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Archive for February, 2012


I’ve spent most of today doing what I have been putting off for a while, probably about 4 months actually.

Scanning.

I try and scan all of our paperwork and then shred the originals so that we have much less paper hanging around. A great policy but I’m not entirely convinced that it works as we still have piles of paper in various places.

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It normally starts off in the kitchen and gradually works it’s way up stairs to where my office now is.

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Unfortunately I can always find better things to do than scan the paper work, so invariably it stacks up until it’s piled high and it then takes an age to sort out and scan. If only I did it as it arrived then it wouldn’t be a such a chore!

Still I do have the excuse that up until we went to Norway at the start of the month I had been working very long hours on a web development for a client. Since coming back from the holiday however there’s been no real excuse. So yesterday I started, and today I continued, well some of today anyway.

I did start playing with iBooks Author to see if I could create a half decent iBook about our Norwegian adventure. I got the first couple of chapters completed last night and this morning I thought I would just spend half an hour on it before restarting the scanning. That was a bit of a mistake of course as half an hour turned into half a day!

I decided that I would change the template that I was using so that I had an image place holder on certain pages. Easy, five minute job. I read the help which told me exactly what to do, only that didn’t work, what a surprise. The instructions were very simple:

1) Choose Show Layouts from the View menu

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2) Select the layout to be changed

3) Add an image or shape object where you want it

4) From the Format menu select Advanced>Define as Media Placeholder

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This all worked as described until I then tried to use the layout in question because no matter what I tried I could not select the placeholder. But it should work as the layouts already have a number of placeholders and they work. I searched the help, I searched the internet but all to no avail. There is currently not much technical info on iBooks Author unfortunately. Eventually I stumbled across a post that was able to point me in the right direction. It would appear that there is just one more step that needs to be followed and that is this:

5) Open the Inspector and select the Layout tab and place a tick in the ‘Editable on pages using this layout’

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Obvious, isn’t it.

Now to get back to the diminishing piles of papers on the floor that still need scanning…………

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………and then of course there’ll be the shredding!

 

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Yesterday was a bright and quite warm day here. Today, on the other hand, is dark, dull and rather cold.

Yesterday morning we went to Fly Ball with Poppy, our ball obsessed border collie, and then went to tidy up our respective mothers graves on the way home. Last year we had planted some spring bulbs round their stones so it was nice to see that on at least one of them the bulbs were coming through. Interestingly the bulbs that were starting to flower were the Crocuses and Snowdrops on my mother-in-laws grave, she used to love her garden and flowers, on the other hand my mum was never into real flowers as she was always frightened that they would encourage creepy crawlies, she did like artificial flowers though. On mums grave none of the bulbs have come up and only the bunch of artificial flowers is flourishing.

As in life………

When we got back to the house our own crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops were out in bright profusion. The heads were fully open to the bright sun and the gentle heat of the early afternoon sun. We even saw a lone bumble bee flying around, which is really early in the season and I doubt very much that it will survive.  I thought that I should really go and take a few photos but of course didn’t, as there were other things that needed doing (like the shopping), another missed opportunity!

So this afternoon after getting back from work I thought I’d go and grab a couple of quick photos.

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What a difference a day makes

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Thank You


Well to say that I’m ‘gob smacked’ would be an understatement.

All of a sudden on Thursday evening (that’s UK time of course) I started getting loads of emails from WordPress telling me that people liked my blog, well I guess I was surprised to see so many visitors, but very pleased. Then I started getting comments, up went the ego again.

Then came this comment from Eagle-Eyed Editor:

“Thank you for this wonderful glimpse of the Netherlands. Gorgeous photos. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!”

Well I didn’t actually know what ‘Freshly Pressed‘ was, so after I replied and queried this susielindau was kind enough to point me in the right direction and explain. I just couldn’t believe it, I had never dreamt that the WordPress team actually monitored the blogs, let alone that they would ever hold mine in such high regard.

So before I do anything else I just want to say a few words of thanks, firstly to the WordPress team (whoever you guys are) for featuring Day 10 of my journey, and secondly to all the people who have made such nice comments. Thank you all so very much I really do appreciate it. I have tried to respond to most comments but if I missed you I’m sorry. But the fact is that I’ve spent almost all of the past 3 days looking at commenters blogs and then answering the comments. There were just a few that were spam and ended up in the trash, wonder why people do that?

Of course this has now given me a bit of a challenge as quite a number of people are now also ‘following’ me, so I guess that I’m going to have to make a concerted effort to post on a much more regular basis than I have up till now!

