From glowing orange sunset skies at midnight to snow-capped mountains, fjords, the Arctic Circle and the wonders of Norway, Scotland and England, this 14-day cruise really was the trip of a lifetime.
We sailed from Bergen, to Geiranger, Molde, Tromso, Honningsvag, and Lofoten in Norway, then on to Lerwick, Kirkwall, and Edinburgh in Scotland. On our way we visited historic sites, trekked through rugged landscapes, got to know the local culture, people and local cuisine (yum!).
It’s a brilliant way to see lots of different places without having to get on and off flights, and packing and unpacking.
From check-in to check-out, everything was exceptionally well organised. From the moment I stepped on board the ship and into my gorgeous suite, I felt thoroughly pampered.
Ordering breakfast on room service is a real treat, especially when you can eat it on your balcony (which all rooms have).
The friendly staff can’t do enough to help and make you feel so welcome.
There’s under-floor heating in the bathroom and plenty of space for clothes (you need evening outfits and all-weather clothes for adventures on land, as well as swimwear and gym kit so you can take advantage of the spa, swimming pools and gym).
With seven restaurants to choose from, we were spoilt for choice. For fine dining, there’s Manfredi’s, Chef’s Table (which specialises in an eight-course tasting menu) and The Restaurant.
I am vegetarian or pescatarian, and the staff went out of their way to ensure I always had something delicious that catered for my dietary requirements.
I always thought cruises were fairly inactive, but that’s not the case here.
Some of the trips inland involve hiking along spectacular coastlines and there’s plenty of culture and history, too.
If you want to add more private or unique onshore experiences such as flying over the fjords in Norway, riding with huskies or chasing eagles in a rib boat, you can, although the cost of these is not included in your basic package.
And if you wish to do your own thing, which I did on a couple of occasions, that’s fine, too.
My onshore highlights were arriving at the Nordkapp (the northernmost point of Norway) in mist, which lifted to reveal the most beautiful coastline.
I also loved browsing round Tromso, a pretty little town with typical bright-coloured houses. I found an amazing vintage shop.
On days at sea you can relax and read, swim in the infinity pool, watch a film (there’s an open-air cinema), listen to talks, scoff high tea in the Wintergarden, enjoy the spa, or go to lectures in the theatre – I went to one on Viking history, which was fascinating. The spa was exceptional, with the added bonus of being able to go straight back to your room in a towelling robe after your massage. We sampled the Nordic Spa Ritual, an invigorating experience that involved jumping between a hot sauna and a snow room. When in Norway, do as the Norwegians do!
There’s evening entertainment in the theatre, and the Abba tribute band did not disappoint.
Every evening pre-dinner, we sipped prosecco in the Explorer Bar. For late-night cocktails it was the The Living Room bar for a lovely relaxed atmosphere. And for dancing till midnight there was Tor’s Bar, where we ended up without fail!
Then there was wild swimming in the sea on a beautiful beach with golden sand on Shetland, and visiting the 5,000-year-old neolithic village at Skara Brae and the magical Ring Of Brodgar standing stones on Orkney.
Skara Brae wasn’t included in the organised trip, so I made my way there independently.
I had such a fantastic time, and we saw so much that I felt like I’d been away for months.
I’d go back in a heartbeat.
P.S. All meals and snacks are included on the Viking Ocean Cruises package. You can have breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner in any of the restaurants or bars. Washing and drying your clothes at the ship laundrette is free, too.