satisfaction.

After dinner we checked out the night’s entertainment – a show called “Welcome Aboard Showtimeâ€Â. It was very good.

DAY 2 – 7/23/03
Day 2 was spent at sea all day, which provided excellent timing for us as it allowed us to relax at a leisurely pace and recover from any jetlag from crossing the “pond.†A local Norwegian provided the port lectures and provided commentary on our sailing into fjords; we found this to be very informative and enjoyable. In addition, there was a “destination lecturer†onboard, Lars Walker, an author who provided interesting facts about the Vikings, their kingdoms, and their conquests in England, Ireland, and Scotland. We found Walker’s lectures to be interesting.

There was a sushi buffet at lunch – located at the end of Horizon Court’s buffet line. Tip – check out the entire food line before making your selection; often times the best choices are at the end after you’ve already filled your plate! We enjoyed the afternoon tea and found the scones (and cream) to be yummy. Tonight featured the first of two formal nights, as well as the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party. Usual entertainment abounded, duets, a movie, and a show. Tonight’s feature was “The Century Sings†which was very well done.

DAY 3 – 7/24/03
Day 3 was also spent at sea all day as the ship made its way across the North Sea to the coast of Norway and on to the Norwegian Sea. Fortunately we were blessed with fair winds and smooth sailing so there were no heavy seas to contend with. Today’s lecture featured the first in a Life Enhancement series by personal consultant as well as a talk on Investments. What we found interesting to note about the Life Enhancement series is the personal consultant’s vocation was that he was a lawyer. We did not attend the investment series lectures. There was a wine tasting class in the dining room in the afternoon and we partook of that study which was quite enjoyable. Tip – the class is $5pp unless you purchase a bottle of wine during the class. If you’re a couple, you need to purchase two bottles – to be consumed at dinner sometime between that day and the last night of the cruise – in order for the $5pp charge to be waived. It does not count if you purchase a 2nd bottle at a later time. Tonight’s entertainment featured a comedy show, which was adequate as far as entertainment goes.

DAY 4 – 7/25/03
Norway forms approximately 50% of Europe’s Atlantic border and governs the largest sea-territory in Europe, supplying a majority of European fish supplies. To many Norway’s coast is considered the most beautiful voyage in the world. We first heard about the lure of Norway while cruising Alaska as folks told us, “if you think Alaska is beautiful, you need to cruise Norway!†And, on Day 4 we woke to cruising Geiranger fjord – they say it’s considered the most beautiful in all of Norway. The fjord begins at Alesund, the country’s largest fishing port. The fjord is narrow with high mountains on either side. Our first stop was Hellesylt where folks on excursions tendered ashore; then we moved on to Geiranger. Our port lecturer, the Norwegian, provided excellent commentary as we sailed past the Seven Sisters waterfalls and, across from it, the “suitor†waterfall and made our way through the fjord. Experiencing the sail out from Hellesylt, I started feeling better about not booking the all-day excursion from Hellesylt. Tip – we were told we’d start entering the fjord around 6am but even so we weren’t up early enough to see our initial entry into the fjord so set the alarm earlier than the designated time if you don’t want to miss any scenery.

In Geiranger, we tendered ashore for our excursion to Mt. Dalsnibba, which looms a mile above sea level. It was a short excursion via bus up the mountain to see the view. The ride was quite a climb and could be a little “exciting†for those with a fear of heights. On the climb we saw a glacier up close. Arriving at the top there was time to stretch our legs for a few photos. (Unfortunately it started to rain almost immediately upon disembarking the bus as the weather closed in on the mountaintop. Still in all, it was quite a panoramic photo opp.) On the return we stopped at a charming little place that served tea and cookies. (The obligatory gift shop was attached to the teahouse.) Once back in the town of Geiranger, we walked around. This town is extremely small and quite a tourist resort. I think there may have been 15 shops in all that’s how small it is. All of Norway is slightly larger than New Mexico (125K+ square miles) and has a population of ~4.5m people.

We found that, everywhere we went, the Norwegians spoke and understood English so getting around was never a problem for us. Their currency is the Norwegian Kroner (which could be purchased right aboard ship) but we found it just as convenient to use a credit card. (We bought a baseball cap in Geiranger for $13US.)

At dinner we shared our day’s events with our new-found friends. One other couple went on the all day excursion that departed Hellesylt. They enjoyed their day but felt it was very long. After hearing their comments about their excursion, I felt like I selected the right excursion for us today.

