Archive for the ‘Norway, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands Cruise’ Category

Killing a Little Time in Lovely Copenhagen   Leave a comment

Upon our return to Copenhagen, we would have a few hours before our flight.

NCL does offer a tour of the city with drop-off at the airport, but for flights leaving 3:00pm or later. Our flight was at 2:00pm. Our friends had flights that were even later, so we thought we’d attempt to arrange a tour that would accommodate all of us (including dropping one person back at the ship). The original prices we were quoted were extremely high. The first quote was for €1,600 and the second for €1,425. CRAZY. Needless to say that idea fizzled out!

So I started looking for a tour for just the two of us and found a tour through Tours By Locals for a 3-4 hour tour of Copenhagen with a drop off at the airport for $390. That price wasn’t too bad considering the other quotes we were getting! In the end, six of us went on that tour, which lasted about 3 ½ hours, then the others for continued off on a separate tour for them that included a coastal town and a stop for lunch (additional cost). Final price for all of it was $740. Much better than 1600€ and saved us from sitting at the airport for 5 hours!

The way Tours By Locals works is you ask for a quote via their website and the tour guide that handles the tour you’re interested in will contact you (if, like us, you’re booking a private tour). Once you’ve reached an agreement, you put your deposit down with Tours By Locals. The tour guide confirms your booking, at which time you receive the full name of the guide and their contact information.

In our instance, Ivan was our guide, and he was terrific. He was very patient as I acted as the go-between between him and the rest of my party (arranging their tour after we were taken to the airport) and was at the pier at 8:30 on the dot as promised.

The tour was very good. He first took us to the Little Mermaid…as it’s a must and going there right away meant we had her to ourselves for a few minutes anyway!


We drove all over the place with frequent stops for photos, including a stop at Amalienborg Palace and Nyhavn.



Ivan explained history in full detail as we went and answered all questions.

DH and I were dropped off at the airport just before noon and our friends continued on (and they seemed very happy with the rest of their tour).

I absolutely recommend a tour with Ivan if you find yourself with a little time to kill in Copenhagen, but not enough time to roam about on your own. My short visit to this lovely city definitely made me want to come back for a few days to explore further…perhaps when we do the Baltic’s Capital cruise that sails round trip from there?


Helsingborg, Sweden   Leave a comment

I had a hard time picking out a tour for our lone stop in Sweden. The most popular tour actually takes you on a ferry to Denmark and a chance to see the castle where Shakespeare placed his iconic play, Hamlet. We decided that we wanted to see some of Sweden while we were there and chose the Coastal Scenic tour. At just four hours the time frame was up our alley and would afford us a chance to see a small bit of Sweden’s coast.

Our tour guide was named Erica and she looked a bit like Helen Mirren (if Helen Mirren was 20 years younger). Getting to the tour took a full hour. Probably due to the fact that this was the only time the Star called in Helsingborg and therefore the tender operation was a mess (unfortunately, next year, the Star doesn’t call on either Helsingborg or Oslo when doing this cruise).

Anyway we finally got on a bus and got stuck in a traffic jam. Once un-entangled, we made our way up the coast as promised.

Our first stop was a church in Brunnby. I almost say “naturally” as it seems tours are always compelled to take you to at least one church! The church was pretty, but I was taken by the lovely cemetery.


Quickly after that we were taken to a place for tea and cookies. Apparently this place is well-known in the region. It wasn’t a stop I expected and at 50 minutes too long for us…then again, DH and I don’t go much for sweets and the rest of the tour group seemed thrilled with the stop. It was a very pretty place, so we contented ourselves waking around.


We then drove through Hoganas and another pretty coastal town before driving to the Kullen Lighthouse. It’s not impressive visually (although the view is amazing) but with a 1000-watt bulb it is the most powerful lighthouse in Scandinavia with a 28-mile range. You also get a glimpse of the original lighthouse that was on this site.


View from Kullen Lighthouse


Back in Helsingborg I ask Erica where I can find a souvenir and she directs me to the Dunkers Kulturhus. It sits opposite the town square and is easy to walk to from the pier.
Town Square Helsingborg, Sweden
Despite being a museum, the prices aren’t bad and I successfully get my magnet.

After leaving the Kulturhus, I realize my ship card is missing. Drat! I re-trace my steps and find nothing. Oh well, this is inconvenient but not the end of the world. I approach ship security with my photo ID in hand and explain my predicament. He looks at my license and says “You don’t have your card because it’s in my pocket.” A good Samaritan had turned it in, saving me a hassle.

