Sunday, September 8, 2019

2019 Global Trip Part 2 - MSC Cruise to Germany and Norway

Click here to go back to part 1!

Day 4 continued - Boarding MSC Cruise

August 31, 2019

As is tradition upon boarding a cruise, you're encouraged to immediately go to the buffet for lunch, which was fine, and then we headed to the pool since the weather was quite warm and we don’t expect much of that on this trip!  There are very few kids on the ship (not surprisingly at this time of year) and most of the passengers seem to be older than we are.

Our first impressions of the MSC  are all positive.  We have found the service very friendly and accommodating.  The food at dinner was very good and the portions were just right.  We seem in the minority as English speakers, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. 

I wouldn’t say that the kids loved their dinner, but it’s okay for them to try new things and they can always get some food from the buffet if they’re still hungry. 

We were too tired to stay up for the show.  We are on our way to Warnemunde, Germany now.

Day 5 - Warnemunde Germany

Sand sculptures near the port
Warnemunde is a small town next to the port.  We walked through it, but with it being Sunday, most of the stores were closed.  It was a cute little village and it has a large beach, but we weren't here for that.

We walked quite a bit getting looking around this quaint town. While I theoretically like that they observe the Sabbath, I was super disappointed that our only day in Germany was a Sunday with no opportunity to buy souvenirs. 

Train ride into Rostock

So we walked to the train station, figured out how to buy some tickets, and headed to Rostock.  The machine did have an English option and that was mostly fine, but we weren't really sure which tickets we needed.  In the end we were never asked for our tickets at all. Maybe because it's Sunday?

Metro from Rostock into New Market Square

Rostock is a medieval town (at least the area that we visited.)

It has a church from the 1200's and the city walls were built around 1300.  The church was kind of amazing.  I can't exactly describe it.  I'm sure the pictures will tell most of the story.  You can just see how old it is from walking through it.  There is an immense organ in one part and a crypt with 3 people from the 1600's.  Their names were listed, but I don't know who they were.  Unlike most places we've been to in Europe and other places, there aren't many English translations.  In fact, Germany is the one place where we haven't really been able to communicate with people. Nearly everyone we came across speaks English, but it's true that English signs aren't common unlike everywhere else we've ever traveled.

We had some pastries at a bakery, but I had to find an ATM because they didn't take credit cards.  Unfortunately, Germany is the only part of the trip where they use the Euro, so now I've got about 20 Euros that I don't know what to do with. We are taking advantage of pastries every chance we get because they are so good in Europe. Hard to explain what's different. but it is. Also, Marc is forgetting that Ireland uses Euros too and I'm sure well have no trouble spending them! 

Most of the town is modern, but the outside of the buildings are very unique.  Each building has a similar gabled style, but each with their own unique take on it.  Apparently, some of the gables have windows on the part that doesn't have anything behind it because that was a status symbol in the past.  Windows were so expensive.
The two oldest houses in town- probably.

We toured the largest city gate.  It was built along with the wall and added on to when new technology required it for defensive purposes.  This gate is where we met the only fluent English speaking citizen as far as I can tell.  She was a guide there and she was very helpful.  She told us all about the gate and the area around it.  The wall was originally about 2 miles around and it had 22 gates.  Seems like a lot of gates to me.  Most of the wall is gone and I think there are only 3 gates remaining.  She said that a lot of the surrounding area was destroyed in World War II, but the gates were built stronger than the more modern buildings.  At one time, even the train went through the city gate.  Eventually, they decided they needed a bigger road into the town so they knocked down the wall next to the gate.

We decided to just have McDonald's for lunch which was kind of disappointing, but we figured it would be faster and easier and they had a free bathroom!  I had the hardest time getting Max's hamburger.  He's very picky, so I was trying to order a burger with just lettuce, onions, pickles and ketchup.  It took a while (in the meantime a huge line was forming behind us,) but eventually I thought I had it ordered.  When we got it though it had mayonnaise on it!  That was definitely not going to work for Max so I went back to the counter and tried to explain that we needed ketchup, not mayonnaise.  I think ketchup must be a bad word in German because you should have seen the look the woman gave me!  She just made a face and shook her head like that couldn't possibly be what I wanted.  Eventually, three employees were there trying to help me.  Finally I just said, "No sauce," and then it was okay, but Max never got his ketchup.

