TRAIL OF THE VIKINGS, 2006

CLIPPER ADVENTURER

This was a nice, interesting trip, particularly when we visited the really ancient sites. I got very disgusted with the company and the Cruise Director when, at the END of the trip, I was told that I had a $250 onboard credit (included in the tour price of course) which I was never told about and so never used

Retrace the course of the dauntless Viking explorers who once ruled the seas between Scandinavia and the British Isles. {Cruise West bought the Clipper Cruise Lines North American operations - ships, etc. - but they (Clipper) still operate in European waters and their large Clipper Odyssey does an extended Alaska cruise linked to their Russia, Japan, Asia, South Pacific, etc. cruise.}

Day 1, Sunday, August 27 Depart the U.S.A.
I have to leave home early (about 11:00) to drive to the airport. New security rules - get there early. Dinner and a snack are included on the first flight - maybe breakfast?; only a snack on the second flight. KLM and Continental Airlines are 'partners' for frequent flyer miles. There is a 7 hour time difference to Amsterdam and Bergen (CE time), 6 hours for Scotland and Ireland (GMT) on the way back.We have a nice (first) flight, good dinner, decent "breakfast."

1KLM 662Houston - Amsterdam3:35 - 7:20AM8:452:40
2KLM 1187Amsterdam - Bergen10:00 - 11:45 AM1:4513:10

Day 2, Monday, August 28 Bergen, Norway
After an overnight flight, arrive in Amsterdam with about 1 1/2 hours to make the connection to the Bergen flight. At least both are KLM so my luggage should make it.

The Amsterdam control tower was having some kind of problems so the flight was delayed. Another "ok" breakfast, slow baggage delivery. Clipper is totally unorganized at the airport and not much better at the hotel.

Arrive Bergen, Norway. Transfer to the hotel and check in to the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel Bergen. Hospitality Desk is available. Afternoon and evening at leisure. (no meals - have to get some Kroner for 1 or 2 meals both today and tomorrow - and Norway is very expensive.) Bergen weather forecast for the next few days: 55F - 66F with 40-50% rain. Throughout the trip, the weather was extremely variable. Generally overcast, cool, and intermittent light to medium rain. And it is raining some here this afternoon - so a very wasted afternoon with nothing planned and rain to keep us indoors.

Day 3, Tuesday, August 29 Bergen
Breakfast included. Old Bergen and Bryggen Walking (???????) Tour included. Our morning tour of Bergen begins with the Old Bergen Museum, an open air museum representing town life in the 18th and 19th centuries. We went into (only) 2 houses and almost totally ignored the rest. Next is a stop at the "fish market" (half our time and a total waste - particularly since it's 2 blocks from the hotel) Next, we stop at the (so-so) Bergen Aquarium, which houses one of Europe's most extensive collections of marine fauna (where???). We (don't) continue on to Bryggen (museum - almost next door to the hotel).. Afternoon and evening at leisure = more expensive meals and a total waste of time. Bah, humbug. (B)

A McBarf Burger Quarter-pounder goes for the equivalent of $8 - without fries/drink. It turns out that gas is $7.36/gallon. This morning "tour" was a total waste of time and nothing scheduled in the afternoon at all. Growl, growl, growl, etc. VERY bad deal. I've been to Bergen before, but the rest of the trip will be new. Note: See expanded map on the last page.

Day 4, Wednesday, August 30 Bergen (Embark)
Check out of hotel. This morning we tour downtown Bergen (again, ?????? - not done) before our visit to the Fantoft Stave Church - not original - rebuilt in 1992-1996. NOT original so not special - seen several on an earlier trip to Scandinavia. Next, we continue to Troldhaugen - home of Norway's famed composer, Edvard Grieg. Tour the house and garden and enjoy a (very short - though nice) recital in the concert hall. (New from here on.) We return to Bergen with the afternoon to waste (again) until we embark the Clipper Adventurer in the late afternoon. (Cabin 207, category 3 - looks like it will be a nice one.) Depart Bergen late evening after orientation and with a nice dinner. (B,D)

These two days have been A TOTAL WASTE. We should have just arrived in Bergen and transferred directly to the ship and saved LOTS of $$$$$. Bah, humbug. Growl!

