Since the last Royal Caribbean Cruise trip ended abruptly with a COVID scare, I was determined to use the cruise credits for another trip before the Quantum of the Seas sails away (I heard the next ship is a smaller vessel).
As we were already familiar with the cruise ship, we cleared the immigration checkpoints fairly swiftly and after dropping off our stuff in the cabins, we went up to the open-air deck. M and I got ourselves the beverage plan (what's a trip without beverages?!) and I immediately got myself my first tipple.
In fact, over the course of the next three nights, I would have consumed the following (in the right sequence):
I found the food to be rather decent (for the price which we were paying). There was no need to visit a specialty restaurant at all. As we went on this cruise during the low season, we were well-attended by the service staff.
Naturally, my favourite spot in the entire cruise ship was the solarium. The solarium was designated as a kids-free zone, so we could really unwind and relax with ambient jazz music, low humidity and fresh sunshine. I was determined not to get an internet plan, so that I could concentrate on some good ol' reading.
I prepared some ebooks on my Kindle, and started with The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. I got to about 50% of the book but found it to be rather dry, and switch over to The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which I finished on Day 2. By the end of the cruise, I was also halfway through Persuasive Copywriting: Cut Through the Noise with Impact by Andy Maslen. I took some notes on my Ultra for future reference as there were some great tips which would without doubt come in handy for my Wellaholic marketing later on.
The other fun thing which I was looking forward to trying again was surfing at the Flowrider. Most of the slots for the Flowrider was allocated to the boogie board. In order to do the surfing, we had to wait for the 1630 to 1700 slot for advanced surfers. I wasn't very experienced in surfing, having done it only once at the Wavehouse at Sentosa, but I was resolute to try it again. And it was great fun!
All in all, it was a great trip, filled with great food and drinks, great company, excellent conversations and lots of exercise and group activities. With no overseas travel in the next year (or two), this cruise was a great respite from the humdrum monotony of daily work back in Singapore. I look forward to the next trip soon!
Travelling Makes Us Far Happier Than Any Material Wealth Ever Does
In this age of consumerism, and augmented with ecommerce, it is so easy for everyone to make a purchase as soon as we have some money in our wallets (ewallets count). With each purchase, we feel a little happier, but more often than not, that happiness or satisfaction dissipates within a week or two.
It turns out that the cause of this (dissipation) lies with adaptation. As soon as the stuff that we buy becomes ordinary, the satisfaction that we get with it diminshes. Then we are back to square one - pursuing that momentary pleasure with the next purchase.
However, research carried out at Cornell University has found a way around this vicious cycle. Psychology professor Thomas Gilovich revealed that we experience the same increase in happiness when we buy something (we want) and also when we travel. The more significant finding -- was that the amount of happiness that we get from our buys diminishes over time, but the memories of our travelling experience continues to linger and persist, and this makes us more fulfilled and happy over a prolonged time.
Deriving Joy from Experiences
Making plans for events and experiences, travelling and going on trips, and trying our new things -- all these manifest as new sources of joy and happiness for all of us. While a new toy or device will become normal, every new memory will contribute to the happiness bank that will make us really really happy for the rest of our lives.
Summary of My Norway-in-a-Nutshell Trip
Honestly, this was my first attempt to commit time to do a day-by-day blogging of my Norway-in-a-Nutshell trip. It was a time-consuming affair, as writing, journalling or blogging should be focused on quality rather than quantity, on passion rather than facts. In this aspect, this would be a work in progress, and I might just add more bits and pieces in time to come.
But with everything, I would have less time once I am back in Singapore. So it would be wise to summarise everything here, at least as a tidy first draft.
Norway Day-by-Day Journal Entries
Throught the Norway trip, I have stopped to take many 360 photos. I was able to upload them into a single Norway collection at Kuula. You can see my 360 photos via this link or directly below.
Kirkenes, bordering Russia
Kirkenes is the capital of the municipality of Sør-Varanger. It is also the end stop for the Hurtigruten cruise, after which the cruise ship will sail back down to Bergen. Kirkenes has the privilege of being ice-free as a port-of-call even during winter, with all year access to the Barents sea.
My first impression of this small city was its close association with Russia. Kirkenes was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War 2, suffering almost a total destruction as the Germans retreated from the area.
Crossing into Russia?
Kirkenes is only 17km away from the Norway-Russian border. There were tours that would bring curious visitors to the border, and then visit a small souvenir shop to buy some mementoes. However, at 700 NOK, it was very pricey hence I decided to save some money.
Eating cheap for dinner
Since I have been eating really well onboard the Hurtigruten, it was time to eat simple and affordably. In the afternoon, we went to the REMA1000 supermarket to get some wraps, potato salad and sausages for dinner. An a bottle of fine organic Malbec!
