Tuesday 25th March 2014
It had seemed a short night when a public broadcast announced it was 6.30 a.m. and we would arrive in Hirtshals at 7.30 a.m., so there was time for coffee before going on deck to watch our arrival at this northern-most port of Denmark.
Soon I disembarked and joined a Fjord Line coach trip available for passengers – we had breakfast served on the coach and spent the day seeing some of the countryside and the small town of Flensburg before returning to the ship. It felt as if I was coming home, and I was very glad to be back on board BERGENSFJORD.
After dinner I met my friends again and we spent an entertaining evening in the Fjord Lounge watching the dancers during the Disco Medley and then enjoying the singers at Showtime at 11 p.m.
When that finished we went to the Bungalow to listen to and sing with the English pianist, who was rather astonished to find an English passenger on board. It had been a long day but an excellent evening back on board as we sailed north again towards Norway and our scheduled arrival at lunchtime back in Bergen.
Wednesday 26th March 2014
I enjoyed breakfast watching the sunshine on the Norwegian coastline as we sailed along.
I asked at Reception whether it might be possible please to visit the Bridge, and a little later I was invited to accompany a member of staff up there. The views of the surrounding fjords and snow-covered mountains from our ship were absolutely superb in the clear light and air and I felt so lucky to be welcomed by the Captain and one of his Officers on his Bridge, just for a few minutes.
Another highlight of the morning was taking more photographs of the huge picture which hangs over the forward staircase of BERGENSFORD. One of my friends had previously advised me to make sure I went to see it, and it was mentioned in the Fjord Line brochure I had from last year. There was a small sign beside it describing the artist Per Krohg and the painting, which was done in 1956 to hang on a particular ship of Norwegian America Line.
it is four metres by seven metres in size!
This was a rather exciting moment for me as my mind went back to last August 2013, when I was on a very small ferry sailing from the Great Harbour of Piraeus in Greece towards the island of Salamina. My travelling companions wanted to do a different short trip that morning so we were to meet again later that afternoon. During my 40 minute little trip I could see a half-submerged ship’s hull, which I had seen a few times in previous years but not so clearly, so I photographed it from several angles as we headed towards Salamina. The name was RASA SAYANG. I did some research and was later able to find out from Simplon Postcards more about the vessel, which in fact was “BERGENSFJORD - DE GRASSE - RASA SAYANG – GOLDEN MOON”.
“BERGENSFJORD was completed in 1956 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne, Newcastle, for Norwegian America Line. She was 18,739grt and carried 878 passengers. BERGENSFJORD was acquired by the French Line (CGT) as the DE GRASSE (2) in haste in 1971 to replace the ANTILLES which had been lost in a fire in January that year. Bought in March 1971, she was delivered to CGT in November. She was not profitable on the Le Havre-Southampton-Caribbean service, and spent 1972 cruising. DE GRASSE (2) was sold in 1973, becoming the RASA SAYANG. In 1980 she was sold to Aphrodite Maritime Co, Greece. On 17th August 1980, a fire started in the engine room whilst she was under refurbishment at Perama, Greece. She was towed out of the docks and capsized and sank near the island of Kynosoura, some kilometres from Perama.”
That was the wreck I could see partly submerged in the water on 29th August 2013, and the picture in front of my eyes was the painting that was commissioned by Norwegian America Line in 1956 to sail on that very ship - BERGENSFJORD. I find it astonishing that life throws up such incredible coincidences, and something at which to marvel.
Life seemed just a little more calm as we arrived back in Bergen and I had to disembark from the BERGENSFJORD of 2014, which deliberately displayed the painting from the BERGENSFJORD of 1956, as a token of Fjord Line’s mark of respect to their Norwegian maritime heritage.
It had been such an enjoyable trip on this brand-new lifestyle cruise ferry, with new sights and new friends as well as good memories.
Monday 24th March 2014
Hooray, sailing day at last, and there was blue sky and sunshine outside, just as the Bergen weather forecast had predicted. My hat had dried very nicely overnight on the hotel bathroom floor, which seemed to have underfloor heating or piping just where it was useful!
The Saturday afternoon snowstorm and Sunday afternoon rain were a thing of the past and, after breakfast and checking out of the hotel, I enjoyed my stroll along Bryggen until I reached the shop with the beautiful purple ‘hoodie’ jacket in the window.
Retail therapy achieved, I could continue my journey to the Fjord Line terminal to check in for the mini-cruise on BERGENSFJORD. I was to sail from Bergen to Hirtshals in Denmark, via Stavanger, and then return to Bergen, arriving back on Wednesday.
I soon checked in but had to wait for the ship to arrive at 1.00 p.m. before boarding at 2.00 p.m.
I had a 4 berth inside cabin, with one berth prepared as a bed and another as a settee, with the other two berths out of sight up in the deckhead.
