My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful 15-day Viking ocean cruise in July from London, England, to Bergen, Norway, which stopped in three countries and included 10 guided tours. Because it was summertime, there was sunlight for almost the entire trip. And the weather conditions were in our favor, so we witnessed the spectacular midnight sun. What an awesome sight!
This cruise is definitely worthy of a “bucket list” consideration.
We began our journey in London on the Thames River, and traveled along the North Sea coastline to Edinburgh, Scotland. We continued north to Scotland’s outer islands, making land-tour stops on both the Orkney and Shetland islands. We then crossed the North Sea to Norway’s picturesque Lofoten Islands, which stretch over 1oo miles into the Norwegian Sea from the coast.
The next leg of our northerly trip took us all the way to Norway’s northernmost city, Honningsvag, and the North Cape located far above the Arctic Circle, where we experienced breathtaking views of the rugged coastline from high up on a plateau. We then began heading back south, stopping at Tromso, home to the stunning Arctic Cathedral, botanical garden, and brewery. Continuing south, we passed the Arctic Circle marker before making yet more intriguing stops at Norway’s Molde, Geiranger, and Bergen.
Beautiful Scenery and Wildlife
If you’re fortunate enough to have good weather, as we did, the most spectacular day for viewing scenery is when cruising the Geirangerfjord in Norway. As the ship navigated through the fiord’s narrow passageway, we saw several breathtaking waterfalls tumbling down the towering cliffs. Upon arrival at the village of Geiranger, we took a land tour via a steep, winding mountain road with many challenging and difficult hairpin turns, up to lookouts about 2,000 feet above the village. After our ascent, we found ourselves amid magnificent snow-capped mountains. Even our cruise ship looked quite small from this lofty viewpoint!
Other highlights included The Shetlands (with those unique ponies), Tromso (said to be “the gateway to the Arctic”), Bergen (with its historic wooden buildings, once an important part of the Hanseatic League), and North Cape (with its globe and other historic markers).
Of course, this area is a birdwatcher’s paradise. We were able to see many species of birds on the trip, including seabirds, swans, puffins, kittiwakes, white-tailed eagles, and white-throated dippers. We also saw seals, moose, and reindeer, and enjoyed watching a group of dolphins that playfully followed our ship one evening while we were dining.
The Viking Sky
Our ship, The Viking Sky, had just over 900 passengers and about 460 crew members, so the 2:1 ratio guaranteed great service. There were also lots of onboard lectures, games, musicians, and shows to keep the passengers entertained. More than 80 chefs looked after our dining needs, and fresh food was cooked daily (no reheated frozen foods here!). Even the breads and buns were baked daily.
We took a behind-the-scenes galley tour and were very impressed by how everything was kept spotless. There was even a vegetable washing room and a separate room to prepare food for passengers with special dietary needs. In addition to the main dining room, several other options were available, including two specialty restaurants. There was also a sports deck, gym, library, and a spa. What you won’t find on this vessel are a casino or children (passengers must be at least 18 years of age).
Travel and Leisure Magazine has rated Viking Ocean Cruise Line #1 for three years in a row, and after having experienced this incredible cruise for myself, I can understand why. In addition to the points I have already noted, there were a lot of “little things” that added to the overall experience, including free internet and free laundry facilities.
I had the good fortune to dine one evening in a private room with the captain and the general manager. The general manager, Camiel Sleijpen, calls Canada home. Originally from Maastricht, Netherlands, he now resides in Burlington, Ontario. He joked about making the move in order to become “a famous NHL hockey player” but “didn’t make it.” The upside? “I still have all my teeth,” he quipped.
Camiel said that the free internet has been a wonderful bonus for the entire crew. They used to have to spend a lot of money to keep in touch with their families; after all, many of the crew are away from home for eight or nine months a year.
For more information, visit www.vikingcruisescanada.com
John M. Smith is a travel writer and photographer who resides in Ontario’s Prince Edward County.