the Best of Norway – Cruise # 2

Vision of the Seas Voyage # 781

Denmark – Norway 11 day cruise

63 Nationalities on board

I have decided what my top 3 Norwegian ports are – Geiranger, Bergen and Kristiansund. Perhaps this is because I spent more time in these ports than the others, but after reading this I’m sure you will agree with me that they’re pretty amazing places.

Geiranger is a tender port and I enjoyed the boat ride from the ship to the port. This was the first warmish day I’ve experienced in this so-called Norwegian summer, which of course made it extra special. It was probably only 18°, but the sun was out and the wind was only slightly chilly. Geiranger is a little piece of heaven. Standing at the edge of the pier, you are surrounded by mountains with waterfalls trickling and gushing down towards you. It’s very touristy near the pier and so after taking the obligatory photo of the massive troll statue (the Norwegians seem to be obsessed with the things) I decided to take a stroll up the mountain. There isn’t a pedestrian pavement, only a white dotted line painted on road’s shoulder that marks where to walk. This space is about half a metre at its widest and in places the line disappears off the road altogether. There was a running/cycling marathon taking place and so I had to pay close attention so as not to be run over by the cars, busses, bicycles and runners coming my way. Still, I enjoyed the fresh air and the amazing views. Don’t I sound old? Well I am halfway to 54!

On Day 8, after shooting the life ring on gangway, an hour of emergency training and a quick lunch, a bunch of us set off to explore Bergen. I had been watching the Port Info channel on the massive, old school, box TV in my cabin and so knew that I wanted to see the Bryggen and the Fish Market. The Bryggen is actually a UNESCO National Heritage Spot and reminded me of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, because it’s basically just a row of old, colourfully painted buildings. The difference of course being the style and also that the Bryggen buildings are shops, where as the Painted ladies are homes.

The fish market was not as smelly as I expected, which in itself was rather exciting. There was all sorts food and I have now tasted Whale, Moose and Reindeer. Yup – I ate Rudolf! First I tasted some lightly smoked whale, which was absolutely delicious and tasted a lot like steak fillet! Next I tasted moose, reindeer and whale sausage. The moose was by far the best – super tasty and a bit spicy like a chorizo sausage, but with a bit of a “gamey” taste. The reindeer was pretty good, though not as tasty as the moose. The whale sausage was my least favourite, but well worth a taste!

Bergan Sausage

After visiting these tourist areas, we wondered to the City centre and walked around the various monuments, statues (including a statue of Grieg), fountains and parks. While walking around we spotted a “Gold Man” (he stands still like a statue until you tip him and then does a robot move), a marching band/parade and very randomly, two Native Americans (complete with headdress) playing their traditional instruments. After a while we came upon a beautiful park with a large duck pond in the middle. We spent almost an hour here, lying on the grass, chatting and taking some photos. There was a little boy feeding the ducks and gulls, so I took the opportunity to take some kiff action shots of the gulls.

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The absolute BEST port was Kristiansund. The city is small enough to walk everywhere, but there is still a lot to do. I set out for the old town square with 2 fabulous Photogs to take in the sights. My Photog peeps had to be back on board before me, so I found myself a map and went to find the park, which is almost as big as the city itself! Ship life doesn’t allow for much alone-time and so I was really grateful to have this time to myself. After a mesmerizing hour, I left the park in search for the beach. The beach is small and might have called it unexceptional if it weren’t for the swans. Yes. There were swans swimming, feeding and chillaxing on the beach! I was completely delighted and fascinated. This pretty much made my day. It’s the small things in life!

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2nd Highlight of the cruise: Receiving my first WOW card from a guest to thank me for my excellent and smiley service. How lovely!

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the Arctic Birthday – Cruise # 2

Vision of the Seas Voyage # 781

Denmark – Norway 11 day cruise

63 Nationalities on board

This cruise began with my very first Embarkation experience. I was Chief Smudger, which means I was in charge of stopping guests to have their photo taken, keeping them in an orderly line, sending them to either of the 2 backdrops that we had set up and keeping their luggage out of the photo. Fun right?

After embarkation was complete, I had a lovely surprise – My camera and the rest of my uniform had arrived from Miami. Of course I took my camera to the back deck (crew area) and happily snapped away during sail away. It was awesome sitting there, taking in the views of Copenhagen and the zillions of wind turbines! My uniform fits great (I’m impressed) except for the tuxedo pants…. Why did I spend so much time measuring myself? The pants literally come up to my arm pits!

We visited quite a few ports this cruise, including Ålesund, Flåm, Honningsvåg, Tromsø, Bergen, Geiranger and Kristiansund. But enough about that, this post is supposed to be about me and more importantly… My BIRTHDAY!

Birthday Celebrations

If you didn’t know, my birthday is on the 11th June – diarize that now! So… On day 4 of the cruise I woke up to my birthday. This day was ultra special because we spent the day circling the Arctic Circle. On Monday, 10th June, sunset was at 23:55 and on the 11th June (my birthday) the sunrise was at 03:00 and it shone ALL DAY! Whoop whoop! In fact, we didn’t have a sunset for 3 days. On the third day the sun was only like 5° above the horizon, but still! I woke up to a lovely “Happy Helen Day” sign made by Marli (my cabin mate and fellow SA Photog) and she even included a drawing of a partying penguin. So Barry… You were actually right, I did see a penguin on my birthday! After a quick phone call to Mum, I hurriedly opened my birthday cards that she had secretly packed in my bag and I had, like the good girl I am, put away for this occasion. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing Mum and brother. Thank you for the cards! I love you both SO much!

I only started work at 12:30pm, but after that I was busy working in the gallery, setting up my studio and shooting until we finished work just after 11pm. After work I returned to my cabin to the delightful sight and aroma of chocolate cake. What a lovely surprise from my Photo peeps! All 8 of us then squeezed into my cabin for that delightful treat. Yumbles! After the cake we quickly changed into some warm clothes and headed to the back deck for some party party!

The next day was Philippines Independence Day (12th June) and there was a big, festive party on the back (crew only) deck to celebrate with free beer. It was a weird, but liberating experience to be dancing in the early hours of the morning with the midnight sun shining down on us! It was definitely a night to remember. Thanks to everyone, on the ship and elsewhere for all the well wishes and making my day so special.

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The day after my birthday we visited Honningsvåg. I didn’t get a chance to explore much, but truth be told, after 3 hours doing Gangway, I was beyond freezing and just wanted the warmth of my bed! It must have been about 5° outside and I was so very thankful that I packed my thermal underwear! That evening we sailed past the North Cape Point so now I can say that I’ve been to the Southernmost tip of Africa (Cape Agulhas) and the Northern most point of Europe (North cape). How cool am I? The answer is VERY COOL!

North Cape

Funny Guest Story: I had this Spanish couple come to my studio and as I was posing them for a photo, the man realized that his fly was down… he quickly turned around to fix it, but he couldn’t pull it up. I stood quietly, awkwardly averting my eyes for a very long 5 minutes while he and his wife worked on pulling his zip up. Because I’m a professional, I waited until they had left my studio before laughing!

Highlight of the cruise: The everlastingly sunny (and ever so chilly) birthday! In fact, we had 3 full days of sunshine this cruise!

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