Sunday 31 December 2023

Cruise day 10

Good morning, everyone.
It's ten past eight a.m. and I'm just back in my cabin after a reasonably brisk mile round the outer deck with Diane.  It seems we were ahead of the health and safety gang because when we opened the door to get back in, there was tape across saying 'deck closed'.  Not when we went out, it wasn't, but, to be fair, the winds only picked up as we did the last bit.  Feeling a bit naughty, we just ducked under the tape and hoped no one saw us!  
That explained why none of the usual first-smoke-of-the-day brigade made an appearance.

Something I forgot to mention in yesterday's offering that went live this morning - I got an email from the Broomfield coach group saying that the trip to see the two showings of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had enough people and was definitely going ahead (the trip to the Wizarding World was cancelled doe to lack of interest, if you remember) so please would I cough up £££.  Thanks to the wonders of internet banking, it's now all paid and I have something to look forward to.
(I have loads to look forward to, don't get me wrong, but this is a special)

The really good news is that the Northern Lights did come out to play yesterday late evening.  They weren't really dramatic while I was watching, but they were definitely there so I can, in all honesty, say that I have seen the Northern Lights.  The bad news is that my camera wasn't playing ball so I didn't get any shareable photos.  Diane got a few of the early lights - just a green glow, basically - and I hope she can send me a couple.  If so, and with permission, I will share them.  
By midnight, nothing dramatic was happening apart from my fingers, nose and toes beginning to feel as if they were dropping off so I gave up and went to bed.  I daresay we will hear this morning if we missed the show of the decade or not.

Today is a cruising day.  We're having a late breakfast and before then I want to sort out my clothes and get all the laundry away in one of my cases.  It will save a bit of bother next week, for sure.
Also I need a coffee so I'm going to stop waffling now.  Back later.  Have a good day.

All dressed up and ready for pre dinner drinks.  Here's a few photos from yesterday taken by Steven, our group manager.  They're better than mine (I'm the one in the plum coloured coat).

Earlier in the afternoon, I went to a concert given by Fiona Jessica Wilson (do follow the link for information) and it was sheer unadulterated pleasure for a good three quarters of an hour.  She sang Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Bizet and Lloyd Webber, among others and I could easily have listened for much longer.  

7:41 (the next day)
Didn't finish this because we were so late to bed.  The evening entertainment was Andrew Robley again.  Just as funny, melodic, sing along and all round entertaining as the last one.  Ten we had a good old chat over a drink, hence the really late night.

I will have some Northern Lights photos - Diane took a few and Steve also had some good ones.
This one is the only one my camera got before going on strike,  You can just see the very beginnings but it is so poor.

Today, New Year's Eve, is our last excursion.  We dock at Alesund at around 11:30, we go out on a coach tour in the afternoon and then it will be a mad rush to be ready for the posh, dress up dinner and evening variety show that will see in the New Year.  And there will be fireworks!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Have a great day.  xx

Saturday 30 December 2023

Cruise day 9

 Good morning!  I have woken early after a great night's sleep and am glad I have because it's early breakfast before we start off on our morning exploring Tromso.  As I type, the ship is sailing gently towards Tromso where she is docking for the day and should arrive very soon.  I'm dressed and ready for my mile around the deck but I will wait until about 7:30 (it's just turned seven as I typed that last sentence).

Thank you again for all your comments.  When I get home and can read them fully, I will do a sort of Q&A post to respond.  In the meanwhile, be assured I am reading and enjoying them, thank you.

We've just docked and it was a smooth as silk.  How they can manoeuvre such a large object so accurately and with so little fuss and bother is amazing.  I'm just back in the cabin and through my window are the Clarion hotel, A Radisson Blu hotel and . . . a Troll Museum.  Aaaawww - but I don't know if we will have time to visit it.
There's also four coaches arriving with more to come, ready to take us lucky people out for whatever we are booked for today.  Spoilt to death, that's what we are.

17:30 and beyond
It was a wonderful morning.  After an early breakfast, we set off in a coach through Tromso to the Polaria Arctic Experience Centre.  Here's a link to information and then a few photos.

These are rescue creatures that cannot be released into the wild so they are cared for at the centre.  We also saw a film about the Arctic and an exhibition of its importance.

