JW  and I started our Nordic adventure at the unearthly hour of 5.30 am on May 14th when our lovely daughter, Jennie, who  had nobly volunteered to drive us to the coach pick-up point arrived.

The coach arrived in good time and shortly after 6 am we set off in the company of 10  other travellers from Cardiff and 4 from Swansea. Our luggage was safely stowed under the coach and we trusted that the next time we saw it would be on board the ship.

As we had had such a magical cruise last year we decided to go with Page and Moy again. Unfortunately they were no longer using  the lovely Ocean Majesty and her friendly crew, but we hoped that Athena would impress us just as much and the destinations of Norway (a country I love) Iceland and the Faroes (countries which have long fired my imagination) decided us.

The first part of the journey promised  to be the  most  tedious part, across to Harwich on the East coast by a circuitous route picking up more passengers in Newport, Cheltenham and Oxford. I am not a very good coach traveller so cannot read to pass the time, but, I am a “night owl” and due to the early start had had very little sleep, so I passed the time sleeping between stops and suddenly we were travelling through Essex.

We arrived at the port  soon after 2 pm and there was Athena, looking very trim and inviting, except that she wasn’t quite ready for us!


She had been held up in the Kiel Canal on her previous cruise, and the schedules are so tight now that they have no room for delays. We were so lucky in the 1960s when I worked on Bergensfjord and had a minimum of two days in port , now they have just a few hours between cruises.

We had to wait, (impatiently) for about an hour. In this time we were entertained by a pipe band. Yes, I know, this was an Essex port, a Portugese registered ship and an English travel company but this was a Scottish pipe band. I guess there must be a strong Scottish presence in Harwich and I like pipe bands!

When we eventually began the embarkation it was not the leisurelyamble aboard of last year, but it was still easier than boarding an aircraft these days. No shuffling through customs minus shoes and clutching transparent plastic bags with our toiletries on show.

Unfortunately we had another hiccup as they had changed our cabin at the last minute, so I was not in the best of moods and began to wonder if we had made a terrible mistake, but by the next morning after the sea had had its usual soporific effect on me and I had had a very good night’s sleep, I was feeling more optimistic, after all we were travelling to my favourite country, the sea was smooth and the sun was out.