of the Seas
July 18-August 3, 2002
- Part Four
We don’t dock until
and our tour doesn’t leave until 12:45.I have been looking
forward to sleeping in, but here I am up at 7:00 AM, sitting on the balcony with the sun shining and a great breeze
blowing.Because it is
early it is very quiet sitting out here, usually there is a lot of
noise from the above decks.This
is our 10th cruise and this is the first time that we have experienced
such a noisy balcony.We
are probably getting so much noise because of the location of our room
which is close to center of the ship and much of the activity on board
– a good location because of its closeness to the elevators.The room itself is very quiet -- the noise is only when sitting
on the balcony.We have
heard some horror stories about people with very noisy rooms on deck
seven on the starboard side (which is our deck and location).Supposedly quite a few people have been unable to sleep and had
their room changed.One
woman I personally talked to has a vibration and noise in her ceiling
that keeps her awake at night – she has called to have this taken
care of but they tell her that the area the noise is coming from is
sealed and they don’t have access to it.
We dock outside of
and there are shuttle tickets being sold into
.We decide to buy a one
way ticket ($4 per person) so that we can remain in the city after our
tour and then get ourselves back to the ship.This is a very busy commercial port and not at all scenic.
Our guide welcomes us in Gaelic with
‘a hundred thousand welcomes’.
is a city of many moods and landscapes. There are medieval churches
and imposing castles, graceful Georgian squares and lantern-lit lanes,
broad boulevards and crowded bridges, picturesque parks and pedestrian
walkways, intriguing museums and markets, gardens and galleries. In my
opinion this tour was not worth the money.We actually saw very little of the sites of
– I only know all of what we missed since we have been here before.Last year we went with friends on the hop on hop off bus tour
.Our friends organized
the day and we saw far more for a lot less money with them.
is nice but nothing all that impressive.The Book of Kells is something to see but I am sure glad that
we didn’t have to wait on line to view it – you look at the pages
and that is it.There is
an interesting display explaining the Book of Kells which is worth
while.This tour could
easily be done on your own.
Jim and I then stayed in the city on
our own.Yep, you guessed
it – for me to shop.It is
time to return back to the ship, so we line up for the transfer bus.On line with us are four of the ship waiters, all from Turkey.Each is wearing a silly
Irish hat (oh, is Jim ever jealous – he is lusting after those hats
for his ugly hat collection.).We
snap a photo of them and get their names so that we can get copies
made to send to them.
We board the ship and immediately take
a shower – then relax on the balcony – oh, yes, this is definitely
my favorite part of cruising!
There is a message waiting for us, from
on the ship, that our flight home has been changed from leaving at
and they will not be able to transfer us to the airport on time to
make the flight.Wonderful,
now what do we do?
is very helpful and tells us that she will arrange for a private car
to pick us up for the flight home.Of course, this is a lot more expensive than the ship’s
shuttle to the airport but it seems that we don’t have a choice in
the matter.We call our
travel agent at On Line Vacations (American Express Travel) and are
told that we are pretty much on our own on this one.
Dinner tonight is at Portofinos, where
reservations.Once again the
food is delicious and service excellent. This really is a very
gracious dining experience.
Stop at the photographer to pick up
that portrait from last night and surprise – you can’t tell that
Jim’s fly was unzipped!
After dinner there is an Irish show but
pass that up in order to have some time to just sit and read.With all the touring, really enjoy this quiet time – but
naturally Jim doesn’t pass up the chance to meet his cigar buddies.Tonight the Concierge joins them and he and Jim start talking.
Guess he took a liking to Jim because he gave him a card for
admittance to the Concierge Lounge to use for the rest of the cruise.From what the concierge explained this is an area for the big
spenders and it is his job to take care of them – they serve drinks
free of charge here and also have hors d’oeuvres set up.(Once we returned home, I found out from Tony, who had use of
the lounge as a Diamond Club Member, that this lounge is for the
people in certain suite rooms and for members of the Diamond Club --
we fit into none of these categories.He also added that a Continental Breakfast is served here and
that it is a place to meet some very nice people.Unfortunately, we never bothered to go there and we obviously
missed out on something quite nice.)
Tonight we don’t sail until 10:00 PM.Knowing that we would be
until late, I had plans of going into
and doing the singing pubs – however as you can see this never
happened – relaxing on the ship seems a lot more appealing – will
just sit here and watch the sailing.
Once again I am up early and sit on the balcony to welcome the new day
-- the sun is shining and it appears that we are going to have another
nice day – how lucky can you get? We dock at Clydeport which is a
container traffic port. Today we have a full day tour booked called
Landscapes, Wool and Whiskey.Last
summer we were in
and between Glasgow and Edinburgh did enough touring that there isn’t
much left that we haven’t seen – it came down to choosing between
or the tour we chose.