Well I don’t know how well I will do, nor for that matter how interesting I will be, but I promise that I will give it my best shot.

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Unfortunately this is the last day of this wonderful journey through what must surly be some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. It finds me in a reflective mood thinking about all the fantastic sights we’ve seen and the things we’ve done.

It is equally unfortunate that I am sitting in the lounge, with a pile of hand luggage, writing this while yet again we start to pass yet more incredibly beautiful and diverse scenery. I guess that what I see today will just have to be taken away in my own memory rather than on the memory in the camera. It may well provide me with the impetus to come again to see the many things that I have missed along the way, maybe I should arrange a photographic expedition for other like minded individuals, any takers?

Last night proved to be the roughest of the journey, the ship was rocking and rolling all over the place, the now nearly empty bottle of Disaronno even slipped noisily onto the floor in the middle of the night. Even with the extremely rough seas Steph was fine, which considering her lack of ‘sea legs’ is quite a major feat.

So this is the final chapter as it were, a summary of the last twelve days, maybe a review even and a recommendation, but probably no photos, or at least only a few at best as the internet is proving to be exceedingly slow to non existent today. While writing this I am still trying to finish off Day 11 but every time I try and upload a photo to Flickr the process just hangs, so it may well not be until we get back home that the last two days of the blog get posted.

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As we sailed into Bergen we went out onto deck 6 and took some photos of the city, just as a final keepsake. It was as we started to queue to get off the ship that Steph said “Have you got the bus tickets?”, “The bus tickets, I think there in with my phone” I say as I franticly rummage around in the laptop bag for my phone case. When I finally manage to open the right compartment and then open the phone case there are no tickets to be found anywhere! Then it dawned on me, I had bought them last night from the excursion desk, paid cash and put them in the phone case, they were just like a credit card receipt. After breakfast this morning I put my last krone notes in the tip jar on the restaurant desk, at the same time I took out a small accumulation of ‘cruise card’ receipts, which I later deposited in a bin. Shame that the airport bus ticket was one of them!

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I’m glad that the excursion director was in the baggage claim area when we got down there otherwise my life wouldn’t have been worth living! Luckily he was most understanding and had a word with the bus drivers so we didn’t have to repurchase our tickets, and at 170 krone each that was a real relief. In future I must remember to check the receipts before I chuck them away.

Where to start then, that is the difficulty. Should I just write dow a bunch of words, or maybe a list with a rating from 1 to 10, maybe both, decisions, decisions.

Hurtigruten

I booked our cruise direct with Hurtigruten and not through a travel agent, which for us was fine but other people might prefer the comfort of knowing that everything is done for them in one package. The booking process was reasonably simple and straightforward and was completed mainly on the internet. Once the booking was made and the deposit payed we were sent an invoice with instructions on how, and when, to pay the balance. Once the balance had been paid our tickets and itinerary was promptly emailed to us.

On the couple of occasions that I had to ring Hurtigruten, for instance when pre booking our excursions, I was dealt with promptly and courteously. Documentation was always updated and forwarded within a day of payments being made.

One thing that I am extremely glad about is that I booked our flights directly rather than through Hurtigruten which meant that we flew direct into, and out of, Bergen. All the other passengers that we spoke to that had booked packages flew in on indirect flights, some having to have three flight changes.

Excursions

We did four excursions all told, the Viking Feast, Wilderness Safari, Snow Hotel and the Midnight Concert in the Arctic Cathedral. All of these excursion were well organised, timed to perfection and included everything that was advertised. Were they value for money? That is always a subjective question which I can’t really answer, the best that I can do is this, they were informative and enjoyable so if that is how you judge value, then they were good value. At the end of the day I have already documented what we did on the various excursions, so you the reader of this will need to make up your own mind as to the cost/value of them to you.

The alternative obviously would be to book these separately, but just bear in mind that you may well need to organise your own transport and that you may have to leave the ship at one port and then rejoin it at another. If this is the case make sure that the crew are aware of your intentions otherwise there could be complications.

Costs

As with all cruises, this is not a cheap option for seeing Norway, but then again there possibly is no cheap way to see Norway. The costs can vary greatly according to how you book, the type of cabin you choose and the level of meal options. We had an outside cabin on deck 7 with all meals included, although with the exception of water, tea and coffee with breakfast and lunch, drinks are extra.

