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Archive for November, 2014

Aurora in Alta

Sunrise: 9.22am Sunset: 12.59pm

This morning we woke up at 8.15am, to find we were already docked in Alta, at 70º N and the most northerly point of this cruise. We are 1200 nautical miles from the North Pole. 🙂

The cruise director’s voice came over the tannoy to say that the current temperature was -10ºC and we could expect a high of -5º. Brrr! In fact, it’s never been above freezing since we crossed the Arctic Circle. But it’s a different kind of cold from that which we experience back in Britain; here it is crisp and dry, whereas in Blighty in tends to be damp and miserable.

After breakfast we got wrapped up in all our winter woollies and ventured out on deck in the bracing air, to get our first impressions of Alta. There were mountains in the distance with some little houses perched on the sides of them, and we noticed that the shipping port is right next door to the airport; we could see the runway and the control tower. A few minutes later an aeroplane came in to land, roaring overhead and racing down the runway. I can’t imagine that there would be many flights going into Alta. We are about 4km from the town centre and there are shuttle buses leaving the port every 10 minutes for those who wish to go in.

However, being Sunday, most of the shops were closed and we had been advised that the bars and restaurants wouldn’t open until this afternoon (by which time it would be dark!). As we couldn’t see much going on in our immediate surroundings, we decided we’d spend the day on board the Boudicca and go ashore tomorrow, as we were in port overnight. It would also allow me to give my ankle a rest.

We therefore went along to the Iceni Room and had a cup of coffee and pastry, then just whiled away an hour or so chatting with our fellow passengers before going for a drink at 12.00 noon. Afterwards we partook of a light lunch, then went back to our cabin and watched the last half hour of Eight Below, which is about a group of malamutes that get stranded in Antarctica when their owners have to leave because of bad weather. The film was actually shot in Greenland, and the giveaway is the fact that, when it shows you a day dated 21st June, it is bright daylight – if it were really Antarctica there would be 24 hours of darkness at that time of year!

We didn’t really do a lot after that – I read my Kindle, napped, watched the telly etc. We didn’t go outside in the biting cold, preferring the warmth of the Boudicca‘s interior.

I then got showered and washed my hair and got ready for dinner. I put on a turquoise and orange dress with orange shoes, and joked that I was a good match for the carpets throughout the ship!

When we went to table #32, there was only Trevor and I there; the other couples had either dined elsewhere or had gone ashore to one of the evening trips. So we were served in double quick time before we went along to the Neptune Lounge, where tonight’s show was called “Oceans” and featured a sea-faring theme and nautical songs. It was very good and we really enjoyed it; so did the rest of the audience if the enthusiastic applause was anything to go by.

When we went to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz, we noticed that a lot of people were going outside, so that could only mean one thing – the Aurora Borealis. So despite the fact I was wearing high heels and a short-sleeved chiffon dress (no coat!) I went out to chance it on the icy decks and looked skywards.

Wow! Even though there was quite a bit of light pollution from the ship and the harbour lights, the aurora was magnificent. Faintly green, it arced and writhed in the sky; the brightest we’d seen it. Despite the cold I couldn’t tear my eyes away – it was worth freezing to see this. 🙂

For the quiz we were on our own because Malcolm and Margaret had gone on a trip into the countryside to see the Northern Lights. Judging by the display we had just seen, they were in for a treat.

We got 16/20 in the quiz, which we only lost by one point. Afterwards we kept popping outside to see if the aurora had reappeared, but all we saw was the black sky, with a few faint stars.

Tonight was karaoke night in the Lido Lounge. I put my name down to do a couple of songs, and was the first one called up. I sang Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Were Made For Walking, then, as no-one else had got up, I did Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. In fact, only three other singers got up all night, so I also did Lynne Anderson’s 1971 hit Rose Garden.

So quite a lukewarm karaoke this time; some ships we’ve been on have had loads of people get up to sing and the karaoke has actually overrun.

Afterwards it was the usual disco, but we didn’t get up to dance this time. We left about 12.45am to go back to our cabin. When we got there, however, we noticed that Channel 6 on our TV was playing music, so we knew what that meant – the Aurora was back! So on with our coats and trainers, we hurried back to the upper decks, treading very carefully in the ice, our faces upturned to the heavens. Yes, there it was – the inimitable Aurora Borealis in all its glory, lighting the skies over Alta. 🙂

We only stayed out a few minutes in the bitter cold, then returned to the warmth of cabin 5050, where we slept soundly.

