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Fjords, food and Fløyen: First time cruiser sets sail to Norway

PUBLISHED: 15:53 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:00 14 December 2017

Balmoral. Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Balmoral. Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

First time cruiser Jessica Long swaps her Ryanair city breaks and sets sail with Fred Olsen to Norway.

Balmoral at Eidfjord in Norway. Picture Fred Olsen.Balmoral at Eidfjord in Norway. Picture Fred Olsen.

Cruising had always been some what of a mystery to me. Many people are addicted to sailing the seas but the enjoyment was something I had never properly understood until I stepped on board Fred Olsen’s Balmarol at a surprisingly sunny Port of Tyne.

Travelling with my mother, who had the slightly daunting task of driving from Attleborough to Tyneside, we lived up to every cliché of first time cruisers as we waved to the crowds after setting sail for the five-night trip around the Norwegian fjords.

With accommodation for around 1,300 passengers, Balmoral is the biggest vessel in the Fred Olsen fleet, and for this voyage we had Captain Lars at the helm. The itinerary included the ports of Bergen and Eidfjord as well as sailing around some of Norway’s most breathtaking scenery.

Hardangerfjord view on a cruise of Norway. . Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise LinesHardangerfjord view on a cruise of Norway. . Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Our home for the cruise was a superior ocean-view twin-bedded room situated on the main deck and it was a lot larger than I envisaged. Some of the decor in the cabin could have done with updating but the best part was the window which we avidly starred out of every morning excited to see where we had ended up at after a night at sea.

As a whole the ship was an ideal size for people like us on a first time cruise. It was big enough to explore, with plenty to do across the 11 decks, without being overwhelming. Throughout the day there was a variety of activities to get involved in such as quizzes, bingo and dance classes but I have to admit on the days at sea I spent must of my time lapping up the sunshine in one of the ship’s jacuzzis while making my way through the cocktail menu.

On the topic of drinks, the bar prices on board where very reasonable, cheaper than many of the pubs in Norwich and I was a particular fan of the liquor trolley after dinner. Before going on the cruise people had told me the food was always a highlight and they were not wrong. Every night there were five courses on offer but by day four I was down to two. We enjoyed our evening meals in the Spey restaurant which allowed us to take in the stunning views as we cruised through the fjords. Although I did feel for the waiting staff as every evening we would leave our seats to try and get the best photos of the fjords and one night we spent quite a bit of our time running around the deck as Captain Lars and his team performed an epic 360-degree turn in front of the Furebergfossen Waterfall in Maurangerfjord.

Norway Cruise. Photo:  Jess Long.Norway Cruise. Photo: Jess Long.

Away from the ship the two ports of call were Bergen and Eidfjord which offered a great balance of what Norway had to offer. In Bergen we went on one of the ship’s excursions which included a guided tour of the city and a trip up Mount Fløyen on the funicular railway. With the sun uncharacteristically beaming down we enjoyed a couple of hours up the mountain before enjoying some local delicacies at the fish market.

The following day in Eidfjord we went on a hike excursion with a local guide and it has to be one of the highlights of my trip. Not only was the landscape incredibly beautiful, the guide was a fountain of knowledge, giving us an insight into what it takes to live in such a harsh environment in the winter months.

Other highlights on board included dining on deck in The Grill restaurant, a relaxing Indian head massage in the spa and the musical rock show by the ship’s company.

Outside Cabin, Balmoral. Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise LinesOutside Cabin, Balmoral. Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

By the time we arrived back in Tyneside not only had I eaten myself into oblivion but I had found a new enjoyment for the cruising way of life. My next time on board a ship, even if it is just the ferry to Dublin, will have a lot to live up to.

• A similar cruise in 2018 with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, will be Balmoral’s ‘Five-Night Fjords’ cruise (L1809), departing from Newcastle on May 3 2018. Ports of call include: cruising Lysefjord, calling at Bergen and Eidfjord, cruising Hardangerfjord, and cruising to Fureberg Waterfall, before arriving back in Newcastle on May 8 2018.

Prices for this cruise start from £649 per person, based on an interior twin-bedded room, subject to availability, and includes all food and entertainment on board, and port taxes. For further information on this cruise visit the Fred Olsen website.

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