Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

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
  1. kaisatsu

    Are there Fjord tours from Oslo?

    This doesn't make any sense. You would definitely be able to see the Oslofjord from the Oslo train station, as long as you were at the south side exit. The only issue is that the construction staging for the new library may be in the way at the moment. I'm guessing you mean the Myrdal train station? Most of the long-distance rail lines in Norway terminate in Oslo, so the Oslo-Bergen rail line that passes through Myrdal is referred to as the Bergensbanen -- i.e. the "Bergen train" rather than the "Oslo train". (Unless you're from Bergen, obviously! 🙂)
  2. kaisatsu

    Are there Fjord tours from Oslo?

    The Oslofjord is technically a fjord, and it is a long, scenic sail-in/sail-out. However, it's nothing like the iconic fjords on the west coast. The Oslofjord is surrounded by low hills, and the scenery is similar to what you'd find in a large dammed-river lake. The western fjords are where you'll find the towering fjord walls, waterfalls, and surrounding mountains. As mentioned above, you should consider a future cruise that visits Geirangerfjord, Sognefjord (Flåm), or any of the several other fjords and fjord ports. It is technically possible to visit the western fjords on a very long daytrip from Oslo. This is called "Norway in a Nutshell" and includes the train from Oslo to Myrdal/Voss, the Flåmsbana mountain rail between Myrdal and Flåm, and a fjord cruise through Sognefjord and Nærøyfjord. However, it is extremely unlikely that your ship would be in port early enough and long enough to make the trip.
  3. kaisatsu

    Baltic Cruise Excursions?

    Oslo is pretty easy to tour on your own. Unfortunately it looks like a very early port call (7:00-14:00?), which puts some limitations on museum visits. I would use those early hours to catch the Tram 12 up to Vigelands Sculpture Park. Then take the bus 20 & 30 (changing at Olav Kyrres plass) to one or two of the Bygdøy museums. The open-air Folk Museum is a favorite and includes an iconic wooden stage church. The remains of the burial ships in the Viking Ship Museum are unique to Oslo. And the Fram polar exploration museum (home to the ship Amundsen used as the base for his South Pole expedition) is often a pleasant surprise for those who visit. After a few museum visits, the 30 bus will take you right back to the Rådhus (city hall) by the main cruise pier.
  4. I lean toward an excursion in Tromsø over Alta, because (from what I understand) Alta tends to have statistically more clear skies, so you have better chances to see them from town. Additionally, I’ve read that the area around Alta tends to have fairly similar cloud cover. In Tromsø, it’s not uncommon for it to be cloudy but for there to be isolated clear spots in the surrounding region. However, I am by no means an expert, and most of this has actually been gleaned from reading Gunnar’s and others’ advice on TripAdvisor over the years. If your primary goal is the Northern Lights, I would honestly try to do a chase in both places. There are plenty of independent tours in these places, both for chasing the lights and for daytime activities (dogsledding, Sami culture, cross-country skiing, etc). If you’re more interested in the daytime explorations, then choose whatever fits better in your schedule and cross your fingers for clear skies in port.
  5. kaisatsu