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Time in Tromsø

Sunrise: 9.26am Sunset: 1.30pm

This morning I awoke late and found it difficult to get out of bed. Maybe it was the late night last night, the excess of drink, the dark morning or a combination of all three, but I did feel really sluggish and my bad ankle was throbbing and twingeing. 😦

After getting dressed and having a muffin and a cup of coffee for breakfast, we decided to venture into the town at about 11.00am. Today was our last day in Tromsø as we would be setting sail for Alta at five o’clock.
The roads were cold and icy so I put some ice-grips over my walking boots. These consist of rubber things with metal studs in them which stretch to fit over the bottom of your boots. The sensation is a bit like footballers walking with their football studs on. They are great on ice and snow, but a bit precarious on normal pavement as you don’t have the same traction.

We took a slow stroll into the town and went into a café for a hot cup of coffee. Then it was back into the cold again. On passing the local Co-op, we went in and I bought some more salmiak to take back to work for my colleagues to taste, as well as some for myself. 🙂

We wandered around a bit more in the crisp, cold air in which the light had already taken on the appearance of late afternoon / early evening. Then we decided to go back to the Boudicca to have some lunch.

Afterwards we just pottered about, doing not much in particular. I did some of this blog, read my Kindle and whiled away the time, while Trevor went off to the cinema to see Dances with Wolves.

At 5.00pm we felt the increased vibrations that indicated Boudicca had started up her engines again and was getting ready to depart. Not long afterwards we saw the lights of Tromsø receding into the distance against the black skyline as we put to sea once more.

I was still having problems with my ankle; it was really quite red and swollen. If it’s no better by this time tomorrow I will have to go and visit the ship’s doctor, in case it’s something serious like cellulitis.

After getting washed and changed, it was the usual: off to the Four Seasons restaurant for our dinner, then into the Neptune Lounge where, once again, we were treated to a great performance by comedy magician Steve Price. Then we went up to do the quiz with M & M in the Lido Lounge. The questions were quite hard, which was reflected by the fact that the winners only scored 15/20. We got a poor 12/20 – the worst we’ve done.

Tonight we didn’t stay too long and didn’t have too much of the (free!) booze. We were back in our cabin by 11.00pm, where we read a bit before settling down for the night.

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Let It Snow!

Once we got up this morning (in the dark!) we went for breakfast then once again donned all our cold-weather clothing before making our way to the Neptune Lounge for about 10.15am. Today we were going for a trek in the forest wearing snow-shoes!

Most people tend to think of snow-shoes as resembling oversized tennis rackets strapped to your feet with leather bindings, but the modern ones are not like that at all. It was only a 10 minute journey from the ship to our starting point, then our guide, Magne, showed us how to adjust the one-size show-shoes and put them on.

Modern snow-shoes are about 30 inches long by about 10 inches wide and are made of a tough, flexible material like fibreglass. They are very light. The part that your foot goes in is on a pivot, which makes it far less rigid when walking, and allows you to walk more naturally. There are also a series of crampons on the bottom to give you a good grip on the snow and ice. We were also given a pair of walking poles each, adjusted so they were suitable for our height. Then, with Magne in the lead, we set off into the forest.

When walking in the shoes you had to remember to adopt a wider stance than usual, to avoid treading on your own shoe! If you did that (I did!) you came to an abrupt halt and, in my case, I actually fell into the snow and it took two people to help me back up again!

Walking on our snow-shoes and using our poles was a good workout; the movement was similar to using the elliptical trainer in the gym. We got very warm inside our coats and some of us ended up taking our hats and gloves off. We walked up to the ski jump (we didn’t go on it!) and enjoyed the view over the water to the mountains. The sun, which was very low in the sky, peeked over the top of the mountains bathing everything in a weak wintry glow. It was stunning and we stopped to take a few photos.

Not long afterwards, we stopped in the forest in a small clearing, where Magne removed some large Thermos flasks from his rucksack and dispensed out hot blackcurrant cordial and some more of the inevitable Norwegian cake.

