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Review: Island Sky - Noble Caledonia

Cruise - Ocean Cruise

A Cruise to the White Sea

  • By SilverTraveller Paul-Gray

    5 reviews

  • Jun 2011
  • Solo
  • Getting to another destination
  • Outside

12 people found this review helpful

A CRUISE TO THE WHITE SEA with Nobel Caledonia on MS ISLAND SKY. 7-21 June 2011.



MS Island Sky is a small ship (100 passengers) built in 1992 and refurbished in 2010. It is comfortable, and my (single) cabin was the best cabin I have ever had in 25 years of cruising. There was even enough room for two people (for which of course it was designed!). The passengers were mostly over 60 with some well into their 80s, but all but a few were able to get about, and into the Zodiacs for shore landings. Food was about 3x, with some meals very good. Wine was free at meals and there were no gratuities to pay. Many passengers had cruised on Island Sky before (I had not), and quite obviously enjoyed its comforts and crew - a very popular ship. From those passengers with whom I conversed, almost all were on board for the White Sea part of the cruise-5 days. Very few cruises have been there, and, until recently,it was a closed area to all but a few Russians, and to the many Russians confined to the Gulags. The Monasteries we visited are only now getting back to their proper use, having been prison camps since the 1920s.



Our cruise started from Leith, and we were met at Edinburgh airport or the Waverley Station (Edinburgh) and bused over to the harbour. We sailed within two hours. First stop Lerwick (Shetland Isles) for brief visit to Jarlshof with 4000 years of habitation from neolithic to vikings,the site only discovered when a storm uncovered the remains in the early 20c. Having been there before, I visited the Town Hall, where there is some excellent 19c stained glass of Norse/Viking Kings and Queens. We then sailed over to Bergen for tours around the town and to Greig's home, and for a piano recital of some of his music in a special concert hall. We then cruised up the coast of Norway calling in to many small towns and villages which larger ships cannot enter. We were able to land and climb the Torgatten, an extraordinary hill with a large hole in it; sadly we had approached it from the "wrong" side so the hole was only apparent when we climbed up to the cave; and by chance as we left, when I happened to be on deck with my camera. (See photo). One evening over dinner we entered the Trollfjord, a very narrow inlet off the main fjord; at its narrowest you could almost touch the sides of the fjord— but not quite , unlike the Corinth Canal where you can! We crossed the Arctic Circle, the Captain circumnavigating the little island on which the markers are placed. We called in to Tromso where there was a small welcoming party as we were the first cruise ship to tie up on their new quay. The Norwegian Royal Yacht was tied up there too! Tromso has the most Northerly brewery in the world, so, as a CAMRA member, I had to visit the "brewery tap" to try out three beers, which for less than a pint cost £11!!



Everything is very expensive in Norway. We cruised past North Cape and entered the Barrents Sea and Murmansk. Noble Caledonia had allowed 4 hours to clear immigration but it still took 2 1/2 hours! In Murmansk we visited a church, War Memorial, cemetary with some war (WW2) graves, a shipping museum. It is a depressing city with ghastly blocks of flats, most of which were in appalling condition. Then into the White Sea and for two days in the Solovetsky Islands with the monasteries. We visited three which are being restored. The newly painted icons are rather garish. The main churches are not in normal use, but on Sunday we saw a procession of clergy and people which wound around the Kremlin (the fortified monastery), and I was able to take a peep at the church which is used for services. We also visited a small island nearby, which has a very small wooden chapel built on the orders of Peter the Great. Another church we visited is at the top of a hill, and we walked through gardens started by monks and continued by prisoners during the 1930s. Then we sailed to Archangel for a tour of the city and to an outdoor museum of wooden houses, a windmill, church and farm buildings. These have been well restored and our guides wore traditional costumes, and also spoke very good English. The next day we had a very early start for the 0700 flight to Moscow, a city tour including of course Red Square. The place was packed with tourists, the first we had seen in large numbers during the whole holiday. After a good lunch in a restaurent with a good view of the Kremlin, we were driven over to the airport for flight back to UK. Two parties from our number were doing extensions to St. Petersburg and in Moscow. It was an excellent holiday; the ships company was good, and the cruise staff and lecturers were good and helpful. Zodiac landings were nearly all to makeshift jetties, and wellington boots, which we were told to bring, were not required.



 

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • Jenty
    almost 7 years ago
    I did the same cruise in June 2012, and agree with most of Paul Gray's comments. Our crossing from leith to Lerwick was rough enough to cause seasickness among some passengers, and on the way we took part in a search and rescue operation for 2 missing divers (who were found ok). The expedition to the North cape was blighted by poor weather - rain and mist. I didn't go, as I'd been previously in perfect weather! Our itinerary included the Lofoten Islands, which are stunningly beautiful, and the Briksdalen Glacier, which can be reached on foot, or by little tractors called Trollcarts.

    I'd give the dining experience 5 stars, and on our expedition, wellies were definitely needed for some landings.