We were recently lucky enough to experience a minicruise between Kiel in Germany and Oslo, Norway with the ferry company Colorline. Opinion seems divided when it comes to the humble minicruise. Depending on your priorities, budget, time constraints and expectations, a minicruise may or may not work for you. Us? We loved it. But with such a short break – two nights on board and around four hours in Oslo- you really are going to get that bit more out of the experience with a bit of research and preparation. So without further ado, based upon our experience and in no particular order here are our tips…
Don’t Overlook Kiel
Kiel. Port city, gateway for cruise bound travellers. Yes, this is true. But also much more than that. This is a city that has reinvented itself over the years and is worth making time for. Kiel surprised me, I expected to find regenerated docks and some nice harbour views ( Thank you Kiel, on that front you did not disappoint!) But I didn’t necessarily expect to find some rather good shopping , beautiful historic buildings and the very pretty Hiroshima park . All within strolling distance of each other.
Do Visit Laboe
If you have time before you sail, do head up to Laboe. About half an hour our of the city centre, Laboe has more of a resort feel and is home to U-955 and the very impressive Naval War Memorial… worth a visit for the views from the top alone.
Things to note about the cabins. Unless you book top end, they are lovely, they are comfortable but they are small. With limited storage. It’s only a two night cruise and the atmosphere is informal, so pack sparingly ( says she who has never knowingly travelled light). Also worth noting our cabin had a hair dryer and plenty of towels and so it really is just personal essentials to bring on board.
Do embrace The Cruise Experience.
This is a minicruise. You aren’t going to get everything you’d get on one of the resort-at-sea cruise ships. But don’t be discouraged, the Color Line ships have plenty to offer. The Aqualand swimming zone is a great way to kick off your cruise. Think lazy river, water slides, Jacuzzi and Sauna. Good to know that the entrance fee includes towels-winner, no damp swimming towels sat in the cabin. Post swim, browse the shops or relax in one of the several bars or cafes before a relaxed dinner in one of the onboard eateries, options range from Tapas to Italian, a 1950s inspired Diner to the a la carte restaurant. FYI, the 1950s Diner got the all round seal of approval from us. And the all singing, all dancing concert in the show lounge is not to be missed.
Don’t Be Put Off the Short Time Ashore.
The ship docks in Oslo at 10.00 and leaves at 14.00. Passengers need to be back onboard by 13.45, so realistically you are going to have around three-and-a-half hours to get a taste of Oslo. There is a blog post upcoming about what we did with our time but the message here is – Don’t be put off, you can do a lot, even on limited time.
Do Book A Cabin With a View
We are generally budget travellers and basic accommodation is often a way to save money without compromising the experience. Booking an inside cabin, or one with a view of the interior promenade, will save you a few quid but cost you when you miss the stunning scenery as you sail in and out of the Oslo Fjord. Of course, you could book the inside cabin and view the scenery from deck or from the Observation Lounge but there is just something lovely about chilling out in your cabin and watching the beautiful scenery drift by.
Don’t assume Duty Free is a bargain…
I was a bit excited at the prospect of hitting the duty-free, but it really is a case of buyer beware. There are some good buys in there but check the price point against on-line sellers and high street shops first. It isn’t always cheaper, especially given how competitive retailers have become with discounts, loyalty schemes and so on. It feels even harder for us to get a real bargain because we are used to tax-free status and military discounts here in Germany, but I just didn’t think duty free was all that. I guess if you are used to shopping at Norwegian price points, it might feel a bit more of a bargain.
But do budget for a bit of shopping.
Duty free might not be all it’s cracked up to be, but there are some things worth checking out. We picked up a beautiful Christmas bauble, some Norwegian candy, some Harrahorn gin ( small batch, beautiful bottle, well worth checking out) and a pair of trolls who have now been named Helen & Paul. There is a variety of goods on offer both onboard and on shore but prices and quality can vary. The on board supermarket is worth checking out if you fancy taking home a taste of Norway. Moose jerky, anyone?
The minicruise might be short but its a great way to dip into a relatively expensive destination if you are a budget traveller and its also a brilliant way of combining two destinations with some quality time at sea … a worthwhile alternative to the traditional city break. Most of all, for us, it was just really, really good fun.
Until Next Time,