…in addition to seeing the Northern Lights!
Aside from being voted the happiest country in the world in 2017, Norway is a true winter wonderland and one of the hottest destinations for Australians right now.
Cruise Express Director, Hardy Schneider has escorted many trips to this majestic part of the world and it still rates as one of his ultimate destinations. “Aussies love to travel, and we particularly love countries like Norway because it is so truly polar opposite to how we live in Australia. Most of us haven’t touched snow as it’s falling, let alone taken a husky sled ride, met reindeers, stayed in a hotel made of ice, or spent time in snow-shrouded villages and wilderness”.
While seeing the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) is a bucket list experience, there is more to this stunning country. It is so fresh and pristine throughout, is full of incredibly in-depth history, and with so much to see and do off the beaten track, time will be the only thing you won’t have enough of!
A few of Hardy’s favourites include a trip to the most northerly point of Europe, the North Cape, a visit to beautiful Vigeland Sculpture Park, the historic Viking and Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo and Holmenkollen, one of the world’s largest ski jumps. He also recommends staying at Fleischer’s, a historic hotel in Voss, as well as experiencing breathtaking railway journeys along frozen waterfalls and endless fjords.
With so much to see and do, one highlight has to be cruising from Bergen to Kirkenes onboard one of Hurtigruten’s iconic ships, such as ms Kong Harald, named after Norway’s reigning monarch. Travellers will enjoy views of spectacular coastal scenery and visit many local port calls, dropping off and picking up anything needed by the locals, from milk and mail to cars and passengers.
“While photos are delightful, it’s really hard to capture the feeling and atmosphere. The people are so friendly, it’s an experience that will take your breath away time and time again,” says Hardy.
For those with more time on their hands,and a love of nature, we recommend an Iceland extension. This incredible country is alive with glaciers, geysers, stunning (often frozen) waterfalls, volcanic activity and geothermally heated pools. There are steam baths such as the Blue Lagoon or the lesser known Mývatn nature baths too plus it means more chances to see the Northern Lights!
There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot of memories to gain – contact us so we can organise your cruise, anywhere, anytime! For details on our 2020 Norway escorted voyage click here.
Cruise Express Director, Hardy Schneider’s passion is travel and has been fortunate enough to have been doing this for over 40 years. He has a few pearls of wisdom to share…
First, Business or Economy (and why)?
Because I spend up to six months overseas every year hosting and managing our tour groups, I generally travel in Business Class so I can be fresh on arrival and hit the ground running.
Most frequented destination?
Europe, where we host most of our cruise tours, is my main destination with three visits there this year but this year I am also managing tours in the UK, Africa, India, South America and even Antarctica so, yes, I do get around this planet a fair bit!
If I ran my own airline I would…(tell us what you would do differently or better than the way airlines are currently run)
So many airlines are paring back their onboard offerings to cut costs but I think it’s the little touches like a sparkling wine before take-off that passengers really appreciate and miss when it’s taken away which seems to have happened on many airlines recently. Personally, I love carriers that provide passengers with pyjamas so you don’t have to sleep in the clothes you wear on arrival. Little pleasures can make a real difference and I think there is a market segment willing to pay a little more for premium service.
Where’s the worst place you’ve been lost?
I don’t usually get lost but I was once hosting one of our cruise tour groups in Egypt and after I told all our guests, who were heading off for some shopping time in the bustling Grand Bazaar in Cairo, to meet the bus at a designated spot outside the bazaar, I quickly got lost in the bazaar myself. I was hassled by so many hawkers that I lost all sense of direction in the maze of alleyways. I had no idea where I was. It was like a scene from the ‘Life of Brian’, with goats being slaughtered and blacksmiths working on fires all around me. I am very meticulous with time and duty so I was determined to meet our passengers back at the bus on time. Luckily, a local pointed me back to the spot and I arrived just in time but in a lather of sweat although I doubt any of the guests would have known of my preceding panic!
Most memorable overseas dining?
I will never forget the moment a waiter on the five-star Silver Spirit grabbed a huge sword off the wall and swiftly and very spectacularly sliced off the head of our bottle of champagne for an anniversary our party was celebrating. Don’t try that at home! A breakfast on a boat in the Amazon jungle was pretty surreal but another memorable meal was a lunch at Le Train Bleu – the extravagant restaurant inside Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris where English royalty used to dine between trains. It’s the same restaurant featured in the film, ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’, but my experience there was much more refined and relaxed! But my all-time favourite culinary experience can be found at Paul Bocuse’s fine dining restaurant in Lyon, France.
What’s in the suitcase?
There’s always far too much in my suitcase. You would think that after directing so many tours for 15 years I would learn but I often give Imelda Marcos a run for her money with all the shoes I bring. I pack lots of overseas adaptors – to give to our clients who have forgotten theirs – and also our little Cruise Express mascot, ‘Duck’, who travels with us everywhere and insists on being photographed at famous places around the world.
How do you make the most of a spare afternoon in a strange city?
I love to walk so whenever I have a few spare hours I grab a map and advice from the hotel concierge and explore a city on foot. Paris and Vienna are two of my favourite places to wander around.
Any travel tips?
Never leave home without travel insurance and never stop exploring as much of the world as you can. It’s a wonderful planet we live on so travel with open eyes and a positive attitude because life is too short to look for negatives.
What technology do you use?
I bring my iPhone and laptop with me and use free wi-fi to keep in touch with our head office in Sydney.
Best overseas purchase?
If I brought souvenirs from all my trips, my home would be overflowing so I look for special pieces like a rug I bought in Turkey once. It’s in my bedroom so every time I wake up I am reminded of my time there.
Best travelling tale?
We are very passionate about service at Cruise Express but sometimes not everything goes to plan on tour like when a suitcase containing evening formal wear for one of our client couples went missing just before we boarded Queen Mary 2 in Cape Town. I was determined for the bag to turn up so the couple could enjoy the ship’s famous black tie events so I hit the phones, went to the airport cargo area and spent hours tracking the bag from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I was told there was no way the bag could make the ship before we sailed but I spoke to a cargo worker in charge who promised he would have a driver on standby to rush the suitcase to the ship. The ship’s crew were starting to remove the gangways but just as the life boat drill finished I saw the courier car arrive at the wharf. I dashed off the ship and picked up the suitcase. While I was last to board, I had the suitcase finally in my hand. What a relief!
Best thing about travelling?
Visiting new and exciting places and immersing yourself in diverse cultures is a great learning experience but for me the greatest gift of my travels are the amazing friendships you make abroad with locals and also our tour guests. They start as customers and end a tour as family and friends.
Top travel gripe?
Visas are a real hassle to deal with and I don’t like being called an ‘alien’ in airport immigration queues!
If you would like to book a trip with Hardy and his wealth of knowledge, please contact Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.