Norway is simply stunning. No pictures can capture the beauty that is the majestic snow capped glacial mountains, the crystal clear waters of the Fjords and the picturesque colourful wooden villages that scatter amongst the journey.
A great way to experience Norway is from a cruise ship and here are a few reasons why.
There is a lot to see in Norway, you want to take in as many of the towns/villages as you can.
However packing and unpacking, moving from one lodging to the next, can be tiresome. Once on a cruise ship, unpack once and your accommodation moves with you.
2. Visit More Than One City
On the P&O Britannia 7 night itinerary, we visited four cities in Norway. Stavanger, Olden, Flam and Bergen. Although only for one day each, the cruise gives a nice sampler of what Norway has to offer.
3. Enjoy the Scenery At Night
Norway enjoys long days with very little darkness in July. During the day you can explore the cities, at night watch the scenery pass you by. Pre-dinner drinks at the front of the ship in the comfortable bar with 180 degree views of where you are heading, dinner by the restaurant window as you watch Norway pass you by, post-dinner walk on the outside deck, there is an endless supply of beautiful scenery as you cruise through the inlets of the Norwegian Fjords.
4. Great for Families
Cruising Norway is a great option for families as it provides a balanced holiday for all. On the P&O Britannia kids are well looked after with an awesome kids club and amazing staff.
The kids can make friends and play whilst the adults enjoy on-board activities and the scenery. Lets be honest, a seven and 10 year old are going to be more interested in learning how to spin DJ decks than marvel at snow capped mountains!
5. Shore Activities
We picked some great shore activities for our day stops in Norway.
Kayaking the Fjords in Olden, taking a cable car up 2000ft in Bergen, visiting the street of colours in Stavanger and experiencing the world famous Flam Railway.
There is a lot you can cram into your 7-8 hour port stop and we made sure we certainly did!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Zurich is the home to the official headquarters of FIFA, the world governing body of football. When I discovered there was an interactive FIFA Museum in the city, any chance of getting out of Zurich without a visit for the sport mad Itchy Feet children was near impossible.
Whilst not a football (soccer as we call it in Australia) mad family, we do enjoy sports and could appreciate the value of a visit - and it was a wise choice, we were impressed.
This is not just any old stuffy museum, clearly a sizeable amount of money was invested in the build - which you would expect nothing less of from either Zurich nor FIFA. The displays are impressive to say the least - interactive and high tech. And the memorabilia collection would have a sizeable insurance premium upon it.
Spread across three levels this museum covered everything from the history of the sport, memorabilia, statistics presented in a myriad of ways as well as interactive skill testing fun.
From learning a celebration dance using an interactive life-size screen, to commentating from a media sound booth the final minutes of a close game, there was plenty of displays that required much more than just reading a plaque next to a display.
The museum also incorporates a fantastic display on the human elements of the sport with life size screens presenting monologues from around the world of people who have had life-changing moments through football.
From the English grass roots coach who has seen the sport teach children discipline and team work, to the beach football team from a tiny island in Thailand who represented their nation on a world stage, and Brazil’s ultimate fan who vowed to spend his whole life in the colours of his team for the remainder of his life - the human stories were well presented and a great alternative display.
Then to top it all off, an interactive play area where the kids (and adults) got to practice their skills in skill tester games including accuracy challenges, dribble against the clock and life like pin ball with soccer balls.
With so much to see and do, you really could spend a whole day here. We squeezed in as much as possible over 3.5 hours and both adults and kids enjoyed the time invested.
The museum was accessible via the public tram system, just a short ride from the city centre. And at a cost of CHF 64 for a family of four - roughly $AUD85 - a fair investment in the ultra expensive city of Zurich.
Whether you are a football fan or not - If you happen to be in Zurich - check it out. Further details can be found at www.fifamuseum.com
Itchy Feet Family
Before visiting Zurich we knew it had a reputation of being expensive - however we had no idea just how much so this was going to be. Dropping AUD$1,000 in less than 24 hours was done without even trying!
You know you are in trouble when a cup of water in a restaurant cost you AUD$7 - why can’t kids just drink beer - it was cheaper!
The city is beautiful - with the river Limmat running out of Lake Zurich through the middle separating the old and new town - and snow capped mountains in sight - it really is stunning. The architecture is ornate and conjures up memories of story books, it is one of those picture postcard cities.
But is it worth the cost for the Australian traveller? This is how, without even trying, less than 24 hours in this city cost us AUD$1,000.
Accommodation - $500
We didn’t even stay in the city centre - room only at the Renaissance hotel on the outskirts of town.
Lunch - $140
Four burgers, one serve of fries, two beers, glass of water and a lemonade. Yep, that was it!
All Day Transport - $40
We used the tram and train network to get around all day. The network was extensive and we had a stop right next to the hotel. It took 15 minutes from our hotel to Old Town. We purchased all day travel cards for the family.
FIFA Museum - $85
This was actually quite good value - we spent a good three hours in this interactive museum. And the kids (and parents) loved it.
Afternoon Beers - $50
After the museum we visited a Beer Garden on the river - nothing fancy, self service and find a seat in the garden. Two beers, two slushes and a serve of fries.
Dinner - $170
We stumbled across a Food Truck Festival that we opted for dinner. Two serves of Pad Thai, a Mango Salad and a Wrap washed down with two beers and two waters and topped off with four gelato. All self service sitting on plastic chairs in the sun.