After that, we crossed the Tromso bridge (or did we do that first - I forget) and had a cable car ride to enjoy some absolutely amazing views across Tromso to the mountains the other side.

It was awesome - and bitterly cold so high up - and we were so lucky with the ;light.  Yes, it is officially darkness but you know how light it can get when the sun is just below the horizon.  Looking at those photos, you would never think that it was officially dark.

Then we stopped off at the modern Arctic Cathedral.

When I get onto the One Traveller Facebook page, I can show some photos of all of us,  We 'posed' beside that Christmas tree.

Finally, a few people were dropped off in town ands the rest of us went back to the ship for a late lunch and an afternoon of energetic fun and frolics!!! 
I lie, of course - I fell asleep over my Kindle.

My camera was charging so no photos of food again but it was most delicious - dinner, I mean, not the camera!

Tomorrow is a cruise day as we head towards Alesund - we're travelling south again now and out of the Arctic circle.  And, guess what, as we are going south, we have a sunrise and sunset again - just before eleven and just after half past one (the newsletter wasn't wrong before, I was just being thick)

Have a lovely day.  xx

Friday 29 December 2023

Cruise day 8

Morning!   It's not far off quarter to nine a.m. here and I'm just back in my cabin waiting for Diane after doing my first mile around the deck.  I've been very lazy this last week and have missed the exercise.  It was great, walking briskly round four laps - one isn't allowed to jog or power walk, it seems.  It's cold but not that bad being so close to the inner decks with warmer air blasting out occasionally, and now I feel great!
And hungry . . .

Regarding the jacuzzi, the main issue is that the air temperature is around -14C, just a tad colder than Center Parcs.  ❄❅❆☃

It's been a lazy morning doing not very much at all.  We've just had lunch . . .

I'm tending to go for the buffet lunch.  I pile on lovely fresh salad and then add some lean(ish) protein - swordfish and gammon today and I also added a few chips today which were lovely.

We're just having some cabin time before leaving on the excursion.

We're not long back from Sorrisniva and the Ice Hotel.  Here's some info:

It was a pleasant drive but too dark to see much.  We nearly hit a moose, mind you, only avoided by some clever driving/skidding - we all gave the coach driver a clap and cheer!  

When we got there, we split into two groups.  Our group did the igloo-that-is-also-a-hotel first and then the ice sculpture.
I think the photos speak for themselves!

Some sculptures were snow sculptures rather than ice sculptures.  They didn't photograph well but you get the idea.

Recognise the fairy tale?
A clue:
'Trip, trap, trip trap,
Over the rickety bridge.'

It really is a hotel - rooms and suites at exorbitant cost - and heated bathrooms/loos!
Very well insulated sleeping bags also provided.
We called this one 'Troll on the loo'
. . . and talking of loos - we loved this sign which I HAVE to show despite the poor quality!  This was in the visitors' centre.
Ice sculpture came next and we were all totally useless.
It was a lot of fun though!

All in all, an amazing trip, exceeding all our expectations.  And to think all this wondrous art melts in spring and they rebuild and re-sculpt the whole thing anew each year with a different theme.
Gifted artists now come from all over the world to contribute.
I really want to come back again some time in the future.
Come on, Premium Bonds - get your act together

Then it was time to get back to the ship for embarkment (is that the right word?) for Tromso, the 'gateway to the Arctic'.

No sign of the Northern Lights yet.


Dinner: starter was seared steak tartare which always makes me think of Mr Bean - do you remember?
It was really nice though.
Main was chicken and mushroom gnocchi plus some green veg (green beans and broccoli).  It was OK, more mushroom than chicken and a bit 'solid' - but I ate the lot!
Dessert was a sort of banoffee sundae.  Really nice. 

And then tiredness hit big time - to a lot of us, not just me.  It wasn't just the < cough > glasses of wine, honest!

I don't know about the others but Diane and I retired to our cabins straight after dinner.  I'm just getting this ready for posting tomorrow morning and then I am off to bed.

Tomorrow we dock in Tromso and view the Arctic highlights.  
We visit the Arctic experience centre, cross the Tromso bridge, visit the modern Arctic Cathedral and finally take a cable car ride.  Really looking forward to all that.

