I arrived into the Port of Tyne on Friday morning after a fabulous trip to Norway and Murmansk. I even have a certificate to prove I've crossed the Arctic Circle. What an experience! We saw beautiful scenery; enjoyed mixed weather from hot sunshine to thunder storms; met a wide range of people; and had a ball.
Our ship was the Marco Polo, and was originally a Soviet ship. It is 50 years old next year, and is going in for a refit in November to prepare it for a series of birthday cruises. We attended a fascinating talk on its history. It was designed to withstand ice, so it is actually a liner rather than a cruise ship, and has a reinforced hull. The crew were international; some were excellent, and others need customer service training. I'm going to write to Cruise and Maritime with detailed feedback - there's no point in moaning to other passengers about the things that need to be improved when only the company can put things right. Some passengers were critical of things that no one could control, like the weather. My criticisms relate to the attitude of one particular receptionist, and a few bar staff.
Our route was the same as that taken by the Arctic Convoys in WWII, and there were 3 veterans on board. We learned a lot from a guest lecturer about the Convoys. Many on the places we visited in Norway had been razed to the ground by the occupying Nazis as they retreated, and so the building were comparatively new. For anyone interested in history, Norway has centuries of it.
One of the highlights for me was meeting a fellow textile enthusiast at the Viking longhouse museum. She was spinning wool with a drop spindle. We got chatting, and I discovered that she and I had something else in common - MS. Unfortunately the photograph I took is blurred. She is a professional dyer, and told me how the Vikings dyed with woad. They used fermented urine - and you know it's fermented when it no longer smells - and placed the container with the wool, woad and urine in the centre of a horse dung heap because the temperature there is exactly right!
There was just the right balance of excursions and rest days to make this holiday ideal for someone with a condition like MS.