Sunday, 13 April 2014
Part 2 – STAVANGERFJORD of Fjord Line
Sunday 23rd March 2014
Waking in Bergen this morning I could actually see the top of the mountain just at the back of the hotel, so I hoped that was a good omen despite the weather forecast.
After breakfast I walked again to the Fjord Line/Hurtigruten terminal as I knew that Fjord Line’s 2013 new-build STAVANGERFJORD was due in just before 2 p.m. and I really wanted to see the ship arrive. Ship details include: gross tonnage 31,678, maximum passengers 1500, cabin berths 1188, car capacity 600, and service speed 21.5 knots. Last year I had been lucky enough to get a copy of the new brochure about the ship, and then a friend had sailed on her last year and enjoyed the new cruise ferry which Fjord Line described as a lifestyle liner. His fascinating write-up about the trip can be found in the Winter 2014 issue of the Ocean Liner Society magazine ‘Sea Lines’.
I had booked with the Fjord Line Bergen office to sail on her myself on 24th March 2014, doing a mini-cruise from Bergen down to Hirtshals in northern Denmark, via Stavanger. My ticket was e-mailed to me recently, and then the following week another ticket arrived – and this time I was to sail on the very new BERGENSFJORD! I was very thrilled with this, as she had just come into service with Fjord Line, and I wrote back to Fjord line to say so.
Suddenly today I was in for a double treat, as here was one new ship arriving and I could photograph her from a nearby quayside, whilst knowing I would sail on the other one on Monday 24th.
I arrived at the Fjord Line terminal hoping to get a closer picture of the ship but that was not possible. However, the check in staff at the desk included the man from the Bergen office who had made my bookings so it was fun to introduce ourselves and have a quick chat. He then asked if I would like to visit STAVANGERFJORD with him and a new member of staff, for a very short tour, so of course I said yes. He obtained permission for me to go on board, and we were soon on the overhead walkway to board the ship. There was what felt like a ‘meet and greet’ group waiting for us – all gold braid and smiles – and we were then given a very fast walk round some of the main rooms, and outside in the rain to see the Hundehotell with its solitary doggy occupant.
I managed to get a few photographs as we hurried around, and then it was time to go ashore, and thank Kai for his kindness in arranging for me to visit the ship.
The ship was due to leave almost immediately so, as the day’s Hurtigruten ship arrived and berthed on the adjacent quay, STAVANGERFJORD slipped her ropes and set off for her journey to Stavanger and Hirtshals, south through the Norwegian fjords.
To be continued….
Friday, 4 April 2014
Part 1 – M.S. TROLLFJORD
22nd March 2014
I flew with Norwegian Air on an early flight from London Gatwick to Bergen in Norway, prior to joining the brand-new Fjord Line cruise ferry BERGENSFJORD on 24th March. As we took off I was able to see some of the London city sights as we gained height, including the tall building called The Shard, and then the Tower of London, and then the O2 Arena near the old Royal Victoria Docks (see February 2013 blog).
Soon we were over the east coast and heading north/north-east over the thick cloud cover far below.
I had been following the weather information and forecasts for my time in Bergen, and we were soon enveloped in thick cloud, with the occasional sight of a snow-covered mountain top as we prepared for landing. I caught the airport bus into the city and soon walked to my nearby hotel. As expected, it was raining.
I knew that the day’s Hurtigruten vessel would arrive about 2.15 p.m. so struggled into my cold-proof, water-proof and snow-proof clothing and set out for the Hurtigruten Terminal in the next harbour. From under my buffeted umbrella I could see the wonderful UNESCO-protected Bryggen buildings along the waterside, but the Fish Market further along was deserted.
M.S. TROLLFJORD had arrived and was bunkering, in readiness for her 10.30 p.m. departure from Bergen.
I already knew that the Hurtigruten company welcomes any visitors to their ships in their ports of call, and so wanted to see what this vessel was like on board. I was welcomed and directed up to an official near the overhead walkway, who gave me a visitor card and showed me where to get on board, so I was soon walking onto my third ship of the year.
Some passengers were already settling in and obviously enjoying their surroundings, and many of the English ones were keen to talk to me and know what I was doing as I wasn’t sailing with them.
