Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Seabourn and our Quest

Our Seaborn Quest

It's not a big ship but it's a classy ship. It's classy mostly in what it excludes. No cheesy themed bars (though sometimes those are fun if done right). No smarmy cruise director. No nickle and dining you at every turn like a lot of other lines. Just great service again and again and again. 

The whole philosophy of Seaborn is different than most of the other cruise lines (it should be noted that Seaborn is owned by Carnival). It's all inclusive (only premium wine is extra), like cruising used to be in the old days. It's a bit sophisticated without being really stuffy.  You pay for it for sure, I don't think you can call Seaborn inexpensive. I'm not sure it's even what you would call a "value" but you do get what you pay for. 

The food was mostly very good. There was only one dish that was really great but also only one that was really meg. There were 4 dining options of which I ate at 3 (plus 24 hour room service - so basically you could eat whenever you want). The service in the main restaurant was very good (one night was a bit slow but otherwise great). 

The slightly more casual option was always a bit more hit and miss with service. Everyone was always nice and polite but The Colonade was a bit more hectic, every so slightly chaotic, though still very enjoyable. 

The Patio Grill was the most casual and our usual lunch destination. I ate more slices of (very good) pizza than I could count. Also little finger wraps & sandwiches & paninis. Also lots of ice cream. More than I should have. All of this to say the food, while not "foodie" quality, is better than a lot of restaurants back home (but it should be since you're paying for it). 

Our ahip is the newest currently in the fleet. A new larger ship that will hold 600-ish passengers is on its way soon. For my money that's about as big a cruise ship as I'd want anymore. Though the big ships have lots of stuff and can be destinations in and of themselves, that's too many people for this boring old man. 450 people is a good small number that still gives you opportunities to be in a crowd but still lets get to know whoever you want.  

Most of the space on The Quest is state rooms. There are not voluminous interior spaces. The dining room is nice but not what I would call grand (it is very nice, don't get me wrong). This ship had lots of science themed art and objects. I kind of liked it. It seemed different and it was as I've not see ship decorations like that before. There are a few lounges, a theater and a nice cafe & library at the back of the ship. All nicely done. Marissa got a (free) latte almost everyday at The Seaborn Square (the cafe). 

The outdoor spaces are very nicely done (I wish we got to use them more but weather made that not realistic). There were no kids running around everywhere. The pool is small but looked nice. They even had a jacuzzi at the bow of the ship - we never stepped in but it looked like that could have been fun. There is no main promenade or walk around deck- the sports deck is small but did have shuffleboard and a putting green (and a driving range). 

The entertainment aboard was also very good (except for the comedian - just no, no). The Cast shows were all very well sung (some curious song choices yes). We never made it to the late night dance parties but up on deck (when we had good weather) were great. I've never been to so many shows on a cruise before so that should say something good. 

I'd go back on Seaborn, especially with a great itinerary. These smaller ships are not really set up great for so many days at sea but Seaborn does a very good job offering activities - it's just tough since there is so much less physical space. Bring a good book (or 2 or 3) and you're likely not to notice the sea days as much. Ultimately you're cruising to (probably) stuff your face full of food, see some of the world, get a little bit of luxury and for good (or better) service. Seaborn scores on all targets there. They have good food, go all over the world, have plenty of class & luxury and have great service. It's been a treat aboard our Seaborn Quest. Thanks Seaborn, we will see you again (probably). 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our way North

We've spent the last two weeks in and about Norway on a fancy yacht, sailing the (North &) Nowegan sea. We've eaten lots of food, drank lots of liquor and seen many fjords.  It's been great. Life was tough out there on the Seabourn Quest. 

I can't say I'm a fan of the Norwegan weather, or the Norwegan sea. It's too windy and cold. To gray and bleak. I asked around a bit and everyone said the weather we had was typical Norwegan weather. The people in Honningsvåg  could count on one hand the number of good days they have had so far this year. 
That's not my kind of weather. 

