Searching for the Vikings

Friday, August 11 - Day 10: At Sea, in the North Atlantic

We woke a little later than usual, or, maybe it was later because of the time change. The sky was overcast and the sea was fairly calm. Today could be very busy. There is a lecture at 9:00, another at 10:00 another at 11:00, and ones at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00. We were interested in all of them. After washing, dressing (always make sure to do it in that order. Very wet otherwise), and breakfast, we were too late for the 9:00 lecture by the Location Guide, Barbara on what do see in do in Alesund, Norway, which we will be at in a few days. So we went to the 10:00 which was a fascinating talk by the retired navigator, John Nixon, again, on the history of the Transatlantic Telegraph cables. I had read a book about this a long time ago. His talk was very interesting, to me anyway. It turned out that he had worked on cable laying ships, and he said that they still lay telephone cables in the ocean to this day.

After his lecture, we stayed put in the theater for the next lecture, this time by Jim, the geology teacher, again. Before he started, he picked up a canvas bag and starting taking out some rocks and placing them at the front edge of the stage. There must have been about 30 or 40 rocks on the very edge of the stage. As he was doing this, the passengers nearest the stage started getting up and going up to the stage. First one did, then another, then a couple more, then a whole bunch, and then I noticed that they weren’t just looking at the rocks, they were taking them . Nobody had said that they were available for taking. They just took them. Donnie said they are like elementary school kids. Eventually, after his lecture, the speaker said that the rocks were collected in Qaqortoq, Greenland the other day, and people could take one if they liked, but he only told them that way after they had already taken most of them. Typical four and five star Mariner behavior, I guess.

The lecture was about Iceland. Guess what it was specifically about. If you guessed “The Geology of Iceland” you win the prize, which is a genuine Holland America swizzle stick which you will receive after sending in the $14.95 shipping and handling fee. Even though a lecture on the Geology of Iceland sounds incredibly boring, it was pretty good. The pictures accompanying the talk were remarkable: volcanos, geysers, glaciers, even something called a rift. It turns out Iceland sits on top of the gap between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate, which are drifting apart, so Iceland is slowly breaking apart. There are places in Iceland you can go to where if you jump a few feet across the rift you are jumping from North America to Europe, geologically speaking, he said, not geographically.

There were no more lectures scheduled until 1:00 and it was now noon, when most people probably went to lunch, but since we had a late breakfast we weren’t hungry so Donnie persuaded me to join her for a walk around the Lower Promenade deck. (There is no truth to the rumor that she uses an axe as her persuader. Ok, I started that rumor.) It’s funny that the ship has an Upper Promenade Deck, a Promenade Deck, and a Lower Promenade deck, but only the Lower Promenade Deck has a place where you can promenade around the deck. Anyway we promenaded twice around the deck. During our promenade, I had to listen to Donnie’s tirade about the blankety-blank pedometer app that she has on her phone. For the last couple of days it had stopped working and so she was unable to prove that she had walked two miles a day. I asked her point-blank which was more important, improving her health by walking the two miles, or turning the little bar on the app from orange to green, proving that she had walked two miles. She said the latter.

After our promenade, it was about 12:30. We still weren’t hungry but we had a bit of a dilemma. There were two more talks scheduled. One at 1:00 which was a Q&A with the Greenland Ice Pilot, Torben Jacobsen, (you are now thinking, “The crazy people of Greenland fly planes made of ice?” No. I’ll explain in a minute) and another at 2:00 by Jim, the geology guy, again, titled “Puffins”. If we attended both talks, we wouldn’t have lunch until 3:00, and then would never be hungry for dinner. So we had to skip one of them. We decided to miss “Puffins”.

The Ice Pilot Q&A was very interesting. The Captain told us during his Q&A the other day that there is a new requirement that cruise ships sailing through the waters near Greenland are required by law to hire Ice Pilots to help guide the ship through the ice fields. He seemed just a little annoyed by this. He said that the cruise line had to pay $95,000 for the two Ice Pilots and they joined the ship in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and left the ship in Reykjavik and during most of the time they were eating and not doing much. I think he was joking, maybe. There had to be two of them to spell each other. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised that the questions were reasonable and not stupid or off topic. One thing that we learned was that we were even luckier than we thought that we had been able to go through Prince Christian sound. Mr. Jacobsen said that we were the first cruise ship allowed through in the last one and a half months.