Now I'm at a little strawberry store by the Pier, drinking a real German beer writing my blog since they have free wifi here.  Kyrie told me to take a selfie, but I couldn't quite get that to look right.  This is as close as I could get.

Marc did manage to get his face in one of the pictures, but his expression was...odd? I'm not camera shy. I just don't appear in many pictures because it's seriously a necessity for me to operate the camera!

It seems so weird that the shop next to the pier is all strawberry centered. Is Germany known for them? I was really wishing for a few souvenirs. I settled for a few bars of strawberry soap versus leaving empty handed.

We are having a great time so far.  We adjusted to the time amazingly well and although the food isn't completely what the kids would like, nobody is starving.  It helps that the ship is Italian so they have plenty of pizza and pasta!

Agreed! Everything has been going really well, and even the weather has been very cooperative!

While Marc was having his German beer, the rest of us boarded and got some homemade pretzels from the buffet for an afternoon snack . The three littlest kids had to take another dip in the hot tubs and even the pool since it was sunny, although not real warm. 

Our cabin is a little smaller than the ones on the Disney ships, but they are nice enough.  Every announcement on the ship takes forever because they have to do it in like 7 different languages.  During the safety drill (which they did in the theater) both Zach and I fell asleep.  When we woke Zach up to leave he tried to take off his seat belt!  I don't know if he thought he was in a car or the airplane. 

It was such a beautiful night! Ella, Zoe, and Zach are really enjoying their kids club and even like to go to the evening shows with the club, so the rest of us walked a couple laps around the jogging deck enjoying each other and the views.

My only complaint about MSC so far is that they seem to want to charge for everything.  Since we are American we automatically receive free bottled water and coffee at meals, but otherwise they even charge for that!  Even the movies on the TV cost extra.  Otherwise everything has been great though.  

I'm not bothered about the charges for soft drinks, although I also don't drink them. We knew this going in and this cruise costs much less compared to a Disney cruise. Non-alcoholic and alcoholic drink packages are available for those who desire a "deal.." Paying for one or two sodas a day for Marc and a cappuccino for me (note that's also an extra charge on Disney) costs less and keeps our kids from drinking sugary drinks. 

Space Odyssey show (costumes were a little weird) 
One thing that is a bit unusual to us, is that people board the ship at the different stops.  So day 1 for us might be day 7 for someone else.  So, that makes it a little different.  It's kind of nice when everyone is at the same point and you kind of get a day 1 celebration and everyone can be disappointed together when the cruise is over.
Tomorrow we have a day at sea and they we arrive in Bergen, Norway.

Day 6 – Birthday at Sea

Zach – I had a happy meal yesterday and got a Snoopy toy.

My birthday didn’t start very well.  Soon after midnight, Ella started getting sick.  She vomited many times and Kyrie and I spent most of the night cleaning up after her and trying to figure out how to help her.  We couldn’t decide if it was seasickness, something she ate, or a virus.  We tried giving her some Dramamine, but that didn’t seem to help.  So, I guess we’ve ruled out seasickness.  That’s probably a good thing since we still have 5 days left of this cruise, plus 10 more on the next cruise.  And the seas have been very calm so far.  Of course, if it’s a virus, then we all could get it.

I hated going next door to wake up Marc every time Ella vomited, but not only am I blind without my contacts, but also my strong gag reflex would double our trouble if I tried to clean it up myself. The episodes occurred approximately every half hour just as we had almost drifted off to sleep. Zoe’s reaction was worse than Ella’s. Zoe is also overly sensitive to odors and was in the bunk above Ella. Every time Ella was leaning over to lose it, Zoe would start moaning and eventually full out crying complaining. Finally, we got about a two hour stretch to 7:15am after which Zoe and I got ready and took Zach to breakfast with us.  And I (Marc) slept in! 

7:15 was Ella's last episode and while she was tired all day and we took turns hanging out in the cabin with her while she mostly slept, she felt much better. 

It has gotten much colder today, even though we probably aren’t any further north than Copenhagen yet.  We need our jackets to go out on the pool deck now.  It’s nice and sunny though. Just very windy!