Fantoft, Troldhaugen, and Piano Recital (3.5 hours - included) Troldhaugen, built in 1884 was the home of Norway's most famous composer - Edward Grieg. He lived there for 22 years and composed many of his best known works. After touring the house the group will be given a piano recital of some of his famous works. This will be presented in the Concert Hall adjacent to the house.

Stave Church was originally built in 1150 and moved to Fantoft in 1883, burnt on the 6th of June, 1992. The church has been rebuilt just as it was before the fire - using some of the materials from the old church.



Day 5, Thursday, August 31 Hardanger Fjord - Rosendal, Norway
Morning lecture: "Glacier, Glaciation, and the Shaping of Norway and the British Isles." (good)

Arrive Hardanger Fjord (beautiful weather and fantastic setting/scenery when we get to Rosendal!) about noon. Scenic cruising of Hardanger Fjord. Arrive Rosendal, Norway. After arrival in Rosendal, we have the option to participate in one of two optional tours offered - the Rosendal and the Barony with Horse Carriage tour or the Flightseeing tour over Hardanger Fjord and Folgefonna Glacier. Depart Rosendal early evening (zodiac landing on a pier). I chose not to do any tours - just went ashore and walked around. BEAUTIFUL LOCATION - prettiest of the trip!!(BLD)

Some pix on the CD are from the end-of-trip CD given to us. In some other cases, I'll use their pix because they came out better than mine (using my small camera, not the good ones, for it's compact size in the zodiacs). Also I think the airport x-rays damaged some of the pictures while still on the compact-flash card.

OPTIONAL TOURS: (either, not both)
Rosendal and the Barony with Horse Carriage Tour: (3 hours, $85) From the ship we go by horse carriages to the Barony. The Barony in Rosendal is the only manor of its kind in Norway. Around 1650 the noble Dane Ludwig Rosedkranz came to Bergen as a war commissioner for the Danish King. In 1658 he married Norway's wealthiest heir, Karen Morwal. As a wedding gift, they were given the farm Hatteberg. They built their home there and called it Rosendal (1665).

In 1665 King Christian V of Denmark gave the estate Barony status. A tour a Rosendal is a tour through different epochs. All the rooms are influenced by owners over 350 eyars. Around 1850 a beautiful landscape park was erected around the Barony.

The Kvinnhearad Church, a medieval stone church, was completed in 1255. From approximately 1670 until 1910, the church was owned by the Barony of Rosendal. In a burial vault we still find the coffins of two generations of barons at the Rosendal Barony.

"Just another manor house!" Maybe or maybe not. (See later note.)

Flightseeing Tour and Hardangerfjord and Folgefonna Glacier. (25 min, $225) The flight will give us an opportunity to see the lovely Hardangerfjord from above. We fly over the spectacular glacier of Folgefonna and its summer ski center. The scenery is something we will never forget….but I just did glacier flight-seeing in Alaska and at $225 for 25 minutes. NOT.

On one of the float plane trips (several for the people on the cruise), the plane couldn't manage a take-off, even after a very long run. Obviously the passengers had seriously "underestimated" their weight for calculating take-off capacity. The plane went back to the dock and kicked off 2 or the 6 passengers. Take-off OK now.

"Rock and Roll" night tonight as we cross the North Sea.

Day 6, Friday, September 1 Expedition Cruising in the North Sea - Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Morning lectures: "Seabirds of Britain and Ireland" and ""Vikings from Scandinavia to Scotland" (Day 6 of 11 and finally the *first* mention of Vikings - the reason I came on this trip!). Afternoon lecture: "The Problem of Picts". (good)

Full day of cruising. Arrive Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland early evening. Hopefully it's not too stormy (though seemingly I don't get sea-sick). Dry landing / docked. It's raining - and they announce that we can go ashore and look around; crew members will be available for questions. This turns out to be our "3 hour" walking tour of Kirkwall. Very poor communication - we got short-changed. Kirkwall could have been VERY interesting. Lose an hour as we cross from CET to GMT overnight. (BLD)

Walking tour of Kirkwall ( 3 hours - included) We meet our naturalists at the pier and stroll together through the historical Old Town to the beautiful 12th century sandstone St. Magnus Cathedral, the Light of the North. We continue to the ruined Bishop's and Earl's Palaces in the heart of modern Kirkwall. We end our walk at the 16th century Orkney Museum where artifacts from the Stone Age through to the present illustrate Orkney history and society. Guests view the Museum at their leisure or may take the opportunity to explore Orkney's specialty shops on their return to the ship.

