In August of 2017, we visited our daughter in Hove, England and family friends near Sheffield. After spending several days traveling around the country, we boarded the Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton and headed to Norway!
We had visited two of the ports on a previous cruise and were looking forward to seeing them again and to exploring several new ones. This was a special cruise for the Eclipse…they only visit these ports twice per season…once in the spring and once in late summer.
First stop was Bergen, where we had been before. This time, it was pouring rain and windy, but we went ashore and walked around the Hanseatic port. Bergen is very walkable. The hop-on-hop-off bus is also a great option to explore the city. Be sure to visit the outdoor fish market and try some of the local sausages, which include reindeer, elk and whale.
After returning to the ship and drying out, we received a lovely surprise in our cabin from Captain Leo and enjoyed a delicious dinner in the main dining room.
The next morning we arrived in Flam. Flåm is a village in southwestern Norway, in an area known for its fjords. It sits at the end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord. The dramatic Stegastein viewing platform juts out high above the Aurlandsfjord. South of Flåm Harbor, the 17th-century wooden Flåm Church lies in the valley. The Flåm Railway offers valley and waterfall views as it climbs to a station on the Hardangervidda plateau (wikipedia). We opted to not take the railway and instead hiked to the Brekkefossen waterfall. It was a pretty steep and strenuous hike, but the views from the top were 100% worth it.
On the way back to the ship, we passed the Aegir Brewery. It is the local brewery in Flåm and has received several awards for their delicious tasting beer. The brewery opened in 2007 and has been named “Norway’s BrewPub of the year” three years in a row. The brewery produces a wide range of varieties of beer and offer many types of different flavors, with seasonal varieties. Be sure to visit the Gilde hall which was built in the Viking style, with walls marked by driftwood dragon heads and a 9-meter-high chimney.
You can also purchase a pint in the historic hotel, Freitheim Hotel or the Bakkastova Cafe. Both are located very close to the fjord and provide great views of the ship.
After our adventures, we were exhausted and returned to the ship to enjoy the evening with another wonderful meal in Silhouette, the main dining room.
Geiranger was our next port of call. We visited this port in 2014 and were excited to be back. We chose to walk up the stairs alongside the Fossevandring waterfall. It is an easy walk with metal steps and hand rails.
On the prior visit, we visited the Union Hotel, which we decided to do again. We enjoyed a quick glass of wine for me and a beer for my husband.
After visiting with the front desk, we decided to do what they described as an “easy, 20 minute hike” to the local farmhouse. Let me just say….boy, were they wrong! An hour later, and another straight up climb, we reached the Westerås Farm and Restaurant. Even though the climb was tough (especially after the climb we did the prior day), the view was once again amazing and totally worth the effort. The restaurant is housed in a building dating from 1603 and has panoramic views of Geiranger. We met some wonderful English ladies on the way up and joined them for another beer and some Norwegian waffles with homemade strawberry sauce. Delicious!
We decided to walk back down to the ship via the road….SO much easier! And the views were just as stunning. Geiranger has a really cute port area with shops and food stalls. A favorite of the crew is the coffee shop just across the street from the main shopping area.
It was hard to believe we only had two ports left. Alesund was next on our agenda. Ålesund is a port town on the west coast of Norway, at the entrance to the Geirangerfjord. It’s known for the art nouveau architectural style, in which most of the town was rebuilt after a fire in 1904. It is a very walkable town with cobblestone streets and is surrounded by water. Many tourists visit the Aksla viewpoint, the Sunnmore Museum, or walk through the Art Nouveau district (many buildings have numbered plagues that correspond to a map that is available at tourist information).
We found the Miracle House. About ten thousand people became homeless when 850 homes were lost during the great fire in Ålesund on January 23rd, 1904. One house in Grensegata remained standing among the ruins. Anders Nor, who lived in the house, was visited by an angel the day before. The angel promised that his home was going to be spared. Furniture that was removed from the house lit up in flames but the house stood unharmed when every other building in the eastern district burned to the ground. The house was built around 1870 and has been the property of the Walde family. In 2012, the Pentecostal Church Filadelfia Ålesund aquired the house. It has since been restored and is now open to the public free of charge. There is a small kitchen were you can purchase a tea and cake to enjoy either in the house or on the patio.
That evening, we were invited to the helicopter deck for sail away. As we left the port, a tug boat gave us a nice send off.
Our final port was Stavanger….another city we had never visited. Stavanger is a city in southwestern Norway. In the center of town, Stavanger Cathedral dates back to the city’s 12th-century founding.
Stavanger Museum chronicles the city’s history and displays preserved wildlife. The Norwegian Petroleum Museum illuminates the oil industry with submersibles, a large drill bit and an escape chute. Thanks to the oil industry, Stavanger has grown into a thriving city. There is also a lovely shopping street Øvre Holmegate, which is known for its colorful houses, and an open air market.
We decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus, as our legs were very tired after 3 days of strenuous walking. It was a great way to get a good overview of the city and decide what we wanted to go back and see. One of the buildings I wanted to visit was Ledaal, a manor house which served as the official residence of the King of Norway. It was closed for the season when we arrived. Ledaal was built between 1799-1803 by Gabriel Schancke Kielland as a summer residence and for the next 60 years the Kielland family spent their summers and entertained guests there.
Across the street is Breidablikk Mansion, a mansion that was built by the architect Henrik Nissen in 1881. The owner was the merchant and ship owner Lars Berentsen, one of the leading businessmen in Stavanger at that time.
Both the interior and the exterior of the house are exceptionally well preserved and offer the public a vivid insight into the lifestyle of the wealthy inhabitants of the city at the end of the 1800s.
The house was built in the Swiss style with touches of Romantic and Gothic influences. The interiors are amongst the richest and best preserved examples we have of the historic style, including furniture in the Gothic, Rococo, Baroque and other contemporary styles. The buildings and the interiors demonstrate high quality workmanship with a collection of paintings, including works by Kitty Kielland and August Jacobsen.
In addition to the main building, the old main house and barn from 1852 still stand. The barn contains an exhibition of farming equipment and horse-drawn vehicles. The park is in the English style, containing curved paths and exotic trees, which are also well preserved. Unfortunately, this building was also closed for the season when we arrived.
The garden surrounding the main building however, is open to the public for free year round and was established in accordance with the design of gardener P.H. Poulsson. The original design has to a large extent been preserved. Characteristic of many of Poulsson’s garden designs to be found in the city are the winding paths, the avoidance of sharp angles and the use of exotic trees.
Just next to where our ship was docked was Old Town, a charming area on the west side of Vågen with 173 wooden buildings from the turn of the 18th century. Most of them are small, white cottages. Stavanger has received several awards for its efforts to preserve Old Stavanger and is a popular living area, with many galleries and handicraft boutiques.
As we left the city for our journey back to Southampton, we passed the Stavanger Concert hall, where they were hosting the first night of the Utopia Festival, a new pop and electronica city festival in Stavanger. We could hear the music and cheers from the crowd as we sailed past.
That evening, we had the honor of having dinner with the Hotel Director in Tuscan Grille. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with some of the best wine we have had in years….Belle Glos, a 2015 Pinot Noir from Monterey and Les Tuilieres, a 2016 Sancerre. We were very honored to join Mr. Petts and his other guests.
After a relaxing sea day, we arrived in Southampton. Disembarkation was very smooth and we were soon on our way to a nice visit and dinner with some friends from a prior cruise.
We spent the night at the Hilton Heathrow Terminal 5. I highly recommend this hotel….the location is quiet and is easy to reach via taxi or shuttle. The following day, we board our Delta flight home.