Cruise H820 on the Sapphire Princess to Norway, July 2018

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Arms: Tour escort: Comment:
21st July
- Aboard
by noon
23rd July
Utstein Kloster
& Music Recital
24th July
Sogn og
Glacier Hike
but dry
25th July
More og
Waterfall Hike
but dry
26th July
Bryggen &
Scenic Cruise
28th July
- Home by

Embarkation Day, SoToN - Saturday the 21st of July 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock and left home at ten by Steamline taxi. I was in SoToN by eleven and on board at noon! On my tour of the ship, I bumped into Dan the Entertainments Director, who gave me a quick introduction. I lunched on the roast beef in the buffet, before sleeping for an hour.

   At 3:15 we had the safety drill, followed by my meeting with the technicians: Heather, Mario, Mike, Roy and others. There were problems with the ship's patchboard and then they couldn't get a signal from my laptop, so I had to copy my files across to their machine. Unfortunately they had an out-of-date version of Apple QuickTime (hate!) which meant that PowerPoint couldn't display my videos. Since my first lecture has only one, optional video, I could context switch to another video player mid-lecture.

   At 6 o'clock I attended a champagne reception hosted by Kayleigh, before dining in the Vivaldi dining room. I had a huge prime rib of beef sat with couples from Chelmsford, New Brunswick in Canada and Australia. The largest cohort on board was British, followed by American, Canadian, Australian and Spanish contingents. At 8:30 I went to the first Big Band session, but only two couples danced.

   At 9 o'clock I went to listen to the pop group, who played several ABBA songs, but only the cruise staff danced! At 10 o'clock the orchestra came on again with another big band set, but I had to slip out to catch the 10:15 magic and illusion show. The best bit of this was the dancing with laser beams! They finished just after 11 o'clock, but I had trouble getting to sleep with all the excitement of having a new role and for coming on a Princess ship for the first time!

First Sea Day - Sunday the 22nd of July 2018

   I awoke at 6:30, but it was now 7:30 Norwegian time. I had the full English breakfast, before catching the start of the Zumba session, which was entirely ladies in tight black leggings! At 9 o'clock I watched Johanna's 35 minute presentation on Stavanger.

   My lecture had been billed as starting at both 10 o'clock and 10:30, so some pax weren't happy. I then gave my 43 minute talk entitled "Welcome to Norway!" I lunched at noon on the roast beef (it was Sunday!), before sleeping for two and a quarter hours. I then swam in the adults' only Lotus pool and wallowed in the two jacuzzis. However the sun was so hot that I had to stop after twenty minutes for fear of sunstroke!

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

   At 4:30 I went to Johanna's 30 minute talk on Olden. I dined on the roast lamb at 6 o'clock in the Savoy restaurant with Margaret and Bernadette from Barrow, together with an Australian couple orginally from Essex. They had been "ten pound poms" in 1966! At 7:30 I went to the Captain's brief introduction in the central atrium and enjoyed one glass of champagne.

   At 9 o'clock the orchestra played another Big Band set also in the central piazza. Unfortunately only two couples danced in such an exposed location! At 10:15 I went to the excellent ventriloquist's show. I particularly enjoyed the Susan Boyle skit with his pregnant wife, as he had had the misfortune to have been on Britain's Got Talent (BGT) at the same time as SuBo!

Stavanger, Norway - Monday the 23rd of July 2018

   I awoke at 6:30 and had the Egg Benedict with extras on the side. I declined to do the very early dispatch duty, which I had been requested to attend. I was off the ship by 7:50 and walked across the cable stayed bridge to the large offshore island. Unfortunately when I got there my new pair of plimsolls had given me a blister, so I had to limp back to the ship. I got to the Anglo-Norman catherdal as it opened at 9 o'clock, so went in again for free as a crew member.

Stavanger Cathedral

Stavanger Cathedral

   Back at the ship, I was able to use one of the plasters I had had to buy on my last visit to Liverpool. I did some ironing, before heading out again in an older and more comfortable pair of shoes. I went to the Bleidablikk Victorian villa, the Ledaal Royal Residence (closed for the year) and the Commonwealth war graves.