I didn't find Norway as magical as Switzerland, though that's really not a fair comparison. I got engaged in Switzerland  to the love of my life, Norway was never going to compare to that. 

Also, only docking in ports, I feel like we didn't really get into the heart of Norway. Maybe we did, it's entirely possible we got a very good Norwegan experience, but to me it feels like we missed really getting into the country. I guess it comes down to that we never got to stay at any place longer than 12 hours. We never stayed overnight in any city- sure that's mostly what cruising is but in this case staying overnight somewhere in Norway would have helped bring us into its heart. 

Another big factor is that we didn't know any locals (like we now do in Switzerland). The more I travel the more it seems like this is a bigger deal. It really helps to have a friendly local face when you travel. But it's also clear to me that Switzerland occupies a now seemingly unassailable spot atop the most loved and most fun places I've been (mostly because of Marissa - without her I would probably be much more neutral about Swizerland, or at least much less enthralled).  Also, I kind of wanted a bit more Viking stuff. 

Norway is not without its charm though. Flåm is my (and Marissa's) favorite place we visited. It is gorgeous. It's sleepy and quiet. And charming. And lovely. And it looks like a post card. 

Honningsvåg, though less picturesque, was also great fun. We went ATVing at the top of Europe. It's was fun to be up at 71° N in the land of the midnight sun. 

We had great fun adventuring in Tromsø. The weather was perfect, we rode a cable car, took a RIB adventure...all great. 

Olden too has its charm, especially that area inland a long a beautiful lake, waterfalls cascading down all around the mountains. Not bad Norway, not too bad. 

It may seem like I'm down on Norway a bit. I'm not. The weather was challenging which put a dim tint on our time there. I did have fun. I went on lots of hikes. I saw lots of fjords. And even a few trolls. I think Norway could maybe even look prettier in the winter with a foot or so of snow on the ground. It's just not my Switzerland but it never should have been. It's Nordway, the way north. In that sense it was great. 


It was described as "not the prettiest city on our itinerary" so we had our bar set a little lower. But what a gorgeous day here in Stavanger. If only more of the weather had been more like this. 

We started off by walking through a summer market/festival and bought some reindeer sausage for our friends back home. 

We then walked through the Stavanger "Old Town". It's been upkept in a traditional way, all the houses are painted white (except for one), lots of pretty little flowers. It's nice to get to see what the city was like years ago. 

After a brief stop back on the ship for lunch we headed back out to see more of the town. Here is a great example of how the weather has been a bit of a punk/jerk: this morning was gorgeous - blue sky, fluffy clouds, no wind. After lunch - bleak gray clouds, rain, wind, almost no blue sky. It feels a little bit like as soon as Norway sees we are enjoying a bit of good weather it smacks us in the face with rain and wind. Boo Norway, boo. 

We ducked into a shop to wait out the rain. It cleared a little so we continued our tour of downtown. It weirdly looks like Orlando. 

We stopped by this church at the center of town. It (like almost every important building in Norway) burnt down but was rebuilt in its original style. 

It's also got this cool looking lock on the back door. 

Next we headed to the Norwegan Oil Musem to get a real life oil rig experience.  
The Musem has some cool older oil drilling equipment on display, some you can crawl through, others not. They also have the history of the Norwegan oil industry. The "rig" experience was ok though much of the interactive stuff was broken.  I don't think I'd visit this again. Still we had some fun. 

Outside there was a kids playground made out of reused drilling equipment. It might be more fun than the inside of the Musem. I walked through mostly to get some photos of a sweet mega yacht. 

Our ship is docked until midnight tonight so we've got a lot more time here in town. We are planning on heading out into the city again tonight to get a glimpse of Norway at night since this is really the first time we will have been in port this late. 

Stavanger looks nicer than I was expecting. The lecture about the town made it out to be somewhat troll-eque but I don't find it to be like that at all. It's no Flåm but it has a nice little harbor with ships and shops and it seems to be a very decent town. 

