Dave Hartle, Dave’s Trips, won the Group Travel Organiser of the Year Award® in 2022 and used his £2,000 prize money for a Scandinavian cruise with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. 

He reports back about the experience and shares some of the many highlights: 

We have used Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines on a few previous occasions, so I contacted Ellie Fulcher and her assistant Hayley to arrange our 14-night cruise on board Bolette, sailing from Newcastle. 

The next three days we were at sea which gave us time to find our way around the spotless and very friendly ship which had plenty of activities on offer from dance classes and photography to spa treatments, swimming and a games room.

Each day started with a massive choice for breakfast followed by lunch in one of three restaurant areas. There was also amazing evening meals on either first or second sitting dinners prior to attending the spectacular evening entertainment in the theatre which included fabulous live shows with dancers, singers, a comedian and classical acts.

GTO Dave Hartle and wife Jacqui with people they met during their prize trip cruise

Dave and wife Jacqui (left) enjoyed a number of excursions including to Kemi in Finnish Lapland. 

Wednesday morning we arrived in Turku, Finland, the home of ship building from the war years and beyond, and we went on an organised excursion by coach which was good value to see the local sights and countryside. On departure we sailed through the wonderful Archipelago made up of 20,000 islands and inlets.

The following morning saw us sail into the Finnish city of Oulu where the sun had come up at 4am and wasn’t due to set until 10.30pm. We had a lovely walk around the pretty town and large local park before heading back on board in time for another lunch and time to chill around the pools with another glass of wine.

GTO Dave Hartle and wife Jacqui on their prize Scandinavian cruise in the Arctic Circle

Visiting the Arctic Circle in mid-July was a unique experience.

Our next day visit was Kemi which is at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia and just South of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. It’s home to the largest snow castle in the world but not of course in mid-July. Our excursion took us on a two-hour coach trip through forest scenery to arrive at Santa’s Village within the Arctic Circle, which in the winter would look amazing. Lunch was given in a 19th century lodge.

On departure we sailed through the wonderful Archipelago made up of 20,000 islands and inlets.

The excursion was topped off with a long fast boat ride on the Kemiijoki River to visit the Reindeer Farm and we had the chance to hand feed the little deer. Our return coach drive had us back on board in time for dinner and evening entertainment.

The following two days included Swedish port visits to both Holmsund (City of Birches) and Sundsvalli (both located at the mouth of the River Selanger). 

We then sailed onwards to one of our favourite cities, Stockholm where it was a perfect sunny day and we walked around the waterfront to visit the amazing Vasa Maritime Museum, as we have done the Abba museum on a previous visit.

GLT Awards 2022 GTO of the Year Dave Hartle

Source: Yandell Publishing Ltd

Dave was announced as the 2022 GTO of the Year® winner, presented with his award at the Group Leisure & Travel Awards ceremony in Milton Keynes by 2021 GTO of the Year® winner, Elizabeth Hodgson and special host, Kevin Keegan.

We returned to the ship later as we had an appointment to take a ride on one of the three RIB boats which the Bolette carries for exciting rides in many of the destinations which the cruise ships take in. So, after the safety briefing and dressing in the appropriate protective clothing and life jacket we set off on a thrilling 45-minute ride through Stockholm and adjacent river and islands.

Our last port of call was at Aarhus in Denmark (known as Denmark’s happiest city) before two days at sea and our return into Newcastle. 

The GTO of the Year Award® is part of the Group Leisure & Travel Awards. To find out more go to: groupleisureandtravel.com/gtooftheyear