Plenty to see on tour with Eurodam, but Britannia still rules the waves

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osloopera.jpgMy 12-day cruise on Eurodam is almost over – today is the final day at sea before we dock in Dover on Wednesday morning – and I am acutely aware I have been failing in my duty to keep this blog updated.
Trouble is that it’s hard work having a relaxing time, and there aren’t enough hours in the day. Especially when those days have provided so much interest and things to do OFF the ship as on it.
Rarely have I enjoyed such fascinating excursions; some through Holland America’s team, and some arranged independently.
Apart from Copenhagen, which I have discussed already, the ports have all had something special to offer. None was new to me – perhaps it was because I had visited each before that I got more out of the visits – although Captain Jeroen van Donselaar did conspire to park the ship in unfamiliar surroundings at every Scandinavian stop but one.
For a capital city, Oslo is a compact place and easy to get around on foot, even with Eurodam berthed across from the Opera House (top) instead of next to Akershus Fortress. But what’s an extra 10 minutes walk to reach the main sights and the ferries to the museums? Unless it’s raining?
A couple of days later we were in Bergen – but not at the usual quay from where it’s only a short stroll past the Rosencrantz Tower and the leaning warehouses of Bryggen to the bustling Torget market. No, we were at the other side of town, separated by a bewildering road network and a terrifying collection of tunnels.
In between, Kristiansand was more straightforward – there’s only one quay. There’s an eyesore of a concrete mixing plant at the seaward end, and an almost-complete opera house at the other. I don’t know what it is about the Norwegians and opera, but they’ve certainly got the money to build some splendid new theatres.
A local guide took our group on a boat ride around the impossibly beautiful archipelago of Ny Hellesund, with its incredibly expensive summer homes, before an energetic stroll through a picturesque park with a Tolkien-esque name which translates as Raven’s Dale.
Waffles, jam and sour cream in a lakeside cafe were just reward for our efforts, but the least said about the sweet, brown, Norwegian goat’s cheese the better.
grieg.jpgFrom Bergen I joined one of two tour buses on an excursion to Edvard Grieg’s lakeside home at Troldhaugen. We stopped on the way at Fantoft Stave Church – pretty enough, but a 1993 replica rather than the genuine medieval article, and its tiny interior was more reminiscent of a sauna than a place of worship. The Grieg experience included a 30-minute piano recital in a purpose-built theatre (above), and a quick poke around the house he shared with wife Nina until his death in 1907.
dolphins.jpgI had been looking forward to Saturday’s visit to Invergordon, not for the former Naval base itself so much as the opportunity to jump in a hire car (booked efficiently online from Ken’s Garage at Inverness) for the short drive to Chanonry Point on the Black Isle and a day watching the energetic Moray Firth dolphins.
If they had known I was going to be standing on the beach with my camera I’m sure they would have put on a superb display, leaping from the water and catching salmon at will. But the tides were against me and after seeing little more than a few fins barely breaking the surface, I had to return to the ship a good three hours before they were likely to have been at their best.
beamish.jpgSunday morning found Eurodam moored in the Tyne and by the afternoon I was among a bus-load of passengers engrossed in the authentic re-creations of working life in a manorial home of the early 1800s, and the privations endured by miners in the early 20th century, all courtesy of the award-winning Beamish Open-Air Museum. Three hours were not enough to see everything it had to offer, let alone experience ride on all the trams, steam trains (above) and fairground gallopers. I shall have to return another day, ready to explore the drift mine, Co-op shop, Sunday School and Masonic Lodge.
Monday saw us back in Scotland (don’t ask me why the itinerary for this cruise doubles back on itself). From our anchorage in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, tenders were running back and forth all day to windswept pier at South Queensferry.
While others shared taxis or boarded a £5 shuttle bus into Princess Street and Edinburgh Castle, I took a £20 taxi ride to the port of Leith and a superb morning looking around the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now a tourist attraction after being de-commissioned in 1997.
For £11, the tour of the ship – with hand-held audio commentary provided – was a highlight of the week, and as fascinating for the glimpse into life below decks as it was for an opportunity to see the relatively austere public rooms of this floating royal palace.
marines.jpgHer Majesty’s three-foot single bed looked narrower than anything I’ve slept in for many years, but it was much more comfortable than the cramped accommodation shared by members of the Band of the Royal Marines (above).
I was also fortunate enough to be on board in a week when dozens of former Yachtsmen who served on the ship are back on board for an annual pilgrimage during which they help out with cleaning and restoration work during the day, and get together for a drink and a skiffle session in the evenings.
A 20-minute chat with a former engineer in the bowels of the ship provided evidence enough (as if any were needed) that although the ship has been retired, Britannia still rules the waves.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:05+00:00 14 June 2011|Cruise Destinations, Cruise Entertainment|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Oman 17 June 2011 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    when Britannia called into Muscat some years ago I was lucky enough to be in Port. From the paint to the ship’s shape she was a beautiful sight – and after HM probably the best Ambassador for the UK one could have

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