Friday 11th September 2015
Today is a sea day, as we sail from Oslo down through the North Sea back to Hamburg. Again we enjoyed 'trolley' breakfast in one of the restaurants.
This morning we decided to attend a Concert with Declaimers, in the Klanghaus. This is the concert hall on board, built with perfect acoustics. There was some music, quite a lot of Declaiming in German, and a few pleasant pictures on the screen behind the stage, but I felt the occasion was somewhat wasted on me.
Lunch was booked in the Hanaimi Japanese restaurant, which had lovely views out to the sea. It seemed to be quite windy out there but of course there were intrepid shuffle board players on the deck, well wrapped up again the elements. It wasn't raining but looked as if it might soon.
Meanwhile inside the restaurant we watched the preparations for our meal with great interest. It is many years since I went to a Japanese restaurant so I was happy to have help with choice of food.
The presentation was beautiful to watch and the quantities seemed huge, but it was all very interesting. I was offered a small taste of a starter from one friend, which I accepted as it looked innocuous, but it reduced me to an eye-watering state. Phew - glad I didn't choose that one myself.
I had tuna for my main course and enjoyed that with various vegetables.
Just as we were finishing our meal the Captain stopped to speak to us, having finished his meal at a nearby table. He asked how we were enjoying the ship and trip and seemed happy as he listened to our replies.
Outside the weather had improved so I went for a sunny walk on a breezy top deck which was exhilarating and enjoyable. People smiled at me whilst eating ice-creams, others raised their champagne glasses (plastic) to me from their hot tub as I went past (it was someone's birthday celebration at a nearby Bar), others smiled sleepily each time I went past them, and others were fast asleep under a mound of blankets: we were all happy with our lot.
The day continued with a drink before the evening's show, called Blue Elements, which was enjoyable even without live music in the theatre, followed by another delicious dinner in one of the restaurants. Once again the restaurant staff were able to seat us at a table for 7, which made for a convivial time.
Some of us were out on deck at 11 p.m. to watch the Pilot come aboard as we prepared to start our journey to Hamburg on the River Elbe. In the darkness we could see the Pilot mother ship, which we had last seen in her berth at Cuxhaven on Saturday.
Ships seen: distant ships as we sailed from Oslo to Hamburg, the Pilot launch and mother ship at the entrance to the River Elbe
Saturday 12th September 2015
Back in Hamburg at the end of our trip, the weather was cool and damp. Three friends had left the ship as soon as we berthed, but four of us had breakfast together and waited in one of the lounges as advised. We were to join coaches outside the terminal building to be taken to the main city railway station. At least, that was the plan.
When we arrived outside the terminal building it was to discover crowds of fellow passengers all waiting for non-existent coaches. We found out that there were demonstrations going on in the city centre, all traffic had been stopped or held in traffic-jams, and our coaches were not allowed to go there. It seemed as if local taxis were not prepared to go into the city either, and we couldn't see one anyway. There appeared to be no alternative plan. Being enterprising folk, we four went for a local bus to a local station, and caught a train straight through to Hamburg Airport. We had to cope with our luggage (little in my case) and lots of steps, but at least we were on our way and didn't need to panic.
Once at the airport and with our luggage checked in with British Airways, all was well and we could enjoy a light lunch and wait for our flight to be called.
I flew with the other three to London Heathrow airport, then said my goodbyes and continued my own journey home.
I had really enjoyed the TUI and MEIN SCHIFF 4 experience, especially with the pre-cruise add-ons as I called them, and would be happy to sail on one of their ships again.
Thursday 10th September 2015
Today MEIN SCHIFF 4 has arrived in Oslo, Norway. Sailing through the fjords to arrive at the port is one of the delights of being at sea, and after breakfast we were soon out on deck to watch other arrivals. Again, it was a warm day with beautiful reflections off the mountains and vessels around.
Local ferries were sailing about their business, the cream-coloured small ferry was heading back and forth between the port and the nearby Maritime Museum, CROWN SEAWAYS of DFDS appeared and berthed within sight, and finally COLOR FANTASY arrived and headed into her berth.
I can remember arriving here on her sister ship COLOR MAGIC myself in January 2008. At the time my diary notes about the ship said:
"All was light and gleaming on board, and the Magic Promenade was just as I had pictured it, but better in reality. Three decks high, and 163 metres long, it included glass lifts, shops and eating opportunities, culminating at the stern with the Manhattan Gourmet Restaurant set above and around the Oceanic a la carte Restaurant below. This view through the high glass windows of the huge Norwegian flag was mesmerising and I loved the chance to ’sweep down’ the curved staircase to the restaurant."
Of course that design has been used successfully on many large ships since then.
After lunch on MEIN SCHIFF 4 some of us walked around the quays towards the ferry area. We passed the eye-catching building called the Nobel Peace Prize Centre where every December since 1901 the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for the Laureates takes place in front of the King; the other Nobel Prizes are given out in a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. We also passed the Town Hall with its two distinctive clock and bell towers, which was completed in 1950.
We bought tickets for the ferry OSLO XII which was going over to one of the small islands near Oslo, called Hovedoya. It is only 800 metres across apparently, and there are Cistercian ruins, but we enjoyed the means of getting there. It was satisfactory to discover that all the officers and crew on the ferry were female. We had lovely views of MEIN SCHIFF 4 as we sailed to and from the island.
