Cruise RU557 on the Saga Ruby to Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
27/07/2012 Dover, UK
28/07/2012 IJmuiden, Netherlands Amsterdam & Canal Cruise Picturesque
30/07/2012 Stavanger, Rogaland Lysefjord Boat Trip Overcast
02/08/2012 Leknes, Nordland Lofotr Viking Museum Interesting
04/08/2012 Longyearbyen, Svalbard Sightseeing Fascinating mining kit
05/08/2012 Ny Ålesund, Norway (No tours) Glorious!
06/08/2012 Magdalena Bay, Norway (No tours) Stark beauty
08/08/2012 Tromsø, Troms Panoramic & Cathedrals Again!
10/08/2012 Molde, More og Romsdal Town of Roses City of Roses actually!
11/08/2012 Bergen, Hordaland Traditions of Hardanger The perfect tour!
13/08/2012 Dover, England Home at 3:30 pm

Me at Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Me at Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Nancy & Eve at Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Nancy & Eve at Ny Ålesund, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Vikings in Lysefjord!

Vikings in Lysefjord!

Me at Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Me at Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

Here is my cruise report...

This was a six star cruise on another of my favourite ships. Two days before commencement one of Saga Ruby's lifeboats wouldn't launch properly and so was offloaded in Dover for repairs. The ship couldn't sail with more people than lifeboat spaces, so the day before sailing various people were bounced off. This included my dance host colleague Bill Winterbourne from Swindon and the dance instructors Kathy & Ian Hocking. The latter couple had already driven down to Dover from Lancashire and so were not happy bunnies. One of the lecturers, a receptionist and Alan Webb the computer chap amongst others were also bumped off the ship. So I had a twin cabin to myself, but had to do the work of four people! I ran the line dancing and ballroom dance classes, worked as the sole dance host each evening and was a tour escort in the ports of call.

I drove down to Dover via Ashford and parked in the old railway terminus as usual. In the first port of call, IJmuiden in the Netherlands, I was a tour escort on the Amsterdam Panoramic and Canal Cruise. On the first sea day I led my first line dance class and attended the travelling alone reception. In the evening I was on duty in the new Captain's welcome cocktail party.

In Stavanger I walked around the city taking photographs and used the free internet in the Maritime Museum's Information Centre during the morning. In the afternoon I escorted the Lysefjord Cruise for a second time. The waffles, jam, cream and coffee were as delicious as ever! The next day saw my second line dance class and my first ballroom dance class whilst we cruised the beautiful Sognefjord. I also enjoyed Professor David Nichols' lecture on "Whales & Dolphins". That evening we crossed the arctic circle and entered the land of the midnight sun.

On my first visit to Leknes on the Lofoten Islands I went to the excellent Lofotr Viking Museum. For some reason they didn't show us the museum's movie. I also had the orchestra's new trumpeter, Mark Harrison from Manchester, in tow for training as a tour escort. On the next sea day I led my fourth line dancing and second ballroom dance classes.

In Longyearbyen, the capital of the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, I was escort on my first choice sightseeing tour. I was fascinated by the old coal mining paraphenalia including the cable cars, railway trucks and mine head winding gear. I ended up taking over two hundred photographs, a third of which went straight into a PowerPoint port presentation. In the afternoon I saw three adult white Beluga whales with one grey calf.

In Ny Ålesund there were no tours on offer so I wandered around the small settlement in glorious sunshire taking over one hundred photos of which half went into another PowerPoint port presentation. We then cruised further up to over 80 degrees North to reach the pack ice. This was only 570 nautical miles from the north pole itself! That evening I had my first jive with lovely Cruise Director (CD) Jo Boase.

In spectacular Magdelena Bay there were again no tours on offer so after a lie-in I took a tender to the beach. I avoided being attacked by the ground nesting Arctic Terns by sporting an unfurled umbrella. I saw one mother incubating a single egg and another sitting on a single chick. Occasionally the father would arrive and feed the chick by regurgitating small fry. Two armed wardens curtailed our explorations and unfortunately no polar bears were seen. That evening saw the excellent Saga Ruby Ball when I again danced the jive with CD Jo.

On the next sea day I led my fifth line dancing class and third ballroom dance class. We also saw large numbers of Minke whales spouting away.