The tour bus is packed and not one free
seat left – Jim and I aren’t able to sit together.This is not acceptable so I have them stop the bus and insist
on being put on another, which is done.The second bus isn’t even near to full and is much more
comfortable.Donald is our
guide.As we leave the
port we pass much of the same scenery that is familiar to us from last
year and this part of the tour is a bit repetitious.We see the old sugar storehouses, which are now abandoned –
the architecture is very interesting and they would make great condos
with more than a little refurbishing.We see the oldest shipyard in the world, the 2nd steamship ever built, an old unused rope factory and storage sheds for
aging whiskey.Our tour
takes us across the fertile valley and to the heart of the Lowland
region, with its background of hills and promise of the
scenery beyond.We see peat on
the side of the road, which is actually wet decayed earth.This area offers an astounding variety of scenery.There are large areas of fern and we are told that fern
contains a small amount of cyanide so animals and other plants stay
away from it which allows it to take over areas.Moss also grows in this spongy wet climate – during war times
it was squeezed and the liquid from it was used on wounds.Both heather and thistle are the emblems of
– the thistle is prickly and signifies that no one touches
and gets away with it.We
pass through many small villages and continuing on through the rural
countryside, we enter the small town of
and arrive at the
.Aberfoyle is a village
of about 1000 – a fault line runs through
and Aberfoyle lies right on the fault line causing tremors in this
Leaving Aberfoyle the road starts to
climb as we head toward the beautiful region of craggy hills and
sparkling lochs (lakes) straddling the border between lowland and
highlands.We pass through
and drive through Duke’s Pass with fantastic views of surrounding
tree clad mountains and distant lochs.This scenery is spectacular, including both Loch Ven Achar and
Loch Achray with the reflection of the surrounding scenery shown in
them.Today there is no
breeze so the lochs are perfectly still without the breeze to ruffle
the water. We stop in Callendar at a small country hotel, called the
Dreadnought (means for nothing) for lunch.
We continue through the beautiful
countryside to Glengoyne Distillery situated on the lovely historic
Bane Valley, nestling in the lea of the Campsie Hills from where
Glengoyne draws its pure soft water, tumbling down a 50 foot
room overlooks the damn, glen and waterfall and here we taste the
Glengoyne single malt whiskey.Can’t
say that I am a big fan of Scotch – it tastes nasty to me!Then there is a tour of the distillery – Jim and I pass on
the tour since we’ve done it before.
The tour and guide are excellent and
this is a very enjoyable day. We return to the ship and as we walk
through the terminal there are vendors set up. There are bagpipers
playing to see us off – there are also some of the local residents
that have come out to wave goodbye.The Irish and Scots are a very warm and friendly people.
Tonight we decide on the Windjammer
Café for the buffet – this food is getting old for me.Other people are very pleased with this food but as I have said
before, I don’t care for the hot foods.Once again, coming up to deck 11 is unpleasant – kids are
running all over the place with lots of loud voices and playing on the
After dinner we attend the show at the
Pacifica Theater – tonight a concert pianist by the name of Antonio
Salci plays.He is
fabulous – I even buy one of his CDs after his performance.After the show I stop at the photographers to get the photo of
Jim and I that was taken today.Try
checking out the shops but it is a mob scene – will return when it’s
not so congested.This
mass of humanity is not my idea of a restful vacation so return to the
privacy of our cabin.When
I return to the room our cabin steward has become creative and has
left a swan made of folded towels for us – very clever.Tonight it is cold, damp and windy on the balcony -- so it is agood night to curl up in bed to read.Up until now there has been very little motion from the ship
but tonight I am feeling a bit more movement – nothing terrible just
a gentle rocking.
Last night we turned our clocks ahead, so lost an hour – since this
is a day at sea it really doesn’t matter.It is cold and rainy today so I decide to sleep a bit later --
so much for my idea of a relaxing day reading on the balcony. Jim goes
down for breakfast and brings me back a pastry.
Late morning, I attend a port talk on
which is quite informative – tomorrow we will be in
Bergen.Find that we need to
divide seven into the Norwegian Krone to get the dollar amount.At the talk there is a table set up with many of the Norwegian
appears that the Norwegian sweaters and the trolls are two of the more
popular items.After the
shopping talk there is a lecture on the country of
with a slide show.
The ship again seems very crowded to me
– too many people in one spot -- the shops are especially crowded.
Once again it is necessary to schedule the times you visit certain
areas avoid dealing with so many people.This is the first time that we have ever encountered this
problem on a cruise.
