Essential Norway Oceana Cruise 18Th 25Th May 2008

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

Archives:

2019 - January (3)
2018 - November (1)
2018 - October (5)
2018 - July (1)
2018 - June (2)
2018 - April (1)
2018 - March (3)
2018 - February (2)
2018 - January (2)
2017 - December (8)
2017 - November (2)
2017 - October (13)


All - 2019 (3)
All - 2018 (17)
All - 2017 (65)
All - 2016 (107)
All - 2015 (52)
All - 2014 (112)
All - 2013 (143)
All - 2012 (109)
All - 2011 (119)
All - 2010 (85)
All - 2009 (85)
All - 2008 (49)
All - 2007 (2)
All - 2006 (3)


RSS

Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

ESSENTIAL NORWAY - OCEANA CRUISE 18th - 25th MAY 2008

Date: 26th May 2008

ESSENTIAL NORWAY - OCEANA CRUISE

Have just returned from our cruise around some of the Norwegian Fjords.  I took my son Jonathan with me on this trip - partly because he's great company and because he's a quarter Norwegian on his Father's side of the family and also he celebrated his Birthday on 18th May - the day we boarded the Oceana.

Our Ports of Call were to be Bergen, Olden, Flamm and Stavanger.  I boarded with a small amount of trepidation with regard to the weather conditions and wondering whether I'd have to hit the Dramamine.  On the contrary, we had the most superb weather - the Captain even announcing that we were a Lucky Ship as the Fjords are notoriously wet.  Every part of the journey was taken on seas as calm as a millpond.

Our first call was Bergen.  In 1996 I'd undertaken a working Page and Moy cruise up the West Coast of Norway to Nordkapp.  Jonathan partnered me then and we'd 'done' Bergen so on this occasion we decided against any organised tours and did our own thing.

Even the Captain commented on how lucky we were that it wasn't pouring with rain.  It did rain but cleared up in the afternoon and J and I took the  Cable Car to Mount Ulriken - the highest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen.  The ride was exciting in itself and the views at the top were superb.  We didn't visit Grieg's Home as we'd done that in 1996 and you simply can't do everything.

That night as we sailed further North we had the first of our Formal Dinners.  To me it is an absolute joy to see people dressed beautifully - especially as we live in such a 'casual world'.  I would estimate that about 99% of the passengers take the trouble to don their D.J's and Evening Dresses.  Long may the Dress Code remain and be enforced!

Our next port of call was Olden and though we'd been there before, we decided to take the Briksdal Glacier trip. (It is quite difficult making choices because so many of the tours are of interest and as a Performer I don't get the Shore Excursions Book till I board ship)  When the coach stopped, Jonathan and I decided we were on a mission to see how quickly we could walk to the Glacier.  In the guide they estimate that the walk of approx 2.5 miles will take around 1 hour.  Jonathan completed it in 30 minutes and I managed it in 35 - not bad Eh!!! ( I also wanted to see how fit I was with regard to our possible trek up Kilimanjaro next year for the Orchid Cancer Appeal.)  The Guide declares that one needs a reasonable amount of fitness to undertake the walk - I think they have understated it and could see passengers on the coach who didn't have a chance of completing the trek which is uphill most of the way.  Although I can walk 10 kms on the flat with no problem, I do struggle slightly when going uphill - obviously no Cardiac strength - something I must address if I'm to stand any chance of going up Kilimanjaro.

When I caught up with Jonathan I could understand the look of dismay on his face.  In 1996 the Glacier confronted us with huge frozen waves of Aquamarine Ice. Twelve years later the Glacier has retreated several hundreds of metres and instead of the Wall of Waves, we saw a sort of 'dribble'.  In '96 we could actually walk right up to the Glacier and touch it - now there's a large lake of melted water.  However whilst there we twice heard the Ice cracking and on the second occasion we actually saw a tiny tiny avalanche.  By the time I got the camera out and ready, the 'avalanche' had ceased. 

Apparently the Glacier retreats and advances all the time - so it's retreat is not totally down to Global Warming. A good half mile back along the path is a sign to say that was the tip of the Glacier in 1800.

I love watching as the Ship leaves Port (and if I'm awake early enough - watching her dock).  Leaving Olden was very interesting.  The ship had to push off from the Pier, then travel backwards until out in the deepest part of the Fjord and basically do a Three Point Turn to face in the right direction. 

Flam was our next port of call.  We'd docked during the night  and once off the ship, the whole scene looks totally incongruous -  this masssive ship moored in a Fjord surrounded by mountains and a few houses -  nothing more than a concrete quay - no cranes, no containers, nothing - just a docking place for Cruise Liners.

We chose to go on the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  We commenced the tour by a short walk from the Ship to the Station where we boarded the train. The 20km journey takes 50 minutes and climbs from 5m to 867m through 20 tunnels.  We made one stop at the Kjosfoss Waterfall where we were told the tale of the Sirens who supposedly lure young men into the mountains  - all this was accompanied by some very haunting music and glimpses of a woman with long flowing hair appearing and disappearing at various places on the Waterfall. The scenery on the journey was a succession of one stunning waterfall after another and glimpses deep down into valleys surrounded by Snow-capped Mountains

(How weird - I'm listening to Classic FM and the presenter has just read out a letter from a student in Southampton where it is pouring with rain and where we docked yesterday and her request was for something from the Peer Gynt Suite!)

