The Sognefjord in Norway at peace in the seasonal sunshine
Sunbathing in your cossie while snow-capped mountains tower all around might not sound like a wise thing to do.
But on my trip to the Norwegianfjords it was just one revelation among many for a cruise debutant.
Others included how a 113,561 gross tonne ship that’s more like a high-end hotel can glide through the water so gracefully.
Or how more than 3,000 passengers can be kept fed, watered and perfectly happy by a small army of efficient yet ever-friendly staff.
The snow-capped mountains were a feature of the scenery in Lustrafjord, Sognefjord and Nordfjord in June, many so high that their icy summits never melt.
Emerald Princess, launched in 2007, had sailed for Norway from Southampton.
The Emerald Princess has been on the water for nine years
I soon discovered that the cabins – with their soft furnishings and self-contained balconies, if you spring for the extra luxury – offer tiny worlds that you need never leave except to visit one of the seven eateries on board or try the array of activities which suit all levels from nervous newbie to seasoned sailor.
Our first stop was Stavanger. The deceptively petite port is Norway’s fourth biggest city, but even with its quaint streets lined with white clapboard houses, it struggled to shine in pouring rain.
Back on board before a departure time of 4pm – and they mean it, the security team pre-departure runs a very tight ship, if you’ll pardon the pun – we had plenty of opportunity to enjoy one of the dining options.
Kjosfossen waterfall in Aurland municipality in Sogne Fjordane county
The upmarket restaurants onboard are SHARE by Curtis Stone, the Crown Grill and The Salty Dog Gastropub, which have a cover charge.
But you’ll have no trouble finding something to your taste at the included Botticelli, Michelangelo and Da Vinci dining rooms, or the Horizon Court Buffet and Bistro and Café Caribe.
The buffet opens on to a pool populated throughout the trip by a throng of excitable children, its heated water meaning even the Stavanger drizzle was no impediment.
The south side of the fjord leaving picturesque Olden
Evenings are easily filled thanks to a jam-packed schedule of entertainments, from comedy to magicians to chanteuses in bars such as Crooners.
Satiated and settled after leaving Stavanger, bed was welcome following one last peek at the clear waters and an unsettlingly light sky. This far north, you get 18 hours of daylight in the middle of summer.
We woke the next morning to snow cresting the mountain tops above tiny Olden – population 500 – on Nordfjord and it was stunning.
Kirstie enjoying the sights above Bergen
We signed up for an excursion to the sprawling Jostedalsbreen National Park, which meant an enthusiastic and strenuous hike along the Brenndal Valley so we could marvel at the Brenndalsbreen and Briksdalbreen glaciers in what was deceptively warm weather.
Back on the ship, we left little Olden, heading back down the Nordfjord with time to marvel at the ferocious waterfalls, turquoise clear waters and deep valleys.
In the unlikely event of scenery overload, you could always head to the nightly rooftop screenings Movies Under The Stars or try your luck at Gatsby’s, the on-board casino.
Stavanger harbour in Norway under bright northern skies
For me, settling in to watch the heaving, rolling landscape with a glass of fizz was entertainment enough before dinner at SHARE, where decadent dishes such as Butter Poached Lobster were made all the more ethereal by the midnight sun which shone on outside.
While the Nordfjord and its glaciers were beyond dazzling, waking at Sjkolden at the end of Lustrafjord, a branch of the Sognefjord, added another layer of natural beauty to take the breath away.
The third longest fjord in the world at 127 miles, Sogne is home to two Unesco sites of outstanding natural beauty.
Oldenvatnet off the Nordfjord was an amazing place for a canoe trip
We elected to see some of it up close on a kayak excursion which was pretty challenging as we covered 7.5 miles in four hours.
After a lengthy retreat back down Sognefjord, a light night saw us dock in Bergen, a former capital of Norway founded in 1070 and another Unesco site thanks to its fabulous location surrounded by the sea and seven mountains.
Scaling one of those is a must. Mount Floyen is reached by a busy funicular and gives you an unmissable view of the city and its brightly-coloured Bryggen harbour buildings.
Stunning Bergen with Mount Floien rising up in the background
A final day at sea offered a chance to visit The Sanctuary, the adult-only outdoor spa and sun deck.
However, the bright sunshine quickly turned to fog and I retreated inside to check out the Lotus Spa for a vigorous hot stone massage – perfect for working out those kayaking kinks.
As the ship drew back into port in Southampton, the fjords may have been hundreds of miles behind us, but our trip to a world of light nights and spectacular sights would live long in the memory.
- Princess Cruises has a 7nt round trip aboard Crown Princess, sailing from Southampton to the Norwegian Fjords from £799pp based on two adults sharing and departing on July 1, 2017.
- Ship calls at Stavanger, Skjolden, Olden and Bergen. princess.com/discover 0843 374 2403.
- Tourist info: visitnorway.com
- Time zone UK +1hr
- Currency US$ on board £1 = 1.24
- Best time to go: Mountain excitement next summer