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glgolfer

Review of our Norwegian Coastal Voyages 17 Day Grand Norway Trip 17 May - 2 June,2005

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NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGES

17 DAY GRAND NORWAY

17 MAY – 2 JUNE, 2005

HURTIGRUTEN

MS MIDNATSOL

 

DOCUMENTS

 

The documents we received included the following:

1. An itinerary showing all flights, hotels, ship, cabin number, tours already selected and train schedules.

2. Airline e tickets with times and seat assignments for all flights.

3. A booklet with train transfers and a map from the Oslo Airport to the National Theater Station in Oslo, Voucher for the Hotel Bristol in Oslo, MS Midnatsol voucher with the dates of the cruise and our cabin number, vouchers for the 4 tours we had prepaid for, voucher for the Neptun Hotel in Bergen, voucher for 325K each for dinner at any one of four restaurants in Bergen the night we disembarked the ship.

4. Train tickets from Oslo to Bergen with the car number and our seat numbers.

5. 24 hour city cards for Oslo and Bergen with books explaining what free transportation and tourist attractions they were good for including maps of all the attractions.

 

DAYS 1 AND 2

 

Flew from Tampa to Copenhagen to Oslo 0600 17 May to 0920 18 May.

Had to show our passports in Copenhagen Airport to be stamped and pass thru security again. Arrived Oslo, both suitcases made it, we went thru the nothing to declare side in the airport. No one to check our passports and no security. Just walked into the airport and asked where the train to Oslo was. Used our voucher to get on the train, arrived at the National Theater Station downtown and got off with our luggage. Figured out where the hotel was and started walking carrying and pulling our bags. After about a third of a mile over cobble stoned streets uphill, we made it to the Hotel Bristol. Checked in using our voucher with no problem. Found our room and was welcomed with my name on the TV. Comfortable medium sized room. My wife thought it was great as the bathroom floor was heated.

 

Since we arrived in the morning, we had planned on taking a one hour double decker bus tour to get an idea where thing were. Bought a Sprite at the 7-11 before getting on the bus. Good tour at 110K each. Walked back to the hotel window shopping on the way. Ate at the sandwich/salad buffet table at the hotel. Good food and great desserts. Collapsed into bed.

 

 

 

DAY 3

 

Breakfast buffet included for all staying at the hotel. Good variety of food, no one went hungry.

Full day in Oslo. We had already planned everything we wanted to see today, so walked to the harbor, used our Oslo card to take the ferry to the Kon Tiki, Fram and Maritime Museums across the harbor. All free with the card. Took the ferry back and walked to the National Theater Station to catch the subway to the Botanical Gardens and Museums at the University. Browsed there a while and took the subway back to downtown. Took a bus to the other side of town to the Oslo City Museum and the Vigeland Gardens. We had hot tea and an excellent brownie each in the Oslo City Museum snack bar. All free again with the card except for the food. Took the bus back and walked thru the City Hall and some shops back to the hotel.

Ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, my wife had a goose liver pate and I had an asparagus appetizer. We both had reindeer for the entrée which was very tender and flavorful. I had a dessert of various fruits, ice creams and chocolate cheese cake. It was an excellent meal. Cost 1013K or 160+USD.

Tax and tip are included in all meals in Norway.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 4

 

Took cab to Central Train Station (65K). Huge station with many tracks, but it was easy to find the track for our train to Bergen. We were worried about what we would be able to do with all our luggage as there was no luggage car on the train. We didn’t need to as there was plenty of storage in each car and large overhead shelves that accommodated the largest suitcases. The seats were large and comfortable with plenty of leg room. It was 7 hours from Oslo to Bergen (1043 to 1750) with many stops along the way and many tunnels some of which were very long. There was a dining car with meals, sandwiches, snacks and drinks available for a fee.