At Myrdal Station we changed trains and continued on to Voss where we lunched.  Then it was on board a coach for the return to the Oceana - More stunning scenery and the most spectacular waterfall I've ever seen - the Tvinde which looked like a massive and many tiered wedding cake with water cascading down it's myriad layers.  Then followed  a precipitous journey on which I would estimate the coach was going no faster than 5 - 10 miles per hour down the Stalheimskleivane - the steepest road in Norway.  At the valley floor we travelled alongside the Naeroy River to Gudvangen - a very beautiful spot originally a Viking settlement.  And then back to the Ship.

Our last port of call was Stavanger which we decided to explore on foot after returning from the Butterfly Park.  How strange you might think to visit a Butterfly Park whilst in Norway  but Stavanger - although a very attractive and spotlessly clean town - didn't offer the fabulous Waterfalls we'd come to expect.  So we took a taxi to Sandnes.  The official tour had been cancelled through lack of demand.  In one way this was unfortunate as the taxi rides were very expensive but in another way and rather selfishly I couldn't imagine the Park full of people.  We had it to ourselves and stayed there for over an hour just enjoying the quietness and the beauty of the stunningly coloured Butterflies.  One very large pale blue one alighted onto the back of my sweater and I'll try and get a picture on the web for you - sorry to keep apologising for my ineptitude with part of the website but I'm not the best technical person in the world. 

It's said that a Butterfly alighting on you is a sign of LUCK - so here's hoping!!!

When we got back to the Port, the sun was streaming down and we simply had to sit and admire the view and take in the ambience.  Mind you at just over £8 each for a glass of Chablis we felt we really were paying for the view.  And there was no risk of getting tipsy at those prices.

In 1996 Jonathan had partaken of a very special cake whilst on our Norwegian visit and he was looking for it in every port of call. We finally found it in Stavanger.  It has a different name in different regions but here it was called 'Success' cake - rather apt as J had been looking for it so long.

Then back on board for the last leg of the journey back to Southampton and couldn't believe how calm was the sea - it was like a millpond.

 On this trip I didn't get to meet the Captain or indeed any of the Crew - but then they really do have their work cut out docking at a different port every day.

However, once again the Cruise Director - Hughie - was a delightful character as was his wife Dee who was his Assistant.  Hughie, like Sally Sagoe on the Oriana, started out as an Entertainer and worked on ships before changing to the other side of the footlights.  However he did make the occasional appearance on stage and was extremely funny and a superb host.

Hughie and Dee looked after Jonathan and myself so very well and we hope we'll see more of them in a less professional capacity.

The Theatre Entertainment was superb.  What an array of  wonderful talent was displayed by The Headliners - five chaps and eight lassies.  I would stick my head out enough to say that I felt any of them would grace the West End Stage.  They band together for six months of cruising and in that time perform 18 different shows. We were lucky enough to see  several and the last one was my favourite - The Big Picture - with excerpts from well known film-musicals like West Side Story (which I first saw at the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, when I was 19), Cabaret, Sound of Music, Oklahoma just to mention a few. In fact we went to The Big Picture on two successive nights. The cast  have such talent, energy, verve and enthusiasm.  Jonathan and I were lucky enough to spend the last night on board with them after the show.

If you've visited this website previously, you'll know that I've only recently returned from Capetown on the Oriana where I gave Four talks on different subjects.  On this current trip I had to give One Talk twice - scheduled for Thursday 22nd May at 7.00 and 8.45 so as to suit both First and Second Sitting Diners.  It was actually more difficult for me as, on talking with some of the passengers I got the impression that quite a number actually wanted to hear about I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here - so I had to modify the talk and mix part of my Memories of a Lifetime in Theatre and Television with some highlights from Celebrity.  Fortunately the mix went down well and the Starlight Room (seating 500) was just about full at both times.  In some ways, I wish the talk had been earlier in the week as folk appeared to respect the privacy of myself and Jonathan and not many actually came and spoke with us.  After the talks, I was inundated with passengers wanting to talk - many of them claiming a proprietorial interest because of all the years spent in Bristol and on BBC News.  I love chatting with people and the last few days on the cruise were delightful from that aspect.  Two women go or went to the same hairdresser I've been with since 1969 - Jean Mays at Portishead.  Don't think I go down every week - usually once every two months for an overhaul and a trim.  Jean has nursed my locks from Black to mottled, from long to short to long, from curly to straight and I don't know what I would do without her.  Some passengers even remembered the car accident I had on the way to take up a position with Westward Television in Plymouth - and that was a very long time ago!!

Well, there's nothing concrete in the diary for the foreseeable future but that can always change in the life of a freelance.  However I am very much looking forward to my Tour in September and October when I'll be the narrator in a show celebrating the life of Stephane Grappelli - the Jazz Violinist.

Next weekend, my friend Doreen and I are attending a concert at which Kiri Te Kanawa is performing and then two Opera Rehearsals at The Grange down near Southampton - all this as a result of meeting Jeremy on the Oriana.  Jeremy was the very kind gentleman who gave me the Oil Painting to be auctioned in Celebrity Cash in the Attic the proceeds of which are going to Jonathan's chosen charity - The Orchid Cancer Appeal which researches male cancers.

I can well understand those people who are  addicted to Cruising and I hope it won't be too long before I'm cruising again.

Bye for now,     Jan.

And please don't forget, if you'd like to know more about my adventures with Cheetahs, Celebrity, Safari School etc. then just Email Simon Whittam with a request and I'll put the story on the Blog.       simon@simonwhittam.co.uk

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.