Charlie On Watch
A favorite spot to sit on the forward deck
Cruising on the Pearl of Scandinavia

Charles Balch
April 2002

Sometimes the journey is the reward. Or at least part of the reward. We are on a weekend cruise through the Norwegian Fjords on the Pearl of Scandinavia which departs on Friday afternoon and returns Sunday morning. We'll have time for a cameo look at Olso, Norway which will be a different write up. Our trip is early April and thus still a bit chill. Even so, we find that we enjoy sitting on the open deck behind the wind-screening windows and watching the Fjords go by.

I'm a licensed US Master Captain and have had my hand at many tillers/wheels but this is definitely more boat than I've ever handled and it is nice to let someone else to the driving. Sometimes bigger is better.

Even the most seasick susceptible would find this voyage perfectly comfortable. It would be easy to spend the entire journey without once looking outside or feeling any motion to the boat. The ship is huge and we are in the protected waters of the Norwegian Fjords; there is a lot more motion to be felt on trains, cars or planes. But it would be a shame not to go outside and catch the wonderful view.

The Fjords are fascinating. There is a low but constant population density and constant beauty. Sometimes there will be no houses for a stretch but mostly there is light sprinkling of houses dotting the hillside. Every so often there are island communities of less than twenty houses. One of my favorite deck games is to wonder what it would be like to grow up on a very small island community. What do people do for work and play? There is an occasional largish city which all have industrial centers. Oil and cement appear to be very important to the economy.

We see some fishing vessels but not in any huge numbers. I don't think that fishing is a major industry in the Fjords but there are certainly fish to catch.

Pictures just won't due the Fjords justice but we are going to try with a sample of the many that we took.

Bow View
Fjords 14 Fjords 12
Fjords 13 Old Fort
Fjords 09 Fjords 10
Fjords 08 Fjords 07
Bow View

My informal "eyeball" measurement is that the water way provided by the Fjords averages a couple kilometers (a mile) in width. It was hard to decide to choose which of the many pictures that we took to show above and even harder to lose there majesty by cropping them down to good web page size. (Email me for the original and much larger/clearer pics).

The water is very deep. IE just out of Oslow a WWII German navy ship rests with an occasional burp of oil - it must be the German ship giving off the oil as no Scandanavian would dream of polluting this environment. The ship remains there to this day and the water depth is such that it is not a hazard to navigation.

Boat Garden Top
Boat Garden Top
The interior garden spans two floors!
By worldwide standards this boat won't make the top ten in terms of size but we fell no lack. We share the boat with a couple thousand passengers and two hundred crew. It is plenty large. There are the usually expansive decks, pools and what Scandanavian ship would not be complete without a hot tub? This one has two. Unfortunately they are both shut down. Perhaps because it is too cold but that doesn't make sense. I'm a bit disappointed as I'd had visions of sitting in a hot tub and watching the Fjords go by. The possibility of the usual hot tub scenery does not escape me.

There was no danger of starvation. Cruise ships have a reputation of providing a substantial groaning board and this boat is no exception. There are more restaurants than we can visit and the food is great. As usual in Europe, there is no problem if you just want to use your own supplies as well but you probably want to visit at least the buffet. We are informed that we can even get ice at one of the bars if we ask nice but don't feel the need.

A large ship's store that opens the minute the boat casts its lines provides a variety of food and duty free merchandise including ice. The Scandinavian countries include huge taxes on most items so the duty free store is a very popular place. It is also a great place for getting those last minute things that we always seem to forget. We are going to have to put together that definitive travel list which will include a well stocked picnic basket.

Charlie at Work
Charlie at work

During normal hours it can be hard to find an inside spot that isn't part of a bar or café to sit at without paying the usual "rent" of a drink or food every so often but in the wee hours of the morning the ship is mine. I scored a spot with a great window view and an electrical outlet to sit with the laptop.

Danish Window Washer
A Danish Window Cleaning Machine

The Danes are famous for many things but one thing that might not get enough press is there desire to keep things clean. There is no doubt that this is Danish ship. One look out the perfectly clean windows, floors, spotless brass etc. and you know. In my adventures through every nook and cranny of the boat that I could get to without passing a "Don't go here sign," everything was clean. I even discovered a special machine they have for cleaning windows.

Our cabin is small but that is to be expected on a boat. We have a window view as we requested. The water pressure in the shower is great and we could not use up the hot water. Our neighbors are a bit noisy at all and odd hours but easy enough to ignore and we've always enjoyed the sound of folks having fun.

Our biggest complaint is the beds. Our cabin has four single bunks. One is permanently down and the other three optional. To sleep together, we took the mattresses off a couple bunks put them on the floor. Problem solved but next time we may pay to get a better class of room. While it is still a touch cool outside, inside is nice and toasty.

This was a short trip so this will be a short write-up. In closing, we highly recommend a cruise through the Fjords and cruises in general. We will be cruising again but may choose a different destination just for the different view.