 

Arrived Bergen, took a taxi to the port (65K) boarded and found our cabin #748 with a large porthole. Judy was happy as the bathroom floor was again heated. The cabin was small with limited storage, but we managed 12 days with no problem. We were on deck or in one of the large lounges most of the time anyway.

The first night was open seating with a many item buffet. There was always free coffee and hot tea in the Mysterier Lounge each night after dinner. Any other time there was a cost for the coffee and tea.

There is a water program available where you can get your choice of either plain or sparkling water for 300K (50 USD) for the entire 12 days. You hand them your bottle and you get a new cold one. Otherwise, you get a bottle of tap water on your table for the meal if you want one that you can’t take with you. If you buy water by the bottle it is 18K. We signed up for the program and figure we averaged between 3 and 4 bottles a day. We used it to fill the bottles we took on tours and used it in our room at night. The tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but we felt the water program was worth the convenience.

There is an information area across from the internet café next to the Cruise Director’s desk. The daily schedules, port arrival/departure times, excursion request forms and other items of interest.

There are also maps of the major cities available at the Reception Desk. There are no safes in the cabins, but you can store valuables in the ships safe at the Reception Desk for free.

 

 

 

 

DAY 5

 

First full day onboard ship. Breakfast was always an open seating buffet from 0730 to 1000 and always included lunchmeat, cheese, many kinds of wonderful bread, hot & cold cereal, beans & bacon, sausage, bacon alone, meatballs, various jellies & jams. Eggs were served either softboiled/hardboiled, scrambled or fried.

We signed up for two more excursions, one to the North Cape and one to the Russian Border.

We were assigned the first seating for lunch at 1130, second seating was 1330. The food was very good with too many items to list. There was always soup, salad, seafood, lunch meats, hot dishes, vegetables, cheeses, the same wonderful breads and half a dozen or more desserts. There was always coffee and hot tea for breakfast and lunch. However, Norway does not know iced tea. Some days lunch was open seating and others were at your assigned table and time.

This day it was warm and sunny enough we could be on deck in just our shirtsleeves.

Today we traveled thru the beautiful and long Geirangerfjord and took our first excursion that we had prebooked. A tender took us from the ship to the buses in Gerainger for the overland trip to Alesund where we would reboard the ship. It was fun watching the ship steam away from us as we were getting on the buses. Each bus was clearly marked as to language; English, Nordsk, Deutsch, Etc,

The trip was 5 hours long over the mountain with one rest stop where you could buy sweaters and other souvenirs along with snacks and drinks. We were lucky enough to get the first 2 seats on the bus, so we had an excellent view of the beautiful scenery. Arrived at Alesund and reboarded the ship as it continued north.

There were 5 seatings for dinner each night with assigned tables. The seatings were 1800, 1830, 1900, 1945 and 2015. We were assigned 1900 at a table for 4. Our tablemates were a lovely couple from South Carolina on their first cruise. We had many interesting conversations covering many topics during the cruise and felt very lucky having them at the same table.

The evening meal was a no choice 3 course dinner of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. No entrée was repeated during the 12 days of the voyage. Some of the meals included chicken, salmon, cod, halibut, pork, beef, goose, lamb, etc. We did not keep track of every evening meal, but there was nothing we did not eat. It was all prepared very well with enough to satisfy most appetites and was presented beautifully. We did not go hungry.

 

DAY 6

 

Today we arrived at Trondheim. We had signed up for the Ringve Museum (Music Museum) tour precruise. It turned out to be a city tour along with the Museum. The guides in the Music Museum were very knowledgeable and played some of the instruments during the tour.

Continued sailing north. It is no longer warm and if you were on deck, you needed jackets.

 

DAY 7

 

We crossed the Arctic Circle today about 0700. There was a tour today to the Svartisen Glacier that we did not take as we have walked on glaciers in Alaska. The folks who did take it said they enjoyed it. We docked at Bodo for 2 ½ hours, so we got off and walked around town for a while. The information center near the ship had an internet café that charged 1K per minute. As that was cheaper than on the ship (50K for 30 min) we checked our email and left a short message for our Cruise Critic friends. Reboarded the ship and continued north.

