Travelling through the Norweigian Fjords is an amazing experience. On a seven night P&O UK Cruise out of Southampton our passage took us through scenery like no other I have ever seen.
On port stops we were able to get up close and personal to the waterways, in the city of Olden Itchy Feet Family took to kayaks to explore the Nord Fjord.
When looking at shore tours offered on the cruise, this was the only one that resembled any level of physical activity. The cruise line clearly catering for the more senior cruiser who enjoys a bus journey or walking tour. We jumped at the opportunity to do something active for the day.
Olden, with a population of just 2,500, more than doubles in size when a large passenger ship such as the 3,500 passenger Britannia comes in for the day. Our guide, Richard, loved the opportunity to meet new people and showcase his beautiful part of the world.
Although we were travelling in summer (July), the weather was still very cold. At a cool 13 degrees, we were just thankful it was not raining.
The boat house was located a short walk from where the ship docked so there was no need for a bus journey to our tour, we were off the ship and in kayaks within an hour.
After boarding the kayaks in a small inlet, we travelled under a bridge before heading out into the large open Fjord. The water was calm for the most part, however the wind did pick up whilst we were out which restricted how far out the Fjord we travelled.
The operator provided lifejackets and waterproof skirts and with the ice cold glacial waters we were encouraged to try stay dry in the boats! For the most part we did, except when the kids decided to test how cold the water was by putting their arms in the Fjord - without rolling up their sleeves!
The water was fresh on top - although the Fjord ran into the ocean, the salt water sits at the bottom of the Fjord whilst the top is crystal clear drinkable water from the mountains.
The tandem kayaks allowed us to pair up one adult with one child and although the kids were also given paddles, it was really the work of the adults that got us through the journey. With the kids at the front, their paddles mostly served as large splashing devices with the aim of seeing who could get which parent wetter!
It was quite an impressive view in the middle of the fjord with the majestic Britannia one side of us and waterfalls and snow capped mountains the other.
We kayaked for two hours on the Fjord, stopping every 15-20 minutes or so for narration from our guides. We learnt the main industries in the area were tourism, farming and petroleum and were encouraged to try the Norweigian strawberries, they came highly recommended.
Although the tour did not travel too far from where we started, we could always see the ship from any point of the tour, it was a fun couple of hours and provided some activity in between narration. Much more fun than sitting on a bus.
By the end of the two hours we were quite cold, especially given the children were wet up to their shoulders! If I was to do it again I would make sure we wore wet weather jackets and that the kids rolled their sleeves up before testing the water!
The short tour also gave us time to head back to the ship to refresh and refuel before taking a stroll around the picturesque town.
Have you taken your kids kayaking on holiday? Where have been some of the memorable locations?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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In July the Itchy Feet Family took a seven night cruise departing Southampton, UK, through the Fjords of Norway. As an Australian family - there were a few noticeable differences to travelling on a British based ship as opposed to an Australian.
Here were our top eight stand out observations: - good, bad and indifferent.
1. No Lanyards
On Australian ships we love wearing our room keys on lanyards in a kaleidoscope of colours proudly around our neck. On the Britannia there was barely a lanyard to be seen. No fire sale on day 1 to get your blinged out lanyard - the Brits just put them in their pocket!
2. Women Love a Lager
I have never in my life seen so many women drinking pints. It is the beverage of choice for men and women alike. I will never lose the picture of a 70 year old lady necking a lager like I drink a bottle of water after a work out! And with so many options of craft beers and beers on tap - why not enjoy a lager! The bars offer sampler paddles of beer so you can try a range of craft brews from varying regions across the UK. And if you simply can’t find a waiter - there is a self-serve beer tap in the buffet just swipe and pour!
3. Long Life Milk
Brits don’t mind a bit of long life milk - Aussies prefer it fresh. The advantage is that there was a kettle in the room with mountainous supplies of tea/coffee and long life milk. At any time - day or night - a cup of tea was available in your cabin. In the buffet restaurant long life milk in sachets is kept on the tables so tea could be poured at the table and you did not have to get up for milk. For me, I prefer milk from a jug rather than a sachet.
4. No Baristas
Australians are coffee snobs and we love a good coffee made by a Barista. Although there was Costa coffee on board - the machines were automated. The coffee waiter simply pressed a button and the machine did the work.
5. Kids Can Not Roam
When the kids are put into kids club, they are secured. In Australia generally children can sign themselves in and out of kids club from age 10. On the Britannia, kids have to be 13 years old to gain that privilege.
The kids club was also open quite late - until 11pm at night. The Brits like to party so the kids are well looked after so the parents can enjoy the onboard evening activities.
6. No Leaving Kids On The Ship
If parents go ashore - the kids go with them. In Australia and the US kids clubs operate on port days and parents are able to leave the ship without the kids. This is not allowed on the Britannia.
Not that we have regularly done this - however there have been a few occasions when we have taken the kids off the ship in the morning and then enjoyed an afternoon exploring further without them when they were too tired to continue.
On this particular cruise our first port day was met with cold, wind and rain. Whilst we put ponchos on the kids and headed out into the awful weather, they were not impressed. We did not get to explore much - there was only so far we could force them to walk in the rain. The adults however would have soldiered through - but back to the ship it was. The kids enjoyed their afternoon in kids club whilst the adults had to sit on deck and wonder what could have been explored at a port stop they would probably never return to.
7. Best of British
Best of British sail away party, Best of British quiz, Best of British party night, Best of British stage show - I did not realise the British were so patriotic. It was actually great to see - even if it meant at Trivia time we got the so called “easy questions” wrong. We simply had no chance when the theme of the quiz was British TV show songs.