Then it was time to make our way back, as the sun was already on its way back down again! Magne explained that, in Northern Norway, they only had another week to see the sun, as it would set for good on the 21st of November and wouldn’t rise again until the end of January. He told us that, during the polar night, if there has been a lot of snow and there was a full moon, the reflection on the fresh snow meant that visibility outside was very good. For the people of Tromsø, the polar nights are more than compensated for by the fact that, from May to the end of July, the sun is permanently above the horizon, resulting in 24 hours of daylight. 🙂

Trekking back to the minibus, it really was quite exhilarating, and something else we can say we’ve tried. 🙂

Once we were back on board Boudicca, we dumped our stuff in the cabin, changed into lighter clothes and went off to the Heligan Restaurant for a light lunch and a glass of wine. Then we returned to our cabin for a post-luncheon nap, as we’d had a late night last night. We left a light on because otherwise it’s easy to imagine that it’s far later than it is, and sleep too long.

Then, at 3.00pm, we left the Boudicca once again, and headed back into town, making a beeline for the Mack brewery and visitor centre. Tickets for the tour cost 160 kroner each, so we bought some and waited 10 minutes whilst other people came in for the tour – there were seven of us altogether.

We watched a short film about how Ludwig Mack founded the “world’s most northerly brewery” in 1877 and how the building was developed and expanded. The brewery is still owned by the same family and is now in its fifth generation.

After the film we were taken to one of the former cellars and told about the different beers that are brewed as well as the soft drinks they make. At this point we enjoyed our first glass of Mack-Øl (Øl is the Norwegian word for beer or ale) before being taken up to where some gleaming copper vats were, indicating the micro-brewery. We were shown how the beer is made and given a taste of some more, straight from the vat – it was very strong at 8.5%.

Then we finished the tour by going into the Beer Hall next door again and having another drink; this time it was called “Isbjørn” which means Polar Bear (or ice bear) in Norwegian; a good name. The beer hall was absolutely packed and there was standing room only; the place must have been full of Friday afternoon workers who’d finished for the week.

After our drink we headed back to the Boudicca to start getting washed and changed in time for dinner. My right ankle (which is pinned, following a fracture in 2008) was giving me some gyp and I wondered whether the snow-shoeing and constantly wearing walking boots was irritating it, as you can feel the titanium plate and screws underneath the surface of the skin. I did notice it looked quite red and slightly swollen.

Tonight it was open sitting in the dining room as a lot of other people were going on the Northern Lights tour tonight, so the dining room had lots of empty seats. We sat at our usual table, where Trevor and Eileen were seated already, and enjoyed the usual excellent food and convivial banter.

After dinner we repaired, as had become our routine, to the Neptune Lounge. We hadn’t been there very long when someone came in to say the Aurora had made another appearance. So, leaving our drinks on the table, we hot-footed it outside (I should really be saying cold-footed) and, sure enough, there was the glow in the skies above Tromsø, shimmering a ghostly green in the black void of space. I think it is something that you would never get tired of seeing. It only lasted a few minutes then slowly faded from sight.

That is the fourth evening in a row we’ve seen the Aurora Borealis. 🙂 So far this cruise is turning out to be unforgettable, and we’re not even half-way through it yet.

Back in the warmth of the Neptune Lounge we tremendously enjoyed the Boudicca Show Company’s performance, which was called “Dancing Through Life” and featured lots of different dancing, including tap, Charleston, country, Irish, Scottish and a fantastic ballet pas de deux which was magnificent. They really are a very good company; we hadn’t seen a duff show yet. Then again, we always find the entertainment to be very good on Fred Olsen cruises, often better than that on the big, glitzy ships.

After the show we went along to the Lido Lounge and joined M & M for the quiz as usual. We got 19/20, but we knew at least one other team had also scored the same because we marked their paper. However, a couple of teams had scored 20/20, so we still didn’t win!

Afterwards we had a couple more drinks, including their sangria cocktail, and sat and endured the Timeline Duo until midnight, when the disco started. Then I got up and had a good bop about, in a vain attempt to try to work off some of the calories from dinner (a drop in the ocean, so to speak).

Then it was off to bed, well after 1.00am, where we left the telly on in case the aurora made another appearance. But all was quiet, and we slept well.

