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Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 2008
The Lands of Fire and Ice - Part 2

Stavanger

It had only been 6 weeks since we last visited Stavanger on QE2, and we had planned to take a boat trip at 1430 along the fjord to the famous Pulpit Rock. However we arrived in Stavanger to find the harbour was buzzing with vintage fire engines and vintage steamships.

Every three years there is a festival, and Nordsteam 2008 was during our visit, from 6 to 10 August. Their brochure showed the highlight of 9 August would be for the full fleet, and any other local craft, to escort QE2 when she departed at the end of her final visit. It was Saturday and there were going to be a lot of people out on the water. Many of the vintage boats were selling tickets for the sailaway evening cruise. It was sad that most of the boats were older than QE2, and yet still in service.

After 1000 crew surfaced gradually, and we discovered it was allowed to visit many of the boats. We went everywhere. We started with a young boat, the ferry Skanevik which was built in 1967. She was moored next to the green MS Sandnes, built in 1950. In the same area was the MS Gravin, built in 1931, and the MS Gamle Salten, built in 1953. There were two boats celebrating 100 years: the DS Boroysund and the DS Ostler were both built in 1908. Even older, were the MS Oscar II, built in 1885, and the Idsal, built in 1874.

On the other side, near to QE2, was the MS Midthordland, built in 1947, and the DS Styrbjorn, built in 1910. Then we climbed aboard the DS Rudokop, built in Leningrad in 1958, which was registered in Georgetown in the Cayman Islands and flew the blue ensign. Alonside her was MS Oscar II, built in 1885 and then Nokk, with its water canons, built in 1939.

As the time approached for departure, the vintage ships started to leave harbour and position themselves on our route. For some, it was straightforward. For others, who had to turn in a limited space, it was harder. There were thousands of people watching our departure, and cheering to say Good Bye to QE2. One young man was in a small inflatable in the harbour, but his friends went past at speed and soaked him. As we left, most had already set off and were well ahead of us. Only MS Gamle Oksoy and MS Sjokurs were behind, and they soon followed. We got out our Union Jacks and found some tissues.

Soon there were boats of all sizes everywhere, jostling for position. Nokk practiced aiming its water cannons and managed to give an unexpected rainshower to several boats who did not notice her creeping up from behind. This included MS Gamle Skudenes and DS Boroysund. It was nice to see the centagenarians DS Boroysund and DS Oster side by side together. Once outside the harbour limits, QE2 increased her speed and the older boats were left behind. MS Sandnes and MS Skanevik had left early to make sure they were at the edge of the harbour as we passed, and so they were the last of the procession to leave us.

Oslo

We visited Oslo in December, and had promised ourselves that this visit we would keep away from the shops and the town centre and instead catch the ferry to the Museums. The Oslo public transport system is good, and we purchased a 24 hour Pass for the price of the return boat fare, 60 kr. Boats leave from the City Hall area every 20 minutes, and go across to Bygdoy, where there is the Viking Ship Museum, the Norske Folk Museum, the Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Polarship Fram, the Kon-Tiki Museum, and the Holocaust Center. In just one day we only managed to visit the Norwegian Maritime Museum, the Polarship Fram, and the Kon-Tiki Museum. For most of the day it was raining, hence the visits to warm and dry museums was essential. The Norske Folk Museum involved exploring more than 150 buildings, including a 13th century stave church. It is not perfect when it is raining, and we will go there another time with better weather.

We liked the Maritime Museum very much. Leaving the ferry wharf we passed their polar sloop "Gjoa". Then there were a number of examples of coastal boats on display in a special BoatHall next to the main building. The first exhibits in the main building were about life preservation and life saving. Then there were lots of delightful models of Norwegian ships, and sections and entire rooms and other artefacts rescued from broken ships. The exhibition dedicated to WWII included a canvas boat made in 1941 in order that crew from the Nyhorn could escape from French West Africa to Gibraltar. The museum also had an interesting art collection.

The Fram museum, next door, is separately managed and so a second entrance ticket was needed to view it and explore. The Polarship Fram is a very famous ship, built in 1892, and used by Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup and Roald Amundsen on their polar expeditions to the North and the South pole.It does not take very long to look around.

We ran across to the Kon-Tiki museum between showers and used the last of our norwegian krone. The museum showed original vessels and objects from Thor Heyerdahl's world famous expeditions: the Kon-Tiki raft, reed boat Ra II and Easter Island statues. It was interesting, but mainly to see the Ra II and the Kon-Tiki raft, and to marvel that these types of craft had travelled over such long distances in primitive times.

The ferry got us back to QE2 in time for afternoon tea, but then a chance encounter with another passenger led to a visit to the new Oslo Opera House. There had been an article in the London Evening Standard on 23 July with a picture of the new building, resembling a ski slope. The building is designed as a series of slopes in snowy marble rising from the quayside and on to the roof. We were short on time and the visit to the Opera House, which was on the waterfront in the next bay, was done at a brisk walk. It is a spectaculr building, and our only regret was that we were not able to stay and hear the acoustics. Our last few krone were spent in the Duty Free Shop, and we reluctantly departed Oslo.

The final evening before arriving in Southampton is always informal because everyone is trying to do their packing and formal finery is packed away. But the previous evening is different, and there is always a special Captain's Farewell Dinner with baked alaska parade, and a special Gala Midnight Buffet with ice carvings and carved fruit/veg displays. It is also the evening when the senior staff host cocktail parties, and we had been invited by John Handy to join him and his engineering and technical officers. Although it had been a day in port, the Captain had decided that the dress code for this evening would be formal.

For this dinner, it is always a difficult choice between the roast duckling and the beef wellington, and we relied on the advice of our waiters. Since the evening was formal, our table was again hosted, and we had an excellent evening which concluded just before 2300. The Gala Midnight Buffet began at 2330, so we just had time to take photographs before it was declared open for eating.

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