This ship seems to have large group of
hear about one group who created a problem in the dining room–a man
from the group threw a chair and hit a waiter.We had another ethnic group on one of our tours that had no
regard for time and kept the busload of passengers waiting an
inordinate amount of time for them.The tour guide was not at all happy and made an announcement
annoyance is that parents are not watching their children and seem to
be letting the kids run wild.Our
first night eating at Portofino Restaurant, we noticed a six year old
boy with his parents drinking wine.The child was very well behaved and dressed very nicely.The waiter explained to the parents that minors were not
allowed to drink on board.The
parents had a bit to say and the child continued to drink the wine!My major problem with the ship is the rudeness of so many of
the passengers.This is
not Royal Caribbean’s fault but it makes me wonder if this type of
person is attracted to their cruises?The problem is bad enough to keep us out of the public areas.People are free to do as they choose but when it starts
infringing on the comfort of others, something must be done.
This afternoon a Traditional High Tea
is being offered for $5 per person -- we don’t attend.I’ve tried several times today to sit outside on the balcony
but it is just too cold – and anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t
chill easily!This seems
to be a perfect afternoon for a nap – with all the touring we’ve
been doing, catching up on some sleep is a very welcome thought.
Before dinner we have a cocktail at the
Schooner Lounge – Jim likes the bartender and waitresses here.One of the waitresses is Maria Murphy and Jim immediately bonds
with her with their common last name.They pass each other on the ship yelling, “Hi, Murph!”
Tonight we eat at Chops specialty
restaurant.The service is
excellent and Jim feels that he is served one of the best steaks that
he has ever had. I order the veal chop which is tough.We feel that spending the $20 per person is well worth it to
have the gracious dining in
and Chops.Both of these
restaurants are decorated lovely and the service is excellent –
there are some especially nice waiters/waitresses working here.At this point, I prefer
After dinner there is a show in the
Pacifica Theater with the music of Abba – the performance is very
entertaining and the performers work their hearts out for us – sort
of feel like we are at the show “Mama Mia”.Our cruise director is Ken Rush and I have noticed that a lot
of people don’t care for him.Can’t
say that he has bothered me to any great extent – he is the normal
rah-rah type, that are on many cruise ships.I can’t say that I have been around enough to be bothered by
the public announcements that are so upsetting to others.The only time when I have had to listen to him is to introduce
the shows and at the end of the shows when he tells you about the
activities for the rest of the evening.There have been complaints about his announcements in the cabin
but we aren’t getting them – either our speaker doesn’t work or
we have it turned off.
After the show, I return to the room
and tonight the towels are folded into a penguin – pretty darn
creative!The balcony is
now fairly decent to sit on – the temperature seems to have warmed
up a little.It is
and still daylight – welcome to the land of the Midnight Sun’!
Situated on a natural harbor and protected from the
by a peninsula,
is located on the western edge of Norway.Its climate is tempered
by the gulf current which moderates the harsh winters and helps to
keep the waterways ice free – in turn this produces wet summers and
locally it is said that
Bergen’s babies are born with umbrellas.Surrounded by seven mountains and several fjords, it is
’s second largest city with a population close to 220,000 – It has
a university, several colleges and many cultural and municipal
We have actually seen several oil rigs
in the sea while sailing in the area of
.It is definitely worth
being on deck or your balcony to enjoy the lovely scenery while coming
. Today is overcast but not raining and the temperature is mild.Our ship docks at Jekteviken and a complimentary shuttle is
available to take us into town.Our
is this afternoon, so this morning we take the shuttle into
to explore.The shuttle is
right at the dock waiting and very easy to use.There is a guide on the bus who takes us from the shuttle stop
into the main part of town.We
use the map that was given to us and quickly get our bearings.
Jim and I wander around the Bryggen and its Torget also known as
Fisketorget (Fish Square), which is located at the top end of the harbor where the fishing
boats moor.Here our
senses are assailed by the sights, sounds and aromas of this bustling
and exciting commercial center. We think of taking the funicular but
decide against it since it is a cloudy day and doubt there will be any
view.It takes you to the
Floyen, where you are 1050 feet above sea level giving a magnificent view
(on a clear day) over the surrounding islands.
It is now time to walk back to the
assigned place to pick up the shuttle to take us back to the ship –
very convenient.The shuttles
run constantly and there is very little waiting time.We arrive back at the ship and have enough time for Jim to grab
some lunch at the Windjammer Café and for me to relax with a diet
coke, before we board the coach for our tour – have about an hour
before our tour leaves. We board our coach and drive through the
downtown area of
and drive past many of the local sites.
Our first stop is to the
located outside the city.Stave
Churches are churches from the 13th century made entirely of wood and
without nails. They have elaborate carvings which are characteristics
of these churches. Unique to
, the stave church is one of the most visible examples of the
convergence of the country's Christian and pagan cultures.
