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Author Topic: Trip to Norway - Aug 2016  (Read 1365 times)

Mapmikey

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Trip to Norway - Aug 2016
« on: September 22, 2016, 08:17:10 PM »

As some of you are probably aware, my wife and I do not fly (neither one of us has been on a plane since the mid-70s).  One of the bucket-list type trips we have is to go see the fjords of Norway.  A few things converged allowing the opportunity to do this...

We drove to Brooklyn from Fredericksburg.  This would have been a 5 hr or so drive but it took nearly 9 because of all of the following:
Alternating traffic in 15 min segments on the US 301 bridge over the Potomac
Medivac wreck on US 301 near Waldorf
3 work zones including the Susquehanna River Br on I-95 between Baltimore and Wilmington
construction AND a potential bridge jumper on the Del Memorial Br

On the other hand driving NY 440 and I-278 into Brooklyn during afternoon rush hour was a snap...

We boarded a cruise ship for a 30 day round trip...

Stopped in Southampton England and took a bus tour to nearby Winchester Cathedral.  Not much in the way of road geekery to report.  It was our second time in England so the novelty factor was less.  We also stopped in Hamburg Germany and took a bus tour about 35 miles to Luneburg to see the medieval city.  This was our first trip to Germany and thus our first experience with the Autobahn.  Didn't see many people running 90 mph because of two work zones.  The freeway reminded me a lot of I-95 in North Carolina (the older parts).  While walking around the medieval city, I saw a speed limit sign that included "km/hr" that looked pretty old.  Does anyone know when Germany switch to the metric system?  i was wondering if I found a first-generation sign...

Then we went to 7 ports in Norway...

We did 3 bus tours:

A relatively short one from Olden past Stryn to Jostedalbreen Nat'l Park.  Terrific views.  Not much road geekery itself to comment on.  We followed Fv60 (posted) to Stryn, then Rv15 to the head of the Stryn Valley where it meets the western side of Fv258.

A full day tour from Andalsnes in a loop around to Valldal and down Trollstiegen.  This was terrific.  Went through some longer tunnels.  If you are not aware, Norway has nearly 1000 road tunnels, which are essential to get around.  in addition to eliminating some twisty roads that would follow a fjord's edge or even in some cases straighten out a mountain descent, they are necessary because many of the roads are susceptible to avalanche and it is just easier to go under the side edge of a mountain than to dig out every year or injure somebody.  Trollstiegen is the famous Norway road that descends from a mountain top to the valley with 11 hairpins, with much of the road being only 1.5 lanes wide or less.  So going down this in a full size tour bus was exciting.  Prior to that we used the new E136 bridge over Tresfjord, which saves 30 minutes over the original route.  Despite what Google Maps say, the old road around the fjord is not posted as any numbered route.  Our route was E136 to Fv650 to Fv63 back to E136.

A full day tour from Flam to Voss followed by the famous Flam Railway back to Flam.  It rained a good bit on this day, so not as great a trip.  But in a full size bus we descended the steepest road in Norway (18%).  We also went through an 11 km tunnel (not quite half the length of their longest one).  The route was essentially E15.  It turns out that Norway has at least one unisign.  The Flam railway is well known and is worth the effort.  Spectacular scenery.

The other ports were the 4 largest cities in Norway which we walked around on our own for the most part.  Got some road sign pics in a couple of them.  Though not used on reassurance markers in Norway, cardinal directions for route numbers can be found in central parts of cities directing you to one direction or another to leave town.  In Stavanger their a tropical gardens on an island in the fjord that is essentially like Buchart Gardens in Victoria BC except much further north it was beautiful and mystifying that it is possible to have a fruiting lemon tree outdoors in Norway.

I won't bore folks with what it was like being on a cruise ship for 30 days in a row.  I highly recommend seeing Norway via cruise ship in the fjords and the trip would've been 17 days shorter if we had flown to Germany both directions.

The ride home from Brooklyn was quick.

