Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Reports about cruises on Azura
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MicheleW
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Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Post by MicheleW » 02 Oct 2018, 12:39

Once back on board, we headed to the buffet for lunch and there were already a lot more people having lunch than last Saturday, even though it was earlier. Anyway with no unpacking to do we had a nice lazy afternoon sat on the balcony. When collecting our new cruise cards we asked the receptionist whether we had to attend the muster this time and were told yes. However, when we saw our room steward, he told us we didn’t have to go! As I was at the Glasshouse, booking the pairing dinner just before the drill, I asked one of the more senior looking guys the same question and was told we didn’t have to attend, but it would be beneficial if we did - so we stayed in the cabin! Then it was the Glasshouse for our pre-dinner drinks, dinner at our chosen table in the restaurant which was in the same section as the previous week, so we had the same waiters, and then a brief visit to the casino.
Sunday 9th – Sea Day
It was another lovely day so we sat on the balcony until the sun moved round and then went on deck for s some more sun and lunch from the grill. We went to the theatre at 3.pm for the guest speaker who gave a very interesting talk about the Red Arrows. The first formal night of this week including a couple of glasses of free fizz courtesy of the captain, and then after dinner we went to the theatre to see the tribute band Badness. We have seen them before and thoroughly enjoyed their performance again.
Monday 10th – Stavanger
Our first visit to the Fjords and it was raining! Still we had all the gear, so after breakfast in the dining room, we donned our waterproof jackets and headed out to see what Stavanger had to offer. It was the only port that we hadn’t really planned anything. We headed first to a tower that we had spotted from our balcony, which was apparently an old fire watch tower. Next we headed to the old part of Stavanger – a very attractive area and we managed to get a few photos in between the heavy showers! From here we spotted a lake and fountain so headed towards that for a pleasant walk around the perimeter. We also called in to the train station to collect our train tickets for Flam the following day, which I had booked and paid for on line before we left. I produced the receipt and was presented with the tickets. The whole time we were out and about there were some really heavy showers and very black skies, although the sun did come out for a short time as we have got photos of a double rainbow!! By lunch time we’d had enough and headed back for lunch in the main dining room. We also popped up to the Grab’n’Go for a couple of sandwiches to take with us the following day. We then had a lazy afternoon watching a film in the cabin. Then it was the usual Glasshouse, dinner and casino. Of course, the one downside of doing 2 seven night cruises back-to-back is that the dinner menus are the same!! But at least we could pick something different the second time around!
Tuesday 11th – Flam
We were hoping to be up for some of the sail-in to Flam, but unusually for me I didn’t wake up very early and we had pretty much arrived when I did finally pull back the curtains to see a rock face soaring up out of the fjord about 50 foot in front of us! That was a wow moment! Oh - and it was raining again! Our train to Myrdal wasn’t until 11.05, so after a leisurely breakfast we packed our rucksacks, got our waterproof jackets had a little wander around including a visit to the railway museum which was very interesting, explaining how people used to get up to Myrdal and the building of the railway line. We then went to the station and boarded the train. It was a lovely journey and on arrival at Myrdal, we went along to Café Rallaren, which is situated on the station, from where we had reserved bikes for our return journey. After paying, using the facilities and putting on our waterproof trousers, we were allocated bikes and helmets, given a bit of instruction and then pointed in the right direction for the trip back down to Flam. It was a lovely ride but boy was it wet! And cold! I was glad that at the last minute I had put a pair of gloves into the suitcase! We stopped to take a few photos, though to be honest, it got a bit boring having to open my rucksack, take my gloves off, get my camera out of the plastic bag which was keeping it dry, take the photo and then reverse the whole procedure, so I gave up towards the end. We found a bit of shelter in a trackside hut to have our sandwiches and then called in at Flam Church for a look and to get out of the rain for a bit! We left the bikes at Flam Station as instructed and were glad to get back on board to dry out and warm up! It was a shame the weather was so bad, as it was a really good trip. We had a couple of hours relaxing in the cabin before having to get ready earlier as it was the wine pairing dinner in the Glasshouse and we had to be there by 6.30. We have done this dinner on each of our last 3 or 4 cruises now and thoroughly enjoy it – as we did this time. Being in the Glasshouse for dinner, we missed the sail out too! As we left the fjord it started getting a little bit ‘bouncy’ and the sick bags were out, but I took a tablet, had an early night and was fine.
(P&O were charging £125.00 per person for the Flam Railway and Biking and it cost us just under £140.00 for both of us).
Wednesday 12th – Olden
And it was raining again! And we missed the sail-in again! Our plan here was to take the local bus up to the Briksdaal Glacier. So following advice from several forums we enquired at the souvenir shop just across from the berth. The lady kindly pointed the stop out to us and informed us that the bus would leave at 10.07. We made our way there and found another couple waiting. They informed us that the timetable shown was only valid up to 31st August so they weren’t sure whether the bus was coming or not, but I explained about the helpful shopkeeper and sure enough the bus turned up on time. The cost for both of us, one way was 112 Kronor (we paid by card on the way there and cash on the way back) and we were the only 4 people on the bus! After a lovely drive through the valley we arrived at the parking area just before 11.00am and, once again in full waterproofs, headed off to walk up to the Glacier. I think it took us about 40 minutes and there are a couple of steep parts, but nothing to us, used to walking in the Welsh Mountains! On the way up there are various ‘year’ markers showing where the glacier was in 1900, 1920, etc. Having heard how much it has receded over the years, I thought it might be very disappointing, but I was actually quite impressed with it. Took a few photos before heading back down to the bus park where we visited the souvenir shops and looked at some of photos of the glacier over the years. There were some years in between 2000 and 2018 when it had actually advanced a little! There was still a little time before the bus departed at 1.30pm, so we had a hot chocolate each before the return trip. The driver wasn’t going all the way back to the port as had to do the school run! So he dropped us off in the town and said another bus would be along shortly complete the journey. However, we could see the ship and decided to walk back which only took about 10 minutes. On the walk back we were comparing notes with the other couple, who were from the Lake District and, like us in Mid Wales have some spectacular scenery, including mountains, waterfalls and rain!!! We were back on board in time for a nice bowl of hot soup and lunch in the buffet which was very welcome after getting so cold and wet again! After trying to find somewhere to put all our stuff to dry out (again), we had another relaxing afternoon in the cabin. I was woken by loud music and thought “Surely there isn’t a sail away party on deck in this weather”, but of course it was the infamous Olden send-off which I enjoyed from the shelter of the covered part of the balcony! Good job the captain had ‘parked’ the ship that way round or I would have missed it! The evening followed the usual routine – though it was another early night – partly due to all the fresh air & exercise and partly due to the fact that it was still a little bouncy once out of the fjord – though nowhere near as bad as the night before.
Thursday 13th – Bergen
So our last port of call – to Norway’s wettest city – and guess what – it wasn’t raining! We had thought of pre-booking the funicular on-line before we came away, but this would have been a waste of money if it was foggy, so we decided to wait and see what it was like when we arrived. Once we had breakfasted in the dining room, we grabbed our waterproofs and headed for the funicular where we bought one way tickets at a cost of 100 kronor for 2. At the top we were fortunate enough to have dry weather with a good view of the city and Azura at her berth way below! After several photos, we headed off for the walk back down, which was lovely. We then had a look at the fish market before walking back via the old wooden buildings of the Bryggen Area. We had lunch in the Glasshouse followed by another lazy afternoon with a little bit of packing thrown in (literally!) and then the final black tie/Black & White Night.
Friday 14th – Sea Day
And so to the final day. There was no sun to enjoy today and after a leisurely breakfast in the dining room and a final look round the shops we headed to the theatre for the second talk on the Red Arrows. After lunch in the dining room I went along to the casino to enter the Blackjack tournament. I made it to the final, but didn’t win, so went along to the Malabar Lounge for the Bingo Snowball Jackpot – but didn’t win that either! Then time for the rest of the packing before the final evening. We had our usual drinks in the Glasshouse and as it was the last evening I treated myself to one of the wine-flights – the party one – three different glasses of fizz and very nice they were too! Then dinner and the final donation to the casino!
Saturday 15th
We had registered for self-disembarkation, so after making sure everything was ready to go, we went for breakfast in the main dining-room before collecting all the bags and managing to find an empty lift down to the atrium to disembark. Hadn’t thought that the fact it was only a 7 night cruise would mean a lot more people opting for self-disembarkation – there was a massive queue. We were directed through Brodies towards the theatre and had to go right down to the front, passing in front of the stage and back up the other side and back through Brodies again and back to the Atrium before getting to the disembarkation point!
The fjords was a cruise that I had been wanting to do since we started cruise in 2005 and we really enjoyed it - but would we do it again? In all honesty, probably not, and not just because the weather was so bad. I think maybe I was expecting too much. The day after we got back I took the dogs for a walk up the lane to a farm and then continued up a track to the top of the hill. From here I had fantastic views across the valley to the Radnor Hills with the Brecon Beacons to my left and I thought “What an amazing view!”
We are now looking forward to June 2019, when we are back to warmer climes – around the Med. for 2 weeks in a Suite on Ventura to celebrate a significant 0 birthday – and we are in Monaco on my birthday!

