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About kaisatsu

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Oslo, Norway
  • Interests
    Travel, Literature, Food, Wine, Craft Beer
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call

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  1. I find KLM to be on par with British Airways and Air France. In general, the service and standard are slightly above the major US carriers (Though if you’re unfortunate enough to end up on an older plane that’s due for upgrades and refurbishment, it’s disappointing on any airline). SAS is competing with low-cost Norwegian these days, and I’ve definitely seen it take a toll on trans-Atlantic service. No free checked baggage in the lowest fare class, and only one complimentary soft drink for the entire flight (plus water throughout and usually a juice box with the pre-landing snack). I’d actually rate them below United for trans-Atlantic service, though they do have a bit more legroom. Connecting in Amsterdam isn’t complicated, and from my experiences, clearing Schengen immigration is usually fairly quick. I have had the misfortune of bad timing when there was a particularly long queue, so you do need to plan a reasonable layover. 1.5 hours is generally enough without delays, but 2 hours is a safer bet.
  2. kaisatsu

    Fjord Questions

    I’d strongly recommend looking at a separate rain/wind jacket and layering it over something like a fleece for warmth. That way you can change the middle layers depending on the conditions, and it’s a lot more versatile.
  3. kaisatsu

    Geiranger - Is this overkill?

    What is your goal in doing the RIB trip? The kayaking will give you a water-level perspective of the fjord, and you will have already had the chance to see some of the more distant points of interest during the ship's sail-in (and again on the sail-out). So I'm not sure what the RIB trip will be adding. If you're just doing it for the fun of riding around in the RIB, then sure, go for it! From an "experiencing the fjords" perspective, I'd choose to get up to one of the overlooks for the view from above. I find that the scenery looks dramatically different when you're looking down from a higher vantage point rather than up from water level (or even near-water level on the ship). As an example, I tried to find a few photos online of Geirangerfjord taken in similar weather conditions but from different vantage points:
  4. Although Norway is not part of the European Union, it is part of the European Economic Area, and the EU Roaming Regulations apply to the entire EEA (the EU states plus Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein). So you can use a Danish SIM in Norway without incurring any roaming charges. As for the UK, at the moment there would be no roaming costs for the Danish SIM. After Brexit, who knows. A lot of Leave supporters talk about "the Norway model," but I don't think they realize that as part of the EEA, Norway must still allow the free movement of people. (And must also enact a lot of the EU regulations, but without getting to vote on them!) So basically, if the UK ends up staying in the EEA, you'd still be able to use your Danish SIM in the UK as you would in Denmark (except that the UK's cellular data networks are rubbish compared to Scandinavia). The one other factor to consider is that international calling rates are not regulated by the EU Roaming Regulations. So if you need to phone a Norwegian number in Norway or a UK number in the UK, you would be charged the same rate as if you made the call from Denmark. For the most part, these charges aren't outrageous, but it's something to keep in mind. Especially if you expect to make a lot of phone calls. If you use a VoIP phone service (Skype, etc) or internet messaging system (iMessage, WhatsApp, etc) there is no difference.
  5. kaisatsu

    21 days to Fjords and Baltics

    Asking on the Northern Europe board, I suspect the answers are going to skew towards Northern Europe! That said, I think it's personal preference. A Mediterranean cruise is very different from a Northern Europe cruise. The Baltics tend to be fairly port intensive, and (aside from St.Petersburg) a lot of the ports lend themselves to DIY exploration. The city centers are fairly compact, ships often dock in or close to downtown, and in the Scandinavian ports high labor costs and low demand mean that there's not a great availability of independent tour options. The Norwegian fjords are all about scenic cruising, with beautiful sail-ins and sail-outs and some extremely small port towns. You've sailed the Mediterranean before, so you know what to expect. The Croatian coast is beautiful, but at a high-level it's geologically and geographically similar to the surrounding area. I haven't sailed with Viking, but they are typically smaller ships and include more extras, like free excursions in each port (in keeping with their river cruise heritage).
  6. kaisatsu

    Flambana..... realistic times?

