This is the final part of this series – we are now nearly 2 months away from my first experience of cruise ships in 47 years and I have to say that I would have finished the whole shebang much earlier if I hadn’t got a new job two weeks after we got back. Still, I’m told that having a job is a Good Thing even if not wanting to go near a computer when you get home does tend to curtail the writing activities!
However, back at what used to be The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company and its good ship Azura, I mentioned in the previous article the first port of call, Stavanger – which is a fair-sized city by Norwegian standards. It is extremely picturesque with a long and interesting history and I can recommend an official conducted walking tour if you ever happen to visit.
The last stop before the 36 hour voyage back to Southampton was Bergen, Norway’s second largest city after Oslo and another place I heartily recommend. I could happily live there if only I spoke Norwegian and if only the weather wasn’t like Scotland!
Between those two cities we did the Fjord part of the cruise and you haven’t ever seen one of them it is very easy to drastically underestimate the scale of these glacier-carved “inlets”. I wondered before we went how a ship the size of the Azura was going to get up them without banging one side or the other on rock but in the event it was utterly dwarfed by the scenery.
One of our “inland” ventures was along the almost 200 miles of the Sognefjord to the small town of Skjolden. To put this in perspective, imagine taking a massive ocean-going liner from Southend up the Thames to London and onwards across England. The equivalent of Skjolden on this imaginary trip is……. Cardiff! And, when at Skjolden, the end of the fjord was still nearly half a mile wide and the water depth was around 500 feet! So much for bumping against the sides!
The second fjord visit was a bit further north, not quite as long as the previous one but just as spectacular in its way – I have to say that from the number of snow-melt waterfalls still running down the sides of Geiranger Fjord even in July the Norwegians will never have hosepipe bans! Indeed, the summer weather had been so poor that some higher level lakes not only hadn’t thawed yet but still had about 4 feet of snow drifted on top them. I know I wasn’t expecting tropical weather but being photographed standing on a snowdrift was a bit of a surprise!
The voyage home was calm and uneventful and I got a couple of good snaps of sunlit oil platforms as we sailed back down the North Sea.
We awoke on the morning of Saturday 11th July already in the last stages of the journey along the South Coast of England, docked without incident and found our coach home quite easily. Fortunately it was one with working air-conditioning, the trip suffered no hold-ups on motorways and Hannah picked us up at Cambridge and had us home by about 3 p.m.
And, to conclude, there is no equivalent parallel with the 1968 school cruise – that one docked at Venice and we FLEW home!
Now that’s over and I can write about something different for a change.