The Last Leg

We're winding down our Norwegian Cruise Extravaganza...  It's been lots of fun despite some cold, rainy weather.  The ship has been great with delicious food, lots of champagne and lots of good times with the Olander clan.

Here are some recent highlights:

By some lucky miracle I won the Blackjack Scratchcard Tournament during our last At Sea day.  It was a pretty fun little tournament - and me, Chris, David and Carina all made it to the final table.  And a lucky last hand where I went all in brought me the victory.  I won 25 scratch cards which equaled $25 in winnings.  :)

This was the old church in Honningsvåg- really beautiful and so full of history.

We hiked a giant rock mountain after we saw the church - it was hard but worth it for the cool view and to say "we did it!"

In Olden the only thing to do was to take a bus to hike up to the Glacier...  So that is what we did.  It was a rainy hike, but not too tough and pretty once we got to just below the ever shrinking glacier.

Family selfie!

Two Chris' and Carina's...

Today we are in the last port, Stavanger - on a gorgeous sunny day.  It is warm and perfect for walking around.  There is a huge market by the water - it is super crowded - I guess everyone is excited that it is warm and sunny.

The streets of the old town are pretty adorable...

And this sign made me laugh.

One more day at sea tomorrow - where we can see if our team "The Seabourn Legacy/Supremecy/Ultimatium" can rise out of second place in Trivia.  It will be tough but maybe we'll have some trivia luck on our side.

We return to Copenhagen on Saturday and then it's off to London for a day before the journey home!

Olden Times

After two days at sea we were very ready to set foot on land again. The first day at sea was gloomy and gray. The second day was a grogeous warm day (we haven't had many of those). 

Early this morning we sailed into the Nordfjord arriving at the (tiny) town/village/hamlet of Olden. It really is very small but slightly larger than Flåm. Since it was so small we didn't spend much time there. Also it was raining again. 

Olden's main claim to fame is its the gateway to the Jostedal Glacier, the largest glacier on the European mainland. A 30 minute bus ride takes you within a few kilometers of the Briskdal arm of the main glacier. 

It was very scenic and beautiful hike up to the glacier. Marissa and I caught up to the rest of our group who took an earlier tour about half way up the hike. 

They had a little information set along the trail about the glacier. The glacier has really retreated in the past century and also the last decade. I'm not sure you'll be able to see the glacier from the end of hike in 10 years or so. I'm not sure what happens to Olden then since it seems Ike that's a main tourist draw. Olden is also on the forefront of Norwegan modern design apparently so they have that but it seems like a lot of tourist dollars will vanish without that glacier. 

The other side of the valley is also very picturesque with a giant cascading waterfall down the face of the mountain. I took way too many photos of the waterfall trying to a shot I really liked. Every time I thought I was done I took one more that I liked better. 

Also docked in the harbor was a massive P&O cruise ship called "Britania". It's huge, 3,600 passengers. Our boat only carries 450 passengers (which is fine with me). Still, the Britania is an impressive ship, especially when your sanding below it on the dock. 

We're sailing out of the Nordfjord on our way to Stavanger. That's our last stop on our Norwegan adventure before our cruise is over. It's hard to believe this trip is almost done. We are supposed to have better weather the next few days which will be nice. We've only had a few really great weather days so it will be a welcome change (everyone here goes nuts when we get little bursts of sunlight). On we go. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I mean N°rth

Just to give you a sense of scale and perspective,

We are at the blue dot. 
Google maps thought I was in Russia  so I had to switch to Apple Maps (boo). 

71° North

It's another good weather day here in Norway (phew!). It's a bit colder here in Honningsvåg but the sun is out and we set off on adventure. 

We set off from the town center on our ATV Safari. Marissa and I doubled up and quickly grabbed the first ATV in line after getting suited up. There were more than a few people who were already slowing the group down and we didn't want to get stuck behind them on the drive. 

We went off roading for a bit and stopped near the top of a small mountain to take some photos. It had been a bit since I had been on an ATV and I quickly remembered how much fun it can be. 