There was a film in the conference room today on the Lofoten Islands which was very good.

We are now in the land of the midnight sun. For the next few days, the sun never set so we had 24 hour sunlight.

We entered the Trollfjord late this evening and were treated to music and Troll Soup on deck as we traversed the Fjord. As we left the Fjord a couple of Trolls were on shore jumping up and down and waving goodbye.

 

DAY 8

 

Today they had the Arctic Circle Ceremony where they poured ice water down your back. As it was not mandatory, we opted out and just took pictures of King Neptune doing the honors.

Today we docked at Tromso for 4 hours. We got off and walked around town. We bought some souvenirs and returned to the ship.

 

DAY 9

 

Today we took the excursion to the North Cape (Nordkap) which is the northernmost point in Europe. We were within 2000 Kilometers of the North Pole. It was very cold and windy with snow everywhere. The Visitor Center was excellent and included a movie of the Cape along with shopping and snacks. We sent a postcard to ourselves from here to get the postmark and stamp. We had an excellent cup of hot chocolate (it was not Ovaltine stirred into milk).

On the way back to the ship, we stopped to see a representative on the Sami People (formerly called Lapps) and his reindeer.

 

DAY 10

 

Today we arrived in Kirkenes (pronounced Shirkenes) which is the turnaround for the roundtrippers. The folks that were only doing the oneway from Bergen to here departed today and the ones doing Kirkenes to Bergen boarded.

We did the Russian Border tour today as Kirkenes is very close to Russia. We were warned not to step across the border as we would be arrested and it would be $1000 USD to be released. Luckily, all of our group stayed in Norway. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at a huge open pit mine that has been inactive since 1998 because it was not competitive with other countries. There is some discussion the it may now be profitable to reopen the mine in 2008.

Left Kirkenes and are now “southbound” back to Bergen.

 

DAY 11

 

Today we stopped at Hammerfest, the world’s northernmost town. (We had stopped there on the way up, but it was in the wee hours of the night. Today we were there from 1110 to 1245. We got off and walked around for a while. You can visit the Polar Bear Club Museum for a fee and also join the Polar Bear Club for 350K. We did not do either one.

Arrived at Tromso at 2345 and boarded buses to the midnight concert at the Church. The concert included a horn player, a pianist and two young lady singers. The acoustics in the church were excellent and the concert was just as good. We would recommend this to anyone.

 

 

DAY 12

 

We had no more tours scheduled, so we just spent most of the time in the forward lounges of the ship watching the amazing scenery and got off and walked around ports if there was enough time to make it worthwhile.

 

DAY 13

 

We passed the mountain with a hole in it again today. Forgot to mention that on the way up. The mountain is called Torg-hatten and the hole is 480 feet long, 115 feet high and 80 feet wide.

We saw 3 killer whales (orcas) in the harbor at Rorvik.

 

DAY 14

 

Walked around Trondheim and Molde today. Just watched the scenery go by.

 

DAY 15

 

Arrived in Bergen at 1430, disembarked and caught a taxi to the Hotel Neptun. Very nice hotel

Downtown close to everything we wanted to see. Checked in and walked to the fish market and the Bryggen area. We had a voucher for dinner at any one of four restaurants and picked the To Kokkers for our evening meal. We again had an excellent reindeer dinner and crème broule for dessert.

Returned to the hotel. Judy was again happy as the bathroom floor was heated.

 

DAY 16

 

Our last day in Norway. Walked to the Floibanen Funicular for the ride to top of Mount Floyen (1050 ft) for a birdseye view of Bergen. As we had the Bergen City Card, the ride was free as were all the attractions we later went to. Rode back to the city and walked to St Mary’s Church. As it wasn’t opened yet, just walked around the outside. Just a short distance from there was Rosenkrantz Tower and Hakon’s Hall. Hakon’s Hall was closed for repairs so we walked thru, up and down Rosenkrantz

Tower. Very narrow passageways and steep, narrow and spiral steps to negotiate. You could walk around the outside of the top of the tower for a good view of the harbor and the Bryggen area.

