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Trip Report Vacations with Trolls and Vikings (report)

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Copenhagen and Norway cruise August 8-23, 2010

Our main mistake was to pack the camera in the carry-on on the last day of the cruise and leave it there while we had breakfast in the buffet. I would love to have a photo of the woman, either from Italy or Spain, who had about 20 bread rolls on 3 plates. She cut each roll, put some meat inside, paper-wrapped each roll and tossed in her bag. Many people take water and snacks with them, but not in that quantity!

THE FLIGHTS. We flew to Copenhagen with the layover in Amsterdam on KLM. This was a nice experience. Of course the dinner was so-so, but it ended with free cognac (Wally on Fodor’s, are you reading this?) We laughed out loud watching Mr. Bean in the dentist’s office. Very good hot breakfast after refreshing hot wet towel. In Amsterdam, looking to buy a bottle of water during our layover, I realized we didn’t have any euros! And no ATMs in sight. Found a store that would take dollars, they checked the boarding pass. At this point I didn’t care about their exchange rate, just give me that bottle! $5 for juice and water was not so bad.

The flights back were different. This time Delta had serious security. First, the usual – and they still request the bag with liquids out. Went to our gates, closed. They took people in couple by couple for another security check. Rubbed something that looks like a small piece of white paper on both sides of my palms, the purse, and the strap, looking for trace of explosives. This time I had to take the shoes off and open the purse in addition to being patted down. Even in Israel I didn’t experience anything like this!

The attitude of security is very different. We couldn’t find the Delta counter, asked 2 employees, they didn’t know. Security with dogs was walking by, I asked one of them, and while the dogs friendly-sniffed us and the luggage, the man explained, they can be anywhere, and how to check the display. Later, when they asked me to remove the shoes for x-rays a chair was offered, I didn’t have just to stand there waiting.

COPENHAGEN. We stayed at the First Kong Frederik, loved the hotel and location, our room, small of course, had a balcony and a gratis bar – 2 waters, 2 colas, 2 beers – Carlsberg, of course! - replenished daily. Excellent breakfast buffet with many choices was included. Reservations made through Expedia – the earlier, the cheaper, and refundable till the first day of vacation. There is an antique shop next to it – the best dishes and cutlery I’ve ever seen, including museums. Maybe I need to go out more?

We took bus 5A from the airport – if not for e-mail from Movia explaining where the bus stop is, it would be difficult to find. The airport employees don’t know buses. When I asked for terminal 2, was advised to go out and walk through the parking lot. We walked out the small door after the large revolving door – and by accident the stop was right there. The buses run often and convenient to use, just don’t count on the drivers to know everything.

We got the 70 DKK 24hrs tickets not to worry about running out of clippers. The Cirkel bus’s final stop was right by the hotel, it ran every 7’ as advertised, till 4 pm. This is the hour when the hell breaks loose in Copenhagen – all of a sudden the peak time puts all cars of the country and all bicycles of the country in the streets which you will be using. Once we waited for the bus for 45’.

The waterbuses are fun, and free with the 24 hrs pass. We used our credit card without a pin, no problem. Did a “trial run” on bus 26 – found the stop, not all buses go to Freeport on weekdays, walked off the bus, asked the Customs where the cruise dock is, followed the blue line. On the days of the cruise felt much better knowing where to go.

Decided to visit the Jewish museum – and thinking not many would know where it is, asked the driver of the 6A bus if he knows Thorvaldsen museum. He said yes, we sat down, at Kunst museum he said this is the one. No, Thorvaldsen, I tried what I think was a different pronunciation. In no nonsense voice he announced, this is the only museum he knows! Comical situation, we took another bus back, Cirkel bus to Christiansborg stop, there was a colorful woman sitting with some peace banners, and she explained how to find. A very small museum built similarly to the Yad Vashem.

Didn’t do much in the terms of sightseeing, mostly taking a bus, walking around, and going to the next stop to see another part of the city. My husband couldn’t get over the bicycles, how many and not locked; I couldn’t get over how clean the windows are! One block from our hotel was Stroget, we walked a few blocks, lots of sales, or maybe trying to fool the tourists, and we didn’t find any prices shocking compare to the San Francisco prices.

We ate whatever whenever, looked for herring, the one on the cruise was with sugar and vinegar, so it may be a good thing we didn’t find any in Copenhagen. Nothing compares to the herring they sell in “Russian” stores in San Francisco! One place I remember and can recommend – and can’t find the receipt with the exact name and address – a restaurant with the word “Hollywood” just off Stroget if you walk up from Radhusplads. The prices start from 49 DKK, but the food was surprisingly good and filling for such a low price.

THE CRUISE. The beauty of the fjords was bejond expectations :) Very polite and helpful people, we fell in love with the country! The cruise ship was fine, very clean, made all ports on time – on the way to Honningsvag hit the bad weather, another (smaller) cruise ship had to turn back because of high waves. This was the roughest sea we’ve ever experienced.

The food was from good to lousy on the Vision of the Seas. One day there was “vegetable goulash” on the menu – potatoes and pasta swimming in tomato sauce. On the 2nd formal day the fish was so salty – I seriously thought about leaving the restaurant to go to the buffet. We both liked the buffet more, but the people at our table were so nice, we stayed for the company. Ours was assigned seating at 6 pm.

Entertainment made us think it’s not easy to find quality actors/musicians to be on a ship. If a woman lecturing about Hollywood starts with the description of her 17 rejections in other places of employment, there is something wrong, and not with me. The juggler, a young man from Netherlands that we saw on the last day was good. A woman with a violin from Britain said she didn’t fit in some orchestra, and here she is, hey, lady, Vivaldi’s 4 seasons is a popular piece, we can hear your errors! And I didn’t get the connection between what was advertised as opera and Edit Piaf.

