NORWAY: Saga Pearl II has had a £25million refit after being bought by its new owners
Embark on a trip to Briksdal Glacier, Norway on board Saga's newest addition to its fleet. It is an adventure that you will never forget, says JENNY BARLOW
AS we climbed the winding track to the Briksdal Glacier
in spectacular West Norway
the night's snowfall was still clinging to the trees, cloaking them in an ethereal disguise. Even our guide Ragnar was awed to see "the struggling buds" frozen in May.
We were making our way to the foot of the glacier, which is just one arm of the Jostedal, the biggest in mainland Europe. I was one of a lively band of adventurers who had earlier set out on an excursion from Saga Pearl II, the newest gem in the company's cruise fleet. Click here now for amazing offers to Briksdal Glacier!
Hiking along the path cut into the mountain we fell silent as we reached our goal and took in the blue striations of the ice mirrored in the lake. As Ragnar led us back down to the Briksdal Inn he reflected: "It's easy showing off this place. Nature tells the story. I just add bits."
The Pearl II may be a new addition to the Saga fleet but it is not a new ship. It was bought by the company last year and has had a £25 million makeover.
My husband Steve and I had joined her on our first cruise and one of her first in her new livery on a Springtime In Norway itinerary that took in Stavanger, Eidfjord, Floro, Kristiansund, Olden, Alesund and Bergen, before returning to Dover.
I was a little nervous about sailing thanks to a long-standing fear of seasickness but was to find I loved life at sea.
Our deluxe cabin with balcony was spacious and comfortable with lots of wardrobe space and a big bathroom. It had a calming blue and white theme with wood panelling, good lighting and a butler to tend to our every need.
One of the first things we noticed was the modern, vibrant décor on board what captain David Warden-Owen described as "a contemporary ship that will appeal to contemporary Saga cruise passengers". Want incredible deals to the Briksdal Glacier? Click here now...
Further exploration revealed two restaurants. The Dining Room has free seating and no set sittings while The Verandah is more informal. It provides the same menu but offers buffet style breakfast and lunch, and waiter service with dinner.
A good lunchtime spot is The Verandah deck where you can enjoy an alfresco grill and ice creams or have a swim.
Throughout our cruise we dined in five-star style on everything from the finest sea bass and salmon to freshly-made pasta, the tenderest beef, wild boar, pheasant and guinea fowl.
There are two bars, Shackleton's and The Sundowner which opens on to a deck that's the perfect place to admire the scenery and enjoy reasonably-priced drinks without having to pay a gratuity on each one. Saga's tip-free cruising makes a big difference to your holiday bill in a place like Norway where a beer is about £12 compared with £2.40 on board.
The ship has a well-stocked library with internet, a spa and the Discovery Lounge for daytime activities and evening entertainment.
From Eidfjord we took a breathtaking helicopter ride over Hardangerfjord, Hardangerjokulen glacier, Voringfoss waterfall and Hardangervidda, the largest mountain plateau in Europe.
It's easy to see why Norway is so bewitching.
If you think a Saga cruise is just for the senior crowd think again because as long as one passenger is aged 50 or more accompanying travellers can be 40 or over. I was just glad I could keep up with the pace - when we weren't climbing glaciers or helicoptering over them, we were admiring the art nouveau buildings of Alesund or exploring busy Bergen. Back on board we were enjoying fascinating talks, first-class entertainment and having the time of our lives.
Saga Cruises (0800 505 030/ www.saga.co.uk
) offers a seven night Fjordland Wonders cruise on Saga Pearl II from £951 (two sharing an inside cabin).
Calling at Bergen, Gudvangen, Flåm, Jondal and Stavanger.
Departs Dover, August 25.