A Norwegian Cruise

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.

Bordeaux-Merignac, 26/07/22, 09:49h
UK southern coast, possibly Dorset near Weymouth around 10:35h

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.

Greenwich, London, 13h, looking over the Thames toward the city center with view of the Shard
The Admiral’s House, Old Royal Naval College

In the end we wound our way back to the Hotel The Mitre for a little rest and eventually an early dinner.

The Mitre on the left, Saint Alfege Church to the right. One wonders why the hotel and pub was named after a bishop’s ceremonial headgear? Might there be a connection to St. Alfege next door? He was after all the Archbishop of Canterbury Cathedral a mere 1010 years ago, but I couldn’t find out any specifics.
In The Mitre Pub: Steak, Shin & Pale Ale Pie, yummy!

After dinner we walked some more along the mighty river, taking in quite a variety of vistas.

Marks & Spencer’s Lamb Gravy, not a common sight in France!
The Cutty Sark at nightfall
Sunset over the river Thames
“Dixie Queen” the ultimate party boat. One can hire this replica paddle steamer for private events. She accommodates up to 620 of your best friends …
Greenwich inaugurated a foot tunnel underneath the Thames in 1902 which is still in operation. This is the south entrance. A pole off the bow of the Dixie Queen above points directly at the northern entrance of the foot tunnel.
The famous Gypsy Moth pub on the left, M & S on the right, and the tower of St-Alfege straight ahead, it’s impossible to get lost in Greenwich 😉

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 …

Yet another angle of the Cutty Sark
Apparently, “love locks” aren’t as popular in Greenwich as they are in Paris and Amsterdam 😳
And finally, one more pretty Greenwich pub window before we board ship. While we were there, the fire alarm went off and the pub guests took their drinks out in the street till we got the all clear to return. Very British, stay calm and guard your G&T!

3 thoughts on “A Norwegian Cruise

  1. Sorry Claudia. I misunderstood, thinking that the Dixie Queen can’t be the one pointing in the proper direction, because it is in motion! LOL!

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  2. Hello Lorne, I’m delighted to hear from you! How’s the “BC Quartet” as we called you, doing? I hope you’re all well. Actually, I did mean the Dixie Queen, because that pole points toward the North entrance to the tunnel on the opposite bank. The Cutty Sark sits next to the South entrance. Cheers back to you and Judy.

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  3. HI CLAUDIA. Lorne here… we met on the embarkation shuttle and several other time on board the Silver Whisper. One small correction to Part 1: your blog says “ pole off the bow of the Dixie Queen” but I think you meant the Cutty Sark. Cheers! We hope life is comfortable in Cognac!

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