Today we were scheduled to visit two ports of call and we woke up to the first of these, Geiranger, at 8.00am, looking out of our window once more to sunshine and a cloudless sky. We have been to Geirangerfjord twice before, but it so breathtakingly beautiful that no-one could possibly tire of it.
Geirangerfjord is known as the real jewel in the crown of the Norwegian fjords. With its characteristic ‘S’ shape, high waterfalls and abandoned mountain farms, the fjord landscape is included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. Here you will find unspoilt stunning nature and cultural experiences the whole year round. The famous “Seven Sisters” series of waterfalls is located on the northern side of Geirangerfjord, with a large single water directly opposite called “The Suitor”. The legend of the seven sisters is that they dance playfully down the mountainside while across the fjord the suitor flirts with them from afar.
Last time we were here in Geiranger, the ship had dropped anchor and we had to get the tender across to land. However, to develop Geiranger as a 21st century tourist destination, a ‘Seawalk’ (a floating pier system) was opened in July 2013. This enables cruise passengers to walk directly ashore, across the water into Geiranger town centre. The Seawalk develops Geiranger as one of the world’s most unique tourist destinations, reduces environmental impact, and creates a better visitor experience. The Seawalk is 236 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. It is built of a steel construction accessible to disabled people, floating on 10 wave damping pontoons. What I found fascinating about the Seawalk is that it ‘folds away’ in a sort of zigzag formations once the ship leaves port.
After our breakfast we made our way ashore and had a walk around, looking in the souvenir shops and purchasing some more postcards to send home. We sat out in the sun and wrote them out before finding a post box. Then we just wandered around, enjoying the sunshine, fresh air and gorgeous scenery, before going back on board for our lunch, as the Balmoral was due to sail once more at 1.00pm for our arrival at Hellesylt at 2.30pm.
We enjoyed sitting out in the sun, looking at the mountains on both sides of the ship, and the many waterfalls that cascaded down as a result of the melting snow high on the peaks. There was barely a ripple of water in the fjord and many of the first-time visitors to Norway could not put their cameras down. 🙂
At 2.55pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge to await our call to disembark for our Panoramic Hellesylt excursion. Nothing much seemed to be happening, and the tour staff then came over the loudspeaker to apologise for the delay, saying the deck team were having problems securing the gang plank. Apparently this is the Balmoral‘s first visit to Hellesylt, so they were not used to securing the gangway in this port. After about half an hour of sitting there wondering what was going on, the voice of cruise director Jennifer Daulby came over the loudspeaker to advise that the Balmoral was now secure and the gangway open and passengers were free to disembark if they wished.
Big, big mistake. It seemed as if all 1350 passengers decided to converge at the stairways and lifts at once. Our tour had been due to depart at 3.15pm and it was well past that, and there was a complete bottleneck of people at the stairs. It took us over 10 minutes just to descend half a deck, and we had to get from Deck 7 to Deck 4. Some people near us in the queue decided to give up and try to return their tour tickets for a refund.
Long story short… it took ages to reach the gangway with the result that our trip was running an hour late before we even boarded the bus. As it was now 4.15pm and the tour was expected to last a couple of hours, quite a few people turned to go back, as they would miss their dinner if they were on the first sitting at 6.15pm, as we were. The whole thing was a complete shambles, caused by the cruise director making that announcement. They really should have let all those who were booked on an excursion off the ship first. To be fair though, this type of thing was the exception rather than the rule; the vast majority of tours we’ve been on have been very well organised.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed the excursion. Hellesylt is a new place for Trevor and me as well, and is a small village in the Møre og Romsdal county. It only has a population of 260. Its focal point was a large waterfall in the center, which cascaded down the mountainside with a roar, giving off lots of spray. To view the waterfall we had to cross over a small bridge; it was barely wide enough for both traffic and pedestrians to cross together.
We also paused to photograph the Honndøla Bridge, which is a dry-stone structure over a pebbly stream, built in 1810. From here we had stunning views of a distinctive mountain with a pointy peak, called Hornindalsrokken which rises to over 5000 feet.
Our guide also gave us time to visit some of the souvenir shops which sold the inevitable Troll figures as well as woollen knitwear and other typically Norwegian merchandise.
We arrived back to where the Balmoral was moored up around 6.15pm. Nearby we could see a building proclaiming “Factory Outlet” so we went along to have a look. I ended up buying a 100% pure new wool short jacket, knitted in the traditional Norwegian pattern, with the metal fastenings up the front. I have wanted one of these for a while, but they are usually expensive; this one was reduced from 899KR to 499KR, around £42.00, so not a bad price at all.
Once back on board the Balmoral, we dumped our bags in cabin 4125, got washed and changed, then went to the Palms Café as we had missed our dinner in the Ballindalloch restaurant. As ever, it was the usual delicious selection of dishes on offer, and as usual I ate far too much of it. 🙂
Tonight the featured entertainer was a comedy magician called Dain Cordean. He was actually very funny as well as being a fairly good magician and we enjoyed his show a lot. Then it was up to the Observatory for the general knowledge quiz, where we spotted Colin and Sue from our table, as well as another couple who introduced themselves as Peter and Liz. We decided to join their quiz team as six heads are better than four. We scored 11/15 which, going on previous high quiz scores, we didn’t think was anywhere near enough to win, but we were joint top with another team which meant there had to be a tiebreaker. Our team won! Yay! We’d broken our duck for this cruise. 🙂
We won a bottle of cava and we asked for six glasses so we could enjoy it while doing the trivia (non-prize) quiz. I’ve been drinking the house cava anyway on this cruise, as it is included in the drinks package and is really very palatable. We are at latitude 61° N so it was well after 11.00pm before the sun went down, allowing us to view the most stunning sunset over the mountains as we glided along the perfectly flat fjord. Norway really is the most amazing country.
We concluded the evening in the usual way, by going along to the Morning Light pub and meeting up with Kath and Louise, talking over the day’s events and enjoying several more (free!) drinks and cocktails. It was, once again, well after 1.00am before we went to bed, after a very pleasant day indeed.