I had a very interesting time looking around the ship, and comparing it with others in the fleet I had visited (RICHARD WITH, NORDNORGE and POLARLYS (see 2011 blog), or sailed on (NORDSTJERNEN, see 2011 blog), and felt very grateful to be able to visit TROLLFJORD this time. The coastal voyage is something I would certainly like to do one of these days.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
When a friend suggested that it might be an idea to get away, it took a few seconds to register that he meant that a group of us should join Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship: NORWEGIAN GETAWAY. That was many months ago but I booked one cabin for the first night’s sailing from Rotterdam to Southampton, and a different cabin for the second night, sailing out of Southampton for a cruise to nowhere.
The ship came out of the shipyard at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, at the end of November 2013 and then commenced her sea trials, before sailing to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, to arrive early on Monday 13th January 2014.
Sunday 12th January 2014
I flew to Rotterdam on Sunday 12th January, and checked in to the Hotel New York, just on the waterside near the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal. The building was originally the offices of Holland-America Line, and internally has been altered to become a successful hotel whilst retaining much of the original charm. The reception area is surrounded by shipping artefacts, whilst the modern technology is hidden by wooden counters. There is a lift, but the carpeted stairs up to the third floor are wide and the wooden banister rails top the delightfully ornate ironwork, which offers views below and around. Steamer chairs are on some landings and everywhere there are pictures of ships.
My room was spacious and contained furnishings and fittings that made me smile: a luggage rack that was a silver-coloured steamer trunk, a coffee table that was a smaller trunk, overhead lights that appeared to be ship’s spotlights, a vast mural of a harbour scene, and a modern coffee machine on the table under the mirror, plus a red and a green mug. Of course the red mug was on the port (left) side and the green one on the starboard (right) side as I looked. There were other more modern lights and bathroom fittings but what fun to see all this!
Down on the ground floor is the most enormous and high-ceilinged restaurant with seating at various levels, and windows looking out on three sides to the water. There is a large central bar and kitchens appear to be behind one quarter of the room, but it seems that the previous booking hall has been converted very successfully.
After a short but cold walk around a small dock, we arrived on board my first ship for the 2014 Ship List – the SS ROTTERDAM herself. I remember watching her sail back to Rotterdam in August 2008 and since then she has been converted to become an hotel moored in a Rotterdam dock. A group of us were booked into the newly-opened Captain’s Lounge on board for Afternoon Tea, and we happily made our way up to the venue. Tea was served with great ceremony and style and we enjoyed the sight of the offerings even before we started eating them.
Some photos were taken on deck, and dusk was falling as we walked back to the Hotel New York in the cold January early evening.
Some hours later we enjoyed dinner in the restaurant of the Hotel New York, surrounded by dozens of other drinkers or diners, with the pleasant and highly efficient staff coping with all of us. I chose to eat Grandmother’s Veal Stew (well, it seemed appropriate) and it was delicious.
Monday 13th January 2014
Peering out of my room at 7.30 a.m. into the darkness of Rotterdam, I could see a forward section of a very large ship beside the Cruise terminal so I knew the NORWEGIAN GETAWAY had arrived.
After breakfast at the hotel, we could dress warmly and head out into the cold wind funnelling through the road between the old spice warehouses. We walked along to the Erasmus Bridge over the river so we could take our first photographs of the completed ship with its eye-catching bow artwork by the Miami-based artist David Le Batard, known as ‘LE BO’. The ship will be based in Miami and “will embody the essence of her tropical hometown with hull artwork featuring a whimsical mermaid holding the sun above the waves”.
Back at the Hotel New York we could check out and wheel our luggage back along the road to the Cruise Terminal, before boarding the ship. We were all in different cabins on different decks so had to join various queues to embark, but the system seemed to work fairly quickly until it was realised there was only one overhead walkway to get on the actual ship. I lost count of the times I had to show my embarkation card and passport until I stepped on board. I was immediately aware of the smell of new carpet but I soon located my cabin 12439, up on Deck 12. It was a 4 berth inside cabin, with the two lower beds made up, and I must admit for a happy moment it felt as if I was on a ferry again. The ‘woodwork’ was dark, and I thought the cabin lighting was inadequate, except in the bathroom, but I shall not be spending very much time in here.
