John Sparrow from Jackson, Tennessee, who is on his 15th cruise, most with Holland America, was traveling with John Jr. on back-to-back cruises.
“Norway reminds me very much of Alaska, as the scenery is similar,” he said. “But Alaska is more rustic, while Norway is more sophisticated. I was particularly impressed by the commercial fishing industry in Ålesund; and in the smaller towns, one gets a picture of the true flavor of what Norway is all about.”
As with Bergen, I had previously visited Ålesund, but I particularly appreciated the ship’s 11 p.m. arrival there, allowing a late-evening stroll through the city streets for some after-dinner exercise and window shopping (about the only kind I do now when overseas) before retiring for the night.
Like all four of the ports we visited, Ålesund is a great place for exploring on foot. Established during the early 19th century near the Geirangerfjord, this smaller city, divided by a small-craft harbor and the Ålesundet canal, is internationally known for its historic district, which features Art Nouveau-style architecture. The city is Norway’s most important fishing port, and the Fisheries Museum gives visitors a look at the history of the fishing industry in the city. Ålesund Church, rebuilt in 1909 after a devastating fire that destroyed much of the town in 1904, is an inspiring stop, as is the beautiful Ålesund Park, where the summit of Mount Aksla offers great views of the city, the nearby islands and the Sunmore Mountains.
Jackie Parker and traveling companion Julie De Smith, both from Carson, Washington, noted that “coming to Norway was one of the things we’ve always wanted to do, and we’ve enjoyed seeing the country very much. We did a kayak trip in Eidfjord, and the guide just knew everything. He spoke many languages and was able to answer all of our questions.”
The village of Eidfjord itself is a lovely community that I enjoyed photographing. I signed up for a hiking on the Hardanger Plain shore excursion, which took us up a steep hillside with much standing water and slippery terrain of rocks and spongy marsh. We were given time at the conclusion of the hike to view and photograph a truly breathtaking canyon and the magnificent Vøringsfossen Waterfall.
As Ann and Jay Boekhoff of Apple Valley, Minnesota, put it, mirroring my thoughts exactly, “Norway is such a beautiful place: ocean, fjords, waterfalls and people who care about nature, the environment and being out in the open.”