From there we went thru the Bryggens Museum which has archeological findings from the area.

From there we just walked thru the area stopping at various shops and also for a quick lunch. We then wandered back thru the fish market and the vendor/souvenir stalls. After that, we then found our way to the huge town square and the Galleria Mall where we browsed thru the many shops. There was also an internet café where we checked our email one last time for 1K/min.

Back to the hotel to get ready to go home. Ate dinner in the hotel bistro which was again very good. This time we had lamb.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 17

 

Up at 0400 to catch a cab to the airport for our 0655 flight to Copenhagen to start our 25 hour day home. The only glitch was a 1 ½ hour delay getting out of Dulles to Tampa as the plane was late arriving from Ft Lauderdale. We figured if that was the only problem on a 17 day trip, it was a success.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

 

Everything about the trip was first class. The Norwegian Coastal Voyage folks have their act together. The MS Midnatsol (the newest ship in the fleet) was beautiful and very well designed. The hotels selected were about 4 Star and the service and staff were all very good. The food on the ship was much better than we expected and the variety was exceptional.The tours we took were well managed and the guides were relatively fluent in English. We had no problems communicating with anyone about anything on the trip and felt completely safe wherever we walked.

Two things to be aware of: The cruise director we had was not the best at dispensing timely information (sometimes no information), so you have the responsibility to be ready for your tours and pay attention to where the buses are as they leave right on time. The other thing is, the ship leaves every port right on the time shown in the daily information sheet. They don’t check if everyone is back, they just leave. Be sure you are on board at least 5 minutes before the departure time.

We would take this trip again and would recommend it to anyone. It is in the top three of all trips we have taken.

 

We took over 1700 digital pictures and put about 300 on Webshots for anyone interested. We hope the folks that take the time to view them enjoy them. The address is:

 

http://community.webshots.com/user/rcicruisers

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Thank you for your review. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures. I saw a lot of snow. Was is that cold outside? I have a few questions. Were there a lot of people on the boat. Are there english books in the library. Is the internet cafe oke. I hope we have the same wonderful trip as you had, when we go on the Finnmarken in oktober.

 

Greetings from Geertje

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We did a one-way Southbound voyage, 7-00 on Nordnorge, Kirkenes to Bergen, and enjoyed it very much.

 

Norwegian fjords very different appearing from those in Alaska and New Zealand, but equally pretty.

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geertje - It was very cold above the Arctic Circle. You will need a sweater and a good warm jacket. At least we did. The coldest was at the North Cape as the wind was very strong. Most of the snow was above the Arctic Circle.

 

The boat was fuller going from Bergen to Kirkenes than back. It seemed there were more tourists going northe and more commuters going south. Even with a full boat northbound, we never felt crowded. There were no real long lines at the buffets and there were always plenty of seats either in the forward lounges or on deck. There were plenty of windows, so you had a good view of everything wherever you were.

 

There were some English books in the library. We left some paperback mysteries there that we had taken along as we finished them. There were also books about Norway in English.

 

The internet cafe had 5 computers and the connection speed was slow. The cost was 50K for 30 min.

 

We talked to a guard at the Oslo Historical Museum that used the Finnmarken when he communted north to see his family and really like the ship. I believe the Finnmarken is a lot like the Midnatsol and you will really like it.

 

One thing I forgot in the review, our cabin did not have a tv. They were only in the inside cabins and the suites. But, I think the Finnmarken has them in all rooms. There were news channels, sports channels and music channels (some in English) along with a ship bow camera and a station showing where we were on the route.

 

I'll be glad to answer anyone's questions if you email me at thirdparty@tampabay.rr.com.

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Thanks Paul for a very informative review.

