Copenhagen to Stockholm
July 8-26, 2022
Mike and Judy Henderson
Our hopes of taking a cruise along the coast of Norway were thwarted by the Covid pandemic for two years in a row. When we tried to rebook in 2022, it had already filled up. This cruise looked like an interesting alternative, giving us Norway and the Baltic states.
Turns out, maybe it's a good thing we took this one. The other cruise (cancelled twice) went to Archangel, Murmansk and the Solovetski Islands, all of which are in Russia, and none of which will be visited because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine - four days of the cruise. This next map was the original cruise. I had been very interested in seeing Murmansk and Archangel.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that original cruise had been changed (map below). All of the Russian ports were eliminated and a bunch were added in Scotland and England. I'm happy with the cruise we finally chose.
July 4, 2022 (Monday) We received a bit of a surprise today. SAS pilots had gone on strike and our non-stop flight from LAX to Copenhagen was cancelled. I immediately called Jennifer, our travel agent, but there wasn't much she could do because it was the Fourth of July. She told us that she'd get on it immediately the next morning.
We contacted Jean and Janet, who are taking the trip with us. They were planning to fly from Portland to Orange County the next morning. After discussion, they agreed that they'd still come, expecting that we'll eventually have a flight to Copenhagen.
July 5, 2022 (Tuesday) When I woke up this morning and checked my iPhone, I had a message on the SAS app. They had re-booked Judy and me on a British Air flight to London (LHR), with a five hour layover, and then an SAS flight to Copenhagen (CPH). This gave us a late arrival in Copenhagen, about 8pm, Copenhagen time.
Jean and Janet, however, are booked on an Air France flight to Paris, and then on to Copenhagen. Their flight arrangements are better, with a short layover in Paris, and they are scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen about 1pm.
Jennifer spent the morning making sure that Regent was aware of the new flight arrangements so that we would be met at the airport by the transfer people, to take us to the hotel. She could not get us all on the same flight - there were just no business class seats available.
We picked up Janet and Jean at the Orange County airport, and they'll stay with us tonight.
We took our dogs, Annie and Lizzie, to boarding. They seem to enjoy boarding, and we're happy to see them run into the building - no hesitation at all.
July 6, 2022 (Wednesday) When we got up this morning, we each took one of the at-home COVID tests to make sure we were negative. We were. This was a major relief. A positive COVID test would prevent one of us from boarding the ship. We have to do the "official" test at the airport but we can now feel certain that we'll test negative.
The limo is to pick us up at 9am today and we have an appointment at 10:00 for a COVID test at the airport. We need a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to boarding the ship (on July 8), so we have the tests scheduled at LAX today, before departure.
Here we are prior to departing for the airport - Janet, Jean, Judy and me. Lynn was with us to see us off and took this picture.
The limo arrived early and our trip to the airport was uneventful. The driver dropped us off at terminal 6 arrivals (not departures) because the COVID test station was in the parking area across from terminal 6. Luckily, there were only a few people there, and we got our tests quickly. Less than an hour later, we all received a negative test result. That was the last obstacle to our trip. We are now cleared to board the ship and do not need a test to return to the United States.
Regent has announced that as of August 1, 2022, they will not require a COVID test for boarding any of their ships. That's not unresonable - COVID is part of life now. It's almost certain that some people will test negative but were exposed and develop COVID on ship. And we will all be going on excursions where some of us will get exposed to COVID and take it back to the ship.
I'm sure that the threat of being denied boarding is a problem for some people. They would have paid for everything and have their suitcases packed, then test positive 72 hours before boarding. For most people who have been vaccinated and boosted, COVID is no more than a cold, and it clears up in a few days.
The Bradley International terminal was busy, but not excessively so - about the same as other times we've traveled internationally.
Janet and Jean checked in with Air France and came over to find us as we waited for BA to open their check-in counter. When I took this picture I said that I wanted a picture of them in case we never saw them again:-) Their flight leaves about 1:15pm.
They left, cleared security easily and went to their lounge. Their flight took off generally on time.