Now it was time to get back to the ship and finish packing…maybe a stop at the Red Lion on the ship for a pint first. 😉

Wonderful Visit in Oslo   Leave a comment

When I got serious about researching this trip, I had a difficult time deciding if one of our Norway stops should include an excursion to see fjords. After all, we didn’t want to travel this far and miss out on fjords. All of the excursions to see fjords were 8 hours in length ( which we hate ) and the most appealing tour that was offered was in Bergen, which was a town that I really wanted to see. However my research showed that we would see plenty of fjords on our Faroe Islands tour. Also, the arrival into Oslo would have us sail the entire length of the Oslo Fjord …which looked pretty cool ( on paper at least ).

I waited for our passage up the fjord with great anticipation, and I have to say my dreams were fulfilled. Sailing into Oslo has been the highlight of the cruise. It ranks right up there with the Panama Canal, Glacier Bay in Alaska, and sailing past the NaPali Coast off of Kuaui.   We were blessed with blue skies so our views just couldn’t have been better.


Not nearly as much boat traffic as the Panama Canal, but we did completely disrupt a Regatta.  


Once in Oslo the sun hid just in time for the HOHO tour. Of course we sat up top and the bus wasn’t enclosed. Figures right? We did most of the loop before alighting at the City Hall to walk the 2 blocks to the Hard Rock Cafe. Yes, we knew we were in for $20 beers, but there was something alluring about a fridge magnet from Hard Rock Oslo.  


Back on the ship we basked in the view from our balcony before getting ready for dinner.   Tomorrow Sweden. And our last port. 😦



Oslo Fjord…couldn’t wait to share!   Leave a comment



Posted September 29, 2013 by cubechick in Norway, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands Cruise

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Foggy Iceland   1 comment

My report on Iceland will be a little different from my other posts. We actually didn’t do much on this stop as far as seeing Iceland goes. We opted for a whale watch as an excursion. BUT, that’s because we’ve been here before. So, here are some thoughts on visiting Iceland.  

The first time we visited Iceland was in 2010 on our way to England to board the Norwegian Epic for her maiden transatlantic. As that cruise had no ports, we went looking for something to add on. Iceland was a perfect choice. Iceland Air offers reasonable one-way flights to London ( our ultimate destination ) and the airfare actually is a little cheaper when you throw in a layover.  

When we told people we were going to Iceland, they responded as though we were going to the moon. Granted, Iceland is exotic ( and expensive! ) but it’s a 4 1/2 hour flight from Boston, making it closer than traveling to the West Coast.   We were only in Iceland for 2 days, but we got a lot out of that trip. Our first morning we walked around Reykjavik followed by a great private bicycle tour in the afternoon. The second day we did the Golden Circle Tour, which is simply amazing.  

For our friends on this cruise who hadn’t been to Iceland before, it was the Golden Circle tour that we recommended hands down. Despite a dreary and foggy day, they loved the tour. They returned enthusiastic and happily showing us their pictures of the Geysir and Gullfoss Falls.

On the other hand I have almost no pictures of note from the whale watch. The last whale watch we’d been on had been in Alaska and was a spectacular event with several humpbacks, seals, sea otters and eagles. Minke whale watches aren’t as exciting. We did have luck with the weather. The fog lifted as we sailed out of the harbor and the temp was around 50° with no rain. We did see harbor porpoises and dolphins and, briefly, one Minke whale. Minkes only surface for a few seconds before disappearing so it’s hard to get a picture. But I did grab a couple of the Reykjavik sky line on the way back to the harbor.  


In retrospect we wished we’d gone into town instead. There is a shuttle service that is 8€ for a round trip ticket that will take you the 3 kilometers from the port to downtown. On our way back to the ship I spotted about 20 people lined up in front of the famous hotdog cart and I was jealous. 🙂  

Sure we could have grabbed the shuttle into town, but by that time we wanted lunch and to warm up from our chilly morning. They did have a gift shop at the pier where I purchased a Christmas ornament and successfully spent the kroner I had left over from the last trip. I also noted while at the gift shop you could buy an hour of WiFi for $ 5.00.

Two days until Oslo. See you then!


The Faroes are my Favorite!   Leave a comment

It is official. Our visit to the Faroe Islands has been the highlight of this trip.  I really enjoyed Bergen of our Norway stops and it was lovely driving around the Shetlands and seeing the grassland and the ponies, but the craggy volcanic cliffs and many fjords of the Faroe Islands were just stunning.  Maybe the fact that although cold (44 degrees in the morning), we didn’t get rained on for the first time in days, and the sun actually made a good effort to come out a few times!  

I booked a private tour for seven us through Tora tours.  There were two negatives here that I’ll quickly address then move on from.  The first is that I booked a private tour.  What showed up was a tour bus with two other groups booked into it. That is not private.  The good news (for our group at any rate) that after waiting 5 minutes for the other groups to show up (and checking at the visitor’s center…he picked us up right a the ship as promised) he left.  So we ended up with the private tour that I booked, but that left 13 people who thought they had a tour at the side of the road.  So first of all, if you really want a private tour, you apparently need to spell it out for them.  Secondly, be on time!!!!  

