The best way to experience Norway is on a Fjord Cruise. Fjords are long and narrow inlets with steep sides created in a valley carved by Glacial activity. Western Norway abounds with Fjords and is a very popular destination among Cruise Ships. Celebrity Cruises runs several cruise liners and MV Century being one of them which does the Norwegian Fjords route. The cruise originates from Amsterdam harbor and takes you through 4 ports. The first halt is at Olden, the gateway to some of the oldest and largest glaciers in Europe. Flam is the next destination where the sheer mountain walls climb twice as high as the 1500 feet width of the fjords, creating an almost permanent shade. The third port is situated at the mouth of the Storfjord. Alesund is one of the most important fishing harbors in Norway. Bergen is the last port of call. Surrounded by 7 mountains and several fjords, it is Norway’s second largest city.
Exploring the gigantic ship itself will take an entire day so that’s what you can do till the first port of call. The most popular public areas is the Celebrity Theatre and a 7500 sq feet Fortunes Casino. There is a basket ball court right at the top of the 14th Deck. Other places of interest are Hemisphere lounge, Veranda Grill, Island’s Café, Michael’s club, Martini bar, Aqua spa, two Swimming pools, and a 1000 sq feet celebrity boutique, The Crystal room, Card room, the Cinema hall, Library, Cova café, Rendezvous Square, The Grand Restaurant and Sunset bar.
At Olden, the most exciting thing to do would be a glacier walk! You can visit the million years old Briksdal glacier, which is part of the Jostedal Glacier national park. You will need to trek for an hour up a hill to reach the base camp for the glacier walk. You are provided with some gear for the walk-helmet, tramp ons, pick axe and ropes. A local guide will give you the basic safety instructions and some tips on retaining your balance on the ice. While you are at this adventure, nature provides good sound effects. You will hear thundering roars periodically, due to the moving ice. Be a little careful while peering through holes you will spot on top of the glacier. They go down thousands of feet right to the bottom of the glacier!
As most fjord settlements, Flam is quite small. It has a ferry terminal with a train station that allows travelers to view the spectacular scenery on the heights above. Take the Flam/Myrdal railway ride. Its a breathtaking journey through 20 tunnels and rises to a height of 2845 feet. After the rail ride you can visit Stalheims-Kleivene, a daring hairpin transverse of Mt Stalheim, Europe’s steepest road. You will get breathtaking views, both of the valley and Stalheimfoss, the waterfall which cascades 413 feet down the mountainside to flow into Naeroyfjord. On the way back to the ship, some shopping can be done at Aurland, the closest village to Flam. Aurland is well known for its shoes, which are of excellent quality. Do visit the impressive gothic stone built church, dating from the 13th century.
Alesund is located on the northwest coast of Norway midway between Bergen and Trondheim. With a population of 40000 people, the city is built upon 3 islands connected by a network of bridges. Take a bus for sight-seeing. Overlooking the city is Mont Aksla offering magnificent views of the picturesque harbor and fjords. Alesund has an international reputation for its maritime tradition and distinctive Art Nouveau architecture. Most buses will stop at Mount Aksla which offers bird’s eye view of Alesund and surrounding countryside. From the heart of the town, 418 steps lead up to the lookout point on Mount Aksla which offers splendid views of town center, the fjords and the jagged Sunnmore mountains. Another interesting view point is Trollstigen. It is a natural phenomenon rising from the valley floor to dramatic heights. The trollstigroad-Path of the trolls-winds its way to the top with 11 hairpin turns that zigzag across the face of the mountain.
At Bergen you can walk around and have a look at the educational institutions and the Wharf area. It has a university, several colleges and many cultural and municipal buildings. Much of Bergen’s prosperity comes from the North Sea oil industry and from tourism. The highlight of the town is the picturesque Bryggen Wharf area of attractive wooden buildings reflective of the middle ages. You can also visit one of the best open air fish markets in Norway. Make it a point to visit Troldhaugen, home of Norway’s illustrious composer; Edvard Grieg. You can see many trophies and citations inside his home which is now a museum. Also on display is Grieg’s Steinway piano which is still used today for special concerts. Within the grounds, down on the waterfront, is a log cabin where Greig used to work, left exactly as he left it before he died.
Like other Scandinavian countries, the Koldbord (Cold table) of Buffet style meal is popular, emphasis being placed on fish, particularly Salmon which is a national favorite. “Fair I Kal” is one of the more traditional dishes, a stew of lamb and cabbage; kjottkaker(meat cakes) are also quite common, served with sauerkraut, flavored with caraway. Reindeer appears in many menus, particularly further north, similar to beef but richer, slightly sweet flavored meat. The Norwegians are partial to wild berries, either as an accompaniment to meat or as a dessert. Two varieties native to Norway are Lingonberries, similar to cranberries and Cloudberries, like orange colored raspberries, they are a little crunchy and have a sharper taste. The Norwegians drink a lot of coffee. Although alcohol is very expensive in Norway, the favorite tipple is the local brand of Aquavit, potato based liqueur, common throughout Scandinavia, usually served ice cold and drunk as a shot.
MV Century departs from Amsterdam. You can call 1-888-305-9153 for Celebrity Cruises.
While one need not have prior experience for glacier walking, a certain level of basic fitness is required. Follow the safety instructions given by the guide to the tee. Check with the guide if your shoes are compatible for fixing tramp-ons, else take an appropriate one of your size from the base camp lending centre.
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