    Duty payment in Norway

    Norway is pretty strict about import duties, especially for alcohol and tobacco. If you are over the limit, you should declare it. If you fail to declare it and are caught (there are periodic spot checks, because given the high taxes, Norwegians bring on a LOT of duty free alcohol and tobacco) you will likely have to surrender all of it and possibly pay a fine. Are you flying directly to Bergen from another country? If not, and you have a connecting flight in Norway (e.g. through Oslo), be aware that you will need to go through customs control at your first point of entry into Norway. You can pay duty using a bank card. I don’t know about Bergen, but Oslo has a few self-service kiosks where you can calculate and pay the duty yourself.
  6. I assume you’ll be in port overnight in the places that offer aurora tours? If so, I would definitely recommend a lights-chasing tour in Tromsø. I think TripAdvisor mentioned the microclimates, which can be a huge advantage if it’s cloudy. It’s true that if the sky is clear and the lights are out, you can see them from anywhere. However, a clear sky is the biggest question mark. Thanks to the hills, there are a few pockets that tend to be clear even when the region is overcast. The tour operators tend to know where these are and will drive quite a way to get there. Especially since you can’t control the dates you’ll be there, I’d advise against paying too much attention to the aurora forecast. Last time we were in Tromsø, we had a great display on a night with a lower-intensity forecast, but the next night was predicting a significant increase. We had a tour that night and they managed to find a small gap in the cloud cover, but we had zero activity! Aside from getting away from clouds, there are a few other arguments for a tour. One that’s been mentioned is to get away from the light pollution. You can typically see the lights from within town, but ships tend to be very well-lit, and being that close to a strong light source can make it harder to view the aurora. Hopefully the ship will dim a few of their outside lights if the aurora appears, but if you do stick around in the evening, look for areas with lower light. The other is photographing the lights. If the ship’s engines are still on, the rumble can translate through a tripod and slightly impact a long exposure shot. Most Norwegian ports require shore-based electric power, so hopefully the engines will be quiet and the ship shouldn’t move too much while it’s docked, so this won’t be as big an issue. According to the pros, even strong moonlight has very little impact on the visibility in that area, and many extol the way it lights up the landscape in their photos. Also on the topic of photography, the biggest factor is to know how to use your camera to get a long exposure shot, regardless of what kind it is. Second is to have a tripod so that you can take a long exposure without moving the camera. If you join a smaller independent tour, they can often help you with settings and tips. Don’t expect to get stunningly amazing shots (shooting the aurora is difficult), but you’ll probably be able to get a few memories on “film.” And take some time to just watch them.
  7. kaisatsu

    Norse Legends or Viking Sagas

    These are actually quite different focuses, so it really depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for a cruise of the Norwegian fjords, definitely choose the first one. If you prefer city sightseeing and feel that one iconic fjord is enough, then choose the second. The Norse Legends is pretty much entirely focused on the iconic western fjords. All of the ports are in the heart of the fjords, so you'll be visiting small towns in dramatic landscapes and doing lots of scenic cruising. Eidfjord, Andalsnes, and Olden are all classic fjord ports. The only proper city port is Bergen, but most visitors focus on the historic center around the Bryggen waterfront, so it feels smaller than it really is. The Viking Sagas focuses more on Norwegian cities. Oslo is much more like the Baltic capitals than the western fjord ports, and the Oslofjord is nothing at all like the western fjords. It's a very wide fjord with low hills on either side and a rockier coastline towards the south and around to Kristiansand. Stavanger is another small city and the epicenter of Norway's oil industry, though it's possible to venture out of town to explore the nearby Lysefjord. FlĂĄm is the only truly fjord port on this itinerary, and it is a popular favorite for fjord cruises thank to its railway that climbs an impressive 863m to connect to the main Oslo-Bergen rail line. However, a big part of FlĂĄm's fame comes from being the most accessible town in the fjords. Thanks to the railway, it's easy to get to by public transit when taking the train between Oslo and Bergen, so it's even more popular as a (often the) fjord stop for land-based visitors. Personally, I would choose the Norse Legends, because the fjords can be difficult to visit by land. Even with a car, driving times are long and roads are small and circuitous. Being able to explore the fjords by ship is much more relaxing and in many ways more convenient. Most of the destinations on the Viking Sagas itinerary can be visited easily on a typical land-based trip. Additionally, if you consider a Baltic Sea cruise in the future, several itineraries visit Oslo, and some even include Kristiansand.
  8. I love volcanology, so the highlight of the area for me is the boiling mud pits at Námafjal (aka Hverir), and both tours include that. I don't know how long they spend in each place, but it looks like the only difference is the Game of Thrones tie-in and the Mývatn Nature Baths? We've visited both Mývatn and the Blue Lagoon, and for most people, I don't think you really need to visit both. However, they are significantly different experiences. ...unless you're just curious what it's like to sit in silica-rich geothermally heated run-off from a power plant. In that case, the water itself is pretty much the same in both places. If you're looking for a sleek spa experience, the swim-up bar, an in-water massage, etc. then the Blue Lagoon is probably the better option. If you're interested more in an a local experience, then Mývatn is a better choice. The ratio of local visitors to tourists shifts drastically between the two. Personally, with a full-day tour and a fixed time at the baths, I'm not sure how relaxing I would find it. An hour sounds a bit short to be able to change in and out of your swimwear, shower (always shower before entering pools/baths in Iceland) and to enjoy a soak. The point of the baths in either place is to have a long soak, maybe try a few different temperatures (the temperature changes significantly in different parts of the pools), and relax. With your timeframe, I'd be nervous about getting back to the ship and potentially concerned that other people on the tour might make us late. It sounds like you have a few days in Reykjavik, so you wouldn't be as rushed. Are you considering a full day there? Because unless you're planning a full relaxing spa day, that sounds like a lot. A half day is typically enough. If you do decide to do the Blue Lagoon, I highly recommend booking an in-water massage. It's not the greatest massage I've had in my life, but it was definitely the most unique! You lie on a semi-submerged floating mat, and they perform the massage upward through the water, using your body weight to apply pressure. I don't know what all your south coast tour includes, but I believe it's possible to make it to Jökulsárlón in a (long) day trip from Reykjavik. The zodiac trip on the glacier lake is one of my top recommendations in all of Iceland (because I love polar expeditions, and this experience was surprisingly similar to the zodiac rides I've done in Antarctica -- but much easier to get to). There are also glacier walks available out of Reykjavik, and I found it interesting to see the juxtaposition of the glaciers with the volcanic remnants of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. And if you're interested in volcanoes (or Journey to the Center of the Earth), the Inside the Volcano experience is well worth considering!
  9. kaisatsu

