An entire region defined by the unique ebb and flow of seasons; shaped by handsome cliffs, glistening rivers, and mighty glaciers; and peppered with countless glorious panoramas – The Norwegian Fjords could well be mistaken for the Garden of Eden.
That’s all I could think of as our cruise ship pulled into Olden. Olden? Where?
This tiny village at the end of Nordfjord, Olden, is also known as the gateway to Norway’s glaciers. I must’ve spent an hour staring at the sublime landscape surrounding our cruise ship – Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas – when we first pulled into Olden. Here glacial lagoons surrounded by dramatic cliffs are punctuated by quaint cottages and bright green pastures.
“This is just the beginning” a fellow passenger whispered to me as I stood contemplating the dramatic landscape visible from the topmost deck of the ship over a cup of coffee. “Surely it can’t get prettier than this?” I mumbled! “Oh it does – this is my third time cruising the Norwegian Fjords, and I can tell you now – this is just the beginning” he smiled knowingly.
And so it was. Over the next one week, we witnessed countless panoramas straight out of fairy-tales at 4 ports – Olden, Flam, Alesund, and Stavanger. We marvelled at valleys peppered with delightful hamlets at Naeroyfjord, hiked up the frozen Briksdal Glacier, experienced one of the prettiest and steepest train rides in the world in Flam, hopped between tiny islands at Alesund, ran out of words at UNESCO protected fjords and some of the prettiest natural sites in the world, and spent an entire day walking through the historic and incredibly romantic cobble-stoned alleys of Stavanger.
[box] But the best part was sitting in the balcony of our cabin and drinking in all that Norway has to offer. Every morning we would stare as our ship sailed past the Norwegian Fjords swathed in dreamy fog as we sipped on our cups of coffee. Every once in a while a cloud would come floating into our balcony as we nibbled on breakfast.[/box]
Evenings were no different. Since we were so close to the Arctic Circle in the month of June, the sun would set only at midnight (they don’t call it the Land of the Midnight Sun for nothing!) We spent most nights contemplating the beauty of Norwegian sunsets from our cabin’s balcony over mojitos. The sun would set at midnight but the bluish twilight continued till 3 am – aah gorgeosity!!
As far as ships go, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is a gorgeous vessel. We’ve been on 6 cruises in the past 4 years, but this would have to be our favourite ship so far. Explorer of the Seas has recently been refurbished and boasts of a mini-golf course, a rock-climbing wall, and surf simulator in addition to usual facilities like hot tubs, pools, and spas. But the pièce-de-résistance is the open-air cinema on the topmost deck of the ship. After all who can argue with watching a film while soaking in a hot tub under the Norwegian sky?!
The cabins are spacious and well-equipped with towels, toiletries, fresh fruits, and snacks. We were chuffed to see electric kettles in each cabin (a rarity on cruise ships!). Cabins are serviced twice daily and stewards ensure you have the best possible holiday. Room service is free for all guests, so you indulge yourself all you want without leaving your cabin. I have to admit the views from our balcony seduced us into spending quite a few evenings holed up in our cabin with enough food and drink to feed an army 🙂
Of course, it would be a crime to limit oneself to the food on the room service menu – after all, the variety of dining options are always the highlight of a cruise holiday. Explorer of the Seas has a vast buffet restaurant,Windjammer, for expansive breakfasts and lunches. There’s nothing you won’t find here. Dozens of breakfast cereals, fresh fruits, fresh juices, salads, breads, pastries, meats, tea, coffee, and shakes are on offer from 6.30 am – 11.30 am. Lunch comprises cold cuts, cheeses, breads, flatbreads from around the world, curries, bakes, meats, pastas, salads, fruits, and dozens of desserts.
If you get the munchies at an odd time of the day, soft serve ice-cream is available 24X7 in addition to drinks such as lemonade at no extra cost. Cafe Promenade on Deck 5 has a large variety of snacks, fruits, and desserts available for guests throughout the day (and night).
