The world is full of beautiful places and one of them, without doubt, is the Norwegian fjords in the spring. Glass smooth blue waters mirroring waterfalls and snow capped mountains, quaint villages nestling beside fast flowing rivers where the waters turn to dazzling white foam as they thunder across rocks.
My journey begins at the London Cruise Terminal, Tilbury where MS Magellan, operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages awaits me with white hull and superstructure glistening in the late morning sunshine.
First stop as always, my cabin, 7116 on Pacific Deck, my home for the next 8 days. A spacious, bright cabin, sunshine streaming through a large picture window, queen size bed, dressing table, enough hanging and drawer space for a long cruise, hairdryer, flat screen television together with everything that we have become used to on a modern cruise ship. Electric sockets, so important in this day and age of smart phones and tablets, 2 are of continental two pin design whilst the other is American design. A well appointed bathroom, spot lights above the wash basin, large shower unit with good water pressure making showering invigorating, two dispensers, one pink, one yellow housing shampoo and body wash, but which is which, never did find out but they both worked well.
Next comes the compulsory boat drill which is impressive. Unlike some cruise lines Cruise & Maritime actually make you put on your life jacket at your muster station and then lead you in line to your designated lifeboat so no excuse for not knowing what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency.
With the sun beginning to set its three long blasts on the ships whistle as we slip our moorings and begin our journey along the River Thames to the open sea. How different familiar sites and places appear as we glide silently past Canvey Island, Isle of Grain and Southend with the longest pier in the world at 1.34 miles, and head to our first port of call, Amsterdam.
My alarm goes, 6.30am, the sun is streaming through the window heralding a new day as we make our way along the North Sea Canal to our berth. Shower, breakfast and onto the coach for the visit to Keukenhof. The roads are busy as it’s the 27th April, Kings Day, a national bank holiday, a time people dress in orange, celebrate in the streets, parks and on the canals. Keukenhof is busy, thousands of tourists from all over the world have come to see what is, the world’s largest display of bulbs, not just tulips but many other bulb variety. Group leaders, their boards, sticks and other implements held high as they guide their groups through the gates into another world, a world originally designed as an ornamental garden in 1857. A 79 acre world of colour, perfectly sculptured lawns, secluded gardens, lakes and woodlands. Vistas of yellow, red and white tulips, yellow daffodils, blue and mauve hyacinth, tall standing Iris, delicate crocus and many others, 7 million bulbs planted by hand every September by a team of 40 gardeners. Board one of the electric boats and glide amongst the bulb fields experiencing the colour and wonderful aromas that fill the air. This is a venue that needs at least a full day to appreciate the many areas, come lunch time purchase a snack and coffee, sit by the main lake, admire the reflection of trees and shrubbery onto its unrippled surface, sit back, take in the beauty and dream.
Back on the ship it’s time to set sail for Norway and the fjords. The main canal busy with young people dressed in orange, shouting, singing and making merry on a variety of craft from rowing boats to pleasure launches, the Kings Day celebrations are in full swing as they wave to Magellan as we pass slowly by back along the North Sea Canal to the sea lock where there is one ship in front of us so we have to wait our turn. Once through the captain sets his course north across a deep blue calm of the North Sea, Norway we are coming.
Next day is a sea day, a chance to explore the ship. Originally built for Carnival Cruise Lines in 1985 Magellan carries 1,452 passengers, a crew of 600 with 15 cabins suitable for wheelchairs. Two main restaurants, Kensington and Waldorf have set dining times whilst the buffet, Raffles Bistro, is virtually any time eating until mid evening. For those who like to dine al fresco and enjoy pizza, burgers, sausages, salad etc. try the Pizzeria on deck 10. Come evening a speciality dining venue, Fusion, serves a wide variety of Indian dishes and having eaten there would recommend it for that special occasion, but make sure you book early to avoid disappointment. Those wishing to enjoy their favourite tipple, you are well catered for with a selection of 9 bars. For many cruise lines they are a thing of the past, but not Cruise & Maritime, late night snacks, served around the ship by waiters who always give the impression it’s a pleasure to serve you wielding trays of delicious nibbles. On Gala Night enjoy the Gala Buffet in The Mall, a fusion of colour, taste, food from around the world back dropped with ice carvings, animals and birds carved from fruits, a visual delight to have the taste buds dancing. Another night experience the Chocoholic Buffet. This is cruising as it used to be and what so many people enjoy. On the subject of food, it’s astounding how much food is consumed on a 7 day cruise. Serving up to 7,000 meals a day, 17,500 eggs, 23,000 kg of vegetables, 4,800 kg of meat, 3,800 kg of fish nearly 3,000 litres of milk, 1,500 litres of yoghurt and 7,800 kg of fruit to mention but a few. Entertainment lounges abound, The Magellan Show Lounge home to the onboard entertainment team and productions such as ‘We Will Rock You’ a tribute to Queen, On Broadway, Rock and Roll Dreams and others to the delight of an appreciative audience, where standing ovations are the norm. For those wanting a little more sedate, sit back in a comfortable lounge with friends sip a drink, enjoy the musicians and entertainers in Hamptons, Sinatra’s, Captains Club and the Taverner’s Pub, you really are spoiled for choice. For complete peace and solstice there is the well- stocked Livingstone Library furnished with large comfortable Chesterfield chairs and settees, it even has a fireplace but don’t worry, no fires allowed.
Outside the calm sea reflects the cloudless blue sky, the sun will set later and rise earlier, the air is becoming cooler as we continue our journey north. Tomorrow is Eidfjord, our first port in Norway, what will the Fjords be like, read on and discover Spring in the Fjords.
8am sees me on deck 11, an open deck from where the views are stunning, the small village of Eidfjord, population just 925, languishing on the shoreline at the base of snow capped mountains, the clean, cold, still air, exhilarating as you breath in. The fjord so calm and quiet only rippled where waterfalls of melting snow crash down from hundreds of feet above. This is what dreams are made of. Time for a hearty breakfast before setting out on an excursion to the Hardangervidda Nature Centre. Here the area’s history is unveiled to our view before travelling on to the Fossli Hotel, still in places deep with the winters snow, to admire the Voringsfossen waterfall, said to be the most photographed waterfall in Norway, attracting 650,00 visitors a year who marvel at the falls longest drop of almost 535 feet. Driving back to the ship past wood-built holiday cabins, lush green fields, small rivers, camp sites that have just opened but already have visitors parking caravans and erecting awnings. This really is a different world. To end the day, along with eleven others I dress in a warm waterproof suit, don a life jacket and board a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) operated by Hardangerfjord Safari. Leaving the jetty at a slow pace our helmsman steers for the centre of the Fjord where with a roar the engines open up whisking us across the still waters at speeds up to 50 knots. Exhilarating does not come close to describing the feeling of excitement as we skim across the water leaving behind a foam wake, slowing as we approach a point where mountains climb skywards from the fjord, looking up the towering mountain side is indescribable. This is an opportunity to see the wild life, dolphins and small whales, we are not disappointed as a pod of dolphins perform, leaping from the water as they play. Too soon we are back at the jetty divesting ourselves of the life jackets and suits but all with memories that will last a lifetime.
2pm sees us saying goodbye to Eidfjord as we sail between high mountains, past waterfalls, their water thundering into the Fjord and turning to foam, past small villages, farms and holiday cabins set along the shoreline as we head to our next port, Flam, but that is for another day.