 

I have always wanted to do the Hurtigruten, and MIDNATSOL and her sister TROLLFJORD look like beautiful ships.

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Thanks Doug

 

Judy and I can both recommend the trip we took with no reservations. Everything was handled very professionally.

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I am going on the same trip and ship as Paul in late September. I will post a review when I get back.

 

I have done a lot of internet research work so if anybody has any questions before I go email me at barton497@aol.com.

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hi wonderul overview of your voyage. We have done the this trip 3 times in past years once round trip on trollfjord once round trip on polarys and north bound only on kong harald. To us this is the ultimate in vacations love the scenery and peace and calmness of ship. Your pictures of the buffets have us both wanting to pick up and go again Oh the pictures of the breads - love them . We our tentavely planning on next May. This year we are planning september cruise to alaska with several other family members. We have always spent a few extra days in Bergen and in Oslo.

People in Norway are very friendly and helpful. We have never had a language problem and we do not speak any Norske. Weather has always been good to us we always take voyage in May. only place weather a little cold was at north cape , but even when had small blizzard whille at sea temperature was not that bad Husband was just saying to me yesterday we should start looking at dates for next year so we can get cabin we like again. We like to be there over the 17th of may either on ship or in oslo. Thanks again for posting you wonderful report

Mima {jean}

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Mima10 - Glad you liked the review. This is in the top 3 of all the trips we have taken. Up there with China and a BtoB cruise to Hawaii.

We would very much like to do the Hurtigruten again.

I got stuck on the poppy seed rolls and ended up having them every meal. Also, the meat balls for breakfast were an every day thing. They also had too many excellent desserts at lunch and dinner. May have to go have a snack now.

 

BTW, my wife is from Freeport.

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Thanks for the review. The pictures were marvelous. If you liked this cruise, you should try the HAL cruise to South America-Antarctica. We did it in 2002 and the scenery in Antarctica is spectacular. It is by far our favorite cruise (of 8).

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Those are incredible photos!!

 

Thank you so much for posting about this trip. Maybe someday :rolleyes:

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My mother and I got of the Midnatsol at the same time as you got on!

 

She's a nice ship. I agree with most of what you have said, save that I found the food became repetitive and boring after a few days. Perhaps I'm spoilt on board the Queen Elizabeth!

 

None the less, I enjoyed the trip very much - I have particularly good memories of the Trollfjord, although the soup remains untried. I was in my suite on the balcony, which made it much more peaceful.

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Hi All,

 

We will be doing the north bound voyage in September and I have a few questions:

 

1. Is it possible to request a specific dining time in advance?

 

2. Is it advisable to pre-book excursions, or were they available for booking on board?

 

3. For anybody who did the north bound only, which flight did you take out of Kirkenes?

 

Thanks for the help.

 

Neil

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neildean - We didn't know how the dining would work until we got onboard, so we don't know if you can request a specific time. Check with your travel agent or with NCV directly about that.

 

We pre-booked the tours we knew we really wanted before we left and then booked 2 others after we boarded. There didn't seem to be any problem getting what you wanted on board. I would still say to be safe if there are any you don't want to miss, pre-book them. The one we would do again is the one to the North Cape. That is not to be missed. If you go, make sure you get some hot chocolate in the Visitor's Center's cafeteria. Best we've ever had.

 

Can't tell you about the flight from Kirkenes as we did the round trip.

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Paul:

 

Really enjoyed your review and the pictures. Thanks for posting them. My wife and I are taking much the same route as yours in mid-June on the Sea Princess embarking from London.

 

I have been reading the Lonely Planet guidebook on Norway in order to pick out the most appealing shore excursions. In regard to the North Cape, they indicate that they have heard from numerous writers that the North Cape is an over-blown tourist trap. Your pictures and description belie that assertion. I was going to avoid it and go instead to either Honnigsvag - Mageroey Island scenic drive or Stappen Island Bird Watching Expedition. I 'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again.

