Friday, 9 October 2015

Destination Norway

With the White Cliffs of Dover as the backdrop, two Spitfires soar across the skies. Moving and poignant, this splendid display is a thrilling start to my seven day cruise to Norway. 

Mum, I hope you are looking down on me. Here I am on the deck of the Saga Sapphire en route to Oslo. This was the cruise we were going to do together. Unfortunately, you were taken from me, but I know you are here in spirit and so I raise my glass of bubbly to you.

When I told friends that I was still going to take the Saga cruise without you, I did attract some looks. Even you were reluctant to go because you said the ship would be full of old people. 

But guess what, I am starting to get to know the ship, and discovering that this looks like it could be fun. No screaming children, plenty of daughters travelling with their mothers and the older people that I am meeting are so inspirational and have such interesting  stories to tell  that you realise age is only a number.

Saga Sapphire

What is great about the Saga Sapphire is that she is just the right size to provide an intimate, cosy atmosphere. No glitzy shopping malls or casinos, no gimmicks, simply sophisticated classic cruising.

My cabin has all the trapping of a stylish hotel room including free Wi-Fi.  The plus is that this one comes with a butler who could teach many of the top hotels a thing or two about service such as not having to wait all day to get your room made up. I also appreciated being able to have breakfast (free of charge in my cabin) especially on the days I had an early start.

After being chauffeur-driven from home (included in the price) and being treated to such a showstopping departure I wonder how Saga are going to keep up their high standards throughout the voyage. I need not worry.

On my first day at sea, I attend a computer class, a couple of lectures about the ports we are visiting, go to a classic concert, take part in a quiz, enjoy a cocktail at a singles’ party, relax over a pre-dinner drink while listening to the piano player in Cooper’s Bar and take in a cabaret show.  

Of course a cruise would not be a cruise without embarking on a culinary adventure. Another surprise, the food here is not only far superior to many cruise liners that I have sailed on but also to that of many of the world’s best hotels. I am wondering where I am going to put it all. You can have breakfast, morning coffee and cake, lunch, a traditional afternoon tea, dinner and late night bites. If that is not enough, you can always order room service any time of day or night. 

There is always a dish to get those taste buds salivating

When you think you cannot possibly stuff anything else down you, you take one look at the menu and there is always a dish such as lobster to get those taste buds salivating. Every meal was served as if it had been specially created for you. Nothing was too much trouble, however you wanted your food cooked they would do it for you.

You can chose on-deck grills, fish ‘n’ chips by the pool or a more formal dining experience at the Pole to Pole. The Verandah has the most spectacular buffets at lunch and breakfast, (waiters will serve you, if you prefer). The exquisite East to West has an à la carte Asian menu and is the only restaurant you have to book. You can change your ambience to suit your mood. Unlike so many ships, Saga Sapphire has single-seating dining and you do not have to keep to a set table. 

There is also the main event on board, the Captain’s Cocktail Party where you get the opportunity to dress up and meet the man himself. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Captain’s table for dinner. One of the guests had sailed for 500 days with Saga. By this stage I can see why. You get spoilt rotten. The crew have got this down to a fine art. You do not have to think about anything and you get to see some magnificent places.

The Harbour in Oslo
Nancy Bundt -
© Innovation Norway  

Oslo, Norway’s capital is the first port of call. It may be one of the world’s most expensive cities, but its scenery is so beautiful you do not care. For a cosmopolitan metropolis it has a almost villagey vibe. If you fancy a cultural punch, there are so many museums to take in and places to go including the Opera House and Vigeland Sculpture Park, home to over 200 of Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures.  

The next port of call is Kristiansand, in the south of the country. I decide to take one of the ship’s tours to Lillesand where white-washed wooden houses and cute shops line its narrow streets. 

Past waterfalls

It is hard to pinpoint a highlight of the cruise but the trip on the Flåm Railway from Myrdal to Flåm, has to be up there. Meandering through snow-capped mountains, past waterfalls, it is not hard to see why this is billed as one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.You can see Mother Nature truly has worked her magic here. 

After the all-day excursion, we get back to Bergen with enough time to explore this colourful place before we have to leave. Sitting on deck late at night as the twinkling lights of the city fade away is going to make another memorable moment.

Last, but definitely not least, we make our final stop at Stavanger. There is time to fit in the Lysefjord boat trip which passes directly below the famed Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) towering 1800 feet (549 metres) above the fjord and also gives you a glimpse into the Vagabond’s cave.

Another relaxing day at sea, all too soon, we arrive at Southampton and  it is time to leave.

By Daralyn Danns    

Getting there

Saga Sapphire has a similar cruise departing Dover June 23 2016
prices from £1,663pp for 7 nights (Including optional travel insurance or a discount of £40, if not required)

Price includes:
All meals on board, including 24-hour room service
  • A choice of table wines at lunch and dinner
  • All on-board gratuities
  • Entertainment and activities
  • Welcome cocktail party and Captain’s dinner
  • Optional travel insurance and additional cancellation rights, or a discount if not required
  • All port taxes and visas
  • UK mainland travel service to and from Dover
Ports of call include:
Stavanger, Norway
Flåm, Norway
Olden, Norway
Bergen, Norway

To book visit or call 0800 50 50 30