   Back at the ship again, I had an early lunch of a cheeseburger and chips, but without bread, before escorting my second choice tour to the Utstein Kloster (Cloister) for a first time. We went through the six kilometre long undersea tunnel which went so deep that my ears popped! The monastery was a magical place and we had a charming recital of solo organ and piano music in the abbey church. At the local hotel we enjoyed coffee with pancakes (not the usual waffles) with sour cream and raspberry jam. We didn't get to see the nearby site of the very long undersea tunnel, which will complete the road to Bergen, due to open in 2020.

Stavanger old town

Stavanger old town

   Back at the ship yet again, I watched the sailaway from Stavanger and chatted to Paul Burrell and his partner Graham. At 4:30 I went to Johanna's 55 minute talk on both Geiranger & Bergen, which was so long that some people started to walk out. I then had a quick dip in one of the indoor jacuzzis accompanied by an Asian-American family from Huntington Beach in California.

   At 6 o'clock I dined on the rare roast beef in the Pacific Moon restaurant with a couple from Kentucky and a couple from Rhyl with two young girls. The Americans had had to drive to Nashville, Tennessee where their plane was delayed as there were strong winds in Chicago, the legendary windy city. So they missed their flight from there to London and only got to Heathrow half an hour before the ship sailed from SoToN. So they had to take another flight to catch up with us in Stavanger. Not surprisingly they were badly jet lagged and will have to retrace their journey in only five days time! I then received a note from guest services saying that a lady wanted a copy of one of my slides. Goran the IT chap was unable to print from my memory stick, so I visited the New Zealand lady and her daughter in their stateroom to exchange email addresses.

   At 8:15 I went to the jive class where Emma taught the rock jive basic, the underarm turn and the railway train kicks. Here I danced with Asian-American Mary. At the following rock and roll set by the pop group, I had two jives with each of the three cruise staff girls on duty, including Melissa and Kayleigh, but not Emma. I then succumbed to a slice of pizza, a chocolate ice cream cone (my second of the day) and a small bag of popcorn (my second of the cruise) as the outdoor sci-fi movie started. At 10:15 I went to the 80s tribute pop group Coyote in the main theatre. They were rather loud and some older people walked out. I went to bed at 11:30.

Olden, Norway - Tuesday the 24th of July 2018

   I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on the egg & bacon muffin with extras. I then sat at the back of the ship to watch the sail-in along the majestic Nordfjord. I was nearly first off the ship just after 9 o'clock and first into the tourist information office. I walked around the village for over an hour taking photographs in the sun at the wooden church and the Singer home.

   Back at the ship, I did some more ironing, before having an early lunch of two frankfurters with chips. I then slept for an hour and a half, before waking to a rain shower. At 2 o'clock I escorted my second choice hike to the Briksdals glacier. Thankfully the rain stopped and we only got wet from the huge waterfalls on both the way up and down. At the bottom of the valley we had a huge spread of cakes and pancakes, but again no waffles, with coffee or tea.

He's behind you!

He's behind you!

   Back at the ship again, I quickly changed ready for the dinner of escalope of veal, back in the Vivaldi restaurant. I was sat with a couple from Fleet and a couple from Grimsby, the husband of which was in a wheelchair as a result of an industrial accident. At 8:15 I went to the 70s disco line dance class where cruise staffer Martin taught three dances, beginning with the Electric Slide and Emma also taught three dances, ending with the California Frieze, to half a dozen pax. That was SIX dances taught in just half an hour! I then worked on my computer. At 10:15 I went to the excellent production show, centred around a pink Cadillac, with four singers and eleven dancers! I then pigged out at the midnight buffet for the first time this cruise. I went to bed at 11:30.

Geiranger, Norway - Wednesday the 25th of July 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock ready for the augmented egg & bacon muffin. We were at anchor off Hellesylt tendering 300 pax ashore who were on the all day tours. I then worked on updating this blog. At 10 o'clock I gave my second enrichment lecture on Grieg to a diminished audience with the Geiranger fjord sailing past! Thankfully they had updated Apple QuickTime on their laptop!