[Since I already mentioned the onboard events earlier, I won’t bother to discuss them again unless something of significance should be mentioned. Otherwise, consider it “more of the same.â€Â]

DAY 5 – 7/26/03
On Day 5 we cruised Edayfjorden and then Trondheimsfjorden on our way to Trondheim. Trondheim is known as the “Gateway to the North†and we were told that some of the best farmland in Norway was located in this area. As we sailed into this fjord it was amazing to see how and where the locals made their homes – they seemed perched on the sides of the mountain. We arrived in the port of Trondheim, Norway’s first capital, and took a Princess shuttle into town ($4pp each way). (It would have been two miles each way to walk into town center from the pier and we didn’t want to waste our day just getting there and back.) (Oslo is now the capital of Norway.)

Once in town we caught a local, public sightseeing bus ($22pp) for a two-hour tour of the city. (We made sure the tour guide spoke English before boarding. In actuality, she spoke 5 languages.) The tour was well worth $22 as we stopped at an old Stave Church* (circa 11th century), a fort, a view of the city, and passed many local sights which were narrated for us. (*This Stave church was unlike what we expected – it didn’t have a pointed tower or multiple roof gables or extravagant carvings but was very plain.) The word stave means “vertical post.†The tour guide informed us about St. Olav and the Nidaros Cathedral and how many visitors from England and the rest of Scandinavia make pilgrimage to the cathedral. We were told we couldn’t tour the inside of the 12th century cathedral because it was Saturday and there were weddings being conducted. (We saw two brides around the cathedral from our tour bus.) We also passed by Gamle Bybro, a small, arched bridge with old wharves and gabled warehouses on stilts along the waterfront. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a photo stop in this area.

Arriving back in town with time before the ship sailed, we stopped in a local apothecary, through a few shops, and then sauntered to the Internet Café ($3 for 15 minutes vs. the ship’s $7.50 for 15 minutes) to check our email. A 12 oz. bottle of orange soda cost us $3 at the café so we negated the savings! The most interesting thing to note about the café was that the keyboard’s configuration is different than in the U.S. and made it difficult to find certain keys like the @ symbol. I felt I made the right choice for us today (in being independent travelers with no organized shore excursions).

DAY 6 – 7/27/03
Day 6 was spent at sea all day, cruising Frahavet channel and crossing the Arctic Circle into the Arctic Sea! We finally arrived at the Land of the Midnight Sun and experienced first hand what it was like with no sunset! (The reason we could see the sun at nighttime was due to the axis of the earth slanting in relation to the earth’s course around the sun.) At the North Cape, the sun is above the horizon for 77 days and nights - from mid-May to the end of July.

We missed the Polar Bear initiation ceremony midday as we were kept late in our life enhancement lecture. We did stay up past midnight and took photos of the sun with a ship’s clock at 12:15 a.m. Tip – go to the pool deck and look for the clock on the aft section of the ship that will allow you to take a photo of both the ship’s clock AND the sun at the same time. (I searched all over for this combination.)

DAY 7 – 7/28/03
Day 7 we arrived at Honningsvag, one of Norway’s largest fishing harbors, and made our way to North Cape. Situated at 71°10’21â€Â, North Cape is considered the top or “roof†of Europe and the only thing that lies beyond it is the North Pole! We learned that the North Cape saw action in World War II when U-boats and surface raiders attacked the Arctic convoys to Russia.

(I overheard our port lecturer mention that the QE2’s sailing in June was not able to get in to the North Cape due to fog.) This area gets about 200 days of snow and frost so the tourism season is short, short, short! We were blessed with clear and WARM weather for our excursion. (If you go, you should hope for the best but expect fog and rain.)

On the way to North Cape, our tour bus passed through the tundra with wild reindeer scattered about. Our escort told us the white ones were “good luck.†And indeed we did have good luck, as the weather was good all day. The last nomadic tribe, the “Sammi†who dress in colorful costumes, live in this area. We made a quick stop at a Sammi’s house. There was a small gift shop there and a Sammi and his reindeer posed for photos in front of a teepee (in exchange for a tip). Sammi children were dressed in costume as well.

Once there, we visited the North Cape Hall, which seemed unusual for such a remote locale. We watched a video presentation on the cape, visited the gift shop, picked up a certificate at the post office and had it stamped to commemorate our visit, and then made our way to the farthest walking point outdoors to witness the spectacular view of the Arctic Sea. Tip – many passengers had pre-written postcards ready to postmark from North Cape. Postcards are also available in North Cape Hall’s gift shop but it would be a shame to spend time addressing postcards when you could enjoy the view at the top of the world!

Truly, nature itself is the most fascinating attraction here! The ship’s photographers were even on hand to snap photos at the Cape. (I only wish I didn’t insist on climbing onto the concrete pier that held the world but remained at ground level as I felt these photos were much nicer.)