You should remember that drinks are expensive wherever you buy them in Norway, below is an example of what we paid whilst on board:

  • PepsiMax – 39 krone (£4.37)
  • Bottle Bear – 45 krone (£5.05)
  • Draught Beer – 59 krone (£6.62)
  • Glass of Wine – 79 krone (£8.86)

So not cheap, even a cup of coffee in the cafeteria will cost you 37 krone (£4.15), so the advice is get the coffee deal when you first get on board and drink lots of water!

Food

We were on a full board basis so had breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the cost. Breakfast and lunch were always buffet style with open seating whereas dinner was waited and reserved seating, with the exception of 2 meals. Breakfast consisted of cereals, various cold meats, cheese, fish, hot meats, fish eggs and a host of other things. There was always ample choice though best not to go right at the end as clearing up often started early.

Again lunch was always a mixture of hot and cold food, soup if you wanted it and a choice of various puddings and cheeses, far too many my own good.

Dinner consisted of two sittings, the first at six thirty and the second at eight thirty, these times did fluctuate on occasion so it is a good idea to check each day on the days itinerary sheet, or the various notices posted around the ship. The service was always exemplary and the food delicious, although there were some passengers who thought it was not ‘gourmet’ enough. There is a booklet available in various languages detailing all the meals that will be served during the voyage, so if there is something you can’t eat, or won’t eat, you can always ask for a substitute.

Recommendations

This is a big ask, would I recommend this cruise and Hurtigruten, the answer on both counts is a resounding NO, but only because I wouldn’t want not to be able to go again because it was full to capacity.

The truth is that not only would I recommend this ‘experience’ I would urge everyone to do it. Having said all of the above I should point out that this is no ordinary cruise, it is an ‘experience’, this is more like a car ferry than your average cruise liner, but then that’s what really makes it quite special. There is no formal dress code, no major shows although on our cruise there was a live duet every night playing the sax, fiddle, keyboard and singing from about 8 till around 12.

The Trollfjord is one of the biggest and newest vessels in the fleet having a capacity of some 822 passengers, but is still able to retain a rather intimate atmosphere, which was not to everyones taste. Personally we really enjoyed it, the crew were always helpful, pleasant and willing to chat. It is interesting to note that a lot of the staff appear to have multiple jobs, on more than one occasion we saw the restaurant staff in the cabins doubling up as chambermaids. It was also refreshing to note that all of the staff were Norwegian, as far as we could tell.

There was always plenty of room in the public areas to find somewhere to sit and relax, it might not always be the seat right at the front of the panorama lounge but I don’t think we were ever disappointed.

Do your research before you go and you will not be disappointed.

Pros

Fantastic Scenery
Good Food
Good Accommodation
Friendly and Accommodating Crew
Some Superb Excursions

Cons

Limited Shore Time
Expensive Drinks
Nothing Much Else

We were exceedingly fortunate – We hunted the lights and found them.

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I truly hope that you will be as fortunate in your hunting.

 

 

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Our penultimate day see us arrive back in Trondheim at about six in the morning and although we will be here for nearly four hours we decided not to get off on the basis that it is much too early in the morning and we toured the town on our way north. We were down to breakfast around nine fifteen which meant that I could just get out on deck to take some photos of the harbour before we continued our journey southward.

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Apart from being able to photograph Munkholmen, which in its time has served as a prison island, fort and monastery, I was also able to photograph the current Hurtigruten Finnmarken, if you remember we had seen the original ship in Stokmarknes, where she is now part of the Hurtigruten museum, on Day 9.

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For the rest of the morning I wandered round the ship, happy snappy, while Steph sat in the panorama lounge just taking in the breathtaking scenery and occasionally reading her Kindle. So here are just a few of photos of the scenery.

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At some stage of my wanderings I came across one of the young crew members giving a lesson to another youngster, I’m not sure if this was a new trainee or maybe someone on work experience, as he really didn’t look a day over fifteen. Maybe it was the son of one of the crew members, who knows, but it did provide another photographic opportunity not to be missed.

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This is primarily a day of laziness in that we did not leave the ship, even when we docked at the port of Kristiansund at four thirty for half an hour, it was however a day to take photos and I make no apology if today there are more photos than words.