But for now we are  cruising away from Alta with a reassuring thrum of engines and a gentle rocking in the waves.   Goodbye, Alta.  I hope I see you again sometime.

I am just loving this adventure . . .

Thursday 28 December 2023

Cruise day 7

Morning (just).  It is 12:19 here, 11:19 for you in the UK.  We docked at Alta this morning - the noise disturbed me not one fraction and I had the best night's sleep in a long while, waking up at 8:30.  It was a mad rush to be ready for breakfast at nine.

Here's a bit of info about Alta.,_Norway

After breakfast I went to a cookery demo of Norwegian haddock and cod fish cakes with tartare sauce and julienne stir fry veg.  I'm going to try it at home, it was delicious.

According to the newsletter it is another sundown all day and it is around  -14C.  However, there's no wind so it doesn't feel that cold, especially with the Arctic glad rags on.  I went for a walk around the deck (4 laps = one mile, I gather) and it was lovely.  I took some photos, of course.

A few panoramic shots of Alta Bay/harbour.

I had to watch my footing a bit but the outer deck was mostly clear.  The ice was absolutely solid - no softie slush on the Balmoral!

A couple of brave souls were using the pool and the jacuzzi.  I love swimming but I don't think I have that much courage.
Would you?

It's now exactly 12:30 and my back pack is ready for this afternoon's adventure, husky sledding.  I'm as warm as toast with all my layers on but outside is a different kettle of fish and today will be a good test of how effective my cold weather clothing is.

More later including, hopefully, some husky photos.

This afternoon we went husky sledding.  I think this is where we went.

What can I say?  It was one of the best things I have ever experienced.  The coach ride through Alta and up into the mountains while a lovely guide, Leonora, told us about Alta and the surrounding area.  Then we arrived, had a talk in a sami dwelling (I think) before pairing up for our sled ride.
Not everyone did it and comfortable it was NOT.  Never have I been more grateful to Lindsey for helping me to work so much on my core and upper leg strength over these last few years.  Twenty minutes of bumping along snowy paths, pulled by a team of absolutely gorgeous husky dogs, so willing and so friendly, in moonlight.  It was just . . . stunning.  Words can't explain, sorry.

A view from the coach - that's where the sun would be, were it to actually rise.  Leonora explained that November, December and January have no sunrise (the news  letter of a few days ago was wrong) and May-ish, June and July have no sunset.  See that snow.  Real, proper snow, the kind that is powdery and not dangerously slippery.

Where we had the talk (that is Diane on the right).  The lady told us of the husky racing and about the dogs they so obviously love to bits.

A husky team - but not the team that pulled me and another One Traveller lady though.
It was simply an amazing experience   A bit cold, especially around the toes, but, given it was around -14C, the cold weather gear did a very good job.  The moonlit frozen scenery was heartachingly beautiful.

I'd do it again tomorrow without any hesitation.

Once home, we had time to warm up before drinks and dinner.   No photos of food today, sorry.  I was charging the camera again.  And we were all pretty tired after the exercise and the fresh air.  More than one pair of eyelids closed during dinner and I retired to my cabin at around nine.  I'm going to sleep well!

Tomorrow (today when you read this), we depart from Alta in the evening, heading to Tromso.  Before then is an excursion to Sorrisniva, a stunning (says the bumph) Arctic wilderness with the spectacular Igloo Hotel, built each year by local ice sculptors and artists since 1999.  There will also be an opportunity to try ice sculpting (and, probably, provide the ice for the evening drinks!!!).
The newsletter says it will be cloudy with a gentle breeze and a temperature of -12C - so warmer than today - not that anyone will notice, I am sure.

And we're pretty much half way through this adventure. 

Thanks for your comments.  I will go back and reply when I can but right now I just can't.  

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Cruise day 6

(aka Boxing Day)
Again, thank you for your comments.  I can only see the first part using the side link but it's a taster and I will do some proper replies when I'm home, I promise.

15:30 Norwegian time.
I may be on a posh liner, somewhere off the north-ish coast of Norway, in a night that has lasted all day but it's Boxing Day, day of chilling, eating leftovers and snoozing on and off.  Or going for a walk in the blizzard . . .