    Which fjord scenery are you worried about missing due to the coach ride? There’s a small stretch of Sognefjord that will be backtracked on the way from Flåm to Gudvangen, and as mentioned above, you could plan to see it as you arrive in Flåm. The Nærøyfjord, which Gudvangen is st the end of, is definitely worth enjoying. However, you’ll be sailing through it as the ship leaves port. While you won’t be seeing it all twice, you won’t miss anything entirely. Also, there is a pretty nice viewpoint above a Gudvangen that’s a coach stop on the Norway in a Nutshell route. If that’s included on the overland excursion, it’s s nice little extra.
  7. kaisatsu

    Fjord Questions

    The Norwegian coast is known for rain, so that’s an issue any time of year. The only difference between rain in April/May and rain in June/July is what you layer underneath your rain gear. Early in the season, you’ll want more insulation.
  8. kaisatsu

    Antarctica Cruise Video

    Most people also aren’t posting their videos and photos to attract a million visitors and copious web traffic! No sense telling someone how to attract more internet attention if they’re not looking for it! 🙂
  9. kaisatsu

    Oslo Taxi Availability

    Be aware that taxis are very expensive. A 10-minute trip within the city can easily cost 200 NOK or more. Different companies have different rates, so you do not have to take the first taxi in the queue. (And if you’re headed to the airport, be sure to ask for the fixed rate, as a metered daytime trip will easily cost over 1200 NOK.)
  10. kaisatsu

    Norway end of May

    Early May is still low season, and a lot of things switch to spring/summer schedules and availability in mid-May. May is the transition month in southern Norway, starting off fairly cool and ending with significantly warmer temperatures (though there are major fluctuations throughout the month). It can be fine if you don’t mind cooler weather and aren’t planning to do many activities that require getting up into the mountains. There’s less tourist infrastructure at that time of year but also far fewer tourists. Also worth noting is that May 17 is the national holiday, and shops and some attractions will be closed, but it’s a unique chance to see Norwegian culture as several people will be out and about in traditional dress (especially in larger cities that host small parades and other festivities).
  11. kaisatsu