Not sure if I mentioned yet that there is only like one English station on the TV.  Well, before bed each night Zach has started watching this show on a German channel.  It has this really ugly puppet kind of character who is apparently in a rock band.  Zach is kind of getting into watching it even though he has no idea what they are saying.

The younger kids have enjoyed their kids club so far.  They even decided to eat dinner there last night.  They said there have been two other kids there that speak English, but they are figuring out how to play with the other kids too.  I don’t know how the people who work here can speak so many different languages.  It must be hard.  I notice that the employees don’t really greet you until you talk to them since they don’t know which language to use.

Ella says the foosball table isn’t very good and she thinks it’s silly that they all have to hold hands whenever they take the group to the buffet or show or anywhere outside of the kid’s club.

The family surprised me with some binoculars for my birthday.  Those should come in handy!

I think Marc's big present is having a week with no laundry to do. Laundry is pretty much a daily experience for him even on this trip. But there are no self service machines on MSC, so we spent about $150 Euro on laundry for this week. It sure is nice to have it returned folded or hung though. (Although they ruined 3 of these custom shirts and one of my sweaters.)

We mostly just had a quiet day around the ship.  The kids got in a little bit of swimming despite the cooler weather. 

Zoe, Zach and Ella got to participate in Master Chef Junior.  They were each on teams that had to make a tiramisu.  They all seemed to have fun making it.

The show in the theater tonight was called Abyss.  It was basically at acrobatic show with music and dancing.  It was probably about what you would expect from that kind of show.  Most people would like it.  I thought it was fine other than the costumes which were a little over the top.  We only saw a few minutes of the show last night, but that one also had some crazy costumes.  The kids seem to like the shows.

Day 7 – Bergen Norway

Wherever in the world I am, I always enjoy sunrises and sunsets. Sunrises are all the better with a good cup of coffee. This morning while everyone else was sleeping, I decided to go to the Coffee Bar. Since this an Italian ship, their espresso machine looks top notch. I wanted to order something indulgent, but I'm not well versed in specialty coffee beyond basic espresso and cappuccino. I ordered a "Maroccino." It was sweet and coffee-like, but I was expecting something more like a mocha rather than the shot glass of sweet coffee that I got. I tried a latte another day, having a better idea what to expect, but it was more milky and less strong coffee taste than I like. So from now on I'll just stick to a plain ol' cappuccino and be satisfied! The sunrise was nice, and perhaps I'll find my picture to insert here.

When I woke up this morning (very late), we were on our way through the fjord that leads to our first stop in Norway – Bergen.  Not sure when we first turned in to the fjord, but it was at least a couple hours.  It was very interesting seeing all of the houses built on these rocky areas of land.  There are way more houses than I would have expected and Bergen is a full fledged city.  (It is the second largest city in Norway. Oslo is the largest.)  We were able to see jellyfish in the water as we sailed into Bergen.

We had to take a bus from our ship to get out of the port area, so that made it take a while to get off the ship.  When we got off the ship, it took a while to figure out where we were on the map and where we were going.  Eventually we figured it out. 

Our first activity was to go on the funicular up Mount Floyyen.  There was a very long line when we got to it.  Kyrie bought the tickets on the app and saved us a lot of time.  We still had a pretty good wait.  The funicular took a few minutes and then we arrived near the top of the mountain.  There is a little restaurant area up there with playgrounds and walking trails. 

We took in the sights and played on the playground for a while.  There is also a little bit of a troll village at the top.  It’s mostly run down, but the kids still had fun finding the trolls and taking pictures with a couple of them.  
Playground at the top

We decided to walk down the mountain instead of taking the funicular back down.  It is a 3 km (2 mile) trail that gradually makes its way down the mountain.  Zach really didn’t want to walk and the kids were goofing around a lot, so it wasn’t the best walk I’ve ever had, but it was still pretty nice. 
Such beauty everywhere I looked!
Hopefully the fresh forest smell and soothing sounds of water trickling down the mountain will make the sight of my family walking the trail through massive trees with peek-a-boo views of the city below burn deeply into my mind for me to retrieve for years to come. It did take a really long time, but we were so fortunate to have such a beautiful day, we couldn’t pass it up. 

It was sunny and not too cold.  Perfect for walking around Bergen!