Just before takeoff, they sent me a couple of pictures. It looks like they have nice, comfortable seats.
Judy and I had to wait until 12:30 when British Air opened their check-in counter. We had TSA/Pre and Clear so we breezed through security and went to the lounge. Judy took this picture of me at the entrance of the lounge.
About 4pm, we went to the gate, and boarded at 4:30. We took off on time, shortly after 5pm.
This aircraft is a Boeing 777-300 and has a lot of business class seats - must be over 50 business class seats.
The seats are very nice, and well laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. I didn't notice any empty seats, but there may have been a couple. The economy section is laid out 2-4-2.
Judy and I are in the center (2) seats so we can talk. A very unusual feature of these seats is that they have a sliding door to the aisle, which offers some privacy as you sleep. First time I've seen that in a business class seat. You can see the door handle just to the left of Judy's right shoulder.
The flight was ten hours, and neither Judy nor I were able to sleep very much.
July 7, 2022 (Thursday) We arrived at Heathrow, terminal 5, about 11am local time, where we went through passport control. From there, it was a LONG walk to baggage claim. BA at LAX was not able to check our bags through to Copenhagen, so we had to retrieve our bags and take them to terminal 2 where SAS is located. It took quite a while for our bags to show up on the carrousel. We could see with the Air Tags that they had arrived at Heathrow, which limited our anxiety.
Then we had to search for the train that goes from terminal 5 to terminals 2 and 3. At terminal 2, we were able to check in with SAS, including our bags. Finally, we walked to the OneWorld lounge, arriving there at 2pm. It took us three hours to be ready for our next flight. Changing terminals at Heathrow is a real mess.
We received a text from Janet and Jean. They arrived in Copenhagen on schedule but their luggage didn't make the connection in Paris. They completed the "lost baggage" paperwork but if their luggage doesn't show up before we sail, I don't know what happens. This is deja vu for Janet. She was with us on the Morocco tour, where our baggage was lost for six days.
Judy and I were able to relax in the lounge,and have some light snacks. Eventually, about 4:15pm, they announced the gate for our flight to Copenhagen and we headed there and boarded about 4:30pm, with a departure at 5pm.
The plane is an Airbus A-320, an all-economy flight, but it was only about two hours. Judy and I did not have anyone in the center seat, but that was just the luck of the draw.
While we were waiting for our luggage in Copenhagen, we were able to use the "Find my" function on the iPhones to see where the air tags were. They were in the Copenhagen airport so we knew our luggage would eventually show up on the carrousel, and it did.
Side note: Air Tags are devices sold by Apple and only work with Apple smartphones. They're perhaps the size of a fat fifty-cent coin and cost about $25. For use as a luggage tracker, you just put the Air Tag inside your luggage.
They are battery operated and each Air Tag has a unique number - they probably use the Bluetooth mac address. When ANY iPhone comes within about 30 feet of the Air Tag, the Air Tag communicates with the iPhone and gives its unique number to that iPhone. The iPhone has GPS built in, so it has its location. That iPhone then communicates to Apple and gives the unique number of the Air Tag, and the location when it communicated to the iPhone. Apple then communicates with the owner's iPhone and reports the location so the owner can see where the Air Tag is located. The battery in the air tag will last about a year, and is a standard battery that can be replaced by the owner.
Effectively, the installed base of Apple iPhones are used to locate and report the location of these Air Tags. They've become very popular for tracking luggage.
The Air Tags have been very good for Janet and Jean because there have been reports that their bags are being shipped, but the Air Tags show that the bags are still in Paris. While that does not help them get their bags, it allows them to manage their expectations.
End of side note.
Then we went looking for the Regent transfer people, but they were nowhere to be found. After all we had been through, I was in no mood to wait, so we took a taxi, and arrived at the hotel about 10pm. I got a receipt and I'll present it to Regent for reimbursement. (Regent did give us a ship credit for the taxi cost.)
Check in at the hotel was quick and easy. The hotel is nice, but basic.