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Northern Lights in Tromsø

When we woke up this morning around 8.30am it was still dark; it would be another 45 minutes until sunrise. 🙂

After getting dressed and having breakfast, we wrapped up warmly and went out on deck. We had to tread carefully because there was ice on the deck and on the hand-rails, but the ship’s personnel had prudently put grit and salt down. This is a first for us – we’ve never been on a ship where they’ve had to send the gritters out! 🙂

We wandered around for a bit, enjoying the clean Arctic air and greeting other passengers who we recognised. Then we went into the Neptune Lounge to listen to a sales presentation showing what future Fred Olsen cruises were available. We already have all our holidays booked for 2015, so we’ll be looking to take another FOCL cruise in 2016. The presentation was very interesting apart for the speaker’s irritating habit of constantly using reflexive pronouns: ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ instead of ‘me’ and ‘you’. As in “… for those of you who haven’t already met myself…” Aargh! Appalling English.

After the presentaton we had a spot of lunch, then braved the cold to go out on deck and watch the Boudicca manœvring her way into Tromsø, the principal town of northern Norway. Tromsø is a lovely, picturesque town actually situated on an island, joined to the mainland by a distinctive bridge. There is a lot to see and do in Tromsø; visit the Arctic Cathedral, the polar museum or the Mack Øl brewery, to mention but a few.

Once the Boudicca had docked and the ship had received clearance, we were at leisure to go ashore. I dressed in fleece trousers, a hooded sweatshirt, thick socks and walking boots and wore my heavy-duty all-weather coat, a furry hat with ear flaps, and sheepskin mitts. Thus attired, we then made our way down the gang-plank and gingerly walked on the icy and snowy paths into the main town.

We had a look around the shops and the harbour and watched the lights twinkling in the gathering dusk. Yes, even though it was only 1.30pm, it was getting dark already. Watching the sun setting made it feel as though it was early evening, not the middle of the day!

We went along to the Mack Brewery, which is now really a micro-brewery and visitor centre, because the main beer production is now done at much bigger premises 70km away from Tromsø. We found out that they do tours each day with beer tasting at 3.30pm, so we decided we’d come back tomorrow, as we are staying in port for two nights.

We then spotted the welcoming lights and warmth of the Ølhall, or Beer Hall, next door to the brewery, so we decided to go in to have a glass of beer each. Two small glasses (33cl each) cost 130 kroner, or 13 pounds!
When we came out of the pub at 2.00pm it was already dark!

Tonight we had to go to dinner early (5.00pm) as we needed to assemble in the Neptune Lounge for 7 o’clock, for a presentation about the Aurora Borealis. Later on we were going to take a ride out to the coast, where the weather forecast said there would be clear skies and the lack of light pollution meant there was a good chance that we would be able to see the aurora.

The Norwegian guy explained to us who the aurora is a phenomenon which occurs as a result of solar winds being blasted out as a result of flares and sunspots. The high energy sends the particles from the sun far out into space, where they are attracted to the magnetic poles of the earth and they form an elliptical shape at both poles. At the Antarctic the Southern Lights are known as the Aurora Australis, whereas here they are the Aurora Borealis. Fewer people have seen the Southern Lights for the simple reason that Antarctica isn’t populated, and not many people have been there.

At 7.45pm we gathered together all our stuff and disembarked the ship to get on our bus. The journey would take an hour and 15 minutes, but it allowed us to appreciate the Norwegian countryside and all the lovely, individual houses. We noticed that all of the houses were lit up and didn’t draw their curtains so the light from within diffused out into the polar night. Their electricity bills must be phenomenal in the winter!

Eventually we arrived at the viewing place and made our way down a gentle slope in the snow to where there was a hut, some portaloos and a couple of oil drums cut in half in which a fire was burning. The guide explained that once everyone was there (there were four bus loads) he would turn off all the lights. We wished he would hurry up, because we could already see the Aurora forming in the north-westerly sky.

Eventually all the lights were out so we could see the Northern Lights more clearly. It did annoy me, however, that some thoughtless people were allowing their camera flashes to go off all the time, which obviously aversely affected our night vision. Every time a flash went off, you had to wait until your eyes adjusted to the darkness again. I thought those people were very inconsiderate.

We watched the aurora arcing up and over the hill, and shimmering gently. We couldn’t really see any colour; in the darkness the human eye cannot discern colour very well. We had been assured, however, that any photos taken (obviously without flash and a long exposure time) would show up the green.

Walking up the hill away from the buildings, where it was a bit darker, we saw a glow in the sky and eagerly headed towards it. Rounding a jutting rock, however, we saw that it was just the moon! It did have an ethereal halo around it though and it reflected slightly off the glittering frost, making the Norwegian night look very pretty. To the left of the moon the Northern Lights started up again, coming from the east to the west, and competing with the moon and the starry constellations for Mother Nature’s lights in the black velvet skies.

