Not only is Norway one of the top two countries in the world for older people, it’s also one of the most picturesque and historically fascinating lands around which to cruise.
Cruise expert Caroline Gladstone shares her experience aboard Holland America Line’s newest ship, MS Koningsdam, on which she recently visited old Norse villages and cruised the ancient Viking shipping lanes of Norway.
The Akershus Fortress appears off the starboard side as we cruise into Oslo on a crisp summer’s morning. We berth within metres of the 13th century castle, which has acted as both palace and prison. It’s an easy walk into town, but I’m meeting my guide shore-side to get cracking on a 14km bike tour. She promises mostly flat paths, and that’s true except for the long incline to the stately Royal Palace, home of current king, Harald V.
From the palace, we whiz through prestigious residential areas and hipster café precincts to Frogner Park, the pièce de resistance of any visit to Oslo. Here stand 212 bronze and granite statues of men, women and children sculpted by Gustav Vigeland in the mid-20th century. It’s an astonishing collection, and I wish I could stay longer in the city itself where attractions include the Nobel Peace Centre and the Kon Tiki museum. Heading south that evening, we sail through the Oslo Fjord, past densely-wooded hills en route to Kristiansand.
I’m aboard MS Koningsdam, Holland America Line’s newest ship and the first Pinnacle class vessel in the 14-strong fleet. The seven-day Viking Saga cruise calls at four ports, each an easy walk from the wharf. While visits are short, an added bonus are the long daylight hours making our evening cruises along two beautiful fjords all the more memorable.
In Kristiansand, we hop on a bus to Lillesand, one of those too-cute-to-be-true villages with whitewashed houses on the edge of a bay bobbing with yachts. We board a motorboat to explore a coastline speckled with tiny islands and holiday homes. Stavanger, with its smart shops edging old cobblestone streets, is the surprise port. I expected a rather charmless, industrial city, as it was here that oil was discovered in 1969, and where Norway’s financial fairy tale began. A tour takes me to the Swords in the Rock monument, which commemorates a famous battle and the remains of old Norse settlements. In chilly Flam, I attempt to kayak on the Aurlandsfjord, but realise my talents lie more in sitting by a roaring fire in a nearby Viking-themed pub and sipping on fine craft beer.
Koningsdam’s five speciality restaurants offer superb food and are good value with a dining package, while BB King’s Blues Club and the piano bar are fun places to spend the evening. Don’t miss the BBC Earth Experiences documentary held in the theatre, and accompanied by a live orchestra. Canny cruise passengers should do their pre-trip research and book shore excursions independently – there’s quite a lot to be saved!
A seven-night round-trip cruise from Amsterdam, visiting four ports in Norway, departs on May 13, 2018 and starts at $1799 a person, twin share.
Find out more at Holland America Line