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It must have been close on six in the evening when we decided to go and have an other plunge in the jacuzzi up on the top deck. We almost rang across the wind swept deck and then almost jumped into the jacuzzi itself. We lay there for several minutes trying to get the bubbles to start but it was all to no avail as they just would not start. Not to worry as it was hot and relaxing anyway, that is until we looked up to see the rather ominous black clouds looming all around us. We sank lower in the jacuzzi, still trying to get the ‘hubble bubbles’ to start, and still no joy. Then the clouds burst, the hail started to come down, and we dragged ourselves out of the warm water and made a frantic dash across the wind swept deck to get back to the changing room before we were completely pelted by the sleety hail. Thank God for the warmth of the sauna!

The rest of the evening was spent trying to repack everything we had brought with us, and of course any new purchases that we may have made. We went to settle our account before dinner so that everything would be sorted for the morning.

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We were woken up this morning by the tannoy announcement that we would soon be crossing the arctic circle again, so it was a quick shower followed by a quick rush on to the deck to see us leave the arctic behind. We look all around to try and see the arctic circle but of course we don’t really know what we’re looking for, is there maybe a  big red line, like at the airport when you’re waiting to go through immigration, of course there isn’t, well not that we saw anyway.

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After floating by the last couple of snow capped islands within the circle we come to the island, and the globe monument on it, that marks the latitude 66° 33′ 44″ and the ship dutifully sounds it’s horn as we effortlessly move passed on our journey south.

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I’m glad that we then decided to make our way straight to breakfast rather than go to the ‘ceremony’ again, as we later found out that the southbound ceremony is even worse that the one going north. How can it possibly be worse I hear you say, well on the southward leg of the journey they make you drink a spoonful of cod liver oil, that how. As a souvenir they do let you keep the spoon, which is fish shaped and would undoubtedly be forgotten at the bottom of one of those ever overflowing draws that never seem to get emptied until you move. As Steph pointed out, she’d probably loose it like the one she dropped into her handbag when we flew on Concord!

There was enough time after breakfast to have a wander round deck 6 and take a few more photos before we were due into our next port of call, were we thought we would get off and have a stroll around. Since leaving the arctic the weather seems to have gotten slightly brighter with higher than freezing temperatures so that the ships crew have started hosing deck 6.

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As we approach Sandnessjoen there are a number of other large vessels already tied up in the harbour, one of which is a large Statoil ship, and judging by the large tower in the middle of the vessel she might even be a drilling ship.

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As we make our way down from deck 6 to deck 4 to disembark we notice some people so desperate for a ‘fag’ that they actually go out of their office windows to stand on the roof for their fix of nicotine, rather them than me, particularly as the temperature is well below zero!

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As we disembarked at Sandnessjoen at 12:30 for an hours sojourn in the town the weather seemed to be turning again and within a few minutes of arriving we were in a near blizzard white out as we walked from the ship up the main street.

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Steph obviously was savouring every moment of the snow, I, on the other hand was trying very hard to protect my equipment, if you know what I mean!

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Being a big fan of Dolly I just couldn’t resist taking the following photo while we were walking up the main street, well you have to don’t you?

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After getting back onboard the ship we went to the restaurant for a light lunch, OK maybe just lunch would be a better term as there wasn’t anything light about it. I’m glad that I decided to take the camera down with me as shortly after leaving the port we went passed the ‘De Syv Sostre‘ (the seven sisters), an amazing mountain range.

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At first I thought that it was hardly worth going out on deck to photograph them as they were shrouded in mist and cloud, nevertheless I decided to go, and boy was I glad that I did.

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As we sailed along the side of them the weather changed again, the mist evaporated, the cloud lifted and the most spectacular views just appeared. If I didn’t know any better I’d think that I was in the Dolomites. These are truly magnificent mountains seeming to almost rise out of the sea.

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As if a curtain had risen as we sailed past, as we reach the end of the range down it came again engulfing the last of the peaks in cloud.

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I stayed out on deck for most of the rest of the afternoon taking photos of the ship and the amazing scenery that we continued to pass as we made our way ever southward towards our final destination of Bergen.

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Of course I wasn’t the only one onboard that was taking advantage of the good conditions.

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The sun dipping behind the clouds during the late afternoon provided ample opportunity for some lovely sun-scape photographs.

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We arrived at our next port of call, Bronnoysund, around quarter past four and stayed for about forty-five minutes, just long enough to actually catch the sunset.

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The light was truly a joy to behold.

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Today sees us continuing our journey southward. Around nine thirty we are told that we are about to slow down considerably as we are just entering a channel that is very shallow, intact the clearance under the keel of the ship is just two meters and judging by the marker posts there is about the same amount of clearance on either side of the ship too.