Full of fresh Norwegian air we returned to the ship and went to the Diamond bubble bar for tea.
As I enjoyed my Earl Grey tea I could look further along the quay and remember being here in January 2008 in the snow. I had just said goodbye to my travelling companions after we had travelled on COLOR MAGIC overnight and then enjoyed a visit to the Maritime Museum. I photographed the PEARL OF SCANDINAVIA. My diary notes say:
"I decided to write my name and the date in the deep snow, instead of in my more usual sand, and trekked back around the harbour to the Norwegian Royal Yacht, the NORGE. Young cadets looking red-faced with the cold were sweeping snow off the decks into the sea, but were happy to talk to me. What a shame that we no longer have a Royal Yacht for our British Monarch I thought, regretting that my plans for building one by public subscription had come to nought."
I remember that I had sent a cheque to the Editor of a major British newspaper with a letter asking them to consider starting such a fund as a gift for Her Majesty. They didn't cash my cheque and they didn't start a fund. Hmm, I wonder if politics came into that decision.
Today the weather was clear and hot and such a contrast with that snowy January trip.
We watched CROWN SEAWAYS depart and then relaxed on our ship and enjoyed the views until our departure from Oslo at 7 p.m.
Ships seen: Kongen, Grace, DFDS Crown Seaways, Prinsen, Color Fantasy, the Maritime Museum ferry, Oslo XII, Oslo X, Mein Schiff 4, Christian Radich built in 1937, Dronningen, Huldra
To be continued...
Wednesday 9th September 2015
Today is a cause for celebration for many of us, with our much-loved Queen Elizabeth II becoming the United Kingdom's longest serving Monarch. I put my celebratory magazine picture out on my dressing table for the day, which I knew would interest and please my two cabin stewards - I met them the other day and they were very happy to speak in English. I learned that one cleans just the cabin bathrooms and the other has responsibility for everything else in the cabins.
Today though I was up early for breakfast because some of us were getting off the ship as soon as we had docked in Gothenburg in Sweden. We met at 8.45 a.m. as arranged and took the first shuttle coach into the city. The ship automatically charged me for the shuttle bus when I showed my ship card on boarding the bus, which saved such a lot of time and effort. We had berthed way down river , west from Gothenburg city, in the cargo terminal area, so it was some miles to travel. Once in the city we could walk into a bus and ferry agent and buy combined bus and ferry tickets for a trip out to the islands. The times were checked and we were soon hurrying out to catch a bus to the ferry port of Saltholmen. I feel so lucky with my friends, that they contrive to arrange these delightful extra outings.
Some of the local ferries were already in port but we were aiming to catch the 10.55 a.m. RIVO from Saltholmen south to Kopstadso and back again. The sky was blue, the air clear, the water still and the only sounds were small waves glancing against the quays or nearby rocks.
It had taken us about two hours to get to this little port, but just a few miles across the water and beyond the rocks we could actually see our ship, looming large at her berth. RIVO arrived and passengers disembarked and we all embarked, sitting in the main lounge.
We were intrigued to see our wake from the little aft deck area, our route on the display board, and then our location. We disembarked at Kopstadso and barely had our feet touched the quay than the ship was up and away.
We noticed a white-painted box nearby which had the word GODS writ large upon the front, but soon realised the Swedish word translated to freight or goods in English. We also noticed the wheelbarrows.
We turned round again and there was our next ferry coming alongside - the SILVERTARNAN - and we set off back to Saltholmens.
There were islands and rocks to be seen, various sized small vessels around, birds in the air and on the rocks, and long-distance and short-distance views to be seen everywhere - it was beautiful, and an excellent way and day to be at sea.
Back at Saltholmens we sat happily on a bench in the sunshine and waited for our next ferry to arrive.
This time we boarded VESTA and sailed off south again to visit several islands on this trip. We called at Kopstadso, Styrso Bratten, Styrso Skaret, Donso, Sjumans-holmen, Karholmen, Vrango, Donso, Stytrso Skaret, Styrso Bratten, Kopstadso yet again, before sailing back to Saltholmens Brygga. It had been a fascinating sail, with lunch on board, and lots to see and admire all the time.
Rather reluctantly we caught a bus back to the city, although this was enlivened by trying to count the number of puppies that came on board with a dog handler and sat very quietly under her seat: I think we counted eight in total, all different breeds.
Back in the city of Gothenburg we made our way to the shuttle bus and the trip home to the ship. It had been a wonderful day out to the Gothenburg Archipelago.
Some of our group of seven went to Surf & Turf Restaurant for dinner, whilst some of us went to the Brasserie, but all enjoyed the food and service. Overnight we will continue our way north, and should arrive tomorrow morning in Oslo, Norway.
Ships seen: Rivo, Silvertarnan, Vesta, Ylva, Vipan, Valo, Gota II, Lyron, Stena Scandinavica, Mein Schiff 4, Arlan, Transkar, Ask of Stena Line, Stena Charisma, Stena Danica, Stena Jutlandica, Stena Scanrail, Marieholm the 1934-built little passenger ship now berthed in Gothenburg city, Tor Fionia
To be continued...