The temperature was -3ºC, but the night was clear and still with only a gentle breeze, so it wasn’t as cold as we had expected, and we were well-wrapped up.

We had noticed that the aurora tended to come and go, so we waited until it faded and went into the lovely warm hut for a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of Norwegian cake, which is a sort of pastry sandwich made with cinnamon and brunost, the well-known brown (or sweet) cheese that is ubiquitous in Norway.

Then it was back outside to watch the aurora again and just marvel at nature and the fact that we were here above the Arctic Circle watching the Aurora Borealis – somewhere else where we can say “I was there.”

After a couple of hours we decided we’d call it a night, as it was still over an hour to get back to the ship. Two busloads of passengers had already returned, so we made our way back to one of the buses, and we only had 20 minutes or so before it was full, and therefore ready to leave at around 11.30pm.

The bus had its winter tyres on (studded) and our driver was skilled at negotiating the icy roads in the dark. In Norway they take snow and ice all in their stride and they are well-prepared for it. Not like Britain, where half an inch of snow is enough to send drivers into a panic, leading to massive traffic delays.

We arrived back at the Boudicca 12.45am, just in time to go up to the Lido Lounge and enjoy a nightcap before returning to our cabin. It was nearly 2.00am before we settled down to sleep.

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Scenic Cruising

Today we had a leisurely day at sea to look forward to. As we head further north, the weather is getting windier and colder, and the dark nights longer.

After breakfast we wrapped up well and went out on deck to have a brisk walk in the crisp air. We did 10 laps which is two miles. At the moment the Boudicca is cruising through the Norwegian fjords so the sea was like a mill pond and the scenery is spectacular. We passed the Seven Sisters, a series of seven waterfalls cascading down the mountains, as well as many small islands. If you like the Lake District, then you’ll love the Norwegian Fjords which is the same thing, but on a much grander scale.

After our invigorating walk we came back inside and went along to a lecture about global warming, which was very interesting.

The lecture finished at mid-day, so we decided to be very virtuous and go to the gym for a good workout. We did 45 minutes, concentrating on the elliptical cross-trainer in preparation for our snow-shoe trek on Friday.

Workout finished, we then had a spot of lunch (and a well-earned glass of rosé wine!) before going up and doing another six laps around the deck.

I have only been following a fitness regime for about 10 weeks and I am already amazed at the difference in how much fitter I am so, seized with the enthusiasm of the converted, I hope I don’t become too much of a fitness bore in this blog!  🙂

At around three o’clock I decided I couldn’t be bothered to faff around with my hair, so I went along to the salon where they did a wash and blowdry for me, and trimmed my fringe. By the time my hair was done, the announcement came over the tannoy to say that the Boudicca was crossing the Arctic Circle. This is our third time: the first was on the Funchal in June 1999 and the second was also on the Boudicca in July 2008. This is the first time we’ve done it in the winter. 🙂

Dinner tonight at table #32 was excellent as always, and we enjoyed the company of Trevor and Eileen, David and Jill as we ate our delicious meal, which we finished off with a liqueur each before making our way to the Neptune Lounge where we watched the dancing couples before the main show. Tonight it was a comedian called Lee Carroll. He was quite funny, but not as good as the comedy magician we’d seen the other night. We still had a few laughs though.

Up in the Lido Lounge we did the quiz with Malcolm and Margaret, but a win has eluded us so far. Then a couple of minutes later someone came in to say the aurora had appeared again, so we shot out onto the rear decks and gazed eagerly skywards. Sure enough we saw the green glow, which arced upwards to the left and rippled and writhed gently. It’s a pity that the fluorescent lighting along the decks prevented us from appreciating the aurora a bit more, but nevertheless it was still awesome to see. Despite the fact that I was only wearing a dress with a light wrap and it was bitterly cold, I didn’t want to go back inside until there was nothing to see.

After a few minutes the aurora faded until it could no longer compete with the lighting on the Boudicca. We then went back inside to the warmth, and had a couple more drinks and a bit of a dance before going back to cabin 5050 and settling down to sleep. No music came out of our television, so we knew the Northern Lights had also retired for the night. 🙂

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All Around Ålesund

ARMISTICE DAY

When we woke up this morning, the Boudicca had already docked in Ålesund. We hadn’t been to this port before, so we were looking forward to exploring.  After breakfast we therefore got our coats on and disembarked the ship. We had about an hour to look around before returning to the ship for our organised tour at 11.30am.