Jim

Sun City Center, FL

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Hi Jim - Glad you liiked the review & pics. I don't remember those exact tours being offered by NCV. They did have a bird watching tour, but if I remember right it was cancelled on our trip. So, I can't give you any information about them.

We had originally opted not to do North Cape, but then signed up once we got on board.

We were probably lucky the day we were there as the wind was really strong and there was no fog/haze as they say is common, so the visibility was severe clear.

I can see why some would say it is a "tourist trap" because of the obligatory gift shop, but the Visitors Center was a very interesting building. There was an excellent movie and the hot chocolate was wonderful after getting blown away. We also sent a postcard to ourselves as a memento.

We thought the bus ride to and from the Cape was worth most of the cost of the tour just because of the scenery. If you want to know what desolate is, that ride will show you. You wonder how the anything can survive there.

All I can tell you is if we ever do the Norway trip again, we would go back to the North Cape. We enjoyed it and thought it was worth it to us, but can see where some would not agree.

 

If you decide to take it, let me know what you think.

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Thanks to all for the great information on these cruises. We will be on the Finnmkarken cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen leaving May 8, 2006. Is anyone out there on it? Or, if anyone has been on the Finnmarken lately I would appreciate any pertinent information. Thanks again

mm

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While doing some further research I discovered a discrepancy on sailing dates. When our travel date was changed I was told we would still be on the Finnmarken, but after checking out the discrepancy, I found we will be on the Trollfjord instead. I have the same question, different ship!

mm

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mm - We'd like to read of your experiences when you return. We're on the Midnatsol on 8/4 (7 day Northbound only). Pls. post your thoughts & any hints you have. Are you spending a pre-night in Bergen?

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Trollfjord and Midnatsol are sister ships, as I am sure you are aware.

 

Midnatsol is a lovely little ship - she's in London this coming weekend if you want to have a look round - and I very much enjoyed my time on her.

 

I thought the North Cape trip was worth doing - whilst there are the obligatory shops, the experience is worthwhile. We're returning there this year on the Queen Elizabeth 2 which should be great!

 

I'd do another trip on the Hurtgruten like a shot. But I reckon I'd still get bored by the food. Don't expect too much.

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Kindlychap - While I love your name, I still have to disagree with you on the food. We thought the variety and quality of the food on the 12 days we were on the Midnatsol was excellent. As we were completely satisfied with the evening 3 course meals, we did not try the extra cost selections. But if you don't think you'll like any evening selection, there is a special order menu for about $40 USD (don't remember what in Kroner).

 

And we were in the Princess Grill on the QM2, so we are at least as able to compare the two as are you.

 

I know any review of food is completely subjective and do not dispute your opinion, just putting forth ours. And, forgive me, but I have to say this, even tho we're from the colonies, my wife and I are both excellent cooks and do know a little bit about food. (A small attempt at humor).

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Kindlychap, please know that I mean no disrepect with the above post. It's just a good thing to have differing opinions.

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No offence taken at all.

 

Perhaps I might clarify?

 

The first lunch we had we were very impressed, and enjoyed it very much. The problem was (for us) that the lunch was identical daily.

 

The evening meal was fine - nothing wrong with it at all - but unlike QE2 (Queens Grill) the meal was not a feature of the day.

 

I didn't expect to have food of the quality that I expect on QE2, and I was therefore not disappointed. Neither did I expect the service to be in the Cunard league. It wasn't. But the staff were lovely, friendly and made the holiday better by their efforts.

 

What I did find over QE2 was the constantly changing scenery, the itinerary that offered several ports a day and the sense of being on a working ship.

 

Midnatsol is not inferior to QE2. She is different. We should count ourselves lucky to have the two alternatives.

 

We were on board Midnatsol on 17 May 2005 - the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Norway. The pride of the Norwegians in Norway, and everything Norwegian, is impressive. You don't find that on Cunard.......

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