Once again apologies for any errors.

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Kenmo1
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Re: Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Post by Kenmo1 » 02 Oct 2018, 13:46

Michele - Thank you for another interesting and useful review. I hope you have totally dried out now. Fingers crossed for good weather in Monaco in June next year. We have called in there a few times in May and the weather was fine each time so I'm sure June will be okay.

Thanks again for the review.
Maureen.


colin parry
Second Officer
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Location: Mold

Re: Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Post by colin parry » 02 Oct 2018, 14:30

Michele, many thanks for excellent reports. I just wish I had the energy to do some of the things you did. I hope you don’t give up on the fjords. My wife and I ( sadly no longer with us ) did 4 fjords cruises and were always blessed with decent weather. However, I recommend trying longer cruises which go further north taking in Trondheim, Tromso and the North Cape. The Lofoten islands and Alesund are well worth a visit. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Med, I go on Oriana on Friday for 20 days. It’s not the same on my own but I have met a number of new friends over the last 3 years and we meet up again next Friday.


Whynd1
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Location: Gower, Swansea

Re: Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Post by Whynd1 » 03 Oct 2018, 11:55

Thank you Michelle for your lovely cruise report.
I did the Fjord's a few years ago in July, the wettest and coldest July they had at that time.
Have booked in 2020 to do the Northern Lights and that will be the first time I have been back to Norway since then.

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oldbluefox
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Re: Azura 1st-15th September - part 2

Post by oldbluefox » 03 Oct 2018, 12:49

Thank you for your report Michele, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. We have been lucky with our fjords cruises as we have always been blessed with good weather and I think, like the Lake District you need nice, fine days to see it at its best. Our favourite Norwegian cruise was when we visited the Lofoten Islands and Ny Alesund. Mind you Spitzbergen was b****y freezing. You cetainly needed your winter woollies on for that place but it was so still, peaceful and tranquil and a fascinating place in its own right being so far north. At night we cruised down a fjord close by. The Captain shut off the engines and we experienced the peace of this little fjord, surrounded by glaciers with azure blue ice floes drifting by, all at one o'clock in the morning. Simply magical!!
Please don't give up on Norway, it's a lovely country.

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