Searching for the Vikings

Friday, August 4 - Day 3: Somewhere off the Atlantic Coast, USA (or Canada)

Last night I was awakened a few times by the low, plaintive, other-worldly sound of the ship’s foghorn, but otherwise I slept well. I was lying in bed, half awake about 6:30 this morning, which was really 5:30 body-clock time, since we had to set our clocks one hour forward last night because we are crossing into a new time zone, and I heard the fog horn again. I then, with my sleepy brain, realized that we were still surrounded by fog, over 12 hours after we had first seen it yesterday. My sleepy brain then got the idea that I would probably never have the opportunity again to take pictures on a ship enclosed in fog, so I got up as quietly as I could so as not to awake my sleeping wife, brushed my teeth, dressed quickly, put on a warm jacket because I didn’t know how cold it would be on deck, grabbed at what felt like my fleece hat and shoved it in my pocket, grabbed my camera and went out. At 6:30, much of the inside of the ship was deserted, but when I got out onto the lower Promenade deck, there were a few hardy early morning walkers. The fog was thick. You couldn’t see more than a few feet of ocean. When I went up to the top deck, the funnels were covered in fog and you could barely see them from the front of the ship. It was very eerie, and worth getting up to see.

I went back to the cabin and found Donnie had awakened. I also discovered that instead of my fleece hat in my pocket, I had put in a pair of socks. Donnie said I could have put a sock on my head if necessary. We did our morning stuff, like showering, breathing, etc, and went for a nice breakfast in the buffet. They made omelettes to order and mine was very good. The lady making them even did a “flip” with the pan. Contrary to what we had been told, the buffet wasn’t very crowded.

Today is our first “sea day," but you couldn’t really tell, since it was impossible to see the sea. We attended a couple of lectures, which were well done and weren’t disguised sales pitches like we had been to on other cruises. The Holland America Line Marketing Department, a very formidable organization, calls these “Onboard Enrichment”. One was about the Atlantic Ocean and Canada and was given by a former geology teacher, Jim McParland.

We had a light snack lunch of tacos from the taco bar near the pool and just did relaxing sea day things. The fog lifted at one point and the sun came out which we thought was the end of the fog, but an hour or so later it was back again and the ship’s foghorn was going strong the rest of the afternoon. I wonder if Sydney, Nova Scotia will be enveloped by fog tomorrow morning. From what I have seen in pictures, it might look better in the fog. As I write this, we have been sailing through fog for almost 24 hours, except for an hour or so when the sun came out. Unnerving!

As we were wandering around the ship, we have been impressed by all of the artwork. You turn a corner or walk into a stairway landing and see an old cruise line poster, or Japanese Samurai armor, or a large ornate marquetry covered cabinet, or a very complex ship model made of small pieces of bone or some ancient Chinese figures. We haven’t seen all the art yet, and there is a lot if it. They all have brass plaques describing them, and most are real, not reproductions and many are extraordinarily old. This is not the crummy “art” that they sell in the onboard “art auctions," but the real thing and is part of the ship’s decor, not for sale. Fantastic ! This is not the Disney Cruise Line.

We did some afternoon/evening sea day things including walking around the Promenade deck, a tour of the ship's galley where they cook all our food, and having dinner in the buffet. The first two days we avoided the Main Dining room because we weren’t very hungry since we had late lunches. Tonight we weren’t thrilled with what was on the menu. We then had some ice cream while sitting out near the pool.

What we didn’t know was that Holland America had a special event tonight which must have been called “Release all the crazy people” night. While we were eating our ice cream, an elderly couple approached us (Ok, we’re not exactly teenagers, but these two people looked much older) and the woman asked Donnie a strange question… “Do you do the shows?”  She then proceeded, for the next half hour, it only seemed like several days, to tell us about how she was really angry because she had unable to get seats for the evening shows for two nights in a row and then everything about their past cruises, how they have five star Mariner status and therefore get free laundry service, how Holland America was going downhill, about her husband’s bad knees, how young people have no respect, how she buys all their clothes from Goodwill and that the pants her husband was wearing normally cost sixty dollars and she got them for four, etc., etc. The man kept trying to talk to me, but in such a low voice that I couldn’t understand a word he said. I just kept nodding and saying things like “uh huh”. Every time I thought she was finished and was about to leave, she found another topic to enlighten us about. After an eternity, they ran out of steam and left.

We then were heading toward the elevators to go back to our room when another woman walked up to Donnie and said something about how the part of the buffet we were standing in was closed and didn’t have her tea and donuts. She then described how she went to Tim Horton’s for tea and donuts every Tuesday, that she was Canadian, which was obvious from her accent and her visitations to Tim Horton’s, how she had emigrated to Canada aboard the Queen Elizabeth in 1956, how she and her parents saw the Statue of Liberty when coming from England, how she and her parents saw all of the states in the US except Hawaii and Alaska until her mother died and she and her father saw the last two states, how whenever she went through airport security she always wanted to be patted down by a man, etc., etc. I have to give Holland America a compliment. They have really gone out of their way to make “Release all the crazy people” night a great success. We finally decided we had enough of “Release all of the crazy people” night and snuck back to our room and are writing up our experiences. It is now after 10 PM and still foggy.