We didn't really do too much off road or anything remotely scary (though a few of the other guests were complaining that it's was too much for them). I did get our ATV up to 80kph at one point but mostly we were cruising under 50kph. 

We stopped at an old Sami fishing village for a coffee and a quick rest. There was another tour group here doing a King Crab Safari - catching and cooking the crabs. 

That was our morning. We're here in port for another 6 hours so we are going to try and find a hike we can do. It's nice to have some decent weather. The next two days are at sea so we also have to prep for more trivia. And eat more food. And read more books. Life is tough. 

Terrific Tromsø

The bad weather of the past few days finally broke - I guess our sacrifice to Neptune worked!

We had a blast around town today. It's so much better with nice weather! In the morning we took a cable car up a mountain and got a fantastic view looking down in the city. 

We took photos and hiked around for an hour or so. We even hiked up to a very small "glacier" and stomped around in the snow. We also built more rock statues. 

After a nice walk back to town we journeyed out on our RIB adventure with the whole family. We were all packed (a little like sardines) in the front of one of the boats. 

We had a 3 hour tour around the bay. There was some great high speed skimming & jumping over waves. We didn't see any muskox when we stopped to look but we did vist the sight of a sunken Nazi Bismark class ship from WWII. 

A fun day filled with lots of adventure. Tomorrow it's up to Honningsvåg, at the top of the world. We decided to do our laundry tonight instead of the show. It took a bit to get all the clothes dry so I was up for a while but on the plus side, here is what the land of the midnight sun looks like from our balcony (00:03). 

Catch up!

So much adventure and so little access to wifi equals less blogs apparently!

We are almost at the North Pole right now - no elf or Santa sightings yet, but a few trolls here and there and I think we may have sat on the skin of Blitzen or Dancer in a tent earlier today.

We went on a full family RIB boat adventure around Tromsø yesterday.  It was fast and fun and a little chilly, but we had on our fashion all yellow water suits. Super cool way to see around the town!

Earlier in the day we took a cable car up a big mountain in Tromsø and the weather was perfect with an amazing view. 

And we found snow...  But no Olaf.

Today we are in Honningsvåg on another lovely, sunny day.  Though it is Sunday so it's a bit more of a ghost town than usual.  So we decided to pass the time with an ATV tour of the area.  Pretty cool way to see the sights.

Now we are lunching before exploring the town a wee bit more.  We don't set sail again until 8:30pm tonight!

The sun never sets in these parts which is crazy to see!  It messes with your brain to be so bright at midnight.  Super glad to have gotten to see the Midnight Sun.

Until the next blog...

Saturday, July 18, 2015


So Flam was a lovely little hamlet hidden in a fjord and when we pulled in it was surrounded by a very Brigadoon-ian mist so it felt like we were entering a magic land.

Our RIB Boat/Beer Tasting excursion wasn't til later in the day so we wandered the town ourselves in the morning to see some of the sights.  We walked through some of the adjoining little towns with the  adorable, wee little houses.  How interesting to live so removed from everything in a place like that!

We stumbled on this adorable little hut that was a tiny grain mill by the river.  We signed our names in their little guest book.

Then we built our own little rock tower by the rushing river.  We'll see how tough it is...  Maybe it will last there a few days.

Then the afternoon was a fun, zippy RIB boat adventure through some surround fjords where we our broke speed record for the trip and likely some fashion records as well...  Check out our sweet water suits.

There were so many beautiful waterfalls and we got right up under a few of them!

Also - so many goats...  We saw a little town that had 65 residents and 400 goats.

At the conclusion of the tour we got to sample some local ales from a brewery in town - it has a Viking name and overall look to it's design (but of course it was started by an American who thought Norway didn't have enough variety of beers.)

We got back to the boat just before the All Aboard with lots of Flåmtastic memories.  Off to the next adventure!

PS...  Not sure what this means but...  Heehee.