An exciting day dawned as we woke up to the happy realisation that today was the day we were going on a cruise! Unlike last year, when we were only allowed to cruise in British waters, this one would see us venture abroad for the first time since September 2020. Yes! We were going to Norway; the title of our cruise being “In Search of the Northern Lights”. 😊 With any luck, we would be treated to a magnificent display of Mother Nature’s light show.
In 2014, we had done the same cruise on the Boudicca, and seen the aurora borealis five nights running. Today, we were heading to Liverpool to join Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Borealis, and we couldn’t wait to be back on board that lovely ship, only six months after our British Isles cruise on her.
We left the house at 8.40am for the three-hour drive to Liverpool, firstly making a detour to the cat hotel to drop Cedric the cat off for his holidays. The weather was crisp and cold, in the fact it was -2ºC. A quick question to Alexa determined that the temperature in Tromsø was 0ºC and in Alta it was -1ºC – so it was currently warmer in Norway than it was in Durham!! 😊
The drive down to Liverpool was uneventful, and we made good time, stopping for a 20-minute break at Tebay services. On arrival at the car park, we telephoned for a taxi to take us to the exhibition centre where we had to take a CoVID-19 test, as well as have all our paperwork checked; our vaccination record, our passenger locator form and our Entry into Norway form.
Eventually we were called to board the bus to take us on the short ride to the cruise terminal. Then it was just a matter of being issued with our cruise cards and TraceSafe wrist bands (which acted as a sort of track and trace on board the ship in the unlikely event we came in contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid). Then we happily made our way up the gangplank to the smiling crew and cries of “Welcome aboard!” It was brilliant to be back. 😊
We found our ocean view cabin, 3326 on the promenade deck. We had decided against a balcony this time as we figured it would probably be too cold to take advantage of it. Our cabin was situated in a great place, just off the atrium, near to the lifts and next to a door leading straight onto the promenade deck and our designated lifeboat #4. It was plainly furnished but spacious, clean and comfortable, with twin beds under the window, a bedside cabinet each, a couple of armchairs and a coffee table and a large mirrored dressing table. The compact bathroom contained a bath tub with a shower over it. This would be our home for the next 16 nights, and we had that fabulous “just setting off on a cruise” feeling as we looked forward to what the coming days would bring. 😊
Dumping our bags, we decided to go to the Lido Restaurant up on Deck 8 for a late lunch. I enjoyed some cold meats and salad washed down with a bubbly glass of chilled cava. There seemed to be a lot more people on the Borealis this time around; while the ship was obviously not at capacity it was certainly more than the 50% than it was for our cruise in July/August last year.
After lunch we went along to the pool deck and indulged in the cocktail of the day, which was called “Bon Voyage”. We then went up to the Observatory (called the Crow’s Nest last time we were board) and found a seat at the bow of the ship which gave us a great view of the Mersey and the dockside views. It was just so great to be back on a cruise, and we enjoyed another couple of drinks whilst making desultory conversation with the couple at the next table.
On returning to our cabin we discovered one of our cases had arrived, so we emptied it out and hung our clothes up in the wardrobe or folded them neatly into drawers. We had just settled down for a 30-minute power nap when a discreet knock at our door announced the arrival of our second case. We had our nap after emptying this one out too, stashing both cases (as well as the smaller case containing my shoes for this cruise!) under the beds.
Dinner, as usual, was at 6.15pm for first-sitting passengers and after getting washed and changed we made our way to our allocated table-for-six in the Borealis restaurant, table #126. By this time, the Borealis had weighed anchor and was slowly gliding down the Mersey towards the Irish Sea. We were on our way!
On arrival at our table we saw that one couple were already seated, and they introduced themselves as Mark and Jan, from Cleethorpes. A few minutes later the other couple appeared; they were called Andy and Kal (Karin) from Sheffield. We always choose a table for six or eight as we enjoyed the interaction with our fellow passengers and have met some great people in the past. As we savoured the usual delicious Fred Olsen Cruise Lines cuisine and the copious quantities of chilled house wine, there was certainly no shortage of conversation on our table; in fact we agreed to meet up again in the Observatory later on to take part in the 10.00pm trivia quiz; Mark picked a good name for our quiz team – “Three Counties”. 😊
The featured entertainment in the Neptune Theatre tonight was a really good Welsh singer called Bruce Anderson; he was billed as a “popera” (pop-opera crossover) singer and he performed a selection of lively numbers for us; I was disappointed to see there was no live ship’s orchestra once again, and the singing was accompanied by recorded backing music. When are they going to bring back the live orchestra? It makes such a difference.
Afterwards we went up to the Observatory for the quiz, where Mark, Jan, Andy and Kal joined us soon afterwards. We scored 12/15 but the winning team only scored 13, so we only missed out by one point. Never mind, it was still a respectable score and we had the rest of the cruise to win something. 😊
We stayed in the Observatory afterwards, listening to the resident band Funky Blue (who are really good, by the way) and enjoying a few more cocktails. It was after midnight when we returned to cabin 3326, where we settled down in our comfortable beds with their crisp cotton sheets and plump pillows. We slept very, very well as the Borealis carried us ever closer to our first port of call – Belfast.