    Travel agent is easier?

    I booked my first Antarctic expedition through a cruise agent I’d worked with before, and I regretted it. If you have the time and interest, I definitely recommend researching it yourself. If you do end up going with a travel agent, I would suggest going with a company that specifically targets polar expeditions. There are a lot of nuances that an agent is unlikely to be aware of unless they have quite a bit of experience in the region.
  10. kaisatsu

    Hop On Hop Off Oslo?

    Some ships dock at alternate pier locations in Oslo. If you’re not docking at the main cruise terminal, I don’t know if the HOHO bus alters its route accordingly. However, I don’t recommend the HOHO bus in Oslo if you’re planning to get off at the stops. It runs on a 30-minute schedule, which is very limiting. Oslo is a fairly compact city, and public transit is easy to manage and runs far more often (every 5-10 minutes).
  11. kaisatsu

    Norway (Geirangerfjord)

    I’m guessing that Janteloven is one aspect of Norway that you weren’t terribly fond of! 🙂
  12. kaisatsu

    Antarctica Cruise Video

    Wow! You just posted all of your cruise videos from Norway! Did you do the Norwegian coast and Antarctica back-to-back?! That’s quite an intense trip!!!
  13. Both cities have walkable areas as well as more remote sights that require public transit. Since you have at least one day in Bergen either way, the choice is more a matter of preference. Oslo is a much bigger city, which means there’s more there, but it also means that it has a bit less character. Whereas Bergen is a small historic Hanseatic port, Oslo is more like the other Scandinavian capitals. If you like museums or art, I would do the 2 days in Oslo, so you can see more there. You can see a lot of Bergen in one day, so you wouldn’t be missing out on too much.
  14. I love Tromsø and find that there's plenty to do to fill a few days (sightseeing around the city, dogsledding, cross-country skiing, etc) even if the lights don't cooperate, so it's usually my top suggestion for northern lights trips. And a pro-tip for the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi -- If you plan to stay overnight inside the ice hotel itself, consider booking a snow room, rather than an ice room. All of the rooms themselves are open to the public during the day, so you can still see them, hang out, and take photos. After hours, you're probably unlikely to be hanging out a lot in your sub-zero room. (Maybe in the ice bar, though!) Once we'd prepped for bed, it was a pretty quick huddle down into the sleeping bag and lights out. The snow rooms don't look as pretty (hence the lower price), but since we were asleep, it would have been pretty much the same experience!
  15. kaisatsu

    Baltic without Russia

    Probably, but milolii revived it a few weeks ago, having the same inquiry. Most likely not enough time to have sailed unless it was a truly last-minute booking!