To the North Cape on board MSC Lirica June 2009
Lesley Clements – 29-06-09 - MSC - Lirica
The following comments are impressions that were formed during a very calm and fine weather eleven night cruise, in early June, on board MSC Lirica. We embarked at Tilbury, then called at Amsterdam and Bremerhaven before sailing up the North Norwegian Coast to the North Cape. The ship visited the Norwegian ports of Alesund, Honningsvag, Tromso and Bergen before returning to Dover.
- Elegant, clean, easy to navigate medium sized ship
- Friendly and efficient staff
- Pleasant cabins with fruit bowl replenished daily
- Size of shower and bathroom were larger than expected
- Food mainly of a good standard especially the excellent Italian cuisine
- Breakfasts had a very comprehensive selection, even English bacon
- Tea (Twinings) coffee and water available all day but not in cabin
- Arrived a lot earlier in some ports than in original documentation
- Nightly shows were approx 30-40 minutes long and of a good standard
- Shows were of different genres and didn’t require language ability
- Superb musical entertainment in all lounges and in English
- A very unusual and artistic classical Piano and Violin trio
- No announcement when ship clears at ports, which prevented usual exit mayhem
- Food available in late evening and four themed midnight buffets including one gala buffet
- Up to date English Films on TV
- Special interest lectures on Wine and Italian for beginners
- Entertainment staff overwhelmingly enthusiastic
- Stunning scenery on return from North Cape.
- 24 hour daylight in Arctic Circle, heavy curtains kept out the light from outside cabins
- Taking passengers on at Amsterdam and Bremerhaven made for an interesting international mix
- Very mixed age groups, refreshing to see larger numbers of post teenager
- An excellent formal afternoon tea, a pity there was only one
- A very pleasant Coffee Corner in the Atrium area
- Announcements in five different languages restricted to the brief Theatre Show introductions.
This is a cruise for:-
- People who would especially enjoy the bias towards Mediterranean cuisine
- People who would enjoy travelling with Europeans in a wonderful eclectic international ambience
- Passengers who can amuse themselves and not expect sea days packed with intellectual activities
- Cruisers who are tired of hearing the British complaining
- People who would like to travel with a very mixed age range of traveller
- Cruisers who enjoy investigating extremely varied ports from cities to very small rural towns
- Passengers who love dramatic scenery and unusual destinations including 24 hour daylight
This is not a cruise for:-
- Cruisers who want to travel with a majority of English speaking passengers and have an English speaking crew
- Passengers that like the sort of enrichment programmes offered by the likes of Fred Olsen, P&O and Cunard
An Unusual Itinerary
This was an excellent itinerary for anyone who loves sitting on the deck watching the scenery go by. Our favourite position was on the large and wide railed areas on the stern of the ship.
The unusual itinerary meant that we sailed from Tilbury but returned to Dover. MSC had laid on parking in Dover Cruise Terminal and coach transport to Tilbury.
Joining at Tilbury was a new and very hassle free experience for us in a small but historic Cruise Terminal. We had never sailed down the Thames below Tilbury so it was an interesting experience trying to pick out landmarks on what was a beautiful evening.
The Cruise Terminal in Amsterdam is right in the centre of Amsterdam and so is the train and tram station. No need for an excursion here, just walk and enjoy. It was also fascinating leaving Amsterdam on the ship canal and after two hours passing through the huge lock gates.
Bremerhaven proved to be an interesting destination with a variety of attractions including the exciting and interactive new Emigration Experience at the place where millions left Europe for a new life in America. It’s about a half hour walk from the port to the city centre but if you are walking take the little taxi launch (50p) across the harbour as it will save you a forty minute walk around the huge container port.
Alesund was a sheer delight and so accessible from the ship. Do climb the steps to the top of Aksla mountain, enter from the park for truly spectacular views. The unusual art nouveau style architecture of the buildings is a delight and there is a trail available at the Tourist information office. If you want to find out more about this unique heritage area visit the excellent Art Nouveau Museum which is very close the port.
The day at sea was enlivened by the views of the dramatic Lofoten Islands and in the evening the prospect of seeing the Midnight Sun. It is visible when you pass into the Arctic Circle but the weather can change so dramatically. At 11.50 p.m. we were on deck and although it was daylight there was an ominous mist covering the sky and the sun. Within five minutes on deck we had an impenetrable mist followed by a burst of snow and hail, then a magnificent rainbow and dead on midnight the sun suddenly appeared and bathed us in clear sunlight. We spent the next four days in the Arctic Circle but the sun was hidden behind foggy clouds at midnight. Thankfully the sun shone most of the day.
Ships going to Honningsvag have to pass around the North Cape, so you do get a view of it from the sea, provided the mist clears. Again we were lucky, the mist seemed everywhere around us but cleared as we passed the northern most part of Europe on which stands a large globe. Honningsvag is very modern and although the harbour is quite an interesting spot I found out from the local museum (by the dock) that it had all been destroyed in 1944, all except the church.
The only large tourist attraction is The Pavilion at NordKapp (The North Cape) which includes a large visitor centre with a cinema and a 75 metre tunnel which leads to a large cave dug out of the rock where a terrace bar offers striking views of the Arctic Ocean. To get to Nordkapp from Honningsvag you have to undertake a 45 minute journey including a 7km tunnel. The transfer prices per person on board were 65 Euros. We declined the experience but it would be much cheaper getting a taxi.
During our day at sea the ship sailed on the inland passage towards Tromso and the snow capped mountain scenery was truly spectacular. The temperature was about two degrees centigrade. I foolishly decided to swim in the Arctic Waters on the ship. Please bear in mind that the pools are not heated and take their water direct from the sea. I lasted about 30 seconds before I realized that I couldn’t breathe and hobbled out towards the steaming Jacuzzi.
The dock at Tromso is a fair way from the city centre, a good 40 minutes walk, but for those not wanting to go into the city there is an excellent Botanical Garden by the University which is five minutes walk from the dock. It was very quiet in Tromso as it was a Sunday and although the shops were shut the tourist attractions e.g. polar museum, Tromso Museum, Art Gallery, ski lift and Arctic Cathedral were all open. A beautiful sunny day and again more fabulous scenery as we left Tromso.
We docked overlooking the Bergen Castle which is an advantage for smaller ships because you can walk down to the Bryggen quarter, Floybanen Funicular and the City market in ten minutes. There is always plenty to see and do in Bergen. This is our third visit and we took the bus out to the idyllic setting of Grieg’s Home and Museum which is on the edge of a large fjord. Leaving Bergen is always an interesting event as you travel under two suspension bridges and pass the islands on both sides of the fjord.
In short a fine shipboard experience and a fabulous itinerary with a wonderful variety of destination ports, breathtaking scenery and the opportunity to go to the ends of the earth.