The above turned out to be an hour (1 hour, not 3) for us to do our own looking around. No guiding, not 3 hours - crammed in before dinner. Bad deal. So far, this is looking like one of my least favorite trips. Bah, humbug. (Fortunately it improves somewhat.)

Day 7, Saturday, September 2 Kirkwall - Cruising to the Outer Hebrides
During our stay in Kirkwall, we can (A.M.) participate in an optional morning tour to the Archaeological Wonders of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. We're back on board for lunch with free time in the afternoon for independent shopping in Kirkwall. Depart Kirkwall about noon - was to have been early evening. (BLD)

OPTIONAL TOUR: Archaeological Wonders of Orkney Tour. (4 hours, $68) See the Standing Stones of Stenness and visit the Ring of Brodgar, ceremonial circles more than 5000 years old. Also visit Skara Brae, the ruins of a Neolithic seaside village (neat!!!!) and where we will have an opportunity to view a presentation in the visitor's center. (not) Continue to Skall House, Orkeny's best manor house that was built in 1600 on top of an ancient grave yard. Instead, substitution: Maes Howe - interesting covered stone structure - Religious??/burial???/ whatever. The enrance is a tunnel 3' high; 20" wide, 30' long. Oh my back! But worth it. Probably our best tour. Things are "looking up." Good guide and the driver was even better! Very nice tour. Well worth it.

Afternoon lecture: "Marine Mammals."

Extra included stop (zodiacs, almost dry landing): Rousay Island. The island lies north of the Orkney mainland. It has several complete Neolithic tombs as well as both excavated and unexcavated broch towers with high defensive stone walls on the shores. Westness, on the south coast, was a focus of the later Norse settlement and burial in the 10th - 12th centuries AD. The home of Sigurd, Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga, the saga of the Orkney Earls. Very interesting. Colleen (on board expert) worked here for a few seasons. This is an extra, not originally scheduled stop. Very good.

Evening movie: "History's Mysteries" Vikings" (History Channel program) Very "Rock and Roll" night tonight.

Day 8, Sunday, September 3 Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland - Expedition Cruising in The Minch
Extra included stop (zodiacs, wet landing or just a zodiac ride): Flannan Island. Named after the 18th century St. Flann, they are situated about 21 miles WNW of Gallan Head on Lewis Island. Lso known as the Seven Hunters, they are another bird paradise in summer with large numbers of breeding seabirds including Puffins (on vacation), Fulmars, and a small gannetry as well as Storm and Leach's Petrels. The light house was first lit in 1890 but on Dec. 15, 1900, all three keepers were somehow lost - mystery.

Here the weather was not great - fairly high waves breaking over the lower part of a worn stone steps landing and no railing. Only a few passengers chose to try to land; most of us just got a nice zodiac ride (rain clothes definitely needed) around the island. Good trip. Extra added bonus landing.

Morning lecture (after the above): "The Southern Norse Earldom".

Arrive Breaschlete Bay, East Loch Roag / Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides in the afternoon. A tour of North Lewis Island is available after our arrival in the Outer Hebrides. This is our opportunity to see (included) the Callandish Standing Stones - these 53 stones are situated in a Celtic cross pattern that is older than Stonehenge. We return to the ship for dinner and then cruise the Minch and the Sea of Hebrides in overnight. Zodiac/dry landing on a jetty. Nice but not spectacular. (BLD)

Callanish Standing Stones Tour (2.5 hours - Included) Loch Roag is the sea loch that bites deeply into the northwest coast of Lewis, part of which envelops the island of Great Bernera. On the east shore of the loch the neck of a headland is home to the small linear settlement of Calanais, and on a hump of land between the village and its jetty, the Calanais (or Callanish) Standing Stones.

The area around Calanais is home to more than 20 monuments erected between 3000 and 5000 years ago. Most famous by far is Calanais I, a complex arrangement of some 50 stones. At their heart is a circle of 13 stones between 8 and 13 feet tall, surrounding the tallest stone on the site, 16 feet high. Some time later a stone tomb was added to the center of the circle.

