Jane and Roger are our most prolific bloggers, the husband and wife duo have reported from South Africa, Australia, America and other hotspots. So when they wanted to embark on a cruise, we hoped they would take a notebook…
“This was our first cruise. For some time I have wanted to do the famous and spectacular Norwegian Fjords but Jane gets seasick on a millpond. Abbotts Travel booked us a mid-ship adapted cabin with a balcony aboard the P&O Britannia in early July. Our room was next to the lifts and spacious with a roll-in shower and all the necessary handrails.
We pre-booked parking at Southampton - a very efficient drop-off and collection - before embarking on the ship. With so many areas you rarely notice the 3000 plus guests.
There is the party pool and an adults-only serenity pool. Both have bars, plenty of sunbeds, an indoor lounge at the front where you can look out to sea and at the stern you can sunbathe whilst watching the wake patterns of the ship.
‘Freedom Dining’ can be interpreted in many ways: no charge, unlimited or simply that you have choices of the buffet - where breakfast and afternoon tea is also served - or waiter service at three open-seating restaurants offering a daily changing five-course menu. Additionally, there are two fine dining eateries with a cover charge plus a cabaret club with dinner, which we really enjoyed.
The entertainment was excellent and there’s always plenty to do. We avoided the pool parties, instead settling for various lectures, performing in an adult rock band, spa treatments and the cinema. Before dinner, we played cards and drank wine on our balcony overlooking the ocean - a ritual on all our hotel holidays - followed by a show in the theatre and music in the Live Lounge. Arriving back at midnight to have daylight on the balcony is amazing.
Drinks prices are very reasonable and our inclusive £200 onboard spending covered this. Smart casual dress in the evenings works well and the two black-tie functions were very well supported, although we didn’t partake.
After an exceptionally sunny first day at sea we had mixed weather in the Fjords. The advice is to take clothing for all weather conditions as you are only a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. All the ports were next to the towns making access very easy. However, at Stavanger it was raining so I stayed on board whilst Jane walked around the cobbled harbour streets and wooden houses visiting the market, cathedral and museums.
The next day we docked at Flåm, a delightful village in southwestern Norway, in an area well known for its fjords. We ventured around the sea and river pathways, town shops and the variety of outdoor street food outlets. There is a road beside the rail track heading towards an impressive waterfall; Jane continued up the steep woodland track to the top to capture resplendent views of the surrounding Fjords.
A big town attraction is the very popular Flåmsbana (Flåm Railway) train and we had the opportunity to buy tickets earlier in the day however when we went back later it was fully booked. It travels to the mountain top with spectacular views. Stopping at the bustling fisheries town of Alesund, wrapped up against the elements, we walked the cobbled streets, port and harbour, admiring the art nouveau architectural style in which most of the town was rebuilt after a fire in 1904. The Aksla Viewpoint, which can be reached by 418 steps, affords magnificent views. As this was a learning experience for us we didn’t book any tours but this one can be done on foot, train, bus or taxi.
Our last port was the quaint metropolis of Bergen, Norway’s second city after Oslo, surrounded by mountains and fjords, featuring colourful wooden houses on the old wharf. We walked along the dock and through lush green gardens to the renowned fish market sampling whale, reindeer and moose meat. In the glorious sunshine we then took the fully accessible famous Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen where you can overlook all of Bergen. As we left port, we were afforded stunning views of the fjords from our cabin balcony.
As with the beginning of the cruise, we finished with a day at sea, enjoying all the facilities of the Britannia and reflecting on how much we had enjoyed relaxing, without the stress (for Jane) of many of our previous ‘adventures’. Seven nights was perfect as were four ports of call. We had no sea sickness, wheelchair accessibility was excellent, as was food, dining options and service. The no tipping policy is also welcomed. We’re unsure about the black tie nights and next time we would look at the excursions on offer more closely.
Overall, we loved it. A special thanks to Carly for arranging.”
Roger and Jane