Madhusudan Narayanan, 34, planning services director, Mindshare Fulcrum, Mumbai, went on an eight-day Norwegian fjords cruise. Narayanan and a colleague sailed for five days without their baggage, which the airline had lost, but happily lived off new purchases and the generosity of the ship’s crew.
Most people pick the Caribbean or Alaska, why did you choose this unusual cruise?
My company won these cruises and nominated us to go. We could have gone anywhere, but I thought Alaska is on the regular North American route, and I could go there any time. Norway’s fjords I am unlikely to visit in my normal working life, and glaciers and fjords seemed exciting. The cruise started in Amsterdam, went through Nordfjord and the city of Olden, Sognefjord and Flam, Storfjord and Alesund, and Bergen, which is surrounded by seven fjords.
Weren’t you freezing the whole time?
We went in August, the Norwegian summer. The ship is temperature controlled indoors, outdoors icy arctic winds blow. Still, I loved hanging out high on the 14th deck, where you can’t stand without holding onto the side rails. Cities like Bergen are warmed by the Gulf Stream and, anyway, it was not too cold for me since I’ve lived in Delhi and Rajasthan.
What was the service like onboard?
You get warm, efficient service. We discovered that this ship is not a casual place. It’s very European, and dinner was an elaborate affair with dress codes.
One day I was in the second seating, but in a fix. Sunday night is formal night, a tuxedo a must. My formal suit was lost with my baggage somewhere between Frankfurt and Amsterdam. I called the help desk. A pleasant Romanian lady perfectly understood the situation and sent a complimentary set of formal clothes to my stateroom in 15 minutes: tuxedo, two white shirts, trousers, bow tie, socks and shoes!
Who does a Nordic cruise like this cater to?
It’s mostly retired Europeans who take this cruise and they love the classical music and formal meals. Our table partners, for instance, were a couple from Malta, Joseph and Maria. Joe represents the peasant community of Malta at the European Union; Maria is a teacher. We became good friends and went for all major shows at the Celebrity Theater together.
Joe loved Paarl Kaufman, the celebrated Hollywood pianist, and took a picture and autograph at the end of her show. I personally liked the James Bond title tracks she played.
You signed up for an optional glacier trek. What was it like?
Our destination was the million-year-old Briksdal Glacier, which is part of the Jostedal Glacier National Park. We were part of a group of 30 glacier walk enthusiasts that first trekked an hour uphill to reach base camp and walked another two hours on ice. We were outfitted with helmet, crampons, pickaxes and ropes. A guide gave us basic safety instructions and tips on retaining balance on the ice. It was freezing. We periodically heard thundering roars due to moving ice. There were several crevasses atop the glacier, which go down thousands of feet. It was a bit scary, but easily one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.
A trek up the Briksdal Glacier Any other special moments?
Another memorable incident occurred on a train ride midway between Flam and Myrdal. The train stopped in the middle of the wilderness for a view of the waterfall. The passengers alighted for a closer look. Just as everyone turned to board the train, we heard music. Everyone was surprised to hear Nordic music. Suddenly, we spotted two girls dressed in traditional Nordic costumes dancing on top of the waterfall. It was an incredible sight in the wilderness and a truly innovative way to promote tourism.
(As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org)