As I came on board I remembered how I visited the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on Sunday 26th May 2013, and one of the ships that I saw under construction was the NORWEGIAN GETAWAY. Little did I know then that I would be seeing her again and actually sailing on her today. Isn’t life extraordinary.
Then it was time to meet my friends again and start looking around this huge ship. Her gross tonnage is 145,655, overall length 1,068 feet, beam 170 feet, draft 27 feet, her engines are diesel electric, her cruise speed is 22.5 knots, guests 3,969 (double occupancy) and crew 1,640. Passenger decks start on Deck 05 and go up to Deck 18 for the Basketball Court and Sun deck.
We started on Deck 6 where many of the Restaurants are located and chose to go to Savor Restaurant for our first meal on board. This is styled as Complimentary Dining! No, this is not Complimentary (or free), I thought, as I have paid for this! There are many restaurants on board where an extra fee must be paid and that is a matter of personal choice.
The food and service was good, but the portions perhaps American in their quantity.
The afternoon continued with more walking around this vast ship. We were out on deck 8 looking up at the blue sky when we noticed someone ‘Walking the Plank’, which was presumably a Fitness & Fun facility offered up on Deck 17, and not for the faint-hearted.
Someone in a harness was suspended from a short bar jutting out towards the sea, and walking along a short ‘plank’. He waved happily when he reached the end, but seemed to have difficulty in returning to the safety of the deck in reverse.
Crowds were lining the waterways as we left, and we could see SS ROTTERDAM looking good in the dusk as we passed her.
A few minutes later we could turn and start heading bow first towards the sea.
I loved being on this new ship, and could smell the new carpets, see and enjoy the brand new cutlery for example, and admire the general arrangement. She holds many passengers but they are distributed in so many places with so much to do if they wish.
That evening some of us chose try a first of its kind at sea: the Illusionarium, an all-new dining and entertainment experience that will envelop guests in the fascinating world of magic, inviting them to experience the astonishing illusions of world-class magicians and supernatural special effects, according to NCL. Well, it certainly enveloped me and I thought it was highly entertaining. When I saw a small table, with cloth and lighted candle on it, levitate some feet into the air I was certainly impressed, as I was by the other magicians, illusionists and mentalists. That was an excellent evening’s entertainment.
Ships seen: Norwegian Getaway, SS Rotterdam, and one of the previous little craft that used to ply between Helsingborg in Sweden and Helsingor in Denmark.
Tuesday 14th January 2014
I was up and out of my dark little cabin as the ship arrived in the port of Southampton after 9.30 a.m. and watched from up in the Garden Café on Deck 15 as we edged our way alongside Berth 101. Eggs Benedict for breakfast was the icing on the cake of my arrival on a brand new ship in the port of Southampton. The sky above was a bright blue but it was cold and frosty outside, and the ship looked good.
We met at one of the gangways to go ashore and set off at a brisk and warming pace to go to Mayflower Park to photograph our ship. It’s an ideal place to do this, and we were joined by friends from the Netherlands who had been on board (we didn’t know this) and by a shippy friend who was taking photographs during a break from work in the Container port. Two girls I had met at Lifeboat Drill the previous day were there with friends, and I was amazed that I could meet them again just by chance.
Then it was back to the Cruise Terminal for embarking as Transit passengers back on board NORWEGIAN GETAWAY. Well, that was all right for some of my friends, but for me it was nearly an hour of frustration trying to do this. Before I left the ship I had been issued with a card for my new cabin for tonight. I had arranged to try a Studio cabin for my second night on board, and needed this new card to disembark and then embark as a transit passenger. Unfortunately the new card had been incorrectly dated and so I was not allowed to pass Security and get back on again. I was given personal escorts from desk to desk to desk in the terminal building, which was fortunate as the check-in facilities there were absolutely overwhelmed by the number of passengers waiting to board. There were so many people that they were queuing out of the doors into the cold. I felt so sorry for them.