Some road pics and maybe some scenery pics to come...
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english si

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Re: Trip to Norway - Aug 2016
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2016, 05:05:35 AM »

Stopped in Southampton England and took a bus tour to nearby Winchester Cathedral.  Not much in the way of road geekery to report.
There's quite a lot in those ~13 miles*. From Western Esplande - a semi-abandoned ring road (and where the non-Dutch Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower), through the M271 with it's inherent awfulness (including roundabouts), to Twyford Down with its pivotal role in UK road history (abandoned late 30s bypass, highly controversial** 90s motorway that killed road building in the UK). ;)

*Which I've carred (to visit the cathedral with parents) trained (to go ice skating at the cathedral), cycled (to listen to a history student friend's talk on something to do with the cathedral at the cathedral), walked (as some friends were doing it) and walked (a week later with different friends). Did I really only go to Winchester 5 times when I lived in Southampton? Seems so. Been about 20 times in total though.
**because people wanted tunnels that would have taken out the whole hill, and the water meadows below, for 'environmental' reasons.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 05:10:22 AM by english si »
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froggie

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Re: Trip to Norway - Aug 2016
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2016, 07:52:08 AM »

Quote
I won't bore folks with what it was like being on a cruise ship for 30 days in a row.

I wouldn't mind hearing about it to compare to what it's like being on a Navy ship for 180 days in a row...

Regarding Norway, I've been to both Oslo and Bergen.  Really liked the topography in/around Bergen, not to mention the road tunnels and a few tall suspension bridges on the fjords outside the city.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Trip to Norway - Aug 2016
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2016, 11:36:30 AM »

While walking around the medieval city, I saw a speed limit sign that included "km/hr" that looked pretty old.  Does anyone know when Germany switch to the metric system?  i was wondering if I found a first-generation sign...

Germany has never used anything but metric in the automobile age, but over time there has been some variation in whether explicit units appear on signs.  It is sort of similar to Canada (and even I-19 in the US) where some distance signs have "km" while others do not.  The main age marker is generation of DIN typeface used; if lowercase l does not have a bottom curl, then Dr. Todt's people likely put it up.

The Norway part of the trip sounds like it was rewarding.  I follow Vegvesen contracts (Doffin, the Norwegian government's e-tendering platform, now hosts full documentation for all but the most ambitious projects) and there are quite a few rockfall mitigation contracts (the term of art in Norwegian, I think, is bergsikring).  Besides protecting motorists from falling rock, many of the tunnel contracts are designed to raise the design speed of point-to-point connectors and reduce trip times.
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Mapmikey

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Re: Trip to Norway - Aug 2016
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2016, 10:57:57 AM »

Quote
I won't bore folks with what it was like being on a cruise ship for 30 days in a row.

I wouldn't mind hearing about it to compare to what it's like being on a Navy ship for 180 days in a row...

Regarding Norway, I've been to both Oslo and Bergen.  Really liked the topography in/around Bergen, not to mention the road tunnels and a few tall suspension bridges on the fjords outside the city.


Since you asked...

We opted for an inside cabin, which was about the size of the 1950s era dorm room I had at Clemson.  On our only other transatlantic cruise, we had a balcony EB and an inside cabin WB.  A balcony is superfluous for 75% of the crossing because even in the summer the North Atlantic is chilly and often misty/foggy.  We did wish we had a window during the 9 days in Norway because we had to sit out on deck to see the fjords each evening as we left the various ports but since the day was ending and it is pretty far north, it got chilly.  The QM2 has cabins that go all the way up to a 2-story apartment over 2000 sf that come with their own butler.  And it is 3-4 times more expensive.  But an inside cabin is terrific WB where there are several 25-hr days and sleeping in is easy with no light from anywhere.

Our cabin did have a king size bed, plenty of storage space, and a bathroom that is pretty well designed.  Shower only and is smaller than an average house shower.  We got twice-a-day steward service to clean and spiffy up the cabin.

Because we were in the lower tier of passengers, we had to choose either 6 pm or 8 pm as the sitdown dinner time (upper tiers have their own formal restaurant and can show up whenever).  We ended up choosing 6 as we knew from before that we often barely made it past 9 pm a lot of nights (counterintuitive since the initial travel was 6 hours eastward) and these 4-course dinners take about 90 minutes minimum.  They have a dress code - informal (jacket with optional tie) and formal (dark suit or tux) and I was only equipped to dress for the informal nights.  We only ended up in that dining room 2 out of the 20 informal nights, for various reasons including menu selection that day, weariness from the day, etc.  The aggravating thing about the dress code is that they wanted you dressed if you went anywhere on the ship after 6 (other than the buffet location), so if you wanted to see the movie you had to dress up.

