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But will there be a walrus? Jewel Arctic Cruise, June 20-July 2, 2022


KristiZ
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13 minutes ago, KristiZ said:

Right?! But I’m just happy we’re getting the leftover pies from the British Isles cruise before this — I love a little regional food focus but I’m not very interested in salt cod and lutefisk 😉 

I think they may not be leftovers but rather a conscious decision to have the pie and curry options on all European sailings. We had them on our recent Odyssey cruise to the Greek Isles too, which never went anywhere near the UK. I was delighted! 😁

Can't say I'm a fan of salt cod either. It's pretty much the national dish where I live, supposed to a different recipe for every day of the year. Give me a nice fresh sea bass (branzino) any day of the week! 😆

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Day 7 - At Sea

I thought I’d use today to talk about the stray observations I’ve had so far. I usually wait until the end, but we’re going to be so busy the next few days I’ll probably forget everything from the beginning of the cruise!

 - We have passengers from 52 different countries onboard. I love it! Americans are less than half the group, which is rare on Royal outside of China. So many languages!

 - This cabin (9656) is listed on the Royal site as holding 8 people. NOPE. There’s no way. Maybe 6, if four of them were tiny humans. Better 4 or even 2. It is perfect for the three of us.

 - There are a lot of new staff in training, in all areas. Also, a number of the crew have had their contracts extended or are expecting an extension shortly. The ship doesn’t feel particularly understaffed, but it does feel a bit stretched. No complaints about service so far though!

 - This is a great itinerary, but if I had a choice I would take one that included Longyearbyen. If I’m going this far north I might as well go all the way!

 - Our weather so far has been absolutely phenomenal. It may not hold, but I’m so grateful for what we’ve had so far. 

 - Shows have been a bit limited so far, at least on the production side. Supposedly we’ll have one later in the week, but so far everything has been magicians or guest singers. Not sure if that is covid related, or due to the large number of languages to accommodate, or what.

 - Food has so far been quite good overall. MDR service has been not quite as good a pre-pandemic (same as the other two cruises I’ve been on since the restart). I think the dining room staff is less experienced than they were before.

 - While I’m certain the answer to my walrus question is going to be no, we have seen Minke whales a couple of times, which I wasn’t expecting (not sure why I wasn’t expecting it, but there you go).

 - We have been exiting the ship on deck 2. This is because all the ports we’ve been to lack a long enough gangway ramp; our choice has been deck 2 or stairs to deck 5 that no wheelchair passengers could navigate. In order to accommodate the tidal flux, we’ve had to shift ballast in the ship to lift our dock side up so we could exit on deck 2. This has meant almost crawling out of the ship at times, the clearance was so low. Apparently the ports have been unwilling to buy new gangways due to pandemic related cash flow problems.

Half way through!

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Day 8 - Alesund

This is a very picturesque town, much more what you think of when you think of Norway. Our weather was not as good as it had been, but still decent. We got sprinkled on a bit and there were more clouds. We did the Stranda Mountain Explorer excursion. Our guide was a French woman, again excellent. This tour is more bus and less active than we like, but still enjoyable. 

Alesund on arrival. The port where we docked is tucked inside a little inlet, so there were some interesting gyrations getting us in.

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While this was a bus tour, we had to take two ferries to get around. They just put the whole bus on the ferry, which was fun. Also, some of the ferries are electric and get charged for a few minutes each time durning unloading and loading. See the white shed on the right, that’s the charging station.

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Stranda Mountain is a ski resort that tries to have year round activities. They can ski here until the beginning of June usually. We took the gondola to the top and got some nice views. There was also a waffle, of course!

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The church from the 1800s in the town a Stranda. The older church was destroyed by a tsunami caused by an avalanche into the fjord:

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Various scenes from the trip:

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5 hours ago, KristiZ said:

WOWOWOWOWOW !  How awesomely cool.

 

5 hours ago, KristiZ said:

1.  I'm pretty sure I've seen this place before, in a James Bond movie....just sayin'

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The older church was destroyed by a tsunami caused by an avalanche into the fjord:

2.  Who would have guessed there could/would be a tsunami in Norway !

 

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2 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Darn! That is the excursion that I am going to miss out on. Instead we are doing something called "Highlights of Alesund". Those pics look amazing!

I think you’ll be happy with your choice. Some folks on our tour today did that one yesterday and enjoyed it! 

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Day 9 - Flam

Flam is the first port on this trip where tourism is actually the main industry, catering to both internal and external tourists. A gorgeous, long sail in through the second largest fjord in the world, and then a tiny village of 500 people. And our weather today was phenomenal!

We chose the Aurland, Laerdal, and Borgund Stave Church tour. It was excellent. We drove through the longest car tunnel in the world, which was fun but not very photogenic 😉 We saw arguably the oldest stave church in the world. Then fantastic scenery along a very narrow mountain road, with a stop at Stegastein overlook. Our guide was very good too.

Coming in to Flam:

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The stave church:

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The “new” church from the late 1800s, currently under restoration:

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View from Stegastein overlook:

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Scenery:

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Day 10 - Haugesund

This was the port stop that got added fairly last minute, and shore excursions took over a week to populate. Even after they were up in the Cruise Planner, there were no descriptions. So I picked the Akrafjord and Langford Waterfall excursion a bit randomly, with pretty much no research. Not like me at all! Turned out to be a great day, with lovely weather. No regrets!

Sailing in to port:

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Driving through town, and the very pink town hall:

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Monument to the Viking warlord that united Norway:

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Farmhouse restaurant for lunch, plus a photo stop at said farmhouse:

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Boat cruise on the fjord to the gorgeous Langfoss:

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A campsite you can rent, with a view of the falls:

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11pm:

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Day 11 - Kristiansand

Another absolutely gorgeous day. We have been so lucky!