The sky was clear and the weather was crisp and cold at about 5ºC, although it wasn’t as cold as we had expected. There was no wind and the air was perfectly still, so there was no need to wear a hat.

We took a slow stroll into the town and the first thing I did was go into a confectionery shop to look for some salmiak, or salty liquorice, which I love (although some people say it is an acquired taste!). In most of Scandinavia salmiak is very common and it is a typical Norwegian snack. Wrigley’s also make a salty liquorice flavoured chewing gum, and I always buy this whenever we come to Norway. We have a friend who goes to Norway a lot, and he always brings back some salty liquorice gum for me whenever he finds any! 🙂

I bought two packets of salmiak sweets and six packets of the chewing gum. That should keep me going for a few days, ha ha.  🙂
We then got some postcards and stamps, and found a bench to sit on to write them out. Then, after posting the cards, it was time to go back to the Boudicca.

At 11.00am exactly the ship’s whistle sounded to mark the start of the two minutes’ silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Then we got our coats on before going to the Neptune Lounge to be called for our tour.

We were allocated bus number 7 and our guide was called Netta. Her English was excellent and she proved to be a very knowledgeable guide, having been born and living all her life in Ålesund. We learned a lot about this lovely little town, which is located on one of many little islands, with the mountains giving a dramatic backdrop to the scenery. Lots of pretty wooden houses were built on the hillsides, and they all enjoyed absolutely breathtaking views. Netta informed us that property prices were very reasonable in Norway, but the cost of living is very high (we knew this from previous visits to Norway!) and cars cost approximately twice the price that they do in Britain.

Ålesund had been razed to the ground by a huge fire in 1904, in which 10,000 people had been made homeless. Netta pointed out to us where the fire had started, in a margarine processing plant; a spark had fallen onto the wooden floor and then ignited it; the fire then raged throughout all the wooden buildings, wreaking devastation. There is a stone plaque which marks the place where the fire eventually petered out, and Ålesund has been rebuilt over the decades to the attractive little fishing town that it is.

Our trip lasted a couple of hours, so we were back to the Boudicca in time for lunch at 1.30pm. I was quite hungry by now so I enjoyed some salad and cold cuts, washed down with a glass of chilled wine. Then we did another five laps of the deck before repairing to the Lido Lounge for another couple of drinks, where I did some of this blog and we took part in the afternoon quiz. We scored 15/20, not enough to win.

Evening falls quickly in northern latitudes, and the sun had already dipped below the mountains when the Boudicca slipped her moorings at 3.30pm. With the sun gone we experienced the lovely Norwegian twilight, in which the light has a distinctive blue hue.

We went back to cabin 5050 before relaxing for a while and then getting washed and changed for dinner. Tonight we didn’t got to the Four Seasons restaurant, but instead to the Secret Garden café where they were holding an Indian buffet.

The food was delicious; I enjoyed some beef rogan josh and some lamb curry, along with rice and some hot lime and chilli pickle. I was very good and didn’t have a dessert.  🙂

Then we had a cup of coffee and enjoyed chatting with another couple, where we talked about different cruises and ships we’d each been on.
Then it was off into the Neptune Lounge to get a good seat for the cabaret. As usual, the show was preceded by the ship’s orchestra playing music for dancing, and many couples were on the dance floor. Trevor and I got up to do a St. Bernard’s Waltz, before enjoying a pre-show drink.

The show tonight was called “Hey, Rock and Roll” by the Boudicca Show Company. It featured music, singing and dancing from the 1950’s, so it wasn’t really to my taste, although the performance was very good.
As ever, it was off to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz and finish off the evening. We were joined by Malcolm and Margaret once again, but we only got 16/20. The winners got scored 18.

Then the ‘Timeline Duo’ came back on again to do another mediocre performance. The female half really cannot sing; she has an annoying breathy voice instead of singing the notes clearly. The male half plays the guitar but most of the music comes from backing tracks, so there’s not much musical skill required. Nonetheless I suppose they provide some background music if you fancy getting up for a bop.

At around 11.30pm, someone came in from outside and shouted “the Northern Lights!” So everyone rushed outside to have a look. It was cold and windy and we couldn’t really see much due to the lighting around the ship. So we went back to our cabin and for wrapped up in our winter coats before returning above decks, where we made our way to the ship’s bow so we were facing north.