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We slowly make our way along until we arrived at the port of Risoyhamn around ten forty-five where the ship gingerly had to do a 180 degree turn before being able to dock.

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We set sail again some fifteen minutes later heading for our next port of call, Sortland where we decided that we would disembark and have a wander round, even though the stop would only be for thirty minutes or so.

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We duly disembarked to find that it was snowing, nevertheless we decide to continue and explore for the next half hour, which proved to be more than sufficient time as Sortland really isn’t a very large port.

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When we got back on board there was just enough time for a spot of lunch before we reach Stokmarknes, our next port of call and our next disembarkation. We had an hour here to explore the port and what it had two offer. It was a pretty place, all covered in snow though luckily it had by now actually stopped snowing.

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Right on the quayside as we disembarked was the Hurtigruten museum, which has attached to it one of the older Hurtigruten vessels, the Finnmarken which was launched in 1956 and was in service right through until 1964.

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We didn’t bother with the museum as such but rather took the elevator to the third floor where we were then able to cross over to the Finnmarken.

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Unlike museum pieces back home which are normally well preserved and restored, the Finnmarken was neither. I couldn’t work out if it is in the process of being restored or if it is just being left as it is, whatever, it was an interesting half an hour seeing what one of the older ships was like, and by todays standards it was nowhere as comfortable or refined, even though this one was not retired all that long ago.

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We continued into the town for another twenty minutes or so before returning to the ship to continue with our journey south.

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We headed straight up to deck 9 where there was to be a fish filleting demonstration. Being almost the first people up on the deck we placed ourselves just to the from of the tables that were obviously going to be used for the demonstration. Isn’t it amazing that no matter how early you are for something, or how close you stand, you will just never be at the front.

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Strange that, but true. In fairness it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t at the front but more that I was jostled and pushed from the sides, still it’s worth a bit of a moan. Steph was worse done by as she did get pushed backwards, but that doesn’t matter quite so much as she already knows how to fillet a fish, she just gets the scissors out and cuts open the packet. Anyway I do the cooking, well most of the time, and Waitrose do have a good selection of fresh filleted fish!

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The demonstration was interesting though not that informative as the chef didn’t actually talk us through what he was doing but just got on with it. He did talk about the two fresh salmon that he was using, where they had come from, how they were going to serve them to us. That last bit really got everyone excited and they just couldn’t wait to get their hands on the first samples of the freshly carved raw fish, although I’m not sure that once tasted that it was everyones cup of tea. Personally, I enjoyed it, Steph on the other hand was rather less enthralled.

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When the demonstration was over, or at least when I had taken sufficient photos and I was fed up with the jostling, we went back to the cabin and then decided that we would get changed into our swimming gear and go back up to deck 9 and try out the outdoor Jacuzzi. “Are you mad!” I hear you exclaim, and I guess the answer is probably yes, at least just a little. Actually quite a few other people have already been in and said how nice it is, the fact that they have pneumonia is neither here or there. The worst part of the whole experience is that the changing rooms are inside and across the open deck from the actual jacuzzi.

We spent the next hour or so in the jacuzzi just soaking up the most spectacular scenery of the journey so far, the mountains rise higher and nearer on both sides of the ship as we near the mouth of the Troll Fjord. There are so many people wandering round with cameras that I have to tell them to stop taking our photos, of course I always seem to pick on the wrong people, like the man who has two Nikons dangling from his neck.

“No photos”, I say as he approaches the jacuzzi with the intention of just walking past to photograph the scenery. He jumps slightly, startled, “No, no I am sorry I am not taking your photos”, “it’s OK mate it’s only a joke”, he hurries past but comes back a few minutes later and says in his German accent, “What would I do with zem anyway, sell zem, who would buy zen, maybe on ze internet?”, see a there is a sense of humour after all, I think!

Mind you one old boy did keep popping up and taking our photos, so you never know you might just see us half naked, outside, in a jacuzzi north of the Arctic Circle. All Steph wanted now to make it perfect was for it to start snowing, as if on queue as we pulled away from the Troll Fjord it stated. I must admit that I was rather glad to reach the changing room having had to walk across the snow covered deck in my bare feet, I did have my shoes but decided to I carry them so as not to get them wet! Once inside I popped into the sauna, which has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the fjords, for a few minutes before heading back down to the cabin to get changed.

It had been so exhilarating and warming in the jacuzzi that we just had to go and sit in the bar and have a beer before going in for dinner.

The cloud had come down and the snow with it, no lights tonight then I guess.

 

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