Monday, April 13, 2015

Cruise time.

On Saturday I get on a bus in Norwich and ride for a few hours down to London Victoria Station. Then I catch another bus (hopefully with my auntie in tow) to Tilbury docks ready for our embarkation on the Marco Polo. We sail out on Saturday afternoon and head off towards Amsterdam.  Sunday we spend all day in Amsterdam, I have absolutely no idea what we are going to do there and haven't planned anything but we'll just have to wing it.  I'm not interested in queueing up outside the Rijksmuseum for example but we haven't booked any onshore excursions in Amsterdam and I hope we don't just end up moping about in a cafe because we don't have a clue where else to go.  Monday we spend at sea, putt-putting along towards Norway.  Tuesday, we go up the Hardangerfjord to Ulvik, again not sure what we're going to be doing in Ulvik - weather permitting, I will be taking lots of photos.  Wednesday, we negotiate the narrow Sognefjord to Flam and we will be getting on a mountain railway for a trip up the hills (har har) to Vatnahalsen Hotel in Myrdal for waffles and coffee.   On Thursday we arrive in Bergen and have the whole day there; then it's back on the boat for all of Friday and we arrive back at Tilbury docks on Saturday morning.  I will take a very large number of photos, might even do a little video here and there (we'll see how the batteries hold out).

Note for all you people who might want to do the cruise thing in the future
When you decide to do a cruise, there are a couple of things that you need to bear in mind (which I had no clue about when I hesitatingly said 'Yes' to Auntie Jean a few months back):

1. If you don't have at least twice the amount of the cost of the cruise spare in your bank account when you book it, don't bother to go, cruising is not cheap! I mistakeningly thought that the cost of the cruise would include just about everything and all I'd need to find would be extra money for drinkies here and there, wrong. 
2. When you board the ship, they take your card details and from then on all onboard costs are charged to your account.  You are presented with an invoice when you are close to ending the cruise to 'settle up'.   I do not like this method of doing stuff, I prefer to pay as I go along, so I know what's been spent and how much money I've got left. I don't like having to guess at where I am on my account and then get a nasty shock at the end of the week.  I'm not Oppenheimer.
3.  You have to budget an extra £5 per day for compulsory charges for gratuities (it differs from ship to ship) - this is automatically added to your bill at the end of the tour. 
4.  Any excursions that you decide to take are not included in your cruise fare.  And let's be honest, what's the point of going on a cruise, if you don't take a shore excursion? Only problem is you are a captive consumer and don't have much choice with regards costs of these excursions and they are all very expensive.  Yes, you can opt out and try do it on your own but that might end up costing you way more money and you always run the risk, if you go on someone else's onshore excursion, that you don't get back to the ship in time to continue on the cruise! Big problem that. 
5.  Your drinks onboard the ship are not included in the fare, which is fair enough, they're not included in most holiday packages.  However, be aware that again you are a captive consumer and the ship can pretty much charge what they want for a bottle of wine or a spirit, so be prepared to budget heftily for this or flutter your eyelids a lot and get some old codger to buy your drinks for you.  (that's one of my plans but it never works). 
6.  Any crafts or enrichment courses that the ship 'offer' for the guests to do whilst onboard may also be charged for - this is not clear in the pre-booking or pre-cruise information. So I can only comment on this when I'm back.  
7.  You ARE going to have to get a shed load more fancy clothes - because it's expected, in fact almost insisted upon, that you will dress up at least four times (if you are on a week long cruise, that is) for the cocktail parties and Captain's ball and what not.   You need evening clothes, doll. This was a big issue for me because I don't buy evening clothes.

The onboard costs can run away with you, so keep a tight record of what you're spending and get slips for the drinks if you can (I don't know yet, I'll tell you when I get back).  

Norway is VERY expensive, well this is what everyone is telling me and what is being said online - I'm actually terrified to look at anymore websites about Norway tourism because they frighten me to death.  

If I sound a bit stressed about this upcoming cruise, well I am - but that's mainly because of the financial implications.  I didn't realise how much 'extra' hidden costs were lurking beneath the oh-so- reasonable cost of the actual cruise itself.  By the time I've finished with this though, I'll probably find that I could have gone to South Africa for two weeks and still had some change when I got back. 

See ya later!