   At 11:30 I was on dispatch duty in the Princess theatre, not expecting to depart until 1:30. Suddenly I was reallocated from the later group 23 to the earlier group 14, so I had to quickly change into my hiking outfit and rush out on to the extraordinary seawalk jetty which had been floated out to us. My third choice tour had a short coach ride of only a couple of miles out above Geiranger. We had a strenuous uphill hike with two people dropping back, the remaining 17, the guide and myself the escort making it to the dramatic Storsæterfossen (Great Summer Farm Force) Waterfall. We were able to crouch underneath the enormous torrent and take our pictures. Back down the hillside, we finally had the traditional waffles with raspberry jam and sour cream to go with coffee, tea or water.

   Back at the quayside, I had over an hour to explore Geiranger. I climbed up the new iron staircase on the south side of the village's dramatic waterfall. I went in the Fjord centre and the Union hotel, but the famous motor museum in the latter was closed. I popped in the lovely octagonal wooden church and splashed out 5 kroner (50p) on a map of the village from the tourist information office. There was an enormous queue on the seawalk floating jetty, so I sat on the quayside for a while.

   Finally back on the ship, I went up to the rear of the ship to watch the sail away from Geiranger. We passed the famous giant's face, the seven sisters waterfalls and the opposing suitor waterfall too. At 7 o'clock I dined alone in the Savoy restaurant for a second time. Margaret & Bernadette came passed and said they would like to dine with me again. I went through the menu: wild mushroom soup, strawberry sorbet, two filet mignons and the mixed ice cream. The latter was one scoop each of chocolate peanut butter, amaretto AND mango sorbet!

   At 9 o'clock I went to Dave Shelly's cabaret sat by a window with stunning fjord views. Unfortunately half way through the performance the technician came and closed the curtains! At 10:15 I went up to the outdoor pool on the top deck to see the Amethyst escapology show. The sun was still shining, but the wind was cold as large numbers of pax huddled under tartan blankets or stripey towels! After two 'escapes', I slipped away to have a slice of salami pizza before the crowds descended. I was in bed before 11 o'clock for the first time this cruise!

Bergen, Norway - Thursday the 26th of July 2018

   My alarm woke me at 5:30 to a glorious sun rise as we entered the Bergen archipelago. At 6 o'clock I had a marmite muffin and a Danish pastry as a continental breakfast. At 6:30 I was on dispatch duty in the Princess theatre marshalling the 720 pax on tour.

   At 8:30 I led two groups off the ship with my group boarding our bus and the other group gathering on the quay. We had a short bus ride to the Bryggen (pronounced Bree-gen) UNESCO listed wharf. We explored just one alleyway, before getting back on the bus, but five pax ducked out of the tour already at this early point. We then drove for an hour out of Bergen to the small Lysefjord. We had to await the arrival of the other group on the fast catamaran before boarding.



   We sailed past Ole Bull's famous villa on Lysoen island and then out into the coastal waterway in the glorious sunshine. We finished with a slow passage from the Gamle Bergen outdoor museum, passed the fisheries museum to the old harbour. We then did a anti-clockwise circuit of the Vågen, before disembarking from the cat. The pax then dispersed with just one hour left to explore Bergen or walk straight back to the ship. As the guide led the single wheelchair in the party back, I took the route through the Bergenhus fortress to take pictures. Unfortunately the famous Rosencrantz tower was shrouded in scaffolding, but the Håkon hall was magnificient in the bright sun.

   Back at the ship I had a quick meal of scampi and chips, before sleeping for an hour and a half, interrupted by the Captain's departure announcement. At 3:30 I gave my 45 minute talk on the Story of the Fjords. I then went for a swim in the adults only Lotus pool, before spending half an hour in the jacuzzi together with the Asian American lady I had previously bathed with and others.