That was the end of our travel day. Travel is getting more challenging every time we go.
July 8, 2022 (Friday) Judy and I both got a good night's sleep - I guess from being fatigued from yesterday.
We met Janet and Jean for breakfast. They have still not received their luggage and their Air Tags indicate their bags are still in Paris.
By a strange coincidence, Dianne and Philip, two old friends of Judy's who were on an extended European trip, happened to be in Copenhagen at a hotel directly across the street, and came to visit. Here's Dianne, Philip, Jean and Judy in the lobby, during their visit.
Eventually, our bus arrived and we boarded for the half hour trip to the ship.
At the dock, we had to present our COVID tests and received a red wrist band to indicate we had been tested. Then we went to a station where we were asked a number of questions about our possible exposure to someone with COVID, and our temperature was taken.
Finally we went to another station where we presented our vaccination cards and received our room keys. That allowed us to board the ship.
A front desk person told us that there were about 400 passengers on the ship. The ship has 377 suites and a capacity of 750 guests. Regent limited the number of passengers because of COVID but did not fill the ship to its limit. The front desk person told us that some guests cancelled at the last minute, probably because of their fear of contracting COVID.
The Seven Seas Splendor is the newest Regent ship and it is lovely. I tried to take a picture of the ship from the dock.
We had time for lunch before the suites were ready. Then it was time to move in. It's quite a suite. It's large, with an extra-sized veranda, and a large walk-in closet. The bathroom is amazing for a cruise ship. It's large, with two sinks, a bathtub and a separate shower. Many hotel bathrooms aren't that large. Many of the electrical outlets are 120 volts, making things convenient for the American traveler. There are also 220 volt outlets for European travelers.
There's a coffee maker and small refrigerator in the room. There's a nice work space (where I'm sitting now) with desk level power plugs. There's a sofa in the sitting area. The Internet access is okay - I purchased the "premium" Internet access ($180 for the trip). Some pictures:
The light in the closet goes on when you open the door. If the motion of the ship makes the sliding door close while you're in there, the light does go off. But it's not hard to find the door.
The only weakness I've found so far is that they don't have a night light in the bathroom. With the age of their clients, you'd think that would have been recognized.
Side comment about cruise ships: When we were on the Antarctic cruise with Silversea, they made a presentation on their new ship, the Silver Nova. They emphasized all the features of the public areas and dining, but there was nothing mentioned about any changes to the suites. My opinion is that travelers are more interested in the features of the suite than the features of the public areas, especially for older travelers, which are the bulk of both Silversea and Regent's business.
Younger travelers may want a climbing wall, or a zip line on the ship, and view the ship as a destination, itself. But for us, a cruise is just the transportation to the places we'll visit, and a place to have dinner. The features of the suite are much more important than the features of the public areas because we'll spend more time in the suite than in the public areas. Of course, we want nice public areas but the ship is not a destination to us.
Based on that, for us, the design approach Regent has taken is a better approach.
End of side comment.
Regent had a "Sail Away" get together on deck 11 as we left the dock. There was a small band playing, the bar on the deck was open, and appetizers were offered.
There were a few more administrative things to take care of for excursions, and after that it was time for dinner.
That was the end of our day.
July 9, 2022 (Saturday) We're just sailing today, heading toward an area north of Bergen, Norway.
Judy and I did not sleep much last night - it's the second night trip problem - we were up about 4:30am. At 6:00 we went looking for some breakfast and found the "Coffee Connection", which was set up with some light breakfast items.
At 8:00am, Judy went to the spa for a massage and I joined Janet and Jean for breakfast. There's still no update on their luggage and the Air Tags still indicate that they are in the Paris airport.
I offered them each a pair of pants and shirt of mine, but only Janet took me up, asking for a pair of pants for the upcoming hike, and some socks. I delivered the clothes later with a promise that I would not make any jokes about her trying to get into my pants.
At 10:00am we went to a lecture on the history of Norway, and at 11:00am I went to a get-together for military veterans (but no one showed up).
