Searching for the Vikings

Thursday, August 10 - Day 9: Cruising Prince Christian Sound, Greenland

Bang! Pow! Kaboom! Crash! Boing! Pop! That was the sound of my brain exploding. But before I reconstruct that event, let us go back a short way to about 6:00 AM. To recap, we were supposed to enter the sound at 1:30 AM, travel about 90 percent of the way through, but not exit at the Eastern end because it is blocked by ice, reach our Easternmost point about 7:00 AM where the Captain will turn the ship around and head back during the day allowing us to see the Prince Christian Sound. Perhaps at this point I need to explain that Prince Christian Sound is not a wide, large body of water like Long Island Sound or Puget Sound but a very narrow, convoluted channel from the southwest of Greenland northward and eastward. Jim, the geology teacher explained that it is really two Fjords, back-to-back that joined in the middle.

So, we set our alarm for 6:00 AM so we would be washed and dressed and all perky at 7:00 for the big event. As often happens, we woke up about ten minutes before the alarm went off, and looked out the balcony glass door. Bang! Pow! First head explosion. There were sheer rock walls outside our balcony, exceedingly close to the ship. There was green water. There were icebergs, small ones, but icebergs. The sky was overcast, but there was no rain, and no fog. We quickly washed and dressed and headed up to deck nine, the so-called “sports deck” which is at the top of the ship and has a big outdoor area and unrestricted views on either side. Kaboom! Second brain explosion. Mountains… Cliffs… Glaciers… Waterfalls… Icebergs… The scenery cannot be described. Even the many, many, many pictures we took during the day cannot do it justice. I lost count of the number of glaciers we saw. I can’t even guess how many icebergs we saw.

We went all over the ship. One of the best places was the bow, which is normally closed to passengers but they opened “emergency exit” doors at the front of the theater, on either side of the stage and allowed us out to the bow. The views were unbelievable. I think we spent an hour out there. Looking up from the bow, we saw a few people on an outside area on the front of one of the decks above us that we hadn’t even known existed. It doesn’t appear on any deck plan. By judicious counting and guesswork, we figured out that they were at the forward end of deck six, where our stateroom was, so we went up to our deck and forward and found doors to the outside that we hadn’t known about. Kapow! Boom! Third brain explosion. The views from here were even better . Now comes the ultimate brain popper… the Sun came out. KABOOM! Brain exploded to bits. Camera shutter release trigger finger operating purely by reflex. Sailing through Prince Christian Sound was truly the experience of a lifetime. You must go.

Eventually, after taking several million pictures (hey, family, if you are reading this, you can look forward to seeing all of them) and nearing the end of the scenic cruise through the sound, Donnie was ready for lunch. The only problem was that it was 10:00 AM. So instead of lunch we went to the buffet restaurant for some tea and sat and watched the remaining scenery from there. While we were there, the Captain came on the PA system and told us that he hoped we enjoyed the cruise through Prince Christian Sound and that we were lucky about the nice weather. He also said that while they were sailing in during the night, the weather wasn’t so nice: heavy rain, high winds, even some snow. He said he almost aborted. Boy were we lucky.

About 10:30, they were serving Lentil soup with sausage as a warm-up in several outdoor places on the ship, even indoors in the pool area, so Donnie got herself some. She said it was delicious, but by then she was so hungry she would have eaten the spoon. A little while later, while I had gone out to the open fantail (an area they call “The Retreat”) to take yet another iceberg picture, two woman sat down at the table that Donnie and I were sitting at. Donnie later told me that they had just kind of assumed that we wouldn’t mind, and sat down. One was probably in her late eighties and very talkative and something of a know-it-all. The other was a little younger, quieter and was introduced as her friend.

As with most of these conversations, Donnie asked how many cruises they had been on. The talkative woman said they didn’t count cruises, but counted cruise days. She had over 1000 cruise days with Holland America, and her friend had 900. Help! We’re surrounded by cruise maniacs. Every time we find somebody with a crazy cruising history, we find somebody crazier.

Then this woman told us the thing that we have heard many, many times already on this cruise. She said that it’s important to stick with one cruise line because you accumulate days and eventually get perks, and here is the often repeated kicker, she said the best perk is that you get… are you ready for this… free laundry service. We later calculated that this woman had probably spent a half of a million dollars with Holland America Lines, and she was most thrilled about free laundry service. Almost everyone we have spoken to on board has mentioned how happy they are because they get free laundry service. One woman told Donnie that she brings her husband’s shirts on board still dirty and has them cleaned immediately after boarding. They’re all crazy I tell you.

During lunch, which we had to eat while the talkative lady talked at us continuously, the Cruise Director, Jan, pronounced Yon, like in Dutch, came on the PA to explain how they were doing everything possible to make the cruise enjoyable and to address all the passengers complaints and so the experiment to have a 6:00 show and an 8:00 show would, starting tomorrow be changed to an 8:00 show, where the doors would only be opened at 7:30 and closed at 8:00 and that no saving seats would be allowed, and then a 9:30 show. It seems that the four-star, five-star, and the 1000 cruise-day lady, who must be a ten-star, passengers all attempt to go to the 8:00 show and can’t get seats and start lining up earlier and earlier and put every item of clothing they can carry onto seats to try and hold them for their friends.

We think they are beating him up with complaints. His 6:00 show experiment, and now his “no entry before 7:30 or after 8:00 and no holding seats” experiment are an attempt to get more people to the other show. It won’t work. These people all eat dinner at 5:30 and are in bed, asleep at 9:30. And, as the 1000 cruise-day lady said to us, “I practically own this ship," and they all believe that and act accordingly. I can’t even imagine what will happen when he tells some five-star person that they can’t come in because the doors are now closed, or even worse that they can’t save seats for their six friends. They’ll flay him alive. I’m beginning to think that the title Cruise Director is the Holland America term for scapegoat.

After lunch we reached the end of Prince Christian Sound and are sailing along the South coast of Greenland toward Iceland. If anything, the coast of Greenland is almost more beautiful. Rocky, craggy, pointy mountain peaks, lots and lots of icebergs, a mist hovering a few feet over the ice. Awesome!

After lunch, we attended a lecture by a retired navigator, John Nixon, talking about “Explorers and the Voyages of Discovery”. He talked about the voyages of the famous explorers, Columbus, Magellan, Cortes, Hudson, Cook, Drake and that ilk, and some of the not-so-famous ones. It was pretty interesting. He did not like Columbus and prefaced his remarks about him by saying so. He pointed out how many mistakes Columbus made in navigation and how he never ever set foot on North America and even after many others had sailed to the Americas and Spain had colonized much of it, to his dying day he still thought he had sailed to China. Maybe the lecturer had a point about Columbus. So far, the lectures and entertainers on this cruise have been very good, much better than on our two previous cruises on other cruise lines.

(… time wended it’s way from… oh hell, it’s later than it was, which was earlier than it is now…)

We had a very nice dinner, once again by ourselves. I really thought that the food for this dinner was very good. My dessert, Black Forest Cake, may have been the best I’ve had. Sensational.

Early to bed because we got up early. Another “set the clock forward” night also.