To the Edge of the World
To a certain extent, the trip to the North Cape is the culmination of all the highlights of the trip. More symbolic than anything else, this would have brought me from the southern parts of Oslo and Bergen to the northern edges of North Cape and Kirkenes. The North Cape is the northernmost point on the European mainland. At 71 degrees North, it is on the same latitude of Siberia and also the top of Alaska.
The Hurtigruten Richard With docked at Honningsvåg, a small functional port. A flock of seagulls were basking at the quiet pier area. We packed the buses and then it was a 40km journey towards North Cape, traversing the area of Mageroya.
Along the way, we passed the "northernmost beach of the world", a small sandy bay that look utterly unimpressive. I caught a reindeer grazing on the tundra plains. While the tourists stood up on the bus to have a good photo shot of the reindeer, the tour guide remarked, "don't worry, you should be seeing more reindeers along the way."
True enough, there were more reindeers to be seen, grazing on the green grassy tundra. Apparently, all the reindeer in Norway are domesticated animals owned by the Sami farmers, who were indigenous to this region.
Every family of reindeer farmers has summer and winter pastures, which they switch between to ensure that their reindeer have enough food. Early in the spring, before the reindeer calves are born, the herd starts to head for the coast. The animals spend the whole summer here under the midnight sun, and when autumn rolls around they begin the long trek back to their winter pasture farther inland. I understood from the guide that in a week or two, the Sami farmers would be guiding the herd back to the mainland. It would either be a 2km swim by the reindeer or through the specially constructed tunnel.
At the Northern Most Already
A while later, we arrived at the North Cape. It was the usual photo-taking at the symbolic North Cape Globe. What was more memorable for me was the walk along the cliff at the edge of the world. It was yet another sunny day, and with the cool breeze, it was a great day for walking.
I walked as far as time allowed, and standing on the edge of the world, I took all the sights in. I gathered some of the larger rocks and stacked them together. Now, I have created the northern-most rock deck! For world peace, perhaps. The overnight winds would destroy it in no time, in any case.
The Northern City of the Northern Lights
The cruise ship brought us all the way north to Tromso, one of the northern-most cities of Norway. We had a few hours to spare at Tromso, so we disembarked and decided to roam around a bit in Tromso.
Located 400km north of the Arctic Circle at 69 degrees North, the small city of Tromso is also known as Norway's gateway to the Arctic. It's surrounded by chilly fjords and craggy peaks that remain snowcapped for much of the year. Even in this late summer, I could see some remnants of snow that's unlikely to melt away, since the temperatures would be dropping once again when summer ends.
To the Arctic Cathedral and the Cable Car
We walked through the town, and then crossed the iconic Tromso Bridge over to have a look at the Arctic Cathedral. Nearby, within walking distance, there was also the cable car that brought visitors up to the Fjellheisen, 421 metres above sea level for a small fee of 210 NOK. After the funicular in Bergen, I did not see a need to go up to another peak again, so M went ahead to the peak, while I waited at the foot of the cable car station and I read my Kindle book and relaxed a bit instead.
The rain clouds started to gather, and as it started to drizzle, we made a beeline back to the cruise ship, and by evening time we were once again on our way.
30th August 2019, Friday
Day 11 of the Norway in a Nutshell Cruise
From Cruise to Lofoten Islands
Before we arrived at the Lofoten Islands, we were already out in the deck. The sun was back again, and the sea glittered in the rays of the sun. It was warm, but the cool winds balanced the heat. The Lofoten Islands appeared in the distance. It was great weather, and being on the cruise ship for the whole day, I was looking forward to visiting the islands.
The Hurtigruten docked at almost 7 pm. But because it was still late summer, the skies were still bright. The Italian guide remarked that we were the second last island tour for the season - as summer has ended and there would be no further tours. We quickly boarded the coach that would bring us through the various connected islands of Lofoten all the way from Nusfjord to Svolvaer.
Chasing Daylight at the Lofoten Islands, Norway
Perhaps we were trying to chase daylight, and the sun was gradually setting, the landscape changed as the hues of pink covered the skies. Lofoten's landscape was a mixture of rolling hills with occasional peaks, and surrounded by water, of course.
Personally I expected a little bit more from Lofoten, and maybe because it was already getting dark, the overall experience was not as fantastic, as compared to the Trollstigen tour. Eventually, I was happy to get on board the ship at about 11 pm, after a quick dinner at Svolvaer.
Arriving into Trondheim
It was a rainy day today. I supposed the rains have finally caught up with us as we arrived in Trondheim. The cruise ship would be stopping by at this City for 3 hours, and we would be skipping the organised tours to walk around the city on our own.