One passenger, who was Danish, as are the Ice Pilots (Greenland is a self-governed independent former province of Denmark, which gets a lot of support and assistance from them) asked about a little island, in the far northwest of Greenland (latitude 82 degrees!), whose name I didn’t get, whose ownership is under dispute between Canada and Denmark. Mr. Jacobsen, said it was a pretty friendly dispute and told a little story. He said that every few months, the Danish Navy lands on the little island, and they hoist a Danish flag, and leave a bottle of Danish Liquor on a rock below the flag. Then a few months later, the Canadian Navy lands. They lower the Danish flag, raise the Canadian flag, take the Danish liquor and leave a bottle of Canadian Liquor… and so on.

We went for a light lunch in the buffet, just as it was closing and then at 3:00 Donnie wanted to go to a session hosted by the magician from the other night’s show where he was going to teach a few magic tricks. The magician we had seen on a previous cruise had done a similar thing and it sounded like this one would be teaching the same, simple tricks. Since the session was in the Crow’s Nest, one of the nicer lounges on the ship, with very comfortable chairs, I suggested that we both go to the Crow’s Nest and I could sit in a comfy chair and update this short document while Donnie learned some magic, and that’s what we did.

After her magic class, we were still in the Crow’s Nest and, magically, it was happy hour. If you ordered a drink, the second was only $2, but, it had to be the same kind of drink. We learned this the hard way on one of our previous cruises where I had ordered a Martini, and Donnie had ordered a Mojito and we thought one would be full price and the other $2. The waiter brought two Martini’s and two Mojito’s. Oops. Since a Mojito has a lot of carbonated water and lemon juice, Donnie was Ok afterward, but a Martini is all booze so I was a little wobbly.

This time we got smart and ordered one drink, and a $2 copy of the same. Since we had to find a drink we both like, we looked at the drink menu and ordered a “Starboard Sunrise”: Bacardi Razz (I’m assuming that’s raspberry flavored rum), pineapple juice and raspberry puree. When the waiter brought them, he said they were a variation of the “Port Sunset”. Ha, ha, very funny. They even came with peanuts. This is the life.

(… quite a few minutes have passed, a whole bunch of seconds have flown, a huge number of milliseconds have gone by, an incredible number of microseconds have zoomed past, a mind-bogglingly immense number of nanoseconds have zipped by, a very, very … never mind. It’s later …)

We went to the 9:30 show. I won’t bore you with a complex, repetitive tale of the schedule changes again. It was the “Not the Three Tenors” again, but with different material. But, before their act, Jan the Cruise Director came on stage to make a few announcements. The first was to reinforce how lucky we have been. He reiterated our luck in Prince Christian Sound, then he told us that another Holland America ship, the Koenigsdam, which was supposed to dock in Reykjavik around the same time as us tomorrow, was delayed by very bad weather and won’t arrive until 5:00 PM. The passengers will miss most of the day in Reykjavik.

Then he told us that we will be docking about 1.8 miles from the center of town, and we will have to take shuttle buses into town, which are not associated with the cruise line and cost $11 one way or $22 round trip. But, here’s the best part, he said that there may be a problem getting back to the ship at certain times, It seems that at 2:00 PM, many of the roads in Reykjavik will be closed.

Before I tell you why, another brief digression. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe that the Moon Landing was a hoax. JFK was not shot by the CIA, or the Boy Scouts. The Earth is not flat. However, I may have to revisit my feelings about grand conspiracies. Why? Can you guess why the roads will be closed in Reykjavik tomorrow afternoon? You can? I knew you were smart people. Let’s all say it again out loud. IT’S THE GAY PRIDE PARADE. Conspiracy? You bet.

So back to the show, “Not The Three Tenors” did a different act, with different jokes and different songs. They even did the “Nuts, Crackers, and Sweets” by Billy Tchaikovsky, to the words Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum. It was just as good as their previous show. Now it’s almost 11:00 and Donnie is dragging me to the theater to see the Filipino Crew Show, where the Philippine members of the crew perform. Yawn!  No, that wasn’t a review, it’s just late. During his introductions, Jan, the Cruise Director taught us a few words of Tagalog, the language used in the Philippines. Mung Bean Bok Choy. That means “Have a nice Day," I think. Maybe I’ll report on the show tomorrow, maybe not.