As you can see - without even trying - this city really adds up! We did not eat at fancy restaurants, take taxis or buy any souvenirs. We simply kept fed and watered and explored the city by foot and public transport.
The beer is good, the city is gorgeous and was fun to explore, but I don’t think I will be back in a hurry.
We did stumble across a supermarket and purchased bottled water for AUD$3, so I am sure you could do the city on the cheap if you really tried. However it would be hard work!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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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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When travelling with kids you have to add a few things to the itinerary that keep them entertained. In Europe, whilst the culture and architecture are fascinating for the adults, the kids are not so readily impressed. It is important to pepper the trip with a few fun activities.
Tropical Islands is a bizarre concept that we gravitated to. About 60kms south of Berlin lies a large dome like structure that houses a year-round beach and waterpark. For a country that spends so much of the year in cold and darkness, you can imagine the appeal a location like this would hold for locals.
For Australians, slightly a strange thing to do given we have amazing beaches and weather - but we always like to do something a little bit quirky on our trips.
Tropical Islands is a complete one stop resort in the middle of the German forrest. Once you are in, they have you - there is not really anything close by.
More than just a day trip
Visitors come not for the day - but the whole night, or longer. Accommodation options range from pool side chalets, to fancy tents in the sand, to a block of hotel rooms - which we opted for. (AKA the cheapest option with it’s own bathroom).
Our family room was quite spacious, there was a seperate room with twin beds for the kids, a mini fridge with complimentary water and apple juice and the room included wifi. Rooms were made available at 4pm and checkout the next day was 11am, with access to the resort facilities until 10pm after check out.
Upon arrival guests are issued a wrist band that doubles as a room key, payment card and locker key. Everything in the resort is swipe to pay and whilst we had breakfast included, all other meals had to be purchased. The breakfast buffet however was amazing and we certainly maximised this offer after a full day in the pool the day before.
Mega Water Play ground
The actual water park offered a number of options. Waterslides, outdoor pools and jacuzzi, lagoon pool, beach pool and an adult spa and sauna.
When you got all wrinkly and needed a break from the water, there was a rainforest area walk through with a variety of animals and plants to explore - including some flamingos! Or for around AUD$100 a family you could take to the air for a balloon basket ride that gave an inside aerial view of the resort.
The sheer size and magnitude of this place blew me away. Taking a nap near the beach pool I estimated at least 2000 deck pool chairs in that area alone. It was mind blowing.
not a cheap adventure
This was however by no means a cheap quirk to our itinerary, but we decided to add it in regardless. At just short of AUD$500 for a family of four - including park entry, overnight accommodation and buffet breakfast - plus the meals and drinks purchased during the day, it was an AUD$600 overnight excursion. Actually - add in the apple watch that came off during a waterslide ride - and it brings it to over AUD$1,000!
So as long as you are not on a tight budget - or if you are happy like us to splurge on a couple of activities in your itinerary, we recommend you give it a go. It is definitely something different that will be a forever memory. Take a look at their website for more details.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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Travelling Europe with kids has it’s challenges. Whilst the adults marvel in the history and architecture - it does not quite hold the appeal a Disneyland holiday has for a 7 and 10 year old. Keeping the kids entertained whilst also giving them a historical and cultural lesson can be tricky.
Our kids hate doing bus tours, they simply don’t enjoy any part of them. Before children we would always do a hop-on-hop-off tour to orientate ourselves in a new city. However our kids simply whinge the whole time - trust me we tried it!
It is for this reason we have started to opt for city cycling tours. We have done a few in places like Bali, Vietnam, New York and now have added to the list with the Fat Tire Berlin Day City Tour.
Range of Kids Bikes
Depending on the tour company, kids are catered for in a range of ways. Child bikes, child seats for the adult’s bike - or as we just tried in Berlin, tag-along bikes. Essentially a tandem bike, the child has their own seat and pedals but the adult bike brakes and steers from the front whilst the child tags along.
We started with a child’s bike for our seven year old however as we were cycling on roads through some traffic we opted for the tag-along for safety. Whilst she can ride confidently on the open parks and walkways at home, we decided she probably was not really confident enough to ride through Berlin traffic. For the most part the tour was in parks and on cycling pathways, however there were occasional stretches of city traffic to manoeuvre.
Our 10 year old on the other hand relished the freedom and cycled up the front of the group right alongside the tour guide.
Berlin City Highlights
The beauty of a cycling tour is that you get to see all the main attractions - we visited Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island, The Berlin Wall, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and more, all the sights you would see on a bus tour - however the kids (and adults) were being active and having fun.
Our tour guide, Alex, was fantastic and kept both the kids and adults fascinated at each location. Although it was quite a heavy history lesson to digest, the kids took in bits and pieces and we were able to discuss further after the tour where they had questions.
Great Tour Guide
There is definitely something to be said for an enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide - Alex was a great story teller and was animated in his delivery. A Canadian, he had a clear passion and enthusiasm for the city and it’s history which he shared with us all.
As well as the major sights the tour also took us through a large stretch of Tiergarten, Berlin’s premier city park. We covered ground that we never would have seen by foot and visited a Beer Garden tucked away in a corner of the gardens that only a local would find.
The tour took a total of 4.5 hours and included a one hour stop for lunch. The kids loved every minute of it and not once whinged are we there yet!
If you are travelling with kids and see a city cycling tour - give it a go! For details or to book this tour, visit Fat Tire Berlin City Tour.
Itchy Feet Family
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