By Diane Tierney
Norway’s fjords are so majestic and serene that when you see them, you know you’re witnessing some of Mother Nature’s best work.
There’s something magical about these towering curtains of green velvet, capped with snow, and lined with tinsel-like waterfalls that leave you speechless. The silence and solitude as you slip through the emerald green water makes you think you should only ever whisper.
Taking a cruise to the fjords is the best way to see this region because you get close to their rugged beauty on each side of the ship. Not only is the lush greenery soothing to your soul, but the way the ship slides slowly through ribbon-like clouds that you think you can touch, gives the whole experience an eerie, ethereal feel.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,400-passenger ship called the Norwegian Jade is aptly named for these verdant voyages. It sails from Southampton, Britain to Hamburg, Germany and up to the towns of Skjolden, Olden, Alesund and Bergen in Norway. Plus, the ship’s $40 million makeover completed in March 2017 makes for a pampered ride even when cruising the occasionally rocky North Sea.
Another reason why cruising Norway is best is because this country is expensive — the cost of living is about 55 per cent higher than Canada — and so you can expect to pay about $13 for a beer or $6 for a cappuccino on land. On a Norwegian cruise, your accommodation, transportation and meals are included, and the ability to see several fjords within a week makes it easy and affordable to see a lot in a short period of time.
There’s plenty to see and do on the Norwegian Jade’s numerous shore excursions. Choose among city walks, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, boat rides, bus trips and more options to scenic vantage points, the largest glaciers in Europe, nature reserves, magnificent waterfalls, museums and national parks.
In Skjolden, which sits near the longest and deepest fjord in Norway, excursions include a hand-carved glacier tunnel experience, a visit to a llama farm, seeing Asafossen, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Norway, as well as admiring the soaring peaks of Norway’s tallest mountains and more.
In Olden, visit scenic outlooks for spectacular fjord views, walk on a glacier, or canoe, kayak or take a rigid, inflatable raft across a glassy, glacial lake.
Alesund, the largest town on the northwest coast has a beautiful setting built on several islands. From Trollstigen descend down the Trolls’ Path with its hairpin turns. Stop for a photo of the Stigfossen waterfall cascading down the mountainside. Detour up to Trollveggen where you’ll find the Troll Wall with the highest perpendicular rock face in Europe.
Visit Bergen, founded in 1070 and the second largest city in Norway. The old wharf has charming colourful wooden buildings facing the harbour. Workshops of painters, weavers and craftsman produce fine-quality items. Also visit the fish and flower markets and end the day with a ride up the mountain funicular to enjoy magnificent views of the city and sea.
Since this is the land of the midnight sun in summer and daylight lasts about 20 hours, you can lounge on the top deck, soak in a hot tub or relax on your balcony until the wee hours of the morning while Norway’s beauty slides by.
Be sure to also take in all that the Jade offers with its new stylish decor and fancy features. The Jade used to be called the Pride of Hawaii and had a tropical decor of purple and orange hues. Today it features more sophisticated nautical shades of blue, gold, cream and beige with occasional pops of deep red.
There are two pools, four hot tubs, 12 restaurants, seven bars and lounges, and a casino. The 1,042-seat Stardust Theatre features spectacular shows ranging from amazing magicians and talented acrobats to Broadway-style musicals.
The 12 dining areas include eight free restaurants. The Grand Pacific main dining room has huge windows at the stern and warm, wood-panelled walls, while the Alizar dining room features more modern style. The Jasmine Garden offers Chinese cuisine fused with Thai and Japanese. The Great Outdoors buffet, a ‘50s diner called the Pit Stop, poolside grill called Topsiders and 24-hour O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill make for great anytime dining choices.
Specialty restaurants which have a small cover charge includes Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (French), Moderno Churrascaria (South American) and Teppanyaki (Japanese). The restaurants were modernized and menus vastly improved thanks to the influence of sister cruise brand Oceania Cruises.
While there’s plenty to do onboard and ashore, the fjords’ mesmerizing beauty may just put you under a spell so you do nothing at all — other than donning a robe, soaking up the scenic beauty from your balcony with a glass of champagne, and ordering endless room service.
For more information contact Norwegian Cruise Lines at 866-234-7350 or visit www.ncl.com.
Diane Tierney is Forever Young’s chief cruising correspondent. To follow Diane on her voyages, click https://www.instagram.com/cruiseguru/