Part One: The Preliminaries
Yesterday we returned from our first cruise ever. It was a delightful experience, but also included quite a catalog of learning experiences, shall we say.
Cruising the Norwegian Fjords has been a lifelong ambition for me. It was, so my husband says, one of the first things I spoke about when we met in the late 70s. Back then, the fairly basic ships of the Norwegian postal service worked their way up through one fjords after another toward the North Cape. Now the postal job has been privatised and it’s a company called Hurtigruten [hurtig = to hurry, ruten = route, schedule => express route] that follows the post service’ long standing tradition. In addition to Hurtigruten, there are other cruising options, and the one we selected was the Silversea Cruise line. Silversea cruises came highly recommended by good friends with a lot of cruising experience. Getting on in years with our joint-creaking decibels increasing exponentially, we wanted to check if cruising might be a desirable vacation option for us.
We had actually already decided on a 2021 nordic cruise over two years ago, but owing to the plague Norway remained closed and our cruise was canceled. On one hand it wasn’t much fun to wait so long for it to happen, on the other hand it eased the financial strain because cruising is a rather expensive pleasure. The wait also allowed me to record the daily temperatures in the different ports of call along the Norwegian coast for July and August to plan a packing strategy. As it turned out (of course!) the 2021 Norwegian summer was unusually warm, while this year’s weather was the coolest and rainiest in ages. Following the advice of cruisers familiar with the nordic regions, we adhered strongly to the “always dress in layers” concept.
This was the second longer trip where I packed with my Gonex compression packing cubes, and I believe they do really work well. Not only for saving space in a suitcase, but also to stay organised throughout the trip. If one opens the compression zipper, the cubes turn into handy containers, especially for smaller items like socks and undies.
The 2022 cruise itinerary varied slightly from the year before, sadly also shifting the port of embarkation from Edinburgh to Greenwich, London. We had planed to spend a few pre-cruise days in Edinburgh where we’ve never been before, while London … well London isn’t all that exciting for us. We can and do get there fairly easily by train from France, however we would never voluntarily visit through the height of the summer tourist season. Considering the general chaos ruling European airports this summer, our flight arrangements were a little anxiety inducing. Even before the airline canceled our flights! Silversea then put us on an idiotic one-stop flight on the day of embarkation for which we would’ve had to leave the house at 2 AM. Aside from the timing, with a stop-over, neither we nor our luggage would have made it to the ship in time, so we refused. Finally the Silversea agent relented to our repeated requests to fly to London a day early to be sure to make the cruise – at our expense for the hotel and transportation from Gatwick to London, naturally. A lot of unnecessary hassle, but we and our four suitcases did embark on our first cruise adventure on July 26.
We made it to Gatwick as planed and with the help of our fabulous transportation assistant driving one of those electric carts for mobility-challenged people like me, we eventually found the Blacklane limo driver in the utter pandemonium of the airport. The drive to Greenwich went smoothly and we dropped off our luggage at the hotel to explore for a couple of hours before check-in opened.
In the end we wound our way back to the Hotel The Mitre for a little rest and eventually an early dinner.
After dinner we walked some more along the mighty river, taking in quite a variety of vistas.
July 27, Embarkation Day! After breakfast at The Mitre pub
we hurried down to the river to catch a first glimpse of the Silver Whisper, our home for the next twelve days.
As impatient as we were, we still had to wait several hours before we were allowed to beginn the embarkation procedure. Under Covid regulations, the previous guests are kicked out of their suites by 8h and the new residents aren’t allowed in till 16h. The crew spends the intervening hours to deep clean the premises. Our embarkation with luggage drop-off and medical checks began at 14h. I’ll report on that in my next post. Meanwhile we just kept loitering in Greenwich …