I had time to look round the ship before going on deck for sailing.
We had to wait as the daily Hurtigruten ship came along – it was the little LOFOTEN, which was a lovely sight in the sunshine.
She was launched in Oslo in 1964 at 2,621 gross tonnage, so the 400 passengers are offered a voyage of real nostalgia. She was refurbished and refitted in 2003 with most of the original style and atmosphere being preserved. She seemed so small, looking down from the lofty heights of BERGENSFJORD’s Sun Deck, but she came alongside the Hurtigruten terminal bow first, without turning, so we were able to sail away from Bergen soon after.
Sailing through the fjords was a pleasure, all within sight of snow-covered mountains as we headed south. I had a late lunch in the Oasis Garden Café midships on deck 7 and then headed forward to the Fjord Lounge, and was so impressed with the views ahead and around. There was raised seating around the Bar (and beside the beach-view floor detail) and ample seating on a lower level around the small dance floor so everyone had a good view forward. I liked the two velvet-covered gold-framed chairs – which proved very popular and were rarely empty during my time on board.
To the starboard side aft of the Lounge was a small Cigar club, then aft again was Reception; beside that was a very small 24 to Go shop selling toiletries, sweets, coffee drinks etc.
Facing Reception was Bungalow Wine and Tapas bar which reminded me of the trivial thought that in the UK I live in a bungalow. At the aft end of this was a small grand piano, where the talented English pianist entertained us on several occasions during the voyage.
Just aft of this is a semi-circular area leading back to the Oasis Garden Café, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the celestial engravings/mapping on the marble-look flooring here.
Further aft again are seating areas with interesting furnishing details,
the children’s play room, the Greig Gourmet Restaurant, and with the Commander Buffet restaurant taking up the whole aft width of this Deck 7 area.
Below on Deck 6 was the Car deck with a capacity of 600, and the Tax free shop;
standard and luxe cabins are on Deck 8, and suites and standard cabins are on Deck 9. Deck 10 was the Sun Deck with Sky Deck Lounge, air-seating, conference area with bar, and the necessary Kennel. Above all this I could see the three LNG bright red painted gas vents, which have been made a feature of the ship.
Fjord Line’s President/CEO Ingvald Fardal said the Fjord Line owners, colleagues and partners shared a dream to build two large modern cruise ferries packed with environmentally friendly technology to serve the market for leisure, business travel and cargo between Denmark and Southwest Norway.
The vessel was designed by Falkum Hansen, to be built at their Norwegian Fosen yard, north of Bergen, with a bulbous bow, and a hull designed specifically for the North Sea wave conditions and height. The hulls were constructed in Poland and then towed to Fosen for outfitting and completion, so this dream seems to have been achieved spectacularly with the 2013-delivered STAVANGERFJORD and now this 2014-delivered BERGENSFJORD.
Last year I read in the Fjord Line house magazine that Falkum-Hansen and his team took their inspiration from maritime history and the Norwegian America Line’s golden era in the first half of the 1900s, where the old liners were very elegant but not always so large, and they wanted to follow that theme. These ships are 31,678 gross tons, with a maximum passenger capacity of 1500, and car capacity of 600.
So this was in my mind as we sailed towards Stavanger, arriving just after sunset. I sat in the Fjord Lounge forward with some new friends and enjoyed their company as we watched the activities in the harbour around us. An announcement was made by the Captain that all open decks were closed as LNG re-fuelling was now taking place but that was soon completed and we sailed at 10.40 p.m. That was another interesting day and I was soon lulled to sleep as we sailed south to Denmark overnight.
To be concluded….
Part 3 – KONG HARALD of Hurtigruten
Sunday 23rd March 2014 (continued)
I waved STAVANGERFJORD off and then went in search of a late lunch.
I found a small café near the water side of another street, and spent a dry and warm hour in there as I watched the world go past. Then it was time to dress for the rain again and return to the Hurtigruten terminal to ask to visit KONG HARALD. I had seen her berth earlier at the quay adjacent to Fjord Line’s, so was keen to see what she was like on board.
She was launched in 1993, the same year as RICHARD WITH, to mark Hurtigruten’s centenary and is named after today’s King of Norway, Harald. She is 11,204 gross tons, and can carry 622 passengers and 20 cars, with a service speed of 15 knots.
I was soon on board and admiring all the lounges, bars and artwork.
These ships are all very individual in their styling and decoration and I consider it a great treat to be allowed to visit the ships in port. The Hurtigruten ships are a way of life in Norway and have been now since 1893, so a familiar sight around the coast. Once again I enjoyed my visit to a Hurtigruten ship. As I walked home the rain increased and I was really looking forward to a hot meal and relaxing back in my Bergen hotel. The weather forecast for Monday was good, and of course I was due to sail on the brand-new BERGENSFJORD, so there was lots to enjoy.
To be continued….