I had the honour of being invited to lunch onboard the highly acclaimed Viking Sea in the U.K. port of Harwich recently. June 19th 2016, to be exact. Of course I had heard all about the ship previously and was very excited at the prospect of seeing her first hand – suffice to say, I was not disappointed.
All I can say is that Viking Sea is an extremely well-styled, elegant ship – and that Viking Ocean Cruises have certainly lived up to the hype. Sadly for me, I was only onboard for a few hours; during which time I enjoyed a delicious lunch, accompanied by the most attentive of service, followed by a welcome chance to explore the ship before she sailed North, ‘In search of the midnight sun…’ *sigh*
To say that I was disappointed at not taking part in such a fantastic, Nordic, ocean-going adventure is probably the understatement of the year.
In fact, I don’t think I have ever shuffled down a gangway quite so slowly.
The (very) well thought out public spaces are adorned with tasteful works of art, and there is plenty of interesting (and authentic!) Viking memorabilia on display.
I also clocked a few well placed ‘phone chargers and power sockets – notably next to arm chairs and within easy reach of tables. Nice touch.
I didn’t manage a peek into the staterooms, but by all accounts, and based on the many reviews that I have since read, they are outstanding too. I can’t say that I am surprised, as this ship simply oozes class and elegance in the most clean, modern, Scandinavian way – most befitting of her ancient ‘Viking’ ancestry.
I caught the train to Harwich from London’s bustling Liverpool Street Station, and was pleasantly surprised at what a relaxing and enjoyable journey it proved to be!
The train journey from London takes about one hour and forty minutes, and passes through some lovely English countryside. The City of London kind of ‘melts away’ and is replaced by sublime ocean views and idyllic scenes of countryside bliss.
My journey took place in June and masses of summer flowers stained the fields with their bright colours and lined the train tracks as we sped by. Sail boats bobbed blithely out on the ocean and I even spotted a squirrel on the station platform as we passed through the town of Mistley, with its array of neat cottage gardens – complete with dovecotes, I might add!
The port itself is very conveniently located – just across the road, and certainly within what I consider to be ‘a comfortable walking distance’ from Harwich International train station.
As you can probably gather, I thoroughly enjoyed my train journey and can highly recomend this form of transportation from central London to the port of Harwich.
As the train sped onwards, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of a ‘warm welcome’ Viking Ships of the past would have received – and so with that in mind, I decided to do a little research and find out if there were any Viking connections to the port.
Well… thanks to Wikipedia and a good bit of Googling, I found out that around 800 AD, the Vikings or Danes had started to make an appearance in this area. Under the ‘Peace of Wedmore’ in 878, all land north of the old Roman Watling Street, which ran from London to Chester, was given to the Viking leader, Gunthrum. Harwich therefore became part of Danelaw.
(Sounds like an episode of the popular T.V. series ‘Vikings’!)
The peace was short-lived however, and following an unsuccessful Viking attack on Kent, Alfred King of Wessex’s army then attacked the enemy in East Anglia. Sadly, Alfred King of Wessex was not, by all accounts, as successful this time around.
In fact, relatively close to the port of Harwich, sandwiched between the Orwell and the Stour estuaries, is a site called ‘Bloody Point’ – marking the spot where this fierce battle between Alfred King of Wessex’s army and the marauding Vikings took place.
All in all, it seems very fitting that a Viking ship has returned to these parts. Though on a very different mission and with a very different cargo!
Indeed it would seem that the ‘Peace of Wedmore’ has finally been restored, and that the hatchet that once stained the ground at ‘Bloody Point’ has been well and truly buried between Harwich and its volatile Viking past.
For more information on Viking Ocean Cruises please click here