Our first cruise holiday, joining up with Coral and William on the MSC Opera on an all inclusive trip sailing up the Norwegian coast. 7 nights aboard a gleaming aquatic hotel with 8 decks, half a dozen bars and lots of food to play with.
We decided to break up the long journey with an overnight stay in Oxford, booking a Travelodge next door to a park and ride so we could go for a few beers in the centre. Drinks were a bit pricey here but nothing like the financial shock yet to come in Norway.
After a pleasant overnight stay it was off to Southampton next morning where we joined the long queue of people waiting to board the ship.
The cabins were a pleasant surprise, not overly large but nicely presented, our cases soon arrived and we all gathered on deck for our first drink and to wave goodbye to Blighty.
Next day the Dutch port of Ijmuiden was the first port of call, not much to see here but most people chose to get a bus, coach or taxi to Amsterdam or in our case Haarlem. It took a while to get there what with waiting for the bus and the journey itself, and I was beginning to wonder whether I was really going to enjoy this. It was worth it in the end though as we spent a few hours exploring a pretty and popular tourist attraction, and watching the world go by from a sunny spot at a bar in the main square.
All at Sea
The next leg was a full day at sea sailing up the coast all the way to Flam. After a disappointing buffet meal the night before and a pretty horrible breakfast we were wondering whether this was going to be as good a holiday as we’d hoped. We cheered ourselves up though by steadily working through the cocktail menu (though I drank mostly lager). We managed to get ourselves into the proper restaurant for the next meal and I have to say that once we’d worked out when and where to eat (there was plenty of choice), the food seemed to get much better.
There was plenty of entertainment on board, some of which was cringe-worthy such as Jurgen and his karaoke murdering of numerous rock and pop classics. The nightly stage shows got off to a good start though with a variety of acts including a contortionist who had us all pulling faces and a couple of guys who had the audience enthralled with their balancing and lifting skills.
I was awake early when we arrived in Flam and went up on board to get my first glimpse of the fiords, and it was pretty impressive I have to say.
The plan was to get a ticket for the