A school we passed. I imagined this being a very cool Montessori school surrounded by some amazing nature

Between the time it took to wait for the funicular and the time it took to walk down the mountain, we didn’t have much time left for anything else.  We did do a little shopping in a popular little shopping area with some interesting back alleys.  And we stopped at a bakery (of course) and had some really good pastries. 

I got to shop while the others got their treats, but I had to get a bite of authentic school bread for you Disney foodies who enjoy Epcot Norway.

I regret that our time in Bergen was too short to explore the museums we heard about or try any truly Norwegian food that we would dare to palate. We passed on the Reindeer hot dogs and fish soup that we saw as we walked through the Fish Market.


Fish Market
The dinners on the ship have been very good.  The younger kids prefer the buffet and sometimes go with the kid’s club instead.  Jacob has been trying a lot of seafood and other things that he never gets to have at home.  He has liked most of it.  Max isn’t having much luck.  He usually picks the vegetarian items since he doesn’t like most meats.  Sometimes it works out for him, but usually he ends up at the buffet sometime after dinner.

Zach enjoys the bread and gelato
Jacob has really impressed me with the way he just dove into trying EVERYTHING! Not just shrimp, crab, and lobster, but also ceviche, cuttlefish, prawns, swordfish, etc.!
This is as good a place as any to write about our MSC experience. (Or cut and paste it to the end of the cruise.) When we researched how to travel to/through Norway, I discovered several obstacles/considerations. First, there is a lack of 8 passenger vehicles to rent. Even if we could find a vehicle that would fit all of us and our luggage, it apparently isn’t possible to take an American style road trip from Norway to England. There would be many ferries involved, but also very cost prohibitive to take the rental van from one country to another. Ultimately, the van would have to be returned to it’s origin via hired driver. The hotels and food are also quite expensive and we’d wear ourselves out moving around so much. Taking a cruise became the better alternative to accomplish seeing Norway.

I had never heard of MSC prior to this research and to be honest the reviews really turned me off. Still, the price was extremely appealing. I did all the research I could and decided that it will work just fine for us. We’d consider it hotel and transportation for this portion of our trip. IF we liked the food at all, that would be a bonus, and we certainly wouldn’t expect the quality of service that we’d expect from Disney Cruise Line or other American lines.

So, having these very low expectations coming in, I have been blown away with how much I like this cruise! The food reviews were mixed. Everyone raved about the high-quality pizza and freshly made pasta since this is an Italian cruise line. And those have been amazing along with the freshly made pastries, bread, bread sticks, and espresso. But people often complained about small portion size and poor quality meat and other dishes. In my opinion, all of the food has been great. The buffet and main dining room food is at least as good and sometimes exceeds Disney in my opinion, not that I have any complaints about Disney Cruise Line (DCL.) Our waiter Sunny and his assistant have provided excellent service too.  He is perhaps my favorite cruise server of all time! I like how they serve each person one dish at the same time whether it’s an appetizer or main dish. In other words, they don’t make everyone wait for their main dish(es) if they didn’t order an appetizer and someone else did. This paces the dinner better for all of us. If the kids finish eating first, we can take them to the kids’ clubs and finish at our own pace.

The ship is stunningly gorgeous! It seems bigger than Disney’s Magic and Wonder with which we are the most familiar even though this ship is the same length. It does have a couple more decks and the maximum capacity is about 700 people more than the Magic.  It is very clean and all of the crew has been friendly and helpful. English seems to be primary. Everything is written in English and perhaps other languages too. We’ve been easily understood and also easily understand all the crew we’ve spoken with.

Honestly, the only thing this ship is lacking in comparison to DCL is activities/entertainment. I only mention this because I’m surprised it compares so well in every other way. I knew the entertainment would be lacking and I’m too tired every night to go to the shows anyway. Entertainment is mostly acrobatics and dancing since it isn’t language dependent. Still, they're not bad. The performers certainly are talented.

Also, our particular room steward is very hit or miss. We’ve always had exceptional room attendants on DCL. It’s adequate still, and I think it’s just our guy. Either he sleeps in or he has a second job on the ship. He’s the last to clean up rooms in the morning or get them ready at night. He seems to do the bare minimum and rarely replaces washcloths in particular. He never spreads out the comforters on the bunk and sofa bed, not that it’s difficult to do ourselves. It took us two days to find that there’s a ladder to the bunk under the main bed and the bunk is always out rather than put away during the day so we can use the couch. I just don’t find the service excellent in this category. Everything is clean and well-kept though. It’s nice that they opened up our balconies to connect upon our request, since we do not have a connecting door between our rooms.