The promenade area resembles an American high street with shops selling perfumes, duty-free goods, jewellery, sunglasses, and everything in between. I loved the fact that we could buy Starbucks Coffee (yay, I hate bog-standard filter coffee and this was a pleasant revelation!) and Ben n Jerrys ice-cream (peanut-butter cup and chocolate anyone?) on board Explorer of the Seas – a small yet thoughtful touch.
Sit-down dinners at the Sapphire Dining Room were a right delight – well-thought out menus complimented with an excellent selection of wine were the highlight of dinners on Explorer of the Seas. Stand-out dishes included Aubergine Tartare (great option for vegetarians!), snails in garlic herb butter, banana crème brûlée, and Elderberry mousse. We opted for a table overlooking the sea so we had an excellent view of the Norwegian Fjords every night. That might be why we chose to linger on in the dining room, over wine and cheese, almost every night.
On my birthday, we decided to sample one of the speciality restaurants on board. Izumi, the Japanese restaurant on Explorer of the Seas, is the on 15th deck. It affords an amazing view of the ship and the surrounding sea. But it’s the food, not the view, that is the true hero here. The rich gyoza dumplings, filled with pork and cabbage were slick and satiating. The assorted sashimi platter and the truffle lobster tempura roll were the stuff of dreams. We also tried cooking our own seafood on a steaming hot rock, ishiyaki – Vid cooked succulent scallops and perfectly-marinated prawns on the table (video coming up soon 🙂 ). We wrapped up the meal with a platter of Mochi ice-cream in 3 traditional flavours – green tea, strawberry, and mango. The outer shell, made of sticky rice, is what makes this quintessential Japanese ice-cream unique. Make sure you try it.
Every single dish at Izumi was garnished to perfection with micro herbs and fried noodles. If you’ve been reading Bruised Passports for a while, you would know I love well-presented food. At Izumi, the kaleidoscope of flavours on the plate were presented in an almost poetic fashion. The exquisite attention to detail made the dishes seem like edible art – highly recommended!
We wound up our cruise holiday with a delectable Italian meal at Giovanni’s, the other speciality restaurant on board Explorer of the Seas. The meal kicked off with flavourful scallops cooked in a garlic butter sauce with a dash of lemon juice. For dinner, I had scrumptious herb-encrusted prawns while Vid opted for veal tenderloin, cooked to perfection. The rustic Italian meal was accompanied by a bottle of Chianti, which transported us to the vineyards of Tuscany within seconds. Dessert was homemade tiramisu and cannoli with chocolate rum cream which was brought out in a dessert cart :-). Just writing about it now is making me VERY hungry 😉
Rest assured, it won’t be very long before we find ourselves on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship again – after all, who can say no to a holiday that boasts of delectable food, caters to all your needs, helps you unwind at a spa, gives you the time to soak in a hot tub and relish 5 course meals every night, and drops you off at a new and exotic destination everyday…….who?
- Cruises to the Norwegian Fjords stop at some of the prettiest destinations in the world. As far as cruise ports go, this itinerary is as good as it gets.
- The weather is unpredictable and it can be quite chilly even in the summer. So sunbathing isn’t exactly a possibility unless you go in July-August.
- Explorer of the Seas is a gorgeous ship – the highlights, for us, included the open air cinema, 24 hour hot tubs, surf simulator, and the rock-climbing wall.
- Free Room Service means you can have a cup of tea or snack at odd hours. Score!!
- Opt for a sea-facing table at Sapphire Dining Room if you go on a cruise on Explorer of the Seas
- You MUST eat at Izumi, the speciality Japanese restaurant, if you book a holiday on Explorer of the Seas. The food is magnificent, to say the least!
- Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas starts in Southampton, a short train-ride away from London. We found this incredibly convenient – no flights, no fuss!