Returning back to Honningsvag, there was time to walk the small town. (We were amazed to see a Harley dealership sign in one window.) Sammi folk were even in town selling their reindeer hides and antlers to any tourists willing to buy. I decided to exchange some money at the local bank here. It seemed to take a very long time compared to how quickly I could’ve converted money at the purser’s office so I don’t recommend you go to a local bank unless you want “the experience.†Taking a shore excursion to North Cape was the only choice to make as far as I was concerned and I was very pleased with my choice for today.

We passed through the channel between Mageroy and Mageroy South Islands and then south of Hjelmsay Island, which is a noted seabird sanctuary. Most of this scenery was viewed from a distance while eating dinner in the dining room; however, I did spot some puffins (birds) in the water, which I considered a treat. Then we set sail through the inner fjords and channels overnight to make our way to Tromso the next morning.

DAY 8 – 7/29/03
Day 8 we arrived to the island of Tromso, called the “Gateway to the Arctic†and even “Paris of the North.†It is the largest Norwegian town north of the Arctic Circle and the starting point of many seal and walrus hunters’ expeditions. There is a University here (13,000 students), noted as the northernmost university in the world. We were told that January 21 is a holiday every year in Tromso because it marks the first natural light in two months! Since it was a 2 mile walk into town, we took the Princess bus again ($4pp each way) and then shared a taxi with another couple for a trip to ride the cable car up the mountain for a view of the city below. The taxi cost about $15/couple roundtrip and the cable car cost $19pp. They accepted credit cards at the cable car. The views from on top of the mountain were spectacular. We saw our ship in the distance, 3 ski jumps, the entire city, and the forest-covered landscape in general. On the return from the cable car excursion, we stopped in front of the breathtaking Arctic Cathedral for a photo opp. then arrived back in town. The cathedral is quite dramatic in looks as it resembles an iceberg and has one wall made completely out of stained glass. We took a short, 15-minute walk around town and noted that lunch in a Chinese restaurant cost $16pp. We were disappointed there wasn’t enough time to visit the Polar Museum, which was said to be very interesting, but were pleased with our choice of independent sightseeing today.

Today they offered a “bag it†day for laundry. For $15/bag you could get clean laundry (not dry cleaning). Tip – I found that by rolling my clothing I could stuff more in their small laundry bag and felt I really got my money’s worth.

By 2pm, the Royal Princess left Tromso and headed toward the Kvalsundet Channel and then northwest to the open sea. We spent most of our time up on the deck’s bow watching Tromso’s magnificent scenery pass us by. At one point we thought the captain was lost, as it appeared the ship was going around in circles. (Later we learned that a passenger was evacuated and the ship was waiting for the crew to return.)

DAY 9 – 7/30/03
Day 9 was another sea day and our second formal night. The sea currents in the area we transversed this day are known as “Maelstrom†and have a reputation of being very strong due to the steep rise and irregularity of the seabed between the islands, but we didn’t feel any unusual movement on the ever-stable Royal Princess.

The evening was topped off by the building of a champagne waterfall along with a crepes suzette party at midnight in the Plaza Lobby.

DAY 10 – 7/31/03
On Day 10 we arrived in the charming little station-village of Flaam, which is at the head of Aurlandsfjord. As the ship navigated the fjord, we saw farmlands dotting the hillside. The village itself is very small and quaint. Once docked, we chose the electric railway excursion from Flaam to Vik (pronounced veek). Keeping to our budget, I selecting the railway excursion as one of only two primary excursions and hoped it would meet my expectations for the price paid. It did so and more. The twelve- mile train ride on the Flaamsbana was quite a thrilling experience. The train weaved through about 20 short tunnels and crosses the river and valley floor three times as it winds its way up and through the mountain, providing panoramic views of the Flaam valley that are almost indescribable. My DH and I both commented how we’d love to come back and rent a car just to meander the back roads of this gorgeous country. By and far, this was the highlight of our trip to Norway and our photographs bear witness to that fact. Tip – although the scenery was spectacular on both sides of the train, I was pleased that we chose seats looking forward on the starboard side of the train. Although this excursion wasn’t supposed to depart before 9:30 a.m., when we arrived in the show lounge at 9:15 a.m., we were given “tour 4†tickets so I recommend you arrive early to get off the ship first so as to secure seats looking forward on the first train. (All seats appeared to face forward on the second leg of the journey.)

