Solway Shipping    


A cruise on Princess Cruises "Emerald Princess" to Norway and the North Cape was on the cards which entailed a 360 mile journey south to board the ship in Southampton ready for a 4pm departure. We left a little behind schedule due to other shipping but finally we got under way on a very warm and sunny day and set course for our first port of call Stavanger.
The two previously hot and sunny days were just a distant memory when we arrived as the sky was now grey and heavy and a strong breeze was carrying curtains of rain across the harbour.
Two cruise ships were already in the confined space of the harbour, "Serenade of the Seas" and the much smaller "Horizon" so we had to tie up further away but still only a few minutes walk from the town.
Towering over the town is Royal Caribbeans "Serenade of the Seas",  it can carry 2500 passengers and is 962' in length.
Moored nearby was "Rogaland" built in 1929 and formerly the night ferry between Stavanger and Bergen. She is now a museum ship, the reason for the paint job is not known but its likely something to do with the movies or perhaps a TV documentary.
Stavanger, which for many years has been associated with the offshore oil and gas industry now has a museum dedicated to displaying all manner of things connected to it, from ship models, documentary films, different types of drill heads they use for drilling through the sea bed etc and this huge highly detailed scale model of an oil platform.
It was all too much for this visitor!
On returning to the ship for departure we learned that during the day a severe gale had developed outside of the port with storm force 10 winds and a swell of some 9 metres! and that the captain had cancelled the sailing for 24 hours and consequently the following days visit to Flam to wait for the storm to pass. The swell could even be felt inside the harbour. The "Serenade of the Seas" did leave but the smaller "Horizon" and ourselves remained. The following day with the storm moving away, we left after the "Horizon" both ships requiring tugs fore and aft to manoeuvre into the channel safely. 
Next port of call, located over 50 miles from the open sea at the upper reach of Nordfjord was Olden. Having had a bit of a wobbly night, (the spray was higher than the balcony of the cabin which was on deck 9, one above the ships lifeboats!) we awoke to complete stillness. We were surrounded by varied and dramatic scenery of waterfalls and mountains.
With limited mooring available the Aida Luna had to go to anchor nearby and ferry her passengers ashore by tender.
Departing Olden we set course for Trondheim and then onto our furthest point north Honningsvag where we could take the short trip to the North Cape which is the most northerly place in Europe and only 1300 miles from the North Pole. The day at sea between Trondheim and Honningsvag was beautiful calm and sunny and more like summer! It was also the day that the ship entered into the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33.4 latitude and each passenger was given a certificate signed by the captain to commemorate the event.
The Lofoten Islands
Honningsvag, Norways smallest official city with just 2300 inhabitants, was surprisingly  picturesque and interesting with many shops and cafes. The indigenous people, the Sami, also had their own shop where you could buy handmade items. 
En-route to the North Cape we called at a small fishing village. Viewers of TV's "Deadliest Catch" will instantly recognize these critters...King Crab. The local fishermen have several large holding tanks and when they are full of crab they ship them off to Japan.
Departing Honningsvag the ship turned south and onto the next port Tromso, the home of the famous triangular Arctic Cathedral and polar museums. These two trawlers were getting a bit of TLC at a shipyard. Unusually there appeared to be no security at all and people could just wander around at will.

Not a lot of shipping to be seen so it was on next to Alesund, which like many of the previous ports, was picturesque, small and easily accessible.
After a very enjoyable day we were treated to this display by the vintage tug Brannsprotta as we departed. Some 116 cruise ships were expected this year at the port so it was much appreciated.

On arrival at the final port of the cruise Bergen, there were already three cruise ships tied up in the town centre so we had to berth further away but still only a 10 minute walk, which was just as well as we were only staying for 6 hours. It was an early start to take advantage of the reduced time available.

Britannia, Costa neoRomantica, and Horizon (who had been storm bound in Stavanger with us earlier)

Bergen was very busy with all types of shipping ranging from the vintage, oil industry support vessels and ferries etc.
Our time in port was soon up and the sun made an appearance in time for one more photo as we departed back to Southampton.
When the cabin curtains were drawn back on arrival in Southampton, the container ship Singapore Express was passing by complete with a trio of tugs to assist in berthing. The final ship on the final day of a very enjoyable cruise.