While it may sound like we didn’t enjoy the cruise, we did. We had a cozy window cabin; this time there was no channel on TV to show the view from the bridge, only the map and info, so we appreciated the window. Also it was thrilling to wake up in the morning to the view of the fjords, especially in Geiranger, we woke up at 6 am feeling sorry we didn’t do it earlier. There were some interesting lectures and trivia, and we had nice dinner table companions. Although they seemed out of place, the ship was selling off Russian souvenirs from the previous Baltic cruise; we found some items to buy.

We should be careful about what and who we talk to on the ship. One woman at our table talked to the ship employee who confided in her sharing a personal problem. Thinking she can help, the woman told the headwaiter about that girl, her name and her home country. It was something at home; she either couldn’t get off the ship or call home. Anyway, the next day the girl was in trouble for involving a customer in her work relations. Now that poor girl must be blacklisted with the cruise company, and all because of one passenger who didn’t realize they don’t run the ship by the US labor laws.

We used express departure from the ship shortly after 7 am. The taxi ride from Freeport took us 25-30’ and the meter showed 289 DKK. Maybe we beat the traffic, as on the Internet everybody says their ride was longer and more expensive, or maybe just an honest cabbie.

We didn’t buy any ship tours as all stops were walkable, and most of them offered tours or sightseeing “trains”. We loved all the places visited, very picturesque. There were several Norovirus outbreaks on earlier cruises this year, we didn’t feel anything or heard of people being sick.

The nature had reminded us of the White Nights. According to the ship compass the sun would set down approximately from 11 pm to 3 am, but in reality any time you’re awake it’s light outside. For us it was unusual and enjoyable, but we would not want to be there in winter when the sun never comes up.

ALESUND. It’s possible that Russian is becoming a universal language. We walked off the ship, at the information desk they were selling tickets for yet another “train” ride around the town, some rides sold out already, so we continued on to the Alesund museum. As we were not sure if our map was accurate, asked a local – he said to go back, around the block and climb the mountain. We didn’t tell him what we think he should climb, asked a woman, she said just continue walking. A woman with a child said all of a sudden in plain Russian: do you see those lanterns on the building? This is where the stairway to the museum is. Spasibo :)

So we went up, and the girl who looked and acted like she hated her life, sold us the tickets. All the signs in Norwegian, every item has a number, and a corresponding number is in the English translation in a binder. The museum is semi-interesting, no views from up the hill as it was fenced off, and we liked more the random wandering.

CROSSING THE ARCTIC CIRCLE. We were told it was done around 7 am. A sort of a non-event thing, a made-up celebration on the upper deck in the afternoon – another reason for the ship to push more drinks, we didn’t bother. Later in the cabin we got our certificates of crossing. Hooray :)

HONNINGSVAG. This was only port where we went back to the ship almost immediately. The tender ride to the shore was the scariest, huge waves. Planned to walk around, but all of a sudden were hit by a huge waterfall from the sky, ran for cover to the nearest store, made it back to the Ice Bar, first floor is a gift shop, then back to the ship. What a pity, this place is beautiful in better weather. Some cruisers who bought their tours from the ship had adjusted itinerary.

TROMSO. Before we left I tried to find out the exact location of the Memorial to deportation of Jews of Tromso – the cruise ship shuttle dropped us off at the Amundsen statue on the green lawn, on the right side of the same lawn, in the corner, a small memorial (don’t go up to the statue, only walk to the right side of that park). People just walk by without realizing what this is.

It was the only port where shuttles were offered from Breivika to the center – and they ran more often than every 30’ – buses were called up as needed. If you walk 1 block up the hill and ½ block to the right, this is where the “train” stops – they only take NOKs for payment, ½ hour around the city, we didn’t go over the bridge, only close to it.

Kunstmuseum across from the Jewish Memorial is worth visiting, and it’s free. Don’t be discouraged by the 1st floor rotating exhibit, if you don’t like contemporary art go to 2nd and 3rd floors, we loved the paintings and etchings there.

There is a small market, and pay toilets – small coins needed. We just wondered around aimlessly after the train, loved the architecture, people watching, but this can be said about every place in Norway.

GEIRANGER. It helps a lot to do a research before each trip. When we came back from a hike up to one of the waterfalls, some people said they would go there too if they knew. Somebody said, they only went half-way and turned back not knowing if there is anything worth seeing. What we saw was beautiful and powerful, and easy to get to, we are not good walkers.

OLDEN. We docked in the village, and the view off the ship was amazing! The houses had 2 levels with balconies around 2nd floors; they look expensive, like only well to do would be able to afford such a house. The train from the pier took us out of town around a lake to the river fed by a glacier. The best train ride of the trip.

BERGEN. I don’t like hop-on, hop-off buses, in Bergen they didn’t run often as it was Saturday, but we’ve decided to make a full circle to see the whole city, and it turned out to be a good idea as it got windy and cold. After this tour we spent some time around Rosencrantz tower on the way to Bryggen. Not willing to freeze, we did another round on the bus – to see what we’d missed the first time.

So now we are home, and before I start planning the next trip, I must lose the 2 lbs gained! I was good at eating the veggies and avoiding ice-cream, there is a dispenser on the ship with McDonald’s type of waffle cones, but when they brought out the large cones like they use in private shops, I couldn’t stand the temptation!

As for the photos – haven’t used the camera much, and experience is needed for everything, unfortunately. When at home, I’ve tried both settings – close and far away, they seemed the same. All photos on far away setting I took: fjords, waterfalls – came out fuzzy. I guess I’ll have to play more with it to figure out what happened. Maybe zoom messed it up?

I have 68 photos to show:

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