The sea has been fairly calm, but the ship is rocking a small amount. The sun is shining and it's somewhat cool outside.
After lunch with Janet and Jean, Judy and I took a long nap.
The Captain's Welcome Reception was held in the Constellation Lounge this evening at 6pm. Here we are with the Captain, Felice Patruno. It's too bad he's wearing a mask.
There was a band playing as we entered the Lounge.
The Captain came on stage and gave us a short talk about the cruise.
Then he brought his senior staff to the stage and introduced each one.
After this, we went to the Chartreuse Restaurant for dinner.
That was the end of our "Day at Sea".
July 10, 2022 (Sunday) We will arrive at Hellesylt this morning for an excursion walk to Geiranger.
Judy and I slept the entire night last night, so I suppose we're getting time adjusted. The ship was entering the fjord just as we awoke this morning. The ship is a bit behind schedule because of heavier-than-expected seas yesterday. We were supposed to be at Hellesylt at 8:30 am but will probably not arrive until nearly 10am. Hellesylt is not shown on this map, but is close to Geiranger.
As expected, we arrived at Hellesylt about 10:00am. The four of us had signed up for the Geiranger and Mt. Flo excursion. It was advertised as a 4-mile hike, but we were soon to learn the reality.
We met in the Constellation Lounge at 10:15.
We loaded the bus about 10:30 and met our guide, Emilio. He's from Argentinian Patagonia, and has a lot of enthusiasm, but has a strong accent, making it difficult for me to understand him.
We drove to Vollset where the Flo trail started. Here's some information that I was able to find on the web about the trail. And a map showing the route of the trail and the elevation. The trail is actually 10km, which is about 6 miles, not 4 miles as advertised in the Regent documentation.
The starting point, at Volsetter Farm, is at 1256 feet, and the highest point is 1831 feet, giving an altitude gain of only 575 feet, over perhaps 7 to 8 km. However, the descent is from 1831 feet to 713 feet, giving an altitude loss of 1,118 feet, over only 2 - 3km, which is fairly steep.
[Update: I noticed that Regent has this hike listed for future version of this cruise. However, they start the hike at the town of Flo and hike to the Volsetter Farm. The advantage is that the hikers will be going "up" the steep part of the trail instead of down (down is more difficult) and they'll do it when they are fresh. Probably a good change. I'm glad we did this hike - it's something I remember from the cruise.]
In addition, we were expecting the hike to be 4 miles, so we kept looking for the end of the trail as soon as we reached the 4 mile mark. I have an Apple watch which I can use to monitor distance, so we were able to accurately monitor how far we had walked.
The weather is cool but not cold, and no rain is expected. Norway gets a lot of rain so we're thankful for the clear, sunny day.
Here the group the Volsetter Farm, prior to starting the hike.
And we're off!
Here are Janet, Jean and Judy starting out.
There was a lot of amazing landscape along the trail. More pictures later.
This area received more than normal snowfall this past winter, and it's still melting off the mountains. The streams that carry the water down the mountains were a torrent. A lot of the trail was along one of the streams.
Here are Jean, Judy and me as we were crossing one of the bridges across the stream.
And the photographer, with camera.
The group was varied in hiking experience and ability, so it spread out quickly, with the fastest people moving ahead and the slower people stringing out along the trail. Jean and Judy were toward the end of the group, and I stayed with them.
Emilio had a real challenge managing the group, having to run back and forth along the line of hikers. He had a lot of strength and energy. There were two young women who were tour guide friends of his, "riding drag" at the end of the line of hikers. They were friendly and they provided significant assistance to the people at the end of the group.
This entire part of Norway was shaped by glaciers during the ice age, so the valleys are deep with steep mountains on the sides, which had been scraped by glacier ice as it flowed downhill. Here's one mountain area which shows the barren exposed rock.
As the snow melts on the mountains, it flows down the side in small streams, which the Norwegians call "falls". There are many, many of these "falls" on the mountains.
A few trail scenes.
For a while, the trail ran tight against one of the mountains, with a steep drop-off to the side.
