Hello again, I’m back after a fantastic week cruising the Norwegian Fjords. It’s the second time I’ve been to the fjords, and this visit was every bit as good as the first (which you can read about in my posts for May 2012). Over the next few days I’ll be telling you about some of the places I visited. This time I sailed with Royal Caribbean, on The Independence of the Seas. one of their largest cruise ships. The Independence of the Seas is huge. It is 1112 ft long, and 185 ft wide, has a total guest capacity of 4375, and a crew of 1360. All together that is somewhere in excess of 5500 people on board. My main criticism of The Independence of the Seas, is that it is just too big, there are way too many people all trying to find somewhere to sit down, all at the same time. And it is all too easy to get lost, even after a week on board. That said, the cruise itself was fabulous. The scenery was stunning, the food was great, and the service was impeccable.
We left Southampton on Sunday afternoon, and on Tuesday, after a full day sailing we entered the Sognefjord, the deepest of the Norwegian Fjords. The Sognefjord stretches 200 km inland, and is the world’s longest navigable fjord. We were on the way to our first stop, at Skjolden (pronounced Sholden), which is found at the end of Lusterfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord, and is Norway’s innermost cruise port. Once merely a small fishing village, Skjolden now has a brand new cruise terminal which opened in 2010, and is at the very heart of the Norwegian Fjords.
To reach Skjolden we cruised the smooth, emerald-green glacial waters of the Lusterfjord. The fjord is fed by meltwater, which tumbles down the steep mountain slopes from the glaciers, in anything from spectacular waterfalls, to tiny rivulets. Along both shores were lush landscapes, beautiful villages, and small picturesque farms, dwarfed by the towering mountains above, and interspersed by rushing waterfalls and deep valleys. Finally we reached Skjolden, the innermost point of the fjord, surrounded by sheer valley walls, steep hills swathed in vibrant green, and huge jagged, snow-topped mountain peaks. Skjolden is nestled at the foot of the highest mountains of Northern Europe, the Jotunheimen (which means ‘Home of the Giants’), part of the Jotunheimen National Park. To the west is Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier on the European mainland.
When we had disembarked, we decided to walk up to a viewing point that overlooked the fjord. We followed the signs, and crossed the bridge over a swift flowing river, and then up a steep roadway. After passing some houses on our right, we turned off onto a thickly wooded path in amongst silver birch and mountain ash trees. By the edge of the path were tiny violets, violas and the flowers of the alpine strawberry. The path was uneven and rough going, but we soon reached a rocky outcrop, from where we could see Skjolden and the fjord stretched out below us. Fabulous!