For our second cruise adventure with Chris and Bailey, we’d booked the TUI Marella ‘Fjords Explorer’ package on the Marella Explorer Century-class cruise ship.
The ship was broadly the same size as the MSC ship we took around the Caribbean, however, it was a totally different experience. The fit and finish was superior, more modern, and the facilities were massively better. In addition, TUI cruises are all-inclusive (including tips), which is some much easier and less confusing in terms of budgeting.
The itinerary for the 8-night journey was as follows:
- Day 1 Newcastle
- Day 2 At Sea
- Day 3 Flam
- Day 4 Geiranger and Hellesylt
- Day 5 Olden
- Day 6 Bergen
- Day 7 Haugesund
- Day 8 At Sea
- Day 9 Newcastle
At our first stop we decided to take the Flam railway, which is one of the steepest standard gauge railway lines and described as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. We agreed that we’d get off at the penultimate station and walk back some of the way before boarding the train again for the final leg back into Flam. It was a downhill walk and easy to navigate, so no major problems were expected. As it turned out there was a significant issue and that was synchronising our arrival at each subsequent station in time for the next train. We ended up either way too early, with no station facilities to keep us occupied, or just too late as we watched the train trundled past. So, we walked all the way back to Flam, which was a good 20-kilometre hike. We were both so knackered on getting back that we collapsed in the first bar we found and paid for two ridiculously expensive beers even though the ship and its ‘free’ beer was only a short distance from the bar! Our feet were painful for days afterwards as neither of us had our normal hiking footwear with us, but what a glorious walk, with amazing scenery along its entire length.
The other personal highlight, including another lengthy walk, was the stop at Bergen and a ride up to a viewing platform on the funicular. The views were stunning and although our feet didn’t really appreciate the walk back down, the beers and seafood back in the town were well earnt.
The Norwegian Fjords are truly spectacular, and we really enjoyed the time ashore. The ship was much better than the MSC experience, with far superior facilities. However, we agreed that cruise holidays are just not for us. This view was rubberstamped when we had to endure a very rough North Sea crossing on the way home. We both struggled with ship motion effects for a couple of days after landing back in Newcastle, which was a weird feeling.