Something unique about MSC is that they’ll match your loyalty status with other cruise lines. We have Gold status on Disney, so MSC made us Gold status too which entitled us to some perks even though this is our first cruise with them. We got a fruit basket in our room, an invitation to a free cocktail hour and picture, a (cheap) MSC logo bag, an hour in their thermal spa, and priority tendering although we didn’t have to tender at any ports on this cruise which was nice. The free cake on Marc's birthday was a perk as well. For some reason, Americans automatically get free bottled still or sparkling water in the dining rooms. I imagine we will take another MSC cruise in the future for port intensive itineraries in Europe. We’ll stick to Disney for cruises with more sea days since we utilize the movie theaters, daytime entertainment, and nighttime shows then.

Day 8 – Flam, Norway

Our port today was Flam, Norway.  It may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  I just thought it was perfect.  Flam is at the end of the longest fjord in Norway (I think.)  Our ship entered the fjord at about 1am and we arrived in Flam, basically in the dark, at 7:00am.  Kyrie was worried about making sure we got to the train on time, so we woke up way too early.  But, it worked out because we were able to get on the train that left an hour earlier which was much less crowded and gave us more time for exploring.

Some of these waterfalls look small, but all through town you could hear the water crashing down

Empty train since we left so early! Great to switch sides to take pictures.

The train ride goes from Flam to Myrdal and back again.  The train goes through 20 tunnels, over 1 bridge, and passes a bunch of waterfalls.  It stopped at the largest of the waterfalls and then again at Myrdal.  I think the trip took about 45 minutes each way.  It was kind of amazing that they dug all of these tunnels out.  Apparently 18 of the tunnels were dug out “by hand” and took a month for each meter of tunnel.  The mountains, valleys, houses and surrounding countryside are all just perfect. 
When the train ride was over it was raining and cold, so we headed back to the ship (which was very conveniently located to everything).  We had “second breakfast”.  

Taking good pictures was tough on the train not only because it's moving of course, but mostly because they kept the  massive overhead lights on which left a glare on the windows as much as I tried to avoid it.


We also took a boat tour that went through the fjord and into some of the smaller areas that are ship didn’t go through.  Again, it was just beautiful.  More mountains, more colorful houses, and lot’s more waterfalls.  Really couldn’t even count all of the waterfalls.   

The tour said that they use the waterfalls to create electricity.  Didn’t see any turbines or anything, so I’d be interested to know where they are doing that and what It looks like.  It was good that we took the boat tour.  Since the cruise ship came into the fjord overnight and went out during dinner, we would have missed quite a bit.  





Reindeer hot dogs - No, thanks.
I spent some time hiking through some trails in town.  Very nice view of the fjord. 
I would really like to visit Flam again someday.  It’s such a peaceful natural place.  The only thing it was missing for me was wildlife.  I didn’t see any mountain goats, or any whales, or any fish whatsoever.  That would have made it over the top!
MSC Pizza - So good that we had it almost everyday,
Special table setting for Mediterranean Night
In case anyone is reading this blog for money saving tips on traveling with a big family, here’s a tip! We booked the Flam Railway and Fjord cruise with return on bus all through their local website. Even though I booked three months ahead of time, the cruise ships had already booked ALL of the rail tickets except the two earliest times 7:30 and 8:35am. We hesitated to book even the 8:35am just in case of late arrival or delays if we had to tender in. After much research we decided to do it. Booking these things on our own was less than half the cost of booking the exact same thing through the cruise ship.

