I'm told that I was very lucky to be given a cabin on deck 5. My cabin also has a window rather than a port hole because this deck is well above sea level. One of the best things about this fact is I get up in the morning of day 4 to discover that the ship is standing in the most amazing fjord in a place called Olden. The view is quite simply jaw dropping! If you think of the beauty of the Lake District and then times it by 500, you'll imagine how lovely this place is. I have my breakfast looking out across the lake surrounded by forests and mountains. The water is a mirror for the sky and the clouds hang low over the mountains, it looks like something out of a fairy tale.
You can get straight to most of the places we sail into and how I wished I'd known how beautiful Olden was going to be. So many of the crew have arranged to hire bicycles or treck off with their backpacks and walking boots, I am woefully unprepared so take a leisurely tour of the lake and glacier on the little train that stops outside the ship. The tour lasts an hour and within minutes it feels as if we are in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by white water rapids. I can assure you that there is nothing more relaxing than looking at this landscape and taking in all that glacial air, so I decide to skip the train and walk back through the village alongside the lake - complete bliss! All these lakes, mountains and pure air must be doing me the world of good I'm sleeping like a baby every night. Or could it have something to do with the fact that I'm dancing every night until the wee small hours? Not having to get a cab home or worry about a babysitter is very nice indeed!
Our next stop is the pretty town of Alesund with it's canal-like waterways. It reminds me of some places I've been to in Cornwall and Wales. It's a bit of a grim day weather-wise so after a long stroll and another train ride around the town, I head back to the ship.
The beauty of going on a cruise is that all your food is taken care of. There is an Orangery on the top deck that serves food all day and night and I cannot believe it has taken me five days to discover their afternoon tea! It's self service so you can help yourself to sandwiches, every cake under sun, freshly baked scones with cream and the most gorgeous cheese scones you ever tasted. Afternoon tea soon becomes a guilty pleasure for myself and Dance Teachers Suzanne and Michael. We meet up each afternoon to indulge and are joined by Billy Bubbles the Children's Entertainer, who treats us to non-stop jokes and banter. He and Michael have to be the most hilarious two people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. No scone eating can go without the great debate of whether you put the jam or on cream first. I'm afraid for me it's jam first every time!
Day 6 - Bergen & the Black & White Ball
Today marks the last stop of our trip to the Fjords, a wonderful town called Bergen. I head off out early with Michael and Suzanne to catch the fenicular train up the mountainside. We see some beautiful views and have a wander through the amazing fish market. Michael and I sample the best smoked salmon in the world, but it happens to be the most expensive smoked salmon in the world too.Then it's time to for a little R&R before the Black and White Ball that evening.
I didn't read the intinerary properly before I left so I'm wearing a green dress. Oh well it's nice to be different! After dinner we go along to hear a talk by Olympic Pentathlon Champion Dame Mary Peters. What a wonderful lady she is, so elegant, gracious and humble. She is interviewed in 'Michael Parkinson' style by the Entertainment Director and comes across warmly and is very humourous with her answers. After the interview we get to meet Dame Mary and she asks me what I do. When I tell her I'm teaching jewellery making she squeals with delight and tells me she and her neice, whom she is travelling with, are coming to my workshop the next morning. That makes my night, along with the fact that she has brought her gold medal with her and gives it to me to try on as we can have our picture taken together. Michael gets to have the first dance of the ball with Dame Mary. I'm charged with trying to take pictures with Michael's camera but as he keeps twirling her round wildly every time they go by, I'm feeling very nervous about any of them turning out okay. Needless to say me and Michael are both as giddy as kippers for the rest of the evening about our brush with fame.
Day 7 - Olympic Rings
It's the last day of the cruise and my final day of classes. I'm extra-excited about today as sure enough Dame Mary Peters arrives for my first session. We are making wire-wrapped next rings with shell pearls and she tells me she's never made jewellery before so is really looking forward to this. We all have a great time as Mary and her neice Vanessa join in wholeheartedly. They are great company and full of fun but also very proud of their creations. Making jewellery seems to have that effect, creating something beautiful and knowing you've made it yourself makes it that bit more special. Here they are showing off the rings they've made.
I'm exhausted but very happy after my last day of teaching. It's time to start packing as the ship goes full steam ahead to Southampton, but not without a last night of dancing with Suzanne and Michael. We all pile onto the dance floor as 'Reach for the Stars' by S Club 7 plays. It seems an apt song and I feel carefree and so happy that my trip has been such a wonderful experience.
The live band hits the stage and Suzanne and Michael lead the ballroom dancing until midnight. I love to watch the older couples dance. They all have perfect footwork and I'm told many of these couples come on cruises just so they get the opportunity to dance. It looks so romantic and I'm not ashamed to say it brings a tear to my eye to see these couples looking so happy together. It's the perfect end to a wonderful night and a fantastic trip.
As Dorothy Says...There's No Place Like Home
The next morning it's time to say my goodbyes and to click my ruby slippers and head home. It's been the first time I have taught abroad, the first time I have been on a cruise ship. It's also the first time in years that I have travelled alone and been on my own without someone to hold my hand, I certainly don't do things by halves!
So what has this little adventure taught me? Well it's made me realise that we will never experience fantastic adventures unless we take risks and face our fears. Equally if we really do go for it, then great rewards lie ahead for us. That people are essentially kind and we can all connect so easily when we take the time to get to know one another and put gadgets, TVs and mobile phones aside. We only truly get the best out of life if we give our very best.
Oh yes and I've learnt that it is okay to be on my own and that I have a pretty good friend in me!