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I got ambitious today and booked two shore excursions, with an hour and 45 minutes between them. Could have made the gap longer, but I chose to cater to MisterZ’s dislike of alarm clocks while on vacation. Actually, he hates alarms clocks any time…

First up was the Setsedal Mineral Park. There has historically been a lot of mining in Kristiansand. The park is actually a family destination — there is a lake to swim in with inflatable obstacles, a challenge course in the trees, picnic spots, and play structures in addition to the mineral museum. I am an unabashed rock geek, but I will spare you most of it. Here are a few shots from inside the museum:

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We all piled back in the bus to head back to the ship. Interesting fact — buses in Norway are being outfitted with breathalyzers, so that they cannot be started without the driver blowing clean. Any time a bus sits more than 60 minutes, the driver has to blow again. However, as with any technology it tends to be pretty neat right up until the point it doesn’t work.

Bus driver nearly hyperventilated getting the bus started — lots of “keep breathing” notices from the machine. Then, even though it was running the bus wouldn’t get in gear, as it was insisting that there was a door still open. After many gyrations and a call to tech support, the bus driver accessed a little panel in the back of the bus and rebooted the whole system. Yup, he literally turned it off and then on again, and it started working. Whew!

Unfortunately, this made us about 30 minutes late getting back to the ship. What was supposed to be a comfortable lunch before heading out again became a wolfed-down cheeseburger and a sprint to the cabin to retrieve the next tickets. At least for me. MomMe decided it was too much, and I was unwilling to spend the domestic currency required to get MisterZ onto the next tour in such a hurry. So they had a leisurely lunch and away I went!

Next up was the Setsedal Railway Line. This was a historic train used during the peak of the lumber industry, with 8 kilometers of track, two cars, and an engine saved from the ravages of time and progress. 150 kilograms of coal and 1000 liters of water are needed to move the train on those 8 kilometers. Pictures of the station and the train:

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Scenery along the way, including the log sluice that was used to get the trees off the mountain. It’s now used for hiking:

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On the way back we toured a bit through Kristiansand proper. Quarantine hill:

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Fish market:

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Street art:

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Back to port:

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If you have done the White Pass railway, this one is tiny in comparison. Still glad I went!

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Day 12 - At Sea

This was a much needed sea day! Four big ports in a row is a lot when you’re supposed to be on vacation 🙂 We did a lot of relaxing, including time in the spa and the bar. The C&A entertainment chat was today, too, so that was fun. 

Here are my notes and thoughts for the second half of the cruise, again in no particular order:

 - There were definitely Covid cases onboard. People were cruising like there had never been a pandemic and it came back to bite some of them. Nothing severe, as far as I heard, so that’s good. For example, the cabin next to us, on day 5 the husband had to go to isolation but the wife got to stay on vacation as long as she masked when she was out and tested once per day. She was negative the whole trip. I thought that was a nice compromise.

 - I expected there to be more children on this cruise, since European vacations are in full swing. Instead this was the cruise on Royal that felt most like a Holland America cruise. LOTS of B2B (or B2B2B) people and definitely an older crowd. The majority of families onboard were the “adventure vacation” type, so they were off the ship as much as they could be.

 - I *loved* all the nationalities and languages! Super interesting! 

 - It was really nice to have so many good tour guides. A lot of them were not Norwegian. They were young Germans or Belgians or whatnot in Norway on working holiday for the summer. Many had been doing this for a number of summers in a row. It looks to be a very busy cruise season for Norway, but they seem to be positioned to handle it.

 - While I love Radiance class ships, and Jewel is lovely, I really hate The Pit Stop. (It’s in the pub location behind the casino.) I think it’s ugly and doesn’t fit with the rest of the ship.

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Day 13 - Debarkation

Hi, Amsterdam!

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Everyone had to be off the ship by 830a, which was earlier than I remember any prior cruise. I suspect it was in part to force people to the airport sooner, in hopes they wouldn’t miss their flights.

We had breakfast in Chops. I was glad they still offered the suite breakfast this last day. Much less stressful than the Windjammer! We disembarked at about 815am. We were in our taxi by 835am and at the airport by right about 9am. Our flight was at 1255pm and MomMe’s was 400pm (was supposed to be 230pm but she was informed of the delay the day before).

Schipol is a nightmare right now. Everything you’ve read in the news, true. People in the sailing’s Facebook group were reporting 4-5 hours in line to clear security! We were all in business class, so dropping off our bags took less than 10 minutes and we headed to the Priority Line for security. 

We were in that line for 15 minutes (and had made it about half way to the escalator) when a skycap took one look at MomMe and said “you guys follow me”. He was pushing a woman in a wheelchair and just added us to her (non-existent) “family”. In fairness, had I realized how awful the security and immigration lines were, I would have gotten MomMe a wheelchair anyway. She would never have made it standing in line for the estimated 1.5 hours it would have taken us (and remember we were in the “priority” lines!). That guy was absolutely my favorite person of the day!

Even inside the terminal was a mess. Anyone transiting who had to go through immigration also had to stand in huge lines. They were announcing “if your connecting flight is in more than two hours, please go away and come back to immigration later” in an attempt to get people through more smoothly. Awful!

Our flight was lovely, and we are back in the (exceedingly marginal) Crowne Plaza in Panama. Our last leg home to Managua is tomorrow.

Thank you for following along, and I hope this blog was both helpful and entertaining!

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1 hour ago, KristiZ said:

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Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us. It's been amazing. 😍

Please tell me what this is??? I don't remember ever seeing one of these before and it looks fabulous.

Also, can you tell me how you found the WiFi during your cruise? I've read that it can be less than efficient the farther north you go?

Thanks again. 😊

 

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