Thankfully it went flawlessly! In fact, this was my favorite morning of the trip so far. Since we wanted to be among the first to get off the ship at 7 am, we agreed to meet at 6 am for breakfast. The buffet was the least crowded I’ve seen. We sat next to the window as we ate and watched the sun come up over Flam. Actually, you can’t really see the sunrise since it’s surrounded by mountains, but we did see it get lighter and eventually some sun shining on the top of some of the mountains. We even had time to take some pictures of Flam on the top decks before making our way off of the ship at 7am. Apparently no one else was in a rush to get toff since their excursions through the ship didn’t leave until after 9:30! We decided to see if we could catch the 7:30 train and were allowed to since it wasn’t at all busy! We had our choice of seats and could easily move to either side of the train to take pictures without getting in anyone’s way. Perfect! When we saw the 8:35 train that we were originally going to take pass us on our way back, it had at least twice as many people on it, and I bet the trains only got much more crowded later, and we got our train ride without the rain that came later too. Such a great experience!  

It worked out perfectly to have taken the earlier train which left time to re-board the ship for a late second breakfast or we would have had to buy food on the two hour fjord cruise. The return bus ride was only twenty minutes. We went through the shops at our leisure and felt very satisfied with our day in Flam.

Back on the ship, the girls and Zach love their kid’s clubs.  I wasn’t expecting that before the cruise especially since most of the other kids don’t speak English and the kid’s clubs are kind of small on this ship.  But they keep asking to go back.  Jacob and Max go occasionally to their teen club, but definitely don’t love it.  At least they keep trying it out.  

Zach – I won a squishy cruise ship today.  It was in a mystery box.  I was about to pass it to Zoe, but the music stopped so it was my turn to open it.  I also bought a Viking sword today to go with my Viking outfit that I got for Christmas.  Also, when we were in Copenhagen, I bought a Lego figure.  I liked going on the train today because I didn’t have to walk.  I saw clouds below us.  I liked running around the boat when we went on the fjord tour today.  I eat a lot of desserts on this cruise!  

Day 9 – Hellesylt and Geiranger Norway

We had a brief stop at small and beautiful Hellesylt for some people to get off for excursions

Our last stop in Norway is a town called Geiranger.  This town is also at the end of one of the fjords.  There is a beautiful, large waterfall that runs right down the middle of town here and the mountains are even higher than they were in Flam.

It has this motorized dock that scissors out to the ship


These are NOT the oompa trolls!
It was a cloudy day, but not unreasonably cold.  It rained a little off and on.  We spent an hour or so going in shops around the small town.  If you go here, make sure you check out the Oompa Trolls who make the chocolate at the chocolate store.  You have to go downstairs behind the building to see them.  

We had a 3 hour panorama bus tour here which took us around the area and high up into the mountains.  It stopped several times for us to get out and check out the sights.  It was all great to see, but I wouldn’t say that anything stood out as especially spectacular.  

I disagree. It was all spectacular and no other way to see enough of Geiranger. The guide did an excellent job telling us stories and information.


What I liked best was hearing about life in Norway.  One of the first things that we passed were some summer houses in the countryside.  These were restored from the 1960’s.  We were told that these were homes that people lived in the summer and were important because they were farms.  In the past, people had to work extremely hard in the summer to make sure they had food to make it through the winter.  Especially in areas like this in the mountains where they are basically cut off from the rest of the country once it starts snowing.  Already today (September 5), the Peak Road was closed due to snow the night before.  The farmers have brought the sheep and goats down from the mountains because of the snow.  Until modern machinery came to Norway, families would have to work from 4am until midnight in the summer.  Because of this, they did all of their socializing in the winter.

The Queen's Chair
Can't tell they're standing on a slippery cliff
We learned that last summer it was too warm all summer and the waterfalls dried up for a while.  Which caused them to have to buy electricity from other countries.  Because of this they are looking into wind farms to avoid this problem in the future, but of course nobody wants them on their land. Animals apparently don't like to be near them, which makes it even more undesirable to residents here.
Zach off to find sheep


Not so peaceful
Couldn't possibly walk back though

In this area they are building a large tunnel because they get too many avalanches and rock slides.  I was kind of shocked by the size of some of the rocks that have fallen – like the size of a house!  That’s also why they don’t allow cruise ships in the winter even though the fjords don’t freeze. They anticipate someday that the current tunnel/road will collapse, so they've begun the new tunnel which will -years from now when it's finished- also shorten the popular route when it's finished.

In one area of the fjord near Geiranger, there is a huge crack in the mountain.  Apparently, this crack is getting a few centimeters larger each year.  So they are closely monitoring it. Eventually that chunk of the mountain will fall into the fjord and they expect it to create a tsunami that will destroy the town. I think our guide mentioned there's been a movie made based on this.