The Boudicca‘s officers on the bridge had thoughtfully put out the bridge lights so it was nice and dark at the bow. This enabled us to look at the northern skies where, sure enough, we occasionally saw a small green glow and ripple. It only lasted a few minutes at a time, however, and we were denied a spectacular display on this occasion. We stayed out in the cold about half an hour, but the aurora didn’t reappear.

The ship has put on an “aurora alert” service. If we tune our in-cabin TV to channel 6 and leave the TV on, there will be no picture or sound, but if the aurora appears then music will be played on the TV and the words “We are experiencing aurora activity” will appear. Then we can get out of bed, get dressed and go up on deck so we don’t miss anything.
However, the TV screen remained blank all night, so the Northern Lights had decided not to come back for the time being. Hopefully we’ll have a fantastic sighting later in the voyage.

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Onwards and Northwards

This morning I was very tired and it was difficult to get out of bed, probably due to the lost hour and the fact that the mornings are getting darker the further north we go. So it was about 9.40am before I got out of my pit, and got washed and dressed. We then decided to go and get some exercise, so we went up and did five laps (equivalent to one mile) round the promenade deck in the crisp air.

Then it was back to our cabin to get our Fred Olsen loyalty cards, as the Oceans Club party was due to take place in the Neptune Lounge at 11.15am.

The Oceans Club is for repeating Fred Olsen passengers, and is graded Blue, Silver and Gold. Blue is for those who have done up to 30 nights, Silver for 31-100 nights, and Gold for those who have done over 100 nights, We are currently Silver members and after this cruise we will have done 96 nights on Fred Olsen ships, so we only have to do another five to become Gold members. 🙂

We enjoyed some canapés washed down with some sparkling wine, and listened to a speech from the Captain as well as watching a presentation showing the future FOCL cruises. Then it was time to go to lunch. 🙂

Afterwards we went back up on deck to do another five laps, and we noticed it was quite a lot colder, and there was a strong wind blowing at the port side bow.

Coming back into the warmth of the Boudicca we had a post-luncheon nap, then I took a long, hot shower and washed my hair. It took quite a lot of conditioner to detangle the back-combing from my up-do last night. Eventually I had it all nice and smooth, and finished by blowdrying and using my straighteners.

The day passes surprisingly quickly when you’re not doing anything in particular, and at 4.15pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a classical piano recital Maiko Mori, a Japanese pianist who we had seen on the Adonia last year. She did four piano pieces, by composers Beethoven, Debussy, Greig and Liszt. It was pleasant and relaxing sitting there listening to some lovely, well-known tunes.

We then decided to get some more exercise, so I could clock the recommended daily minimum of 10,000 steps. But it was too cold and windy up on deck, so we decided just to walk up and down the length of the ship in the corridors. We did get some funny looks off people who saw us marching up and down, seemingly without aim. But once my activity monitor said we’d done the 10,000, we were able to go back to our cabin and start getting ready for dinner.

After our delicious meal we went along to the Neptune Lounge to get good seats for the show. We spent some time watching the dancing couples (we don’t join in because we don’t know how to do ballroom dancing), then it was time for tonight’s show, which was billed as a comedy magician.

The magician, Steve Price, was truly excellent. His tricks and illusions were very well done, and were all new to us. He also performed a non-stop funny patter and got people out of the audience to help him. We enjoyed his show very much and are looking forward to seeing him again later in the cruise.

We finished the evening off by going along to the Lido Lounge and doing the quiz. We were joined by another couple, Malcolm and Margaret. Margaret was one of the people who had helped the magician with one of his tricks, and she brought along the souvenir he’d given her; an empty Coca Cola bottle with a 10p piece in it. But the 10p was bigger than the neck of the bottle, and the bottle hadn’t been broken. So how the magician got it in there is a complete mystery.

We scored 17/20 in the quiz, and had to take a tie-breaker with three other teams. We didn’t win. 😦

We sat and chatted for a while, then Malcolm and Margaret wished us goodnight and returned to their cabin.

Trevor and I sat for a bit longer and had some more drinks, then a couple of the dance hosts, Derek and Joan, came to join us. They both complimented me on the Gothic evening dress I’d worn last night, and we spent some time in conversation with them before going to bed well after 1.00am.

Tomorrow we were due to reach terra firma, in the shape of Ålesund, Norway.

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