The buffet was decent and rotated around a set of dishes.  You could also go to a specialty restaurant (rotated themes) that required the dress code and as not free.  You could also get free room service in your cabin 24-7.

Do-it-yourself laundry was free but there were only 4 washers and dryers per deck which had over 100 cabins each.  We figured out that the best day to do laundry was a port day, especially a port where people were leaving/joining the cruise.  YOu could also send out your laundry and a regular load for 2 adults would've run $100.

There is no lack of potential things to do on this ship.  Movies every night, planetarium shows, a casino, smaller activities (bridge, crafts, etc).  They had a theater that put on plays during the transatlantic portion.  They had lecture series during the sea days - 2 astronomers, an oceanographer, a globalization expert, a Royals biographer, a forensic investigator, a guy who was an early photographic chronicler of the Beatles before they truly hit it big, a famous hostage negotiator (Terry Waite who was himself held hostage 5 years in Beruit in the early 80s).  TV was limited - CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News were the only American channels.  We have sworn we will never do a cruise like this in an election year ever again (our previous trip was during the 2012 election).   They did have a channel that showed the Olympics while they were ongoing.  They also had movie, comedy, and drama channels.  The best part was they taped all the lectures so if you missed one you could catch it on TV later.

They also had a small mall on board with mostly super overpriced stuff.  We booked the cruise through Costco so they handed us $1000 in shipboard credit which we mostly used up in that mall.  We could've used it on shore excursions but they sell them hard way in advance of your cruise that space is limited, so we bought 6 of the 7 several months in advance.  The excursions were priced pretty fairly.  The ones where you visit a museum were rushed, but the ones where scenery was the main point were better.  The one to the tropical garden island off Stavanger was the best because it was Sunday and they aren't normally open so we had the whole place to ourselves for 2 hours.

Getting on/off the boat was mostly painless unless you were in a port where people joined/departed the cruise or if you were in an anchor port, which meant they took a few lifeboats and put them into service to ferry you to shore.  They provided shuttle buses to the edge of the port facility or to the city center unless the ship was dock right in town, so that folks could wander about on their own if they wished.

Getting off the boat for good at the end of the cruise is pretty easy if you can carry all your stuff (which we did).  They let you out about 7 a.m. and you are at the front of the line for clearing customs, etc.  If you choose to have your luggage carried ashore by staff, you have to vacate your cabin at 8:30 but then they stagger your actual departure by tier so we would've had to have sat in the theater until nearly 11 to get off the ship.

They force everyone to do the emergency muster drill once, on your first night aboard.  It is annoying because people don't follow directions.  They do one at every port that you can join the cruise, so while we didn't have to actually go to the drill the 4 other times it was run, you do have to hear it on the overhead speakers.

The best experience actually sailing away (not including scenery) was Hamburg.  Despite being on QM2's regular rotation since 2004, thousands upon thousands of people still gather to watch QM2 sail away.  The experience culminates with a hotel a few miles downstream that plays Pomp and Circumstance while everyone waves towels and they fire a cannon.  Someone put a youtube video of it (different cruise from mine) and the relevant part starts around the 0:40 mark -
They take Norovirus pretty seriously and wanted you to contact them if you developed any symptoms that could be Norovirus.  I got to experience this process when I got food poisoning on Day 25 (I believe from something I ate in port).  They quarantine you in your cabin until 24 hrs past the last time you have a symptom.  They did not quarantine my wife (who never did get whatever it was) and they made me avoid the buffet 2 more days after my quarantine was over.  They sent a different person to clean our room daily and made me fill out a bunch of paperwork.  But they never made me visit the actual doctor.  PS - food poisoning on a transatlantic cruise is no fun...boat moves too much!

The ship is very big, so only the roughest of sea days were noticeable to the point of having balance issues walking around.  What was more interesting is that the harmonic vibrations of things in the cabin (ceiling tiles, door parts, objects on the desk, etc) were very specific to narrow bands of engine operation.  If the ship was wide open it wasn't that bad but at certain slower speeds (Elbe River part in particular) it made enough stuff rattle in the cabin that ear plugs were necessary.

Since I only have experience working for days on end on a Naval vessel but going home every night, I do not know what aspects you might have questions about.  If you want to know about anything specific, let me know.
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