A 10-day trip in and out of Copenhagen, Denmark – with a 7-day Norway Disney Cruise in the middle. Travelers included 4 families – 7 adults with 7 kids from 8 months to 12 years old. (June 2015)
Before reading, it’s important to note a few things:
- This trip would not have happened without my generous in-laws, who took us on this jaw-dropping excursion. We are spoiled.
- This is not a review of a Disney Cruise, or cruising in general (saving that for a later post) – it’s just a snapshot of breathtaking Norway from the ports of call that we visited.
- If you visit Norway in June, don’t expect to be warm. And even the grayest skies will not take away from the gorgeous Norwegian landscape.
Days 1/2 – St. Paul to Copenhagen, Denmark
Technically, a day is lost in travel. We flew the red-eye and arrived in Paris without much sleep at 6 AM. After a short layover, we landed in Copenhagen mid-morning. If you aren’t able to sleep much on the flight over, this day is a bit of a wash. We had a bunch of kiddos with us too, so we walked around near our hotel, ate a late lunch and took a hop-on/hop-off bus tour (a great way to see the city if you are awake). These pictures of Copenhagen were taken by my husband since I was either sleeping (on the bus) or napping (at our hotel):
The boys climbed to the top of The Church of Our Savior – also known as “The Spire” – 400 steps up to the top of a tower with one of the best views of Copenhagen. Yep, our family likes to climb stuff.
I laid on the grass at the bottom fighting to keep my eyes open while my daughter ate some ice cream.
Day 3 – Board ship / at sea
If you’re going on a Disney Cruise, this is generally when the fun begins. But our fun began the previous evening when our youngest claimed his tummy hurt – and then proceeded to vomit for the next 8 hours. Waking up to comfort him every 45 minutes, my mind wondered these 3 things: 1) how are we going to board a cruise ship with a sick kid tomorrow? . . 2) I wonder where the nearest hospital is . . . and 3) oh shit: we are all going to get sick.
There is a little sheet every passenger must complete before boarding a cruise ship. It asks a few questions, including: Has anyone in your party vomited, had a fever or diarrhea in the past 3 days? I won’t bore you with the details of my big ‘ol L-I-E, but we obviously got on the ship with our recovering sickie in tow. Please don’t judge.
Day 4 – Stavanger, Norway
On a port day, the ship usually arrives in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. People scurry about to different pre-determined excursions, or stay on the ship to enjoy other activities. My husband, myself and the tween signed up for the Pulpit Rock hike from Stavanger. Locally known as Preikestolen, this cliff juts far out into the picturesque Lysefjord, and is accessible via a 5 mile roundtrip hike. Behold:
We were so looking forward to this particular excursion.
Well. Rewind to Day 3. As soon as the youngest was feeling better, the remaining 4 of us fell like dominoes. First the tween . . . then, my daughter . . . then (in the middle of the night and unbeknown to each other), my husband and myself. Needless to say, not all of us had recovered by the time the excursion left at 7am on Day 4 (insert crying emoji here).
I did have a middle-of-the-night epiphany: Look on the bright side! You are in a beautiful location, the un-sick will be entertained, and other people have been paid to clean up after you. I felt briefly comforted.
I physically felt too awful to be upset about missing the hike, but had some serious FOMO three hours later when I could finally stand upright. The silver lining was that our son felt OK to go and will always remember this hike with his Grandpa and Aunt.
The rest of us, low on energy, wandered around Stavanger on a chilly blue day like zombies from the Walking Dead. Zombies who got great photos of cobblestone streets, cute shops, bicycles, fishing boats, and old churches. The worst was behind us.
Day 5 – Alesund, Norway
The ship sailed into the town of Alesund early in the morning. We were invited to a special viewing on the deck as the ship approached. Here we all are looking warm:
Alesund was my favorite stop on the trip. Everyone was finally healthy, in a good mood and ready for adventure – together. Our cruise excursion wasn’t until the afternoon, so we took advantage of the time and walked the 418 steps to the Fjellstua viewpoint (more climbing!). The trail to the top of Mount Aksla is mostly paved and easy to follow – with guardrails and resting points for those who need to catch their breath. One could also take a bus to the top, but the ever-improving view along the way is worth it. Here are some images from our walk:
Even on a cloudy day the view from the top is stunning:
We wandered back down and boarded the bus for our excursion to the Aquarium. This was a perfect family stop and all ages were entertained. There is a touch-and-see room for close-up examination of wildlife – and a large saltwater tank that is mesmerizing. The whole building is integrated into the natural landscape with outdoor views of the surrounding islands and ocean. Our kids spent most of their time outside, looking at seals and soaking up the grounds. They could not resist scrambling around on the adjacent trails and rocks.
Our excursion included a drive through town and up to the viewpoint again. The ride was narrated by the cutest Norwegian woman who told stories and pointed out Alesund’s art nouveau architecture. I remember her also talking about cheese. Someone was tired.
Since we had already seen the view, we chose to hike one of the several footpaths at the top. So green and gorgeous – it felt like we were in a fairytale.
Day 6 – Geiranger, Norway
The weather in Geiranger was rainy and gray. This tiny tourist village is nestled at the head of the fjord with a backdrop of green, snow-capped mountains. Words cannot describe the beauty, so I won’t try.
Our excursion was a kayak trip to view waterfalls and the surrounding fjord. It was cold, wet and windy.
Paddling was tough against the wind, but we persevered.
We had another viewing on the ship’s deck as we sailed back out to sea – catching a glimpse of Seven Sisters waterfall (did not get a good picture) and breathing in the crisp Norwegian air.
Day 7/8 – Bergen, Norway / at sea
We did not sign up for a pre-planned excursion in Bergen. Our plan was to roam: take in the sights and tastes of the city, poke around in shops and markets. Here we are wandering:
How quickly we adults forget that this “non-plan” route does not work well with kids. How much longer are we going to be in this store? Where are we going next? Do we have to keep walking around out here? I’m cold. When our answers and distractions don’t work, they turn to their own entertainment – which generally includes a mix of tag and bickering. Here’s a cute photo I took right before things got aggressive.
We are selfish – we wanted to enjoy Bergen without a barrage of questions and constant refereeing. So, we did what most loving parents do in this type of situation. We got rid of them (again, do not judge). We walked back to the ship, ate some lunch, and settled them in one of the theaters for an afternoon viewing of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. At least Thor could fill them in on Norse gods and culture, right?
We had at least 2+ hours to ourselves. So we roamed around. We visited the fish market along the wharf and ate a moose/elk burger from a street vendor. We stopped into every shop and gallery in Bryggen and bought some souvenirs. It was lovely.
We rode the Floibanen funicular up Mount Floyen and took selfies – another spectacular view – before boarding the ship for our last day at sea.
Day 9 – Disembark / Copenhagen, Denmark
With the magic of Disney left on the ship, it was up to us to create our own fun for our last day together in Copenhagen. I was well-rested this time. We chose to visit Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest operating theme park in the world. From the outside, one can only imagine what is inside; the park is surrounded by city buildings and storefronts.
Upon entering, I was blown away. It is truly a European gem – a mix of old and new – balancing nature and man-made attractions beautifully. Mature gardens with vibrantly colored flowers and large green spaces for relaxing are spread throughout the park. There are buildings in different styles, band stands and sitting areas, restaurants and cafés.
There are also roller coasters, carousels and ice cream!
Tivoli is a difficult place for large groups with various ages to be together – there are so many shiny things to distract the kids, and everyone wants to go in different directions. Despite that, we had a wonderful last day of vacation there. Everyone was happy and exhausted. And ready to head home.
Day 10 – Travel home