The second problem was half way through the tour he asked me about payment.  I explained that we would all be paying individually by credit card.  He told me that he would take us all to an ATM.  We had to explain to him that was not the same as accepting credit cards (he figured being able to go into the bank for a cash advance was just fine).  One of our party didn’t have his ATM card and needless to say, didn’t want to pay the exorbitant fee charged when doing a cash advance.  Well, we’re all friends and it was covered, but that shouldn’t have happened.  

Moving on from that, this tour was perfect!  I booked the Visit Vagar tour which was 4 hours of breathtaking scenery and stops in small villages.


Including Vagar, which is the westernmost village on the islands.  


The driver stopped numerous times for photo opportunities and boy did we take advantage.  Fjords, cliffs, sheep, grass-thatched homes.  This is an isolated land, with around 46,000 permanent residents, but a more stunning backdrop to live ones live against is hard to find (maybe in Hawaii?).  


Some interesting facts the guide shared with us as he drove;  95% of employment comes from the fishing industry.  They export a lot of salmon.  There were fish farms everywhere.  They grow lamb for food along with fat geese waddling around that are Christmas dinner.  A goose runs around 400DKK (considering our tour was 500DKK per person, that’s a pricey goose!).  The use of grass to thatch the roofs is an old-style that is back in vogue.  It is a great insulator both from a heat and sound perspective and the roofs need to be re-sod once a year.  Oh, their “military” and police are all from Denmark.  They don’t have their own forces.  Unlike the Shetlands where all of the land was fenced in, the sheep and geese roamed freely, causing many traffic slowdowns (the geese have their wings clipped so they cannot fly).

(Check out the prison! )


Despite the couple of communication problems with this tour company, I would recommend both them and this tour again.  Oh another note.  If you like souvenir shopping, your only chance on this tour is the gift shop at the airport (thank goodness I ran in to see what they had!).  Otherwise you’d need to go into Torshavn after the tour to do your shopping.  Believe it or not, this stop was also cheaper than Norway.  At 39DKK, my magnet was less than $8…and that’s at an airport no less!  

I had thought to walk around Torshavn a bit after the tour, but changed my mind.  We felt that we had seen a great deal and had fulfilled our touring needs (and hey, I had my magnet!).  The city is not far from the pier, but you do want to take advantage of the shuttle that runs you to the information center.  It just saves you dodging containers and industrial port traffic.  The city is a short walk from the visitors center.  

Tomorrow is a sea day, that everyone is looking forward to.     Can you believe we still have a week to go???  🙂


Chilly Shetland Islands   Leave a comment

Well, our weather luck ran out.

Our day in the Shetlands proved to be dank and dreary. I know that you’re probably thinking that we’ve had rain everyday; and we have. But it also cleared up every day… until today. No worries though. We still had a great time!

Today we had made plans with friends that we are traveling with to rent a van. As two of the friends are Scottish, they would handle driving on the “correct” side of the road for us. Before anything though we had to clear U.K. immigration. Then we had to tender to the pier. At least once there things were easy. Just picked up the van right at the dock and we were off. Oh, it was a cheap option as well. About £12 per person including gas (or should I say “petrol”).  

Our knowledgeable driver took us south, all the way to Sumburgh Head.  That in itself was interesting as we had to stop for a few minutes when a plane was taking off, as the runway crosses the road in Sumburgh Head!  


To and from we hit scenic points like the Croft House Museum in Boddam which was an example of how Shetlanders lived 150 years ago. It was very interesting, and the first time I’ve seen or smelled a peat fire. The person who worked there was very friendly and knowledgeable.


And it’s something to do that is free!   A stop at a visitors centre yielded me my fridge magnet, so all was right there!  I had been concerned that by not doing a tour we wouldn’t see any of the Islands famous ponies, but we saw several on our drive, not to mention a ton of sheep.

As this was our “cheap” stop, on our way back to Lerwick we stopped at a Tesco to get provisions. 99p for a 6 pack of bottled water is a far cry from the €5.50 I paid for one bottle yesterday in Alesund!  


Back in Lerwick, we went to a hole-in-the-wall pub simply called The Lounge for Scottish Ale.  In this case we had White Wife, an ale actually made in the Shetlands.

After that we walked around before poking our heads into a fish and chip shop right across the street from the port. Our friend bought fried haggis for everyone to try. I passed, but DH tried it and liked it.  I stuck with the cup of chips I bought, liberally sprinkled with malt vinegar.   On to the Faroe Islands tomorrow!

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