We passed many magnificent waterfalls and the train even stopped at an extra wide, gushing waterfall where a presentation of a folklore was provided. (Unfortunately, we didn’t realize there was going to be a little performance so we headed back to the train immediately after snapping a couple of photos so we missed the brief performance.) We changed trains and made our way to our lunch destination in Voss. Departing the second train, we walked (downhill) less than two blocks to our restaurant. Waiting for us was a Norwegian smorgasbord extravaganza featuring salmon cooked every way possible. The spread was fabulous with more seafood than you can imagine. There was also an entire buffet top full of desserts – many flans’ and mousse plus fresh berries of different varieties. The meal came complete with a free soft drink or beer. We inquired as to the price of this luncheon buffet and learned that if we had to pay for it out of our own pocket it would cost $53pp! (Welcome to the high cost of living in Norway.)

After lunch we had plenty of time to stroll around the cute town of Voss. We walked to the church and down the main street and stopped in a local shop to buy a handmade cardigan as a gift. Norwegian sweaters are considered a specialty in Norway so I compared prices at various ports, thinking Bergen would be my best bet for buying a sweater. However, the prices in Voss were very good and I was concerned if I waited until arriving in Bergen I wouldn’t be able to buy an extra small women’s sweater at a reasonable price so I purchased one here for ~$98. (Pullovers were cheaper yet.) The shop clerk was very friendly and was curious as to why we thought Americans weren’t traveling to Norway this summer. (A fellow passenger purchased 4 postcards and 4 stamps in Voss for $8.)

From Voss we were transported by bus to Vik. Along the way we stopped at a goat cheese farm where we could purchase cheese if we wished (we didn’t), and take photos of grass growing on the roof of an outbuilding. (We learned that, apparently, many homes are insulated with sod on the roof. And, to keep the grass mowed, they just put a goat up there occasionally!) We stopped again on the outskirts of Vik for a photo opp of the ship hovering in the Sognesfjord – the longest and deepest fjord in Norway with 130 miles to the open sea. (This fjord also boasts the country’s highest mountain range and largest glacier.) On our travels back to Vik, we stopped at the large and elaborate Hopperstad Stave Church – built about the 12th century and one of only five surviving churches in the Sognesfjord area. Stave churches are built out of vertical wooden timbers. This church was very picturesque with its multiple, steeped gables silhouetting on the hillside. (A model of this church exists in Moorhead, Minnesota.) The tour guide told us that the men sat on one side and the women sat on another while the sick had a private entrance separated from the rest of the congregation. There was very little light inside the church and there was a tar or “pitch†on the timbers outside to protect it from fire.

We finally arrived in the port of Vik and tendered back to the ship. As I mentioned previously, this excursion was the highlight of the trip for us as well as many other passengers. (No tours went ashore at Vik but passengers who did not elect to take the railway excursion were treated to navigating the Sognesfjord from Flaam to Vik which was said to be very exciting itself with its narrow width amongst mountains spanning 6000 feet in elevation and waterfalls cascading down the sides.)

Once again we took to the bow of the ship to take in the awesome scenery as we sailed from Vik at 1:30 p.m. local time.

DAY 11 – 8/01/03
On Day 11 we arrived in cosmopolitan Bergen, known as the “Fjord capital†of Norway. Situated in a harbor with mountains to one side and the sea to the other, Bergen is considered the country’s second largest city and its cultural capital. It retains its 18th century charm yet boasts its status as a modern North Sea oil port. During medieval times, Bergen’s merchants traded in fish and other commodities from the old harbor known as the Vagen. (Much of that history is retained in Bryggen, which was a 15-minute walk from the pier.) Bergen still exports dried cod to countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Today we decided to be independent travelers again and were glad we made that choice as it was raining outside and we didn’t feel particularly compelled to push ourselves to meet an organized tour. We ate a leisurely breakfast on board then stopped at the Visitors center located at the end of the pier to help us decide on an appropriate itinerary for a rainy day. We purchased tickets for the Bergen Express at the Visitors center and then took a local bus into the center of the city ($1pp each way). (We seriously considered taking the Bergen funicular to the top of Mt. Floyen but the weather wasn’t cooperative so we decided not to take that option.) From center city, we used our umbrellas (for the first time on the trip) and walked about a block to the local fish market. The fish market was quite unique with ugly looking monkfish in full skin, various kinds of caviar, and more fish than I’ve seen in any one place at any one time. And, although we don’t believe in killing whale for its meat, we did sample a small piece – and realized why folks must buy it to eat! (What a shame.)