   At 6 o'clock I dined in the Vivaldi restaurant sat with a couple from Florida and a couple with homes in both Iowa and California. I began with the tomato soup, had the Caesar salad with anchovies, continued with the proper Beef Wellington (Boeuf en croute) and finished with the mixed ice cream and sorbet! The orchestra were playing jazz, so at 8:15 I went to Paul Burton's Cole Porter songbook session. He is an accomplished piano player, but is rather loud!

   Feeling tired, I went back to my cabin thinking that I would have an early night after my early start, but instead at 10:15 I went and listened to the mildly amusing London comedian Jeff Stevenson, who had a difficult task with so many Americans in the audience! I went to bed when he finally finished just after 11 o'clock.

Second Sea Day, North Sea - Friday the 27th of July 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock, but it was now only six back on BST, so I watched my Fjords talk on the TV. I had the egg & bacon muffin with extras at 8 o'clock and then worked on my computer. At 10:30 I went to Danny Hunt's interesting talk on the famous escapologist Harry Houdini. I had to slip out at 11 o'clock in order to set up for my fourth and final enrichment lecture entitled "The Story of the Vikings". I had a good turnout considering the sun was shining. I spoke for 45 minutes, but I was followed immediately at 12:15 by a showing of the ship's promotional DVD.

   At 12:30 I attended Emma's rumba class. She ambitiously tried to cover the basics, underarm turns, New Yorks, spot turns, cucarachas and hand to hands. However she kept getting confused and, although she had stressed that it began on beat 2, she actually went on beat 1! I lunched on the lovely Mexican buffet: pulled pork, chicken & beef fajitas, chilli con carne, refried beans etc. I then slept for nearly two hours, before wallowing in the Lotus pool jacuzzi with a couple from Maryland and the two Asian-American ladies from California yet again. Although the sun was shining, the Lotus pool itself was too cold to swim in and the large indoor pool was too full of kids.

   At 5:30 I packed ready to dine at six. I went to the Vivaldi restaurant for a third and final time. I sat with the couple from Grimsby again, a couple from Perth in Australia and a US couple originally from New Jersey, but now living in Florida. I began with the shrimp cocktail, continued with the rib-eye steak and finished with the baked Alaska. At 8 o'clock I went to the superb Musicals & Opera production show, which I also watched for a second time at 10:15! At 9 o'clock I heard the London comedian for a second time, having enjoyed his first show the day before. I couldn't resist a slice of the pepperoni pizza for supper and wasn't in bed until 11:45.

Disembarkation Day, SoToN - Saturday the 29th of July 2018

   My alarm woke me at 7 o'clock ready for the egg & bacon muffin with full English on the side at 7:30. I left my stateroom (cabin) at 8 o'clock and was home by 9:30, after another lovely cruise!

   The New Zealand lady wrote: "Thank you so much for the printouts I was interested in. I really appreciate your kindness"

Score card:

6 Dining tables hosted
4 Lectures given
4 Tours escorted
1 Cruise enjoyed

Good points were:

  1. Outside double cabin on deck 4 with two portholes
  2. Free ice cream, pizza and burgers
  3. Efficient cabin steward (Joseph)
  4. Open seating "Anytime dining"
  5. Laundromat on every pax deck
  6. Choice of pools and jacuzzis
  7. Choice of restaurants
  8. Four new tours

For the record ...

Current Statistics (as of July 2018):
1112 Ports called at
 671 Tours escorted
 382 Ports visited
 257 Lectures delivered
 127 Cruises undertaken
  22 Cruise ships:

	Saga Rose
	Saga Ruby (Saggy Booby!)
	Saga Pearl II
	Saga Sapphire
	Spirit of Adventure (SofA)
	Quest for Adventure (Q4A)

	Black Prince
	Black Watch

	Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2)
	Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
	Queen Elizabeth
	Queen Victoria

	Seabourn Sojourn
	Seabourn Odyssey

	Sapphire Princess
	Celebrity Eclipse
	Crystal Symphony

9 Cruise lines:

	Saga Shipping Company
	Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
	Voyages of Discovery (VofD)
	Seabourn (Carnival)
	Princess (Carnival)
	Cunard (Carnival)
	P&O (Carnival)