- Prices start at £600/person for an inside cabin. More details on www.royalcaribbean.co.uk
Follow our adventures on Instagram| Facebook| Youtube| Twitter|Pinterest
Curious about cruises? Read all our articles on Cruises here
Booked a cruise holiday? Read our article on packing for a cruise holiday
Never been on a cruise? Read more about why we love cruise holidays
Going to Scandinavia? Here’s our handy packing list
Going on your first cruise vacation? Check out tips and tricks to explore cities on cruise holidays
42 thoughts on “Our adventure on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas”
Dear Savi and Vid,
Thank you so much for this fantastic travel blog so well put together. I don’t think it can get any better than this.
Best wishes ahead as you plan on travelling the world over.
We’re so happy you enjoyed reading this post Mangal – we had so much fun putting the photos together 🙂
God bless you both!!!Enjoy .You both are really daring to take such a big step of quitting jobs and going to fulfill your dreams and passion.
hope Someday i learn to live like you both.u ppl rock !!!!! 😀
Thanks Pooja – it took a lot of courage to take the first step, but we feel strangely empowered now 🙂
Wow, these photos are beautiful! I have always wanted to go to Norway as I have heard from friends that have visited how beautiful it is, and every time I see new photos of people’s trips it just makes me want to visit more! Don’t get me started on the food either… You look stunning all dressed up too!
Hayley-Eszti | http://www.hayleyeszti.com
Thanks Hayley – safe to say we came back with a LOT of holiday weight 😉
What an amazingly peaceful looking place. My mum and dad visited Norway years ago and sailed across the North Sea. They were both struck with seasickness. How did you find your voyage? I should think on a ship that size you wouldn’t feel much movement at all though.
You’re right Linda – we didn’t feel movement at all. The North Sea is usually a bit more turbulent compared to the Mediterranean Sea but our journey was smooth all along 🙂
Savi, Vid – that was such a fantastic post. I’m amazed how gorgeous the nature in Norway is. I’ve seen many different corners of that country in documentaries and on friends photos. And every time it makes me want to visit the country. One could seriously doubt it really exists, since the views are like taken from a movie set. 🙂
Loved your date night outfits & how cute you are together.
Waiting for you in Berlin,
Hey Luchessa – Thank you. Norway is absolutely stunning. What’s more, the population in most villages is so low that it’s easy to fool yourself into believing you own this wonderland 🙂
Oh my goodness that looks amazing! I’d love to do a cruise there too, I am yet to do one but I have been thinking about it! The food may have swayed me, yum! Beautiful images too Xx
Thanks Emma – you must give in to a cruise holiday. You will love it 🙂
The whole of this experience looks just spectacular, the ship is so gorgeous, and Norway and the Fjords is somewhere I would love to visit.
Thanks a ton – the ship was stunning. I can’t wait to cruise with Royal Caribbean again 🙂
This cruise is amazing!!! From the ship to all the destinations and views, every single picture is a WOW ❤️❤️❤️
I’m going to a cruise next November 🙂
Thanks a ton. Where are you going for your cruise holiday?
i definately want to go to norway after reading this amazing blog you certainly looked like u had fun
Thanks Elaine – Norway is such a stunning country 🙂
My od the view and the images!! Whenever I read your posts I am more than tempted to travel at all these amazing places you visit.!
P.S> I love your blue sparkly maxi dress!
Rashmi thanks a ton. It’s always good to hear from a fellow wanderluster 🙂
I love all the pictures. It’s such a cool experience being in a place that has a slightly different sun schedule. Wonderful post. 🙂
Lol 🙂 Yeah, the constant daylight did mess with our minds the first few days 😉
These scenic views of Norway are breathtaking. I especially love the Nærøy Valley. The Norwegian countryside and environment is so naturally spectacular and unique! Thanks for the post.
Completely agree with you, Emme 🙂
Great pictures guys
Thanks so much for putting this post together Guys, we’re traveling on the Explorer in a few weeks, and it was great to read your overview of the ship and facilities, we got some great tips too.
Thanks! Hope you have a great trip. Are you going to the Fjords? The Explorer was refurbished recently!