I was surprised to hear that they sometimes have up to 3 cruise ships here at one time.  It seemed like there was only room for ours!  The town is very small and I couldn’t imagine that many more people in those little shops or any more buses trying to get up or down those narrow mountain roads.  The guide said that at one time they had 5 cruise ships and then they decided to limit it to 3. 


Seven Sisters Waterfalls (Only 2 1/2 currently since it's "dry.")

Still not much wildlife.  We did see some sheep and goats, but not wild ones.  We saw a lot more jellyfish in the fjord and this time we saw starfish too.  So that was cool.

I have to say Norway is just amazing.  I really want to come back here someday and explore the rest of the country and spend more time in the fjords.  I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but it’s all been excellent.  Next time we’ll have to try some food (other than pastries!)  

The kids club did a little show before the main show tonight.  It was funny to watch and Zach was concentrating very hard on the person showing them what moves to make which made him look like the weird German puppet from the TV show he's become fond of while on this ship.

Being of Norwegian decent, I thought it was funny that our guide kept translating the Norwegian names for things which often ended up being something very basic like "big river" or some other nondescript, unoriginal name. She made a point of saying that basically Norwegians are not known for their creativity. I couldn't disagree when I thought about what I know of my father's side of the family including myself. (I'm sure whichever relatives happen to read this are the exception though!)

Goodbye Norway!

Day 10 – Day at sea

The Thermal Spa
Today we were at sea traveling back towards Denmark.  Ella, Zoe and Zach spent as much time as possible at the kids club.  Yesterday, Ella said she was disappointed that today would be the last day because she was finally starting to understand the "Spanish" that the crew members speak.  They actually speak like 5 other languages, so who knows if the parts she understood were Spanish or not!  The girls became friends with some other girls from Australia since they were the only ones who spoke English. 

One of the perks we received was a free hour at the thermal spa. On this ship the thermal spa was three hot tubs and some chairs overlooking the ocean. I was the only one in there at first, so it was nice and relaxing. 

I treated Jacob and Max to mochas in exchange for their company and a nice picture
 The buffet is huge on this ship.  We have been on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and mostly Disney and this is by far the largest buffet we have seen.  Because of that, all of our non-dinner meals have been eaten there.  So today we decided to try something different.  We went to one of the table service restaurants instead.  It turned out that it had a buffet as well.  You could still choose something off of the menu, but we stuck with that buffet since they were having "Pasta Fest." In fact, that's what lured us there.

All of the food has been excellent.  Some of the time, like late at night or between meal times, they only have pizza and sandwiches on the buffet, but that isn't too bad.  The rest of the time the buffet has something for everyone including a "Kid's Corner" and "International Corner" (although it's all pretty international if you ask me!)  I really like the authentic German pretzels and have loaded a bunch of them in my backpack each port day for when the kids need a snack.

The weather is getting warmer as we are traveling south now.  We sailed through rain off and on, but mostly it was a decent day.  

The kids did another round of Master Chef Junior - this time on the main stage.  It was a lot more elaborate this time.


On the big screen you can see Zach squeezing his entire tube of frosting onto the cupcake.

The show tonight was China themed which I didn't expect to like.  It turned out to be pretty good and they had these 4 guys doing a comedy routine in the crowd before the show that were hilarious. They would sneak up right behind an unsuspecting audience member as they were finding their seat and mimic them. All 4 would mimic them all the way to their seat whether they were discovered or not. It became funnier and funnier to the audience who knew what to expect. And of course, each new guest entering had no idea, so it was always fresh. 

Bernd Das Brot
By the way, we figured out that the German puppet that Zach has been watching on TV each night is supposed to be a loaf of bread!  I think I've started enjoying the show more than Zach.  I looked it up and the puppet's name is Bernd das Brot and apparently he is quite popular in Germany!

Day 11 - Back to Copenhagen

We docked back in Copenhagen this morning.  Disembarking was very easy and uneventful.  We took a very expensive taxi ride back to the airport!  It was like 600dkk, which is like $90!  We should have just taken the taxi to the train station and then took the train, but it didn't seem like the airport was that far away!

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