Ponant’s Seminar at Sea continued north towards the Scandinavian coastline. Onboard, sea lovers enjoy the ebb of the waves from the upper deck or witness what lies below the surface in the Blue Eye Underwater Lounge, unique to PONANT. Resembling something out of a Bond villain lair, this offers an eye-shaped portal underwater, particularly impressive cruising in the tropics, I’m told.
If you can draw your gaze away from the deep blue depths, the ship boasts a swimming pool, fitness centre and spa (with Sothys of Paris) and hairdressers (Kérastase). As you might expect, there is a library as well as board games and playing cards.
In between the fine dining, there is plenty to keep entertained. Guests onboard were treated to a show, “Voicers” with the dancers of the ballet Paris C’Show and the production singer Nataliia. Live music and dance with the artists of Le Champlain continued into the evening. The decidedly French elegance of the entertainment was matched with the cocktail of the day, the “French Revolution”, a mix of vodka, Chambord, Mandarine Napoléon, raspberry purée and Champagne. Far too complicated to make for yourself (or even source the list of ingredients) and far better to sip in the luxurious surrounds of the Upper Deck watching the coastline on the horizon.
A Nordic Beauty – Bergen – “The Heart of the Fjords”
Le Champlain arrives in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway situated on the west coast. Given the size of the ship, it was able to dock beside the Bergen Hus Fortress, less than a kilometre from the centre and beside Bryggen – a world heritage centre with traditional buildings dating back three hundred years. Bergen is known as the “Heart of the Fjords” and looks straight out of a picture book. Brightly coloured houses line cobblestoned streets leading up the steep slopes of the countryside. It is a lively city with plenty to offer visitors from galleries, museums, concerts and quaint shops. While window shopping costs nothing, a beer in a seafront bar will set you back c.€11.
700-Year-Old Fish Market and “the City between the Seven Mountains”
The seaside town is home to the “Fish Market”, in existence for shy of 750 years. It sells local seafood, fruit and vegetables as well as crafts and many spoke highly of it. I opted to ride the Fløibanen funicular which is a train that travels up to the summit of Fløyen (less than a kilometre from where the ship docks). The journey takes about 5 minutes to travel up the 320m above sea level and tickets cost c.€15 return (you can opt to walk back down if you’re so inclined). The panoramic views of the city and the Nordic coastline are spectacular and the air is crisp and clear. There is also a cable car that stretches up to the highest of the seven surrounding mountains, Ulriken which is almost 650 metres above sea level.
There is a distinct advantage to disembarking in the heart of a city and this one would inspire a love of the great outdoors. Probably a reflection of the healthy lifestyle of this region, shops had an abundance of XL and XXL clothes on the sale rail while in Ireland it’s typically the opposite. It can be a little pricey but the fresh air, outdoor living and stunning backdrop are free and more than makes up for it.