Extending north from the main circle is an avenue formed by a double row of stones, while single rows of stones extend roughly east, west, and south from the main circle. It is thought that the alignments of the various stones were used to mark significant points in the lunar cycle. The stone circle and the north avenue were probably built before 2000 BC, while the three single lines and the tomb were added around 1500 BC.

The site had probably lost its significance by about 800 BC when a small settlement was built close by. By then climate change had meant peat had been growing across the site for over 500 years and some of the stones were probably already out of sight. The peat was cleared from the site in 1857 by which time it was approaching 6 feet in depth.

Afternoon lecture: Plate Techtonics and Continental Drift" (very good). Evening movie: Ancient Mysteries: The Celts (another History Channel show). Anchor in Loch Ewe about 11PM, so it's a calm night tonight but I sleep better with the R&R.

Day 9, Monday, September 4 Loch Ewe, Scotland - Expedition Cruising in The Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides
Loch Ewe, Scotland is home to the Inverewe Gardens a Scottish National Trust site. After arrival in Loch Ewe this morning, we have an optional tour to the Gardens. Over time a kaleidoscope of exotic plants have been cultivated, giving color and interest throughout the year including Chinese rhododendrons, Tasmanian eucalyptus, Himalayan blue poppies, New Zealand daisy bushes, Chilean lantern-trees, Californian dog's-tooth violets, South African bulbs, Mediterranean rock roses and many more. (zodiac dry landing). Depart Loch Ewe about noon. Expedition cruising.

Inverewe Gardens/Bugsville (3.5 hours - included) Tour the extensive gardens here on the northern headland created in 1862. It was an unlikely site to create the garden. Osgood Mackenzie worked the garden until his death in 1922. The development was continued by his daughter and in 1952 she gave the garden and an endowment to the National Trust for Scotland. There is also a visitor' center at the gardens with a large gift shop and great bookshops. There is also a café housed in an adjacent building at the north end of the car park. (Not as good as expected - unless we like swarms of small bugs, mites, midges, etc. We need small-mesh head gear like we used in the Outback of Australia, particularly near Ayres Rock. NOT GOOD)

Afternoon lecture: "The Highland Clearances" (politics). Good.

Extra included stop (zodiacs, dry landing) Plockton. This is an upper end resort on the shores of Loch Carron. It faces east, away from the prevailing winds. Mild climate - it could be called the Scottish version (lower budget level) of St. Moritz. 45 minutes in the (light) rain. Lots more bugs/midges/mites.

Evening movie - entertainment - not lecture. (BLD)

Day 10, Tuesday, September 5 Portrush (for Giant's Causeway) - Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Big Disgust (and other words) this morning - when I get my "bill" for services, there is a $250 "onboard credit" that I wasn't told about until too late. I could have taken another optional excursion, done some gift shop shopping, etc. But I never knew about it; nor did several of the other passengers - and the policy is "use it or lose it". Obviously it's not actually "free" - we paid for it - but didn't get to use it because we didn't know we had purchased it. I even tried to use it as a deposit on another Clipper cruise, but that wasn't allowed. Between the disgust over the first two days totally wasted in Bergen, and now this, I won't ever go with Clipper Cruises again.

This morning we arrive in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Optional) Tour the Giant's Causeway this morning, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 40,000 columns that extend for 3 miles along the coastline. Some columns are as tall as 40 feet. Geologists estimate that they were formed over 70 million years ago. We also have the opportunity to watch a video on the formation and history of this site. Interesting. Not as spectacular as I had expected, but we couldn't see it all from the main area - would have required several miles of hiking.

We spend the afternoon on Rathlin Island where our on board lecturers and naturalists conduct informal walks (I chose Geology and Beachcombing) and tours included to Robert the Bruce's Castle (????).

Depart Rathlin Island in the early evening passing under the new Skye Bridge and through the very narrow Sound of Sleat. More Rock-n-Roll tonight. (BLD)

OPTIONAL TOUR: Giant's Causeway (3.5 hours - $65) This most unusual site is a World Heritage Site with its rock formation of over 50,000 tightly packed basalt columns that extend for three miles along the coastline. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that head from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. They are mostly hexagonal in shape and some as tall as 40 feet. Geologists estimate that they were formed over 70 million years ago.