Our next stop is at the Old Museum
Bergen, an open air museum with more than 40 wooden houses,
representative of the
architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We see friends on this tour and they
are not thrilled with this cruise.They ate at Chops and were very disappointed with their meal
– none of their steaks were cooked as ordered.I also felt that my meal could have been better.They told us that they met a man who was on his 17th Royal
Caribbean cruise and will never sail with them again. Since this is
our first time on a Royal Caribbean ship, I don’t know if the
problems are because the ship is new and still working the kinks out
or if this is typical of Royal Caribbean.
We return to the ship and have a
message from our travel agent – our flight has been cancelled and we
are booked on another US Air flight leaving
shortly after .Now the ship will be
able to get us to the airport on time with our transfer.Once again,
on the Brilliance is wonderful and even says that she will confirm our
flight for us (something that is not her job but a definite favor to
Tonight we return to
for dinner – this is my favorite of the two specialty restaurants.The restaurant is quieter than Chops and the food better. Both
restaurants have excellent service.
Tonight the shops have things from
on sale.Stop at the Photo
Gallery but today’s picture is definitely not a ‘keeper’.
Tonight the production show is ‘Latin Groove’.The performers have energy plus and the dancing, costumes and
lighting are great.After
the show, I return to the room and find the towels folded into a man
that is hanging on a hangar – a bit gruesome!I spend time on the balcony and Jim does his usual cigar ritual
with his new buddies. I am
amazed that it is
and it is still daylight.
Our ship leaves the open sea near Alesund, a very important fishing
port.Alesund has a
population of 35,000 and is built upon three islands.It is now considered one of the prettiest of all the fishing
Norway.Now the show of
magnificent scenery begins. I am so glad that I woke up early so as
not to miss a minute of it.Today
is clear and the sun is shining. Some distance inland, near the ferry
port and resort town of Stranda, the channel divides with a natural
flow to the right, ending at the ferry port of Hellsylt and the flow
to the left being Geiranger Fjord.We will be docking in Geiranger and then taking an overland
excursion to Hellsylt.
We anchor in the most idyllic setting
– mountains surround us, seagulls are overhead and waterfalls stream
down the mountains.The
vista is peaceful and totally breathtaking in its grandeur.There are little villages hugging the sides of the mountain. Geiranger
Fjord stretches some ten miles inland, fed by numerous gushing
waterfalls including the ‘Seven Sisters, the ‘Suitor’ and the
sheer magnificence of the surroundings dwarfs even the huge Brilliance
of the Seas.
This morning we are tendered into
Geiranger where we leave for our Scenic Norway Overland Excursion Tour
– our guide tells us to call her Odd, which I assume is a nickname.She tells us that today is the best day of the summer to date.Once again we are very fortunate.We drive through the small
passing several hotels, chalets and a tiny octagonal wooden church.
is situated approximately a mile up the main road, above the landing
area.This quaint little
wooden church is built in an octagonal shape and offers lovely views
of cruise ships and the surrounding countryside.
continue uphill towards Djupvass Chalet, situated some 3100 feet above
sea level. There is a short photo stop at Flydal Gorge where there is
a fantastic view of the fjord and ship below.Fydal Gorge is beautiful and the sound of the thundering
waterfalls gives just a hint of the power of the water.
On our journey back to the ship we see
something called the Virgin Stone, a round stone with a hole
in the center.A bride
must crawl through it but if she gets stuck in the hole she is not a
virgin.Guess this is one
way to keep the young women on diets!We stop at the old
Bridge, which is 210 years old.
We arrive in Hellesylt and make one
last stop to see the waterfall here.
It has been a long but wonderful
day.The first half of the
day was really great but toward the end our stops seemed to be
prolonged.Our guide was great and we learned so much about
and this particular area from her.
The first thing that I do when we get
back to our cabin is shower. Jim and I then order a cheese plate from
room service and sit on the balcony with a drink – in my opinion
this is really living, being able to relax and view the gorgeous
scenery that surrounds us.
Tonight we have reservations at Chops
but we are tired so cancel and eat at the Windjammer instead.The shops are having a special sale on amber.I can’t resist checking it out – there are some very unique
pieces on sale.
I decide to return to the balcony
to read and take in some more of the scenery.It is a gorgeous evening to be out.The sunset is spectacular and doesn’t set until well after
.Jim is up on deck with
his buddies having his cigar and B&B.I watch the sunset but actually miss the moment it slips below
the horizon.Jim and
almost everyone else on board saw the sunset and the green flash that
is sometimes seen in this part of the world.I must have been engrossed in my book, which caused me to miss
it – I could just kick myself since this is a rare occurrence.Not only did he see the green flash but he also saw whales
jumping – I’m beginning to think that perhaps I should take up
cigar smoking so as not to miss all these things he is seeing!