Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego concludes his seven night voyage to four northern Europe ports from Southampton aboard Princess Cruises recently refurbished GRAND PRINCESS.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
GRAND PRINCESS departed Copenhagen at approximately 4:00 AM, making the short voyage to Helsingborg, Sweden in a mere ninety minutes before dropping anchor and securing pontoons for tendering services. Helsingborg is located on the north side of the narrow Oresund Strait that divides Sweden from Denmark.
We tendered from the ship, which basked in a golden Swedish morning light, to join the shore excursion to Helsingor, Denmark, a mere four miles across the strait and visible from both the GRAND PRINCESS and Helsingborg.
Within minutes, we were on board the HAMLET, one of several twin funneled double-ended Scandlines ferries connecting Helsingborg with Helsingor (also known as Elsinore), Denmark.
From the little HAMLET, we had an excellent view of the massive GRAND PRINCESS.
All-too-soon, the shores of Helsingor grew nearer. When the bow visor began to open, it was time to head back down to the car deck and re board our coach for the short drive into town.
Our tour began with a walk through the old town, with its cobble stone streets and colorful stucco residences, some dating as far back as the 16th Century.
We walked into the grounds of one cathedral and later, around the courtyard of another, skirting the chapel where Sunday services were being held.
And then it was a short walk back past the flower market and now beautifully lit, timber-framed residences.
Although there is no evidence of Shakespeare having actually visited Kronborg, he chose the 14th Century Castle as the setting for “Hamlet”. One theory has it that a troupe of visiting 16th Century British actors regaled the Bard with tales of the imposing Danish structure.
Inside, there were chambers with stuccoed ceilings, tapestries and oil paintings depicting the Danish Royal Family, Biblical scenes and historic Danish events.
There were many details to savor as numerous tour groups traversed the halls.
Once outside, we walked around moat, which reflected the colorful stuccoes of the surrounding walls in the midday sun.
Back on board another ferry, this time, the AURORA AF HELSINGBORG, we were leaving Helsingor in our wake, arriving moments later in brightly lit Helsingborg.
We had a little time after the tour to walk around Helsingborg, which looked spectacular on this particularly bright, sunny day. From the base of the 16th Century keep, there is a lovely view of the city with the GRAND PRINCESS lurking in the backdrop.
One of the most impressive buildings in Helsingborg is the Town Hall with its neo-Gothic brick facade and spire-topped towers.
Later that afternoon, as the GRAND PRINCESS made her way into the Kattegat and later, the Skagerrak, I was given a chance to head down to the crew deck on the fo’c’sle for a shot of the ship’s imposing “face”. Kudos to architect Giacomo Mortola for creating a scenario of layered curves in an era of rigid angles and harsh lines.
We never had a chance to experience the GRAND’s Movies Under The Stars, which looked particularly inviting, especially with a warm deck blanket and aromatic popcorn.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
At 7:00 AM, GRAND PRINCESS tied up at Oslo’s Akershus terminal, marking our final port call on the seven night cruise.
We headed out on the morning tour to the Oslo Maritime Museum, where we were shown a panoramic video of Norwegian sights. In our brief time to explore on our own, I was particularly distracted by a divinely detailed model of Norwegian America Line’s STAVANGERFJORD, which was undergoing restoration.
Even more captivating was the well-worn but beautifully polished STAVANGERFJORD bell.
SS NORWAY lovers can ogle a beautiful scale model of the former FRANCE prior to the addition of two ungainly decks of suites.
Out next stop was the FRAM Museum, where Fridtjof Nansen’s 1892-built polar expedition ship of the same name is housed under a vaulted A-Frame roof.
The tour continued with a short cruise into Oslofjord on board a vintage sailing ship. Nearby, the gorgeous Danish Royal Yacht NORGE (built in 1947 and gifted to King Haakon VII by the Norwegian people in 1947) beckoned.
We sat up on the fo’c’sle between capstans as the excursion boat slowly made her way past a handful of Oslo-adjacent islets.
Shortly before disembarking off the GRAND PRINCESS’ stern, we passed the striking new opera house and an Italian-designed sculpture of an iceberg in a rapidly growing part of the city.
With an hour or so at our disposal, we had time to walk into Akershus Castle, which dates from the early 14th Century. SItuated directly across from the cruise terminal, it provided a striking vantage of the GRAND PRINCESS.
Our visit was timed just right, with the castle guards having just raised the flag before marching past our cameras.
One day, I hope to actually visit the Olso Town Hall, or Radhuset, a remarkable structure with fine brick detailing that houses an impressive art collection. It is also the noble setting for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the old town, we quickly walked through the park that fills the void between the ornate National Theater and the Norwegian Parliament building.
En route, we peeked into the lobby of the Grand Hotel but alas, no Grusinskaya.
From there, it was back to our ship, which looked ever-so-eager to return to sea.
We had dinner reservations for 9:15 in the Crown Grill steakhouse ($25 per person).
We had a wonderful window seat with a view of the rising moon.
Rob went with the fillet mignon as his main course.
And I savored the fish entrée, papillote style. It was all splendid but we lingered so long that by the time we got to the theater to see “British Invasion”, the cast was taking its final bows.
Friday, August 31, 2012
As the GRAND PRINCESS plunged southbound into the North Sea, a Force 7 lulled us to sleep well beyond breakfast time. We decided it was a perfect day to sample the Pub Lunch (no charge) in the Crown Grill.
I ordered a traditional fish and chips and Rob went with the chicken curry, both delicious, satisfying and a perfect prelude for our return to British shores.
With so many things to document and a huge choice of activities, our one and only chance to join a trivia game was at 1:30 with the Famous Faces quiz.
In the late afternoon, I had a chance to pay a quick visit to the bridge, with its full length span of windows spanning the width of the ship and then some….
It was time to bid farewell to our dynamic duo of waiters, Giorgi (Bulgaria) and Guillermo (Mexico).
From table 107, we had a wonderful view of the moon, which beamed brightly throughout our final night on the GRAND PRINCESS.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
September greeted us with a muggy morning in Southampton, where we reluctantly disembarked the GRAND PRINCESS after a wonderful week visiting some splendid Northern European capitals. Princess never fails to impress with its high standards of food, service and organization and while we were on a ship with nearly 3,000 fellow passengers, amazingly, it never felt crowded.
End of GRAND PRINCESS To Scandinavia Sea Treks.
Very Special Thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Brian Henriksen, Andreas Pitsch.