One of the best ways to experience the majestic fjords of Norway is to do so from a boat inside the fjords themselves, so a 7 day cruise of the major Norwegian fjords seemed like a good idea …. and it was!
Day 1 – Tilbury Docks, London
We departed from Tilbury Docks, London on Cruise & Maritime’s Bahamian flagged Marco Polo, a classic ocean liner and fully stabilised (always a good thing when crossing the North Sea).
The ship had 8 passenger decks for 800 guests, three main lobbies, four lifts, restaurants, bars and an entertainment theatre. There was also a small swimming pool out on the deck, luckily it was empty and covered, so not tempting us to take a dip in the rather cool weather. Also a set of hot tubs were on the top deck but again at this time of year and the location we were cruising did not attract any customers.
Soon we were heading down the Thames estuary past the towers of the Tilbury power station which for some reason conjured up distant reminiscences of that familiar Pink Floyd album cover of the Battersea power plant.
Day 2- At Sea
We had two nights and one full day to cross the North Sea which put on a little bit of a show for us with gale force winds and high seas resulting in most of us staggering around the ship trying to keep ourselves balanced (what was that I mentioned about the ship being fully stabilised!) and a rather low turnout on the 2nd night at dinner.
Day 3 – Hardangerfjord, Ulvik and Eidfjord
However on day 3 of the cruise we entered the first major fjord in Norway, the Hardangerfjord which stretches some 179km and has a depth of up to 822m. Along the shores of this well know fjord are large fruit orchards (mainly apples and cherries) and is one of the most fertile fruit growing regions in Norway.
After passing under the magnificent Hardangerfjord bridge we stopped briefly at Ulvik to drop off some passengers who were doing an overland excursion then cruised back down the fjord to Eidfjord.
Eidfjord is a small quiet village which sits between the fjord and an inland lake. Eidfjord has been settled since prehistoric times and the village prospered due to its position at the end of one of the main routes over the Hardangervidda. There is a large Viking burial area which is still being excavated demonstrating the long history of this area.
Here we disembarked for an overland excursion to the Hardangervidda Nature Centre and the Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau. At the Hardangervidda Nature Centre we experienced a wonderful video presentation about the region and walked around the small exhibitions highlighting the wildlife in the region.
The national park of Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau is 750m above sea level and was covered in snow when we got up there making it a wonderful sight and a chance to play in the snow. The region is home to much wildlife and vegetation which are all protected and apparently if you are lucky you may be able to see herds of reindeer. There are many holiday homes dotted around the countryside and people come here to enjoy the outdoor life and clean mountain air. I noted also there was a golf course but at this time of year it was totally snow bound.
On the way back down from the plateau we stopped at the well known Fossli Hotel where we could view the Vøringfoss Waterfall which is one of the most spectacular falls in Norway. The 163m falls drop into the Måbødalen below but at this time there was very little water as the thaw had only just started.
We departed that evening and cruised out of Hardangerfjord , past Bergen and up to Sognefjord where we would arrive at Flåm
Day 4 – Flåm
We sailed in to Flåm early in the morning with some tremendous views as we approached up the Aurlandsfjord which is an arm of the Sognefjord. Sognefjord is known as the “King of Fjords” and is the largest Norwegian fjord.
Flåm literally means “little place between the steep mountains” and again it is a small town with numerous Viking stone monuments showing it is an old settlement. From the town you can take some short walks up the first hillside and get wonderful views looking back down the fjord.
The highlight of the visit to Flåm was to take an excursion on the famous Flåm Railway which was opened in 1940 after four years in construction. The 20km journey from Flåm station up to Myrdal at an altitude of 867m takes around 40 minutes with some extreme gradients and tunnels.
Close to Myrdal we stopped briefly for a view of the magnificent Kjosfossen Waterfall. The hydro-electric power station here generates the electricity that powers the railway.
We departed late afternoon from Flåm and headed back through Sognefjord offering some beautiful evening views.
Day 5 – Geiranger
As we sailed up the Storfjord and the Geirangerfjord towards Geiranger it was a wet and rainy morning but even under these different conditions the beauty of the fjord and the waterfalls shone through.
Geiranger is a beautiful small village sitting right at the top of the fjord with some shops and restaurants and the beautiful Geiranger Church sitting above the town.
From the Flydalsjuvet Gorge above Geiranger offered a panoramic view of the Geirangerfjord with the village lying below and the Marco Polo at berth.
Driving from Geiranger towards Eidsal takes you up Eagles Road which is the steepest stretch of the road with 11 hairpin bends up the mountainside but again gives some tremendous panoramic views of the fjord below.
By the afternoon the weather was improved and in the evening as we sailed out on our way towards Bergen we had some beautiful evening skies to enjoy.
Day 6 – Bergen
Sailing in towards Bergen we had some great views of small houses, fishing boats and some stacked drilling rigs. Bergen is now Norway’s second largest city with a population of 250,000.
The day we arrived into Bergen was the day of the Bergen City Marathon which meant that there were large crowds of spectators as well as participants in the city centre.
However this did not prevent us from seeing the sights and the first port of call was to take the Mount Fløyen Funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for some spectacular views of Bergen and the surrounding area.
It was great to explore the small streets and see the colourful houses and interesting churches and buildings.
Later in the morning we could still see some of the Marathon runners making their way around the harbour to the finishing line.
The Bryggen wharf area is the heart of the old medieval Bergen and the colourful buildings are listed by UNESCO as one of the world’s most significant examples of a medieval settlement.
It was time to depart Bergen and make our way back over the North Sea (thankfully calmer for the return) to Tilbury Docks, London to conclude a wonderful cruise to the majestic fjords of Norway. It was a fond farewell to the Marco Polo and all the wonderful friends we met on this trip.
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
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