    Help: Oslo, Skagen, Copenhagen, Bruges

    Oslo is very much a DIY port. Labor costs are quite high, so hiring a private guide is quite expensive, and there are only a few tour companies, which mostly handle big-bus tours. Also, given the increasing limitations on public auto traffic, public transit is generally more efficient for getting around as a tourist. It’s not a tremendously wheelchair-friendly city, but it can be managed. A lot of the transit infrastructure has been retrofitted with ramps (including for boarding buses). The T-bane (metro), buses, and the trams 17, 18 & 19 (some on the line 13) are all wheelchair accessible. The 11& 12 teams have a few steep steps at boarding. The VisitOslo.com tourist website has an extensive list of the city’s attractions, and the Ruter.no transit website has a detailed trip planner to show you (and all the locals) how to get to a particular place. Most cruiseships dock at Akershuskaia, alongside the Akershus fortress, which is a 5-10 minute walk from the city hall (Rådhus), so that’s a good spot to get your bearings from (I think Ruter offers directions from “Råshuset (område)” which means “the city hall (area)”. A few popular sights among visitors are: Vigelands Park - sculpture park filled with works showing the human form through all walks of life (FYI they are all nudes if you are sensitive to such things) Vikingskipene (Viking ships) - Museum housing the well-preserved Viking burial ships and related archaeological artifacts Folkemuseet (Folk Museum) - open-air museum with historic buildings from across Norway, including an iconic wooden stave church Fram Museum - home of the ship that took Roald Amundsen part of the way to the South Pole. Houses several interesting exhibits about Arctic and Antarctic exploration Karl Johans gate - the city’s central street (much of which is pedestrianized) running from the central train station to the Royal palace, past the cathedral, parliament, university, and national theater.
  12. I love Svalbard, and my first visit was a cruise port call. If you book this trip, check early to see what excursions are available. Longyearbyen is tiny, and you’ll want to get out of town. However, it’s illegal to leave town without an armed guide! If the cruiseline isn’t offering any out-of-town excursions (ours didn’t), check out sites like visitsvalbard.com and book something yourself. The museum and town are interesting since it’s such a unique place to live, but I’d recommend a hiking trip or sightseeing cruise so that you can see a bit more.
  13. If you're primarily interested in the fjord scenery, I really wouldn't recommend this one. It really only makes sense if you're especially keen to visit Oslo, because it spends a lot of time sailing around the southern tip of Norway. Oslo generally fits better (both geographically and culturally) in a Baltic Sea itinerary, where the focus is around northern European city sightseeing. For this particular sailing, Geiranger is going to be the only proper fjord port, as the others are all coastal cities. It's possible to see more of the fjords from some of these cities (e.g. in Stavanger, you can book a local day cruise through nearby Lysefjord), but it seems like an extra burden since one of the nice things about the Norwegian coast is that so many of the fjords are accessible to full-size cruise ships. And just to reiterate and expand on a few points from above: Ignore whatever the cruiselines say about "scenic cruising" if it's on the same day as a port call. This is really just a matter of how the different lines handle marketing. Instead, look up the port town on Google Maps. It's easy to see how much distance will need to be covered by inland waterways, and all of that is going to be scenic cruising. Along the coasts, closer to the open ocean (e.g. around Bergen), you'll see more built-up areas and waterfront buildings, but it's typically still quite pretty. Deeper into the fjords, you'll have mostly natural scenery and scattered hillside farms. If you really want to know what to expect, you can do image searches for traveler photos or turn on the terrain option in Google Maps. The steeper the hills leading down to the fjord, the more you can expect the iconic Norwegian fjord scenery. Depending on the port timings, the sail-in through the fjords may be quite early. However, at the end of a fjord, the ship has to sail back out the same way, so you get all of the same scenery during the sail-out as well. In the summer months, daylight is quite long, so you can enjoy the scenery even if it's quite late in the evening. The Lofoten Islands are stunning and are considered by many Norwegians to be the most beautiful place in Norway. I wouldn't really consider it a small port town, because the most common arrival piers are quite far from town. This is definitely a place where you'd want to book an excursion or rent a car to get out and see the scenery and maybe some of the small historic fishing villages in the area. Geirangerfjord is stunning, but most of the fjords are stunning. While I would always try to include Geiranger if possible (partly because I enjoy the being able to hike the mountain trails up to scenic viewpoints) and do consider it one of the most beautiful, I wouldn't say that it's significantly more amazing than the other long fjords. Wherever you end up going, be sure to find at least one chance to get up to a higher overlook to see the fjord view from above. I find that it's dramatically different to be looking down through the steep valleys compared to looking up at the hills from sea level. And both perspectives are lovely!
  14. kaisatsu

    Packing list? ....what we used and what we didn't!

    If you’re headed to South Georgia, a walking stick can be nice to have because of the fur seals. If you point a stick at an aggressive fur seal, it will generally back off. I have no idea why, but expedition staff often carry long sticks for precisely this reason, and we were astonished by it at some of our first South Georgia landings. Later, in Grytviken, we were startled by an unexpected fur seal in. I was a bit scared, because it was equally startled by us and started to react. A nearby passenger promptly pointed her walking stick at the seal, and it backed down and left us alone. After that encounter, I started thinking it would have been nice to have a walking stick with me in case that happened again!
  15. The Mývatn baths are also man-made, as clearly stated on their own website: The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company´s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives to the huge basin beside the lagoon itself forming an impressive, man-made hot spring... The lagoon itself is a man-made construction, its bottom is covered by sand and gravel.