Eventually my latest kind escort saw me onto the gangway, with yet another new card in my hand, and I was able to join my friends for lunch. It would appear that the technology on the NCL ship was not liaising with the technology with the NCL check-in people ashore. I think I had been lucky with my shore-side escorts but what a shame I needed them. I think I had been issued with five new cards within the space of a couple of hours, and only the last one was correct.
Lunch was very welcome, and then I enjoyed another of NCL’s new experiences on the NORWEGIAN GETAWAY. I had read that “for families, Nickelodeon ®, the number-one entertainment brand for kids, is on board and includes a variety of exciting interactive experiences, along with the opportunity to meet SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Dora the Explorer and Diego, among other favourites”. From my own family tinies I knew of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, so as I was finishing my lunch I suddenly saw SpongeBob himself nearby. I took the opportunity to get a photograph of him and one of myself with him. Yes!!
Then it was time to finish our pub lunch on board and I could go and see my next cabin aboard. I had booked a Studio cabin, 10511, and this was so different to the one for the previous night. It was part of a double block of cabins all inboard, within a security-card area mid-ships. It was light and bright and so well-designed, and I was immediately very happy with it.
As a Studio cabin passenger I also had access to a double height and spacious Studio Lounge, just along the alleyway, with all kinds of drink and food facilities available. Again it was well lit and comfortable, and whilst I was in there I met several congenial people to talk with. I noticed that a wine dispenser was also available at the bar, which could be accessed by using a Studio cabin card. With three different sizes of wine glass available I imagine it would be popular.
Back outside in the other world, I was heading through the mid-ships Atrium when I saw Dora the Explorer. That was another good opportunity to earn more Grandmother points, so I took a photo of her and had one taken of me with the character.
That done I could join my friends as arranged and enjoy seeing more of the ship. Boat Drill was next – a different cabin so a different place – and then it was time for departure from Southampton.
We had turned this morning to face downstream in Southampton Water so we were able to glide away from the Berth 101 and head out to sea on our cruise to nowhere.
BLACK WATCH was in port too. I was on her in early December, ostensibly to sail for 4 nights out of Dover to Rouen and Zeebrugge. The storm surge in the North Sea and surrounding area meant the ship was taking shelter in Hamburg on her previous cruise so was more than a day late arriving in Dover. That was a shame but perfectly acceptable because of the weather. What should have been 4 nights on board, became 48 hours from and to Dover in the end, as the ship was due to sail from Southampton later on our arrival day and Fred. Olsen wanted us off the ship very early and quickly. This was not a good first-time experience for many passengers! Knowing that some friends had a similar experience on another Fred. Olsen ship recently was not a recommendation to return to that company.
This second night is shown as a cruise to nowhere, and we found that after sailing down Southampton Water we turned around the Isle of Wight and headed south west towards the Dorset coast. This was all done very slowly overnight apparently.
After departure we enjoyed seeing a little more of the ship facilities. There were queues for the Ice Bar so we were not able to enjoy an iced drink in there. I was told that the temperature in there was -8 degrees Centigrade, and everyone was provided with a hooded and enveloping long cloak to wear for their maximum 30 minutes visit.
We had dinner that evening in the lovely Tropicana Room Restaurant Supper Club, Deck 7 aft, where there is dining and dancing from 5.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. to the music of a real band. The menu choice was good, as was the service.
Ships seen: Norwegian Getaway, Wallenius Wilhelmson’s Toscana, Eurocargo Salerno, Black Watch
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Here we are back in a wet Southampton again, with quite a low visibility over the city. We all had breakfast in the Garden Café again, which seems to cope well with so many passengers all at once. Then it was time to disembark easily and quickly and head for home.
I had really enjoyed my first NCL ship, with two nights on board the brand-new NORWEGIAN GETAWAY, and especially as I had chosen to try two different cabins. This is a huge ship, carrying vast numbers of people, but the design seemed to ensure the flow of passengers and offered us so many facilities that all seemed to work well, especially as we were sailing in waters that will not be her usual ones. The ship will be in Miami soon, which will be her home port, and obviously she is designed for this outdoor style of living on board and in a different climate. I feel sure that NCL have another successful ship in their fleet with this one and I feel very fortunate to have been able to getaway on NORWEGIAN GETAWAY.