No, I didn't.  I did manage to get one of the heavy doors leading to the outer deck open a bit and promptly shut it again - very, very quickly.  Oh, my goodness, it is so cold out there.  Also, the deck is mega-slippery and, as mentioned already, it's a bit blizzardy from time to time.

This is the only photo I've managed to get so far, taken around midday through the restaurant window and it is absolutely terrible.  A shame because the actual view was really lovely, all Scandi and festive with snow falling and a lovely lunch waiting to be enjoyed.

It is now pretty choppy again.

So what HAVE I done today - well, not an awful lot.  We went to the Captain's talk about the weather where he said yes, it's cold and will get colder, there's a fair bit of snow around, it was right not to try to get to Narvik, it is likely to get windier and the waves are going to be pretty big - probably.  Oh, and it will be snowing and he can't guarantee tomorrow's expeditions either.

You have to be philosophical.  We're living a life of luxury, we're warm, looked after, entertained, plied with tea/coffee/hot chocolate/alcohol at regular intervals, given sumptuous meals - and the sheets have been changed again!  No complaints from me, that's for sure.

We joined some others from the One Traveller group for a chat before lunch followed by a really good talk about towel origami from the housekeeping staff.  They made it look easy - believe me, it isn't!

After reading and knitting in the lounge for a while, now I'm in my cabin, I've had a snooze, there are snowflakes flying close past the window (can't see any further as it is pitch dark outside) and I need to think about getting changed for pre-dinner drinks before we go for dinner (casual dress tonight) and then the crew is putting on a pantomime which everyone is looking forward to immensely.  
Very Boxing Day, isn't it?  

There will be a few photos of dinner and so on but as far as the picturesque scenery is concerned - nope, sorry! 

I'm back in my cabin after a fantastic evening.
First, dinner:

Starter was the house salad with thousand island dressing.  I am working my way through the dressings and a small but perfect salad starts the meal off beautifully.
er . . . ooops, sorry.  Yup, I forgot until it was too late.  Mains was a cheesy leek crumble with an apple and red cabbage side and some 'fresh' potato crisps.  It was so, so delicious and I am making note of quite a lot of the dishes to have a go at reproducing at home.
Dessert was a white chocolate semifreddo .  Oh, my word!!

Diane and I, being reasonably good Slimming World girls, have decided that we need to rein the eating back a bit - until the New Year festivities start anyway.

So tomorrow - fruit and yogurt for breakfast and something salad-y for lunch.  And just one - ONE - glass of wine.
That's all day, not just breakfast.  
Fingers crossed.
Then we made our way to the theatre and a hysterically funny version of Cinderella, all done a bit ad hoc because I gather senior crew members were involved but couldn't because the weather is not great and they were needed elsewhere.  Anyway, it was brilliant and we laughed till we cried.

After the show, we were informed that, all being well, we should dock at Alta tomorrow morning around 8:30 and tomorrow's expeditions should go ahead.  It's another sundown all day - husky sledding in the dark and, quite likely, while it snows, should be quite an experience  Fingers crossed, folks!

There's a complimentary shuttle bus service into Alta from the ship every fifteen minutes but Diane and I have decided we will save our energies for the expedition in the 'afternoon' - I think it is husky sledding but will check the ticket.  We have been told to wear all the layers we can possibly manage!

As we left the theatre, the doors to the outer decks were all closed - not that we were thinking of venturing out anyway.  The reason was high winds but it looked like a skating rink as well.
The ship is rather rocking and a-rolling as I type this but it's not jumping and bouncing as it was on the North Sea so no worries and no need for acupuncture wrist bands.

Bed time.  I'll set this to send tomorrow morning, the 27th.  I hope you've had a great Boxing Day, however you have chosen to spend it.
All the best and I am wondering what the weather is like back home.  xx

Edit:  We are docked at Alta.  Yay!!

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Cruise Day 5: long message with lots of photos alert

 (aka Christmas Day)

First of all, many thanks for your lovely comments.  I wish I could answer them individually, but I can't.  Yes, I'm having a fantastic time.  Everyone, guests and crew, have relaxed into it now and the vibe is fantastic.  There's always something to do, something to see, someone to chat to . . . never a dull moment unless you want one.  The crew are so obliging and helpful.  It's just . . . great!
If I'm not posting comment in your blog, it isn't because I am ignoring you, it is because I can't open it for some reason.  Some I can read and some I can't.  Apologies!

