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There’s Norway to beat this P&O Cruises trip - travel review

By Kirsten Rawlins | Travel | Published:

If you crave breathtaking mountains, stunning waterfalls, beautiful architecture and friendly locals, Norway is absolutely the place to go.

The view from the cruise ship of Olden. Pic: Kirsten Rawlins

We travelled to the picturesque Scandinavian destination with P&O Cruises - and it’s most certainly a trip we will always remember.

It was, in fact, an extra special, memorable holiday for us. As it was such a jaw-dropping location, my other half decided to propose to me halfway up a mountain on an excursion to Alesund, but more on that later.

The seven-day voyage aboard The Ventura saw us travel to four destinations - Stavanger, Olden, Alesund and Bergen - with two days at sea (and two when we embarked and disembarked the ship).

After a day at sea, we arrived in the delightful port of Stavanger, where we were greeted by sights of white timber buildings, an array of fishing boats, attractive restaurants, and a stunning Anglo-Norman cathedral.

After visiting the picturesque Stavanger Cathedral and wandering around a small market, we sampled a few traditional beers in what appeared to be the gay district of Stavanger. It was a beautiful street, lined with multicoloured timber-clad buildings, with distinctive, unique graffiti art.

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We ended the day with a delicious meal at a restaurant named Skagen overlooking the dock, where we enjoyed a creamy meat-filled fish soup and the most wonderful salad my other half had ever eaten, followed by ox steak and a burger. It may have been a lovely meal in a quaint restaurant with a rustic all-wooden interior, but with two glasses of wine and two beers, the bill came to around £130 - this is certainly worth bearing in mind when visiting Norway.

The next day at Olden saw the ship moored in a breathtaking area of the Fjords, nestled between lush green mountains which boasted waterfalls and farmland.

Though we didn’t get off the boat this day, it was almost dream-like to enjoy drinks on the top deck as we sailed past these magnificent sights - and I simply couldn’t take enough pictures.

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We were also able to enjoy the phenomenal sights from our balcony at our room, which was absolutely an added bonus.

The Tuesday then saw us arrive in Alesund, where we hurriedly left the Ventura to be ready for a trip at 8am, but it was well worth it.

We took part in the Land of The Trolls excursion, which saw us visit an array of mountain ranges and waterfalls, as well as the iconic Troll Wall which is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe.

Our wonderfully jolly, knowledgeable tour guide happily told us everything we could have hoped to know about the area - from the history of the stunning buildings in the town of Alesund, which were almost entirely destroyed by a huge fire in 1904, to the magical tales of trolls and how they came about.

The trip took us from the town, through farmland - where we learned much of the area’s farming history and unique traditions, to viewing points where we could take in the sights of colossal mountains, the glistening waters of the Fjords, and beautiful waterfalls.

We then stopped off to take in more sights and walked along a path to look down on to a valley below, before we reached a ‘stairway’ made of flat rocks, which, as it made its way up the mountain, was lined with cairns (piles of rocks to mark where people had been).

We then came to a junction, if you will, offering an easy path marked in green, or a hard path marked in red, which took climbers to the top of the peak.

Wanting to get me away from everyone else, my other half - who is seasoned in the art of climbing - insisted we take the hard route. Despite my objections and fear of heights, I eventually obliged - and held on to a metal chain attached to the mountain as I clambered after him.

It was there we saw the biggest cairn I’d ever seen and he suggested I place a rock atop it.

As I did so, with my back turned to him, he said ‘do you want to try this rock?’ - and when I spun around he was on one knee, holding a wooden box in his hand containing my engagement ring.

Naturally, I burst into tears and happily said ‘yes’, before we ran back to the coach for fear we’d be left behind.

An absolutely magical moment, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, overlooking a valley. And certainly one neither of us will ever forget.

The final excursion took us to Bergen, where we visited the 7 Fjell Brewery and enjoyed a range of beers as we enjoyed a guide around the brewery’s inner workings as well as tales from award-winning wine expert and food aficionado Olly Smith.

Olly was fantastic and, luckily for us, we also took part in a further two activities with him on our final day on board - a splendid wine tasting event, where Olly explained what to look for in a good wine and which type of wine best suits which foods, and an exquisite taster meal hosted by him, which was without doubt the best meal we had all week.

When we weren’t being wined and dined by Olly Smith in the attractive Glass House bar and restaurant, or venturing up mountains, the cruise ship had tonnes of entertainment on offer and a huge range of bars and restaurants.

The Ventura boasts two fine dining restaurants - The Epicurean and The Sindhu, where passengers can eat for a small amount extra, a buffet which runs all day every day and two restaurants - all three of these are included in the overall price of the cruise and allow diners to eat as much as they like. Eatery and watering hole The Glass House is also on offer, where meals cost a little extra.

There were also bars at every turn, from the indoor pub-like Exchange, which sat beside the ship’s casino; to the Havana which had music on till late every night, to the array of bars on deck.

Passengers were also able to enjoy a huge range of entertainment, from musical theatre shows, to tribute acts, comedians, singers and bands.There were also film screenings, dance lessons, talks, game show-type contests, gaming competitions, party nights and more. It was impossible to be bored, regardless of taste.

There were also numerous pools and jacuzzis available for everyone’s use, as well as a spa - though this did cost extra.

The top entertainment in our view was that from stand-up comedians Tucker and Joe Bor. Tucker’s routine was amusing and endearing - but it was his incredible voice that most impressed, his Elvis impersonation absolutely jaw-dropping. Joe, meanwhile, provided laugh-out-loud entertainment - including a hilarious late-night adults-only routine.

A hugely memorable, fabulous week filled to the brim with astounding sights, varied entertainment and lovely food and drink.

FACTBOX:

P&O Cruises is running a seven-day trip to the Norwegian Fjords with Olly Smith for seven nights for £759 per person for an inside cabin aboard the Iona.

Departing September 5, 2020, the price includes kids' club, full board meals and entertainment on board.

Leaving from and returning to Southampton ports of call are Stavanger, Olden, Geiranger and Bergen.

Olly Smith’s brewery tour is from £110 per person.

To book, visit www.pocruises.com, call 03453 555 111 or visit your local travel agent.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins
@kirsten_Star

Digital Content Manager for the Shropshire Star and Express & Star. Also reviews concerts and events, as well as writing features and celebrity interviews. E-mail me at kirsten.rawlins@shropshirestar.co.uk, or phone 01952 241440.

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