8. Formal is Formal
Wow can the British bring out a frock! Where did all these women get such formal gowns from. I have never seen so many long flowing ball gowns and men in tuxedos. Even on smart casual evenings the British glam it up! Maybe they don’t get out much - maybe they are just more proper than us Aussies. Even on the last night of the cruise passengers were suited and booted with high heels, frocks and ties on display.
Cruising is a great family travel option, if you are considering a cruise outside of Australian waters you may want to consider a few of the cultural differences you will encounter. Have you cruised abroad? What differences did you notice?
Itchy Feet Family
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Cycling tours have become a bit of a staple activity for us on our travels. So when in London we decided to join Fat Tire Tours London on a four hour Royal London Bike Tour.
Advertised as a tour to show us the main sites with a traditional pub lunch in between, we were in. And, given the awesome tour we had done just the week before in Berlin, we did not hesitate to book with Fat Tire.
However cycling in London is quite a different beast to cycling in the rice fields of Vietnam, the temples of Bali or the bike friendly city of Berlin. I think we failed to factor in just how BUSY London is!
London Not Exactly A cycling Town
London is not exactly what I would describe as a cycle-friendly town. Well, lets be honest it is hard enough as a pedestrian to get around the major attractions - try and do it on two wheels and the challenge increases - even more when you are only seven years old.
And with tourists in all the major hot spots coming from every corner of the globe, the acceptance of cyclists and the patience and courtesy offered varied depending on who you ran into!
We did get to see all the major royal sites Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Marble Arch and the commentary offered by our guide Paul was informative.
Cycling through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens offered relief from the major tourist hubs. In fact, even though we lived in England before the kids, there were corners of the parks explored on this tour that we had not discovered before. The gentle ride through the parks was some of the most enjoyable moments of the tour.
English Pub Lunch
Our anticipation of a traditional English Pub lunch was squashed when our guide took us into the centre of Trafalgar Square and gave us 25 minutes to find lunch, go to the bathroom and return to our bikes to continue.
“Don’t order food at the pub” we were informed “We have English people serving and you will never get your food in time.”
A sandwich from Boots, a queue to use the bathroom at the pub and we stood shovelling food in our mouths before jumping back on our bikes to continue - not exactly a relaxing quaint English pub meal.
Fat Tire offer a variety of kids bikes, as well as child seats - so they are a great option for families. On a stop in the park, passers by were asking which tour company we were with as they were pleasantly surprised to see so many children on the tour.
Would I recommend a London Cycling Tour? Well as long as you know what you are in for. Our seven year old was probably a bit young to be cycling on her own, our ten year old however handled it pretty well.
It was a pretty stressful experience constantly watching the children weave in between the hoards of pedestrian tourists - but as long as you are prepared for that I say go for it.
You can find more details of Fat Tire London Tours at their website. If you are interested in finding out more about bike touring there is a great resource at Best of Bikers.
Itchy Feet Family
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- Christmas Cruising: Pros and Cons
- Getting Dirty in Vietnam
- 24 hours in Sydney with Kids
- Cruise Ship Lingo - Understanding the Cruiselings
By Guest Blogger Monisha Iswaran
There’s really only so much you can learn in a classroom setting - life experience is the true teacher that we should all make the most of. The more different experiences and types of exposure you involve your kids to the more likely they are to turn out to be well-rounded, mature individuals. Not to mention, travelling as a family is known to be great for bonding and you will likely feel closer to each other by the end of the trip. So bear in mind that vacations are well worth the expense, and are more than just a good time. Here are 5 things your little ones will learn from travelling at a young age:
Want your children to broaden their skillsets and learn to do simple things for themselves quicker? Travel is one surefire way to do so. When you are busy moving in and out of hotels/accommodation, kids often have to occupy themselves or help with the transition process. This results in kids who are more attentive, helpful and involved, rather than sitting back and hoping that adults do all the work. Encourage your kids to help out as much as you can rather than telling them to get out of the way - this way they will learn heaps of skills.
The more different places your child gets to visit, and has to learn to exist in (albeit for short periods of time), the more adaptable they learn to be. This can be in terms of adapting to different living conditions, weather, culture of people, language etcetera. One of the most important skills of any professional or personal setting is being able to respond well and get along with a variety of people, no matter the circumstances. However, especially when your little ones are young, try and make their travel experience as comfortable as possible. Cots are portable and convenient, and having a familiar sleeping spot can be soothing to infants and toddlers, especially if you are travelling for long periods of time.
3. Going Technology-Free
Travelling is the perfect time to go technology free, and teach your kids the joy of tuning out from such devices. The sad thing is in this day and age most kids are overly attached to screens - ipad, televisions, iphones etcetera. Often times when travelling, good wifi spots are few and far between. Therefore, take a technology cleanse as a family - no emails from work, no sending selfies to friends…. And you might just find you teach your kids the art of work-life balance in the process. Dolls are a great way to entertain kids without having to tune into the internet. It’s how kids stayed amused before video games and Netflix so why not go old school?
Who can honestly say that they’ve been on a trip where every single event has gone as planned. Plans get messed up and that is simply life! Going on a trip as a family definitely teaches children the art of patience, particularly when things aren’t going your way. From missing a plane to getting stuck in a particularly bad traffic jam to losing luggage - dealing with disappointments and difficulties is a good skill to have!
Is there really anything more fun than heading out on a great open road, to explore and discover more than you ever knew was possible? Not for those of us bitten by the wanderlust travel bug. For most it is something they want to pass on to their children, as some of the best memories you’ll ever make will be on your first solo trip around Europe, or backpacking with friends, or with a group of strangers you meet in a foreign country and become mates with!
Travelling from a young age as a family treats children to the joys of exploring new countries and unfamiliar territories. Chances are they won’t want to give that up and will be doing exactly the same things with their young ones in a few decades.
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Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.