In Tromsø I was escort on my fourth choice Panoramic & Cathedrals tour again. I travelled on the free shuttle bus back into town in the afternoon to use the free wi-fi in the public library. I took in the David Hockney exhibition and viewed the famous Munch portraits in the North Norway art gallery. In the contemporary art gallery I was particularly interested in the special exhibition of new Norwegian architecture. This included the design for the Global Seed Vault that we had visited at Longyearbyen amongst others.

The next day saw me successfully complete six sessions in one day all on my own! It began with my line dancing class at 9 am and continued with my social cha cha class at 2:15 pm both in the Ballroom. At 4:45 pm I gave my well received lecture entitled "The Story of the North Sea" to a packed cinema theatre. At 6:30 pm I led the pre-dinner dance session in the Britannia Lounge. At 8:45 pm I danced at the pre-show session in the Ballroom and finished an exhausting day at 10:45 pm with the post-show dancing. I was gladly doing the work of at least four people!

In Molde I was the tour escort on the Town of Roses tour in the City of Roses. Our guide was my old colleague Johnny Strand who had been my tour manager on the Braemar in the Caribbean and on the Balmoral at the North Cape. I went back into town in the afternoon to use the free internet in the always reliable Thon Hotel.

Our final port of call was the lovely city of Bergen where I was granted my first choice all day tour - "Traditions of Hardanger". On a glorious day we began with a cruise on a narrow arm of the Hardangerfjord. We then had a traditional lunch of meatballs and apple cake at a fruit farm overlooking the Folgefonn ice-cap. In the afternoon we visited an historic boatyard on the fjord's edge. We heard all about boat building and boat restoration including a display of rope making in the long shed. On the way back to Bergen we walked right behind the Stone Dale Force (Steindalsfossen) waterfall. We ended the day with a short panoramic tour of the city.

On the last sea day I ran my final line dance and ballroom classes. The Cruise Director gave me the choice of any bottle of booze as a thank you and I chose Harveys Bristol Cream sherry. One lady gave me a card on the last day which said "Thank you for helping to make my cruise so enjoyable. Hope we meet again sometime."

I didn't get off the ship until 11 am and had a nightmare drive home it being the day after the Olympics had ended. I finally got back home at 3:30 in the afternoon!

I scored 1.31 in the pax end of cruise questionnaire, where 1.0 is excellent, 2.0 is good, 3.0 is poor and 4.0 is very poor!

Score card:

7 Tours escorted.
7 Line dance classes led.
7 Dining companions entertained.

6 Sessions successfully completed on one day!
5 Ballroom dance classes taught.
4 People covered for (2 dance hosts and 2 dance instructors).
3 Formal nights enjoyed.
2 Cocktail parties attended.
1 Lecture delivered.

1 Ball danced throughout.
1 Social luncheon enjoyed.
1 Singles reception attended.

Good points were:

  1. Being consulted by Geoff the orchestra leader on what dances I had taught that day!
  2. Triple aspect, forward facing observation lounge with circular dance floor.
  3. Excellent programme of up to four lectures per sea day.
  4. Outside twin cabin on main deck all to myself!
  5. Complimentary wine on the formal nights.
  6. Hosting a table in the main dining room.
  7. Good sized rectangular dance floor.
  8. Brand new Italian coffee machines.
  9. All round teak promenade deck.
  10. Free fruit and water in cabin.
  11. Triple height oval staircase.
  12. Efficient cabin steward.
  13. Free launderette.

Usual sea day programme:

08:00 - 09:00 Get up for al fresco breakfast outside the Lido cafeteria.
09:00 - 09:45 Line dance class in the Ballroom led by me.
10:00 - 10:45 Destinations lecture by Dr. Richard Grainger from Jersey.
11:00 - 11:45 Enhancement lecture by Major Sir Michael Parker.
12:30 - 13:00 Lunch on the aft deck outside the Lido.
13:00 - 14:00 Siesta
14:15 - 15:00 Ballroom / Latin American dance class in the Ballroom led by me.

Usual evening programme:

18:30-19:15 Pre-dinner dancing in the circular Britannia Lounge.
19:15-21:00 Hosting a table in the main dining room.
21:00-21:45 Pre-show dancing in the rectangular Ballroom.
22:00-22:45 Showtime in the Ballroom.
22:45-23:30 Post-show dancing in the rectangular Ballroom.
23:30-00:00 Socialising in the Lido or Preview. 

For the record ...