Day 11, Wednesday, September 6 Dublin, Ireland (Disembark) - Return to the U.S.A
Arrive Dublin, Ireland in the early morning. Disembark the Clipper Adventurer in the morning. Transfer to the Dublin airport. Flights depart Dublin for the US with a first stop at Shannon airport. (B)

3Continental CO 126Dublin - Shannon10:38 AM - 11:130:352:02
4Continental CO 126Shannon - Newark1:15 PM - 3:488:331:10
5Continental CO 88Newark - Houston7:20 - 10:20 PM4:0017:25

Big worry: I wonder how I'm supposed to get through Newark/US Customs in only 1:10. The flight from Shannon was 30 minutes late getting in or I might have made the flight - but without my luggage. So instead:

Lunch and a sandwich on the first part; only a sandwich on the second (Atlantic) flight. At least I got a breakfast this time. Fortunately, although I missed my scheduled flight, there was another about 3 hours later, and my luggage and I all made it to Houston tonight - home at 11:45 PM. I've been up for about 25 hours.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge




STEPHEN BLAMIRES - ONBOARD EXPERT - is originally from the west of Scotland. One of the foremost authorities on Celtic and Viking mythology, he has an extensive knowledge of the society, culture, and history of the countries we visit.

COLLEEN BATEY - ONBOARD EXPERT - has excavated extensively on Viking and Later Viking sites in Caithness (Northern Scotland) and Orkney, as well as Northern Iceland.

DAVID DALLMEYER - ONBOARD EXPERT - is professor of geology at the University of Georgia and a member of the Environmental Ethics Faculty. (Excellent lectures - my favorite)

CRISPIN DAY - ONBOARD EXPERT - From England, mostly an Antarctic specialist but has worked with cruises as a lecturer extensively.

CHRIS HILL - ONBOARD EXPERT - Scottish, biogeographer and naturalist specializing in birds and mammals.

RUSSELL EVANS - ONBOARD EXPERT - 6th Generation Falkland Islander. Marine biologist / maturalist.

MICK BROWN - ONBOARD EXPERT - Irish/Welsh. Specialist in birds and wildlife.
AIRLINES:
1KLM 662Houston - Amsterdam3:35 - 7:20AM8:452:40
2KLM 1187Amsterdam - Bergen10:00 - 11:45 AM1:4513:10
3Continental CO 126Dublin - Shannon10:38 AM - 11:130:352:02
4Continental CO 126Shannon - Newark1:15 PM - 3:488:331:10
5Continental CO 88Newark - Houston7:20 - 10:20 PM4:0017:25

TOURS:
Bergen: Fantoft and Troldhaugen 3.5 hours included
Rosendal Rosendal and the Barony 3 hours $85 doubtful
Rosendal Flight-seeing Hardangerfjord .5 hours $225 no
Kirkwall Walking Tour 3 hours included (not really)
Kirkwall Stones of Stenness 4 hours $68
Isle of Lewis Callanish Standing Stones 4.5 hours included
Loch Ewe Inverewe Gardens 3.5 hours included
Rathlin Island Giant's Causeway 3.5 hours $65
Extras 3 extra zodiac landings included

CLIPPER ADVENTURER STATISTICS
Country of Registry: Bahamas; Total Staff: 72; Crew Nationality: International; Deck Officers: European; Hotel Management: American; Cruise Staff: International; Support Staff: Filipino
Length Overall: 330 feet; Beam Width: 53.5 feet; Draft: 15.5 feet; Gross Tonnage: 4,364 tons; Number of Decks: 4 (w/ cabins); # of Staterooms: 61 - All Outside

Meals: Breakfast: 9 of 10 (1=A), Lunch: 6 of 9 (3), Dinner: 7 of 9 (2) plus airline snax.. On-board: I chose the "Continental Breakfast" (more than usual CB) and "Soup and Sandwiches" for lunch. No dinners - to lose weight etc.

Evaluation: While actually on the cruise, it was a good trip although definitely overpriced. Other cruises (catalog base price) are out of my price range based on average cost per day. The really bad part was the Bergen 2-day waste; poor communication about schedule (Kirkwall), and the hidden $250 we paid for and didn't have a chance to use because we didn't know about it. Conclusion: NEVER AGAIN.