I've started this at around eight o'clock, Monday morning because there's not going to be an awful lot of spare time really.  So, right now, I have showered, dressed, and drawn back the curtains; not that I can see  much as it's still very dark and will be for about another hour, but it's so nice and cosy.

I've Googled 'Torghatten' and came up with info in, presumably, Norwegian - must work out how to turn on the translate function, but it says it is currently around minus 4C.  So I've put on my warmer shoes and will be taking my coat with me so I can pop on deck whenever I want without 'suffering'.

Diane will be calling at around nine and I have a little gift for her before we go to breakfast.  Will we have bucks fizz and smoked salmon?  I wonder . . .

Now to see about translating - if I Google, it will come up in Norwegian which wouldn't be a lot of help.
(thirty seconds later - well, that was easy!)

13:52 (Norwegian Time)
After my comment about darkness, I noticed that sunrise and sunset times are on the daily newsletter - 11:50 and 2:28 respectively!  That's what I call a short day!!  So bear in mind that some of the following photos were taken before/after the sun!
And also, according to the newsletter, tomorrow (Boxing Day) has no sunrise or sunset; it is 'sundown' all day.

I got my wish.  A do-it-yourself bucks fizz for breakfast - and it was lovely!

That wasn't all I had, of course.  There's all sorts for breakfast but I went for fruit, cold meat, smoked salmon and cheese with a rye (I think) roll.  So lovely!

You won't get many photos of me but here's one of me with my Christmas  morning outfit!

Everyone was dressed up in jumpers, hats, etc, and it was all very festive and colourful.

I had brought a little gift for Diane and she had one for me so we both had something to open on Christmas Day morning.  So nice.

At around ten everyone piled out onto the outer decks as we cruised past Torghatten, a granite rock with a cave running right through so it looks as if a hole has been knocked through.
Thew legend is that it was formed when a troll shot an arrow after a love interest who ran away.

It's clearer here and one can walk up, through, out and back round again.  Not an easy walk but doable.

Oh, my, it was so cold but we stayed out for a while and I took more just general views.  It's stunning scenery.

After lunch (delicious but no photo because the phone was charging), we sailed past the Seven Sisters.

They are a range of snow-covered mountains - or, maybe, trolls who were turned to stone.  Who knows?

Here's a few more snaps of general views.

Cold forced us in again where we warmed up laughing at the Christmas Jumper Competition.
The three finalists - and they all won . . .

Quite apart from the fact that I've already paid for it, the daily (when there are no expeditions) afternoon tea is worth going to because of the lovely pots of Earl Grey tea to go with the mini sandwiches, scones and petit fours.  While we were enjoying this, we passed over that imaginary line and into the Arctic Circle.  And, yes, it got flipping cold through the day and is well below freezing as I type this.  We're having down time in our cabins before dinner which will be some sort of celebratory Christmas dinner, I expect.  With bubbly.

I didn't actually have a starter.  This was my Christmas dinner - there were several choices but most people went for the turkey, of course.  It was delicious turkey, obviously good quality, and it was all delicious (but I do veg better!!)
Dessert was a spiced fruit salad with berry sorbet and wow!

Then we went along to the show.  It was Andrew Robley in concert and he was very, very good indeed.  We thoroughly enjoyed what he gave us, lots of well known show songs, sing-along stuff from the 50s and 60s and more than a touch of humour thrown in.

Then there was an announcement that weather conditions were worsening (wind and snow) and the Captain had taken the decision to divert from Narvik and cancel the planned expedition in the Arctic railway into Sweden and back via coach tomorrow - safety first every time and we have been promised a day full of fun and frolics (not my words) to make up.
Yes, it's disappointing, but can't be helped and now we are looking forward to whatever the entertainments team comes up with.  I can't imagine they or the rest of the crew are that thrilled - they've worked their socks off today and now they have to keep it up tomorrow as well instead of maybe having a bit of a chill.  Bless them, they're doing a grand job.

It has been a really lovely Christmas Day.  I hope you have all had a fantastic time too.
Here's to a great Boxing Day for us all.  xx