Stepping out onto the balcony we were greeted this morning with a much more cosmopolitan city-scape that was Bergen. The weather was noticeably colder and again unfortunately grey and wet. We later learned that Bergen proclaims to be the wettest place in Europe and it was certainly living up to that title!
We were docked in a commercial port and egress was via free shuttle bus to the city centre. In the distance we could see the town and the funicular railway going up the hillside. We had planned on taking a ride to the top but with the weather and clouds closing in all the time we wouldn’t have seen much from up there. We decided to have a day on-board and enjoy the facilities and quiet that had descended on the ship as most people went ashore. I always enjoy staying on-board at least for one day a cruise. As long as I don’t feel like I’m missing out on whatever is ashore. We’d already decided we loved the fjords so much that we would be back at the earliest possible opportunity and given most cruises visit Bergen, came to the conclusion that we’d explore another time, hopefully in better weather.
A relatively uneventful morning passed, the only excitement being a brief total electrical failure that left the ship spookily silent for a few short moments. An announcement was made apologising but no explanation given. Hopefully someone had just pressed the wrong button in the engine room!
I decided to put into practise more of the tips I’d learned from my lesson with the ships’ photographer and set out exploring the ship capturing every inch with my camera. By now I’d got used to the layout and was finding my away around quite nicely. Seeing all the venues in day light and mostly empty, it hit home how nice most of them are. Although we hadn’t had the opportunity to eat in East, I had a little look in there and found it to be very stylish and I liked the look of the menu. I was left ruing the fact that my wife doesn’t like Oriental food and wondered if I could get a table for one for me and an appointment in the spa for her at the same time! I wasn’t brave enough to do that though and vowed to myself if we came back I would somehow try to eat there.
Other places that I decided I liked a lot whilst I was wandering around with my camera permanently stuck to my face were the clubs; Havana and The Tamarind. Both are very brightly coloured, stylish and of a good size. I liked the fact that Ventura could simultaneously host three different shows using the stages in the clubs as well as the theatre.
The atrium was a grand, elegant space and was the bustling hub of the ship. With bars and shops encircling it and stalls set out occasionally for jewellery and other sales, there was always something going on there. Down below there was the more peaceful library, the Internet room and a Costa Coffee shop where you could enjoy a free cake with your premium coffee. Heading off from the atrium in one direction was the main walk-way leading aft to the bars and restaurants. In the other direction was the theatre. I really don’t know why my wife kept getting so confused and disorientated. One good tip we heard was that all the central lifts faced forward. It was a good tip and one we shared with a few fellow passengers. That was until we got completely lost one day, having got out of a different lift that didn’t face forward and walked pretty much the length of one of the accommodation decks before realising we were going the wrong way on the wrong side! After that we just paid a bit more attention to the signs!
As the back on-board time approached, we started getting ready to head up on deck in anticipation of the great British sail-away deck party that had been billed as “the big one” and one we’d been looking forward to. We’d seen something similar recently from Independence of the Seas looking across to Azura next to us in Gibraltar and the atmosphere was brilliant with all the rousing British music and Union Jack waving. Even though we weren’t on-board and were on an American ship, it was very patriotic and felt good to be British looking on at the fun they were having. Therefore it was with genuine disappointment as we were about to head out the cabin door, that we heard that familiar bing bong and Cruise Director, Leanne, came on to break the news that the sail-away party was cancelled due to the poor weather. There’s no doubt it would have been a soggy and cold affair, but in true Blighty spirit I’m sure we would have just Kept Calm and Carried On! Still, never mind, just one of those things that couldn’t be helped and they did rearrange it for the following day at sea, albeit below decks in the apt location of The Exchange English pub.
The Norwegian Brass band on the quayside, huddled under a loading bay roof, were not so perturbed by the weather and gave us a tuneful send off in return for appreciative applause and cheering from the balconies as we slipped quietly away from our berth.
Following the sail-away, it was time to investigate the afternoon chocoholic’s tea. It was a splendid affair with all manner of chocolate cakes and treats served in the Bay Tree restaurant, all of which were very nice indeed.
We returned to our cabin to transform ourselves into our formal likenesses before catching the early show in the theatre. The show was the thoroughly enjoyable Reel To Reel. It was a musical journey of songs from Brit flicks with live music from the orchestra and a good variety of movie soundtracks ranging from Oliver to Bridget Jones’ Diary and Summer Holiday to the Full Monty. The grand finale was a spectacular medley of Bond themes, complete with special effects and glamorous Bond girls, the only thing missing was the Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred!
After dinner it was time for more portraits. This evening’s game was to visit every different photographer in each different location, in the hope that one of them might be able to make us look good! It killed time before dinner and by the end we had the poses down to a tee; getting in position without prompting by the photographer, much to their bemusement and comments of “you’ve done this before!” Outside the sea was getting up and we were starting to get a bit of a swagger on. At least one photo captured us mid lurch with very odd facial expressions!
On to dinner in the Bay Tree and I’m afraid to say, another average dining experience. This time everything was cooked correctly and the service was OK, but the constant rumbling noise and vibration from the engines below meant it was not really a relaxing experience. We hadn’t noticed this the previous time in there and wondered if it was to do with the fact that the sea conditions were worsening. As we’d been spoiled earlier and gorged ourselves silly on chocolate goodies, we slipped away before pudding and headed up to the Beach House area of the buffet which was much cooler than the stifling restaurant and, by this time, much more peaceful too. We sat there taking in the scenery, sipping our drinks and ended up staying for the syndicate quiz. We played along to ourselves, as the teams playing were already well established from previous nights. We scored a paltry 7/20. Oh well, no prizes but it was fun and it was interesting to see Lembit Opik, who’d been on-board for a celebrity talk, and his girlfriend taking part.
By now we were back out in the North Sea and the waves were picking up even more. I decided to take a look from the promenade, deck 7. My wife opting instead for the safety of the cabin! The waves were crashing into the starboard bow with quite some venom, sending plumes of spray high up above the deck. It was fascinating to watch and quite a crowd gathered to take in the spectacle. On return to the cabin I couldn’t help but wonder how it looked from the balcony and spent another hour stood out there mesmerised by the unforgiving sea. Having drained two camera batteries I decided to call it a night and be rocked to sleep one last time as the ship continued to pitch and roll therapeutically.
We had one more day at sea before reaching Southampton……..