Hey Savi,Vid – Beautiful pictures!! It inspired me to finally book my flights to Norway! I have 6 days in Norway in September. We are interested in doing a road trip. Any suggestions on itineary ? Also any advice on car rentals, accommodations etc ?
Thanks a million Shilpa – you MUST send us photos from Norway 🙂 I’m guessing you’re driving The Atlantic Road. We usually check Auto Europe, a car-rental comparison website, for cheapest car rental deals. Here’s the link: http://www.autoeurope.co.uk/?aff=72009157. As for accommodation, we were on a cruise, so that was taken care of. But we’ve heard amazing things about log cabins in the countryside
I just love your photo. its absolutely stunning.
I would like to ask that what is best time to visit Norway.
It depends on what you want – if you’re after Northern Lights, go in winters (November – March). If you want to drive around and enjoy the stunning landscapes, summers (June-September) would be better 🙂
Hi Savi and Vid, i saw this picture that you guys took in Naeroy Valley (second in the article) LOVELY SHOT !!!
I wanted to know the exact location of the place where you took the pic from – was it a hike ?
Also when i search for Naeroy valley on google maps it doesn’t show up.
That photo was taken at Stalheimskleiva – if you are driving you can drive till Stalheim hotel and then you can go hiking 😀
Hope that helps
Hello Savi and Vid,
I am an avid reader of bruised passports and love each post each of your posts on Instagram. You guys have helped out a lot of travellers by having visited so many places, preparing beautiful itineraries and talking all small and big things about the places you touched. We are interested in taking one of the Royal Caribbean cruises (Independence of the seas) to go around the fjords. We would like to know if the food was included in the tickets that you purchased for explorer of the sea cruise. Also, how much was the overall expenditure for the 8 day trip to go around places in the arrived destinations? It would be a big help if you could provide us an estimate for these. Thank you so much! Keep up the good work 🙂
Hey yes food is included as part of the cruise tickets on Independence of the Seas (and on all ships for that matter). Of course there are some speciality restaurants where you have to pay an additional surcharge if you prefer to try a meal there. I’d say roughly 1500GBP per person for a balcony cabin including excursion costs. Of course this is a rough estimate and a LOT depends on how far in advance you booked the cruise, what excursions you take etc.
Hey! Wondering if P&O is any good? Did you consider them for your cruise to Norway?
Trying to find reviews about Royal versus P&O
Hey we haven’t really cruised with P&O so no first-hand experience. Did enjoy this cruise with Royal Caribbean though!
Its so much fun to read this. I work on a Royal Caribbean Ship as a Senior guest Services officer & i can truly understand your love for Izumi. The only thing I’ve missed the most during my pandemic break from Work was Izumi (& ofcourse the Money)
Hehe glad to know I am not alone 😉
Hi Guys, I am booked on the Anthem of the Seas this July for the Norwegian Fjords trip for 7days. I have been googling and Youtubing – but am unable to find reliable answers to two questions.
(1) July-August means “Summer” in Norway. What does that mean? How temperamental is the weather? Do I need my down jackets? Is wearing dresses (without woolen stockings) a possibility? Is it cold enough to demand wool covering the head/ears/neck or I can do well with a hat?
(2) I needed detailed shore excursion help – what to do and what can be missed, given the limited time on the shore. Does one book excursions beforehand – or they’re manageable on arrival?
I would be obliged if you can help me or write a post about this. There’s a lot of generic information available – but thing as specific and helpful as you two usually provide. Pretty please 🙂
Hey Janki – Yes it depends from week to week but summer in Norway can be quite warm, especially during the day. Also the ship is well heated, so you can be in shorts or dresses 🙂 However there are grey days and colder evenings, so definitely carry 1 down jackets and a couple of jumpers as well.
As for excursions, yes you should book them on the cruise as finding transport etc upon getting off is often hard. You will get information about excursions in your cabin when you board – try to choose the ones you want and book them early as they tend to fill up fast