Walking from the Hurtigruten to the Wharf Area
Trondheim is the third largest municipality in Norway. The key highlights, if you have got a few hours to spare, would be the colourful houses along the wharf area and also the Gothic Cathedral. Fortunately, everything was within walking distance and the cathedral was only 1.7km away from the Hurtigruten terminal, which was about 20 minutes of leisurely walking.
We joined the group of visitors who disembarked and quickly outpaced them, since their median age was probably about 60. We soon arrived at the canal area. What was nice about Trondheim was that it wasn't swarmed with tourists. We managed to find a floating platform where we can take nice photographs without having to jostle for space with other similar enthusiasts.
There was an old bridge called Gamle Bybro that connected both banks, and if one went to the middle one could possibly take wide angle shots of the entire area. The river was flowing rapidly but without turbulence. This helped reflect the colorful houses, making the scene even prettier.
Nidarosdomen Gothic Cathedral
From the bridge, it was just a short stroll over to the cathedral, Nidarosdomen. This Gothic-style cathedral was the most impressive cathedral that I've seen from the trip. It's towering high, and had the usual gargoyles and buttress supports. Due to the lack of time we decided to look okay the exterior and not pay the extreme fee. The Archbishop's Palace was just beside the cathedral so we took a quick look too.
Then we walked down Munkegata towards Stiftsgarden, the small Royal palace of Trondheim. As the weather was turning bad we decided to return back to the ship.... Just in time before it started to rain. The rest of the day was spent on the cruise where I did some work.
Waking up to a sunny morning in the Hurtigruten
The morning started in the cruise ship. I was naturally roused from my slumber by the alarm clock at 7am. Somehow I recalled the ship being rather turbulent early in the morning, and I actually wanted to rest a little bit more. But I decided to get up anyway, and then after washing up we went for breakfast. M wasn't feeling too good because he had a bad headache. It was so bad that he didn't eat much for his breakfast, which was unusual. Fortunately he wasn't in a bad mood.
Strategising while Travelling
Weather-wise, it was another sunny day. I'm certainly not complaining, knowing that the good sunny days would not last long. Make hay while the sun shines. Post-brekkie, I found a cosy corner at the deck to do some work, while M nursed his headache in the room. I've been rather busy planning the strategies for the following two months, and while I am overseas there was still much to do. It's always more difficult when there's a need to strategize, and in formulating new strategies, there are no yardsticks and benchmarks. It's like swimming in the open waters. The wind, the current, predatory sea creatures.... They all could disrupt the best possible plan. Hence there's a need to think through the strategy, and then go over it yet again. The dynamic nature of market forces are such that if one is unable to catch the wind and ride the wave, one sinks.
From Geiranger to Trollstigen to Molde
Soon we got ready for our 7 hour long day trip. The ship arrived near the bay of Geiranger, and we went up the zig zaggy road to stop by at a vantage point. The bus took us across valleys carved away by ancient glaciers. We reached a small canyon area and then entered a nice fjord valley flanked by sheer slopes with thick vegetation on both sides. It was worth the trip. We then crossed a channel via a ferry and then reached the main highlight. This was the Trollstigen, which was a high point overlooking several hairpin turns. There was also a glacier-fed waterfall that contributed to the magnificent scenery. As usual, photographs do not do this justice.
I covered more details about this scenic route at the travel section of my blog. Click on the Read More button to get to that page directly.
27 Aug 2019
Getting ready to board the Hurtigruten - Richard With
With most of Bergen sightseeing cleared, we got ready to check out of Bergen Bors. It was another sunny day at Bergen, and despite lugging along all our baggage with us, we stopped for a while at the foot of St Mary's Cathedral for M to head up to take a few shots. As usual, the cathedral was not open so there was no entry into the building. Fortunately, the cruise terminal was not too far away. Bergen is generally a compact city (at least where the important landmarks are).
We arrived at the terminal with a couple of hours to spare and decided to hang out at the cafeteria. Bought a ham and cheese sandwich and ate it with the leftover pate and potato salad. The apple juice was too sweet so we threw the carton away (wasted!) I then took the time to do some October planning while waiting for 4pm to board the cruise ship
Soon it was time to board the ship.
The Hurtigruten ship Richard With was a fine modern ship, having undergone a retrofitting just a year ago, in 2018. It wouldn't be fair to compare it to Genting Dream (which was way bigger) but maybe compare it to St Peter Line Anastasia, which was part of the Baltic Cruise that I took in 2014. Richard With was spacious and had lots of seating areas with sockets to charge one's devices -- something definitely relevant in this modern day.
I did some Wella work while waiting for dinner time. While we had an allocated table, the first evening's dinner was a buffet. And oh my they did have a good spread.... I guess I wouldn't need to use the instant noodles which we brought with us for this segment of the trip.
I am MrWildy and I am trying to journal more about my life and also my travels. Find out more about me here.