After a stroll through the fish market we boarded the tram train located nearby for a one-hour excursion through the city. The tram took us in a wide loop, first passing the fish market and then down city streets and up the side of Mt. Floyen for a fabulous view of the city center and the harbor. We saw fountains and stopped at Fjellhytten - a funicular stop for a few minutes - before returning to Bryggen’s warehouse area. Along the way we pass by Mariakirken, King Haakons Hall, and the Rosenkrantz Tower. Many of the two and three-story wooden buildings in the Bryggen quarter have been transformed into shops, cafes, and restaurants. We shopped in a few stores, still pricing sweaters (which ranged in price from about $100 to more than $200 for the well-known, top-of-the-line “Dale of Norway†brand) before walking back to the ship. (Folks that took the excursion to the famous composer’s home outside of Bergen did not have much opportunity to see Bergen itself, which has so much to offer its visitors.)

Given the weather this day and our choices, we felt we made an excellent choice being independent travelers in Bergen.

The sail out of Bergen was spectacular! We passed under two bridges – the second with only five feet of clearance from the bottom of the bridge to the top of the Royal Princess! Along the way were little islands dotted with houses along the shoreline and sailboats in the harbor, which proved very picturesque. We transversed Korsfjorden then headed south through the North Sea.

DAY 12 – 8/02/03
Day 12 was a sea day, which was a good excuse for packing early. We strolled the promenade a few times, passing by many oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. We were surprised to learn that the sea has a depth of less than 90 feet in this area.

DAY 13 – 8/03/03
Day 13 meant the end of a fabulous, relaxing yet breathtaking voyage to the end of the world! We stepped out of our cabin at 6am (which equated to midnight in New Jersey) and were off the ship by 8am local time. We looked for our luggage, which hadn’t yet been transported to the staging area. We waited about 10 minutes at most for our luggage and proceeded to our bus after seeing no evidence of customs. The ride to Heathrow took about 1-1/2 hours; we spotted a fox in a field but, other than that, it was pretty uneventful and anticlimactic. Once we arrived at Heathrow, pandemonium ensued. The lines for Virgin Atlantic snaked around the building like nothing I had seen before (except at rock concerts). It took us about 1-1/2 hours to check in at Virgin Atlantic. We were glad we had plenty of time to check in because we felt we needed it in the midst of this chaos! After checking our bags, the sea of humanity continued to overload our senses as we sat waiting hours and hours for our flight. The flight was finally called – an hour later than expected – and we finally boarded for our trip back to New Jersey. Upon arrival in the U. S. we waited for our bags and then went through customs (nothing to declare). Unfortunately, our luggage was the very last suitcases off the conveyor belt so it was some time before we got out of the arrival hall and through customs. We arrived home at 10pm that evening – 22 hours after leaving shutting our cabin door for the last time. The travel home was a real drag but the vacation was priceless in creating memories that will be with us for a lifetime!


Hi Mary Ann,

For the North Cape, why do you recommend booking through the cruise line instead of independently? Is it only because of the fact that you won't have to worry about missing the ship if the excursion runs late or are there other reasons?

I was thinking about attempting to book the North Cape independently because the Princess excursion is a little over 3 hours total, which I think will only allow about 1 1/2 hours at the North Cape. I was thinking an independent trip would allow more time there. Is 1 1/2 hours enough time?

I've done a lot of Google searching yet haven't found any online info about independent North Cape excursions.


Post Edited (07-10-04 18:22)


Hello, Kyle,

North Cape is a rocky promontory - more often than not, it's blustery, cold and could be rainy/misty. Unless they've built something new in the past 4-5 years, there's a visitor center, an IMAX-type theatre (film takes 30 minutes at most) and some sculptures - the sculptures can easily be looked at in 15 minutes. 1-1/2 to 2 hours is adequate at the Cape to see everything without being rushed.

Honningsvaag is a small village - you're not going to find many excursion options there. The terrain between Honningsvaag and North Cape is tundra-like - remember that you're well into the Arctic Circle. If reindeer are grazing within view, the motorcoach will normally stop for a photo op.

IMHO, you'll really gain little by trying to do it on your own because you'll still run into your shipmates at the Cape, the motorcoaches will be there, you won't be avoiding any fellow tourists.

And, yes, most importantly, you're assured of getting back to the ship before she sails.


We booked a taxi for 3 1/2 hours to visit the North Cape and two small fishing villages.
It was great and much better than the tranfert from the ship.
There are only two taxi in Honningsvag!!!!!!!!!
Our ship stay the whole day in Honningsvag, we got time enough to it on our own.
Friends of us hired a car for the day.

You can make an contact the tourist info of Honningvag for more information:

More links:




Post Edited (07-12-04 18:49)


Mary Ann,

We booked the taxi (mini-van for 6/7persons) in advance. I called the company (and the tourist office) and they made a reservation for me.