Near the end of this section of the trail, there was a large stream, with a small waterfall just to the side of the trail.
We came out onto a wide valley floor, dotted with what looked like vacation homes.
A better view of the valley floor.
Some of the mountains around the valley.
A view of one of the holiday homes in the valley. Note the sod roof. In early Norwegian history, home-builders learned that these roofs provided good insulation, and a good sod roof can last up to one hundred years.
The view forward on the trail. You can see the trail on the right side of the picture, near the fir trees. This proved to be the highest point on the trail. From here on, we were going down.
The problem with the down slope part of the trail was that it was steep. I find it hard on my legs to go downhill, and when the trail consists of fine gravel over rock, it's gets slippery.
We got down to an area where a stream was flowing across the trail. Someone said that there had been a bridge and it was washed out earlier in the year. It's possible - there was a pile of broken and battered wood on the side of the stream. You can see a bit of it in this next picture, at the far right.
Emilio was helping people across the stream, either by wading through the water, or walking across the log you can see just in front of the two people waiting to cross. Judy did not feel comfortable enough to walk across the slender slippery log, and I did not want to take a chance of falling in with my camera - so we both chose to wade through the water. I didn't take a picture of Judy crossing but she did take one of me. We just waded in, shoes and all. The water was flowing quickly, but it wasn't too deep.
Then Jean arrived at the stream and I was able to get a picture of her crossing.
Janet forded the stream before we did, but she provided this picture.
After walking a bit more, we were able to see Flo, the tiny settlement at the bottom of the mountain. But we were still very high and had a lot of downslope walking to do.
It was an impressive view looking down the fjord.
Judy took this picture of me before we headed down the trail. I want you to notice how steep the slope is here. Judy slipped and fell three times on the way down but, luckily, was not injured. It was really very slippery.
We did finally make it down to the bottom, where the bus was parked. Judy had a picture taken of her with Emilio, her victory over the trail picture.
We boarded the bus and headed to Stryn for lunch. The start of the excursion was delayed by the ship's late arrival so it was now about 2:30.
The secondary roads in Norway are very narrow - only one lane wide. There are "pull off" places every 500 or so meters and a driver will pull over to let oncoming traffic go by. Some tunnels are the same way. I want to stress that this next picture is of a road, and not a driveway.
Norway has many tunnels because of the high mountains and the fjords. They have tunneled through mountains and under the fjords. The discovery of oil off the coast of Norway (the North Sea fields) provided Norway with the money required to build these tunnels. Most of the tunnels were constructed in the 1980's or later.
I didn't think to take a picture of one of the really narrow tunnels. The picture below is of a two-lane tunnel. Many of the tunnels are quite long. We went through several which were 4km long.
Our lunch stop in Stryn was quick. We went to a restaurant which had long tables for 12 people, and as soon as we sat down, they began serving. They opened with a nice cream of asparagus soup, followed by the main of salmon with potatoes and zucchini. A variety of non-alcoholic drinks were offered.
As soon as everyone finished lunch we were back on the road, heading to Mount Dalsnibba located at the end of Geiranger Valley. To get to there, we went through a long tunnel through the mountains.
The road to the top of Mount Dalsnibba ends at a stunning lookout over the fjord.
This is a view of the fjord looking towards the town of Geiranger. You can just see the Regent Splendor ship at the end of the valley, as one of the two white dots in the water.
A telephoto shot of the ship.
A view of the valley in the other direction. Notice how much ice and snow remains - and in mid-July!
When we departed Mt. Dalsnibba we headed down the valley toward the ship.
We stopped at a lookout point on the way down to get some pictures of the valley and the ship.
The Regent Splendor at anchor in the fjord. We'll have to tender to the ship.
Janet at the lookout point.
I flubbed the picture of Jean and it was out of focus.
The tender was waiting for us at the dock.
A view inside the tender.
We had dinner at the Sette Mari Italian restaurant this evening.
And then to bed. It was a long, tiring day!
Our adventure continues here