The pleasures of Plan B

By Paula Prindle
This item appears on page 51 of the April 2014 issue.

“When on a cruise, reserve ahead the tours you feel you must take.” I know you have heard this before and so have we, but on a cruise my husband, David, and I took from Copenhagen, Denmark, up the coast of Norway (Oslo, Stavanger, Ålesund, Geiranger, Bergen and back to Copenhagen) in September ’12, we ignored this advice and missed out on a fjord cruise we had hoped to take. 

The Iron Age Farm at Ullandhaug, Norway, consists of two longhouses, smaller buildings, wells, stone fences and burial mounds from AD 350 to 550.

We were sailing aboard the Vision of the Seas of Royal Caribbean International (866/562-7625). Upon reaching Stavanger, we had planned to take a small-boat cruise on the beautiful Lysefjord. We didn’t sign up for the ship’s excursion, planning to just buy our own tickets.

You know the end of the story: while waiting line at the Lysefjord cruise boat dock, word was passed back that the cruises were all full. We had “missed the boat.” 

So reserve ahead, whether you decide to go with the ship’s shore excursion or independently. You often can buy tickets online.

Fortunately, we came up with a Plan B, and we suggest travelers always have one (at least one). We had done some pre-cruise research on Stavanger, so we knew there were options out there, but we needed some on-site info to find the perfect fit.

When we reached port, we headed for the tourism information center. With a destination in mind, we asked if a do-it-yourself trip would be practical and, if so, the best way to do it. 

We wanted to visit the Iron Age Farm (Ullandhaugveien 165, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway; phone +47 51 83 26 00. The farm is open 11-4 daily, June 17-Aug. 11, and open Sundays, May 26-Sept. 29. Adult, NOK50 [near $8]; senior or child, NOK20).

Armed with the farm’s hours, the bus schedule and directions to the bus stop, David and I headed out of town on an adventure. 

Inside one of the longhouses at the Iron Age Farm, docents in period dress explained about food, handiwork and games that could be found in Norway 1,500 years ago. Photos: Prindle

We lucked out by arriving at the farm before the ship’s excursion group. We were given free entry, since they were actually only open for ships’ passengers that day, and the four of us and one Norwegian couple got a private tour! One of the docents even baked bread on the hot rocks for us. 

The view from the hill next to the farm was beautiful and showed the Stavanger fjord area to advantage. 

The ship’s tour group came as we were leaving, and their guide later told us we undoubtedly had a better (more personal) tour than they did. Our Plan B turned out to be one of our favorite memories of our Norwegian cruise.


Orient, OH