Category Archives: 2015 Summer – Voyage of the Vikings Cruise

2015 Jul 30 & 31 – Days 6 & 7 – At Sea and Qaqortoq, Greenland

We were quite pleased in Red Bay to pass an iceberg on the tender ride.  While eating dinner last night we passed three more large icebergs; and a pod of small whales was frolicking (probably minke whales) about 200 yards off the starboard side of the ship.  There is a family of three teenage daughters at the window table beside us and the mom and those girls were so thrilled to see the whale fins and tails and blows.  It was a nice ending to the day.

My phone clock acted up again and I was up, showered, dressed and tying my last shoe lace when John woke and told me it was 6:42.  My phone said it was 8:42.  John turned his off and on again and it came back 8:42.  Crazy. Anyway this time I put my jammies back on and crawled into bed.  I wasn’t doing that early morning thing again! Today is a sea day so we had nowhere to be anyway. Quite a few of our shore excursions leave the ship at 8 or earlier so I will have enough early rises to get ready and eat before we go out.

I woke again at 10 after 8 to another day of thick fog.  I do hope it clears off before the scenic cruising in the Greenland fjords day after tomorrow.  Tomorrow we are at Qaqortoq (Kakortok) and there are no excursions available. It is a tender port and we are there from 10-6.  It has a population of about 3000 and is the second largest community in Southern Greenland (4th largest on the island).  There are a couple of old churches and the oldest fountain in Greenland within walking distance of the pier – also a geocache or two.

We pretty much did nothing all day – puzzles and read.  John was brave and walked 8 quick laps (2 miles) on deck in the cold and wind.  I don’t do cold.

IMG_6435  IMG_6437Tonight is our second formal night so dress-up time again.   Our cabin steward made my favorite towel animal – the puppy dog.

IMG_6439IMG_6441When I woke up in the morning I opened the drapes to see the Greenland coast lit up with glorious sunshine.

IMG_6445IMG_6446We were scheduled to go ashore by 10 but the ship was cleared by customs at 9 so the first tenders headed out.  We went in about 10:30 and avoided the first rush.  Greenland was discovered by the Vikings in the 10th century and has been occupied for 4300 years.  It was colonized by the Danish April 7, 1775 and remained a colony of Denmark until 1953. It is geographically part of North America but is politically a part of Europe. In 1981 Greenland began full self-government with a constitutional monarchy, the King of Denmark being head of state.  The town of Qaqortoq is built up the rocky hills around a nice bay. We walked through town around to the lake and down the other side back to the pier.

IMG_6448 IMG_6460 IMG_6463 IMG_6453IMG_6467 IMG_6474IMG_6472  These carvings in stone were part of a 1994-95 project by different local artists.  There are over 30 of them located around the town.IMG_6482 IMG_6484 IMG_6490 IMG_6491 IMG_6499 IMG_6500 IMG_6501 IMG_6505

There were lupins and buttercups blooming on every hillside. Absolutely lovely.IMG_6507 IMG_6513 IMG_6514 IMG_6516 IMG_6526 IMG_6528John tried to locate a couple of caches that showed up on the GPS but the co-ordinates kept bouncing around.  Finally after we had seen most of the sites in town he found a cache 400 meters away in the other direction so we went looking for it.  The granite hills surrounding Qaqortoq are very steep and you can avoid the switch-backs on the roads by climbing long flights of stairs.  We hiked straight up an almost vertical hillside thinking it was the place in the directions that indicated you are to leave the road.  We discovered at the top that the path we were supposed to climb was just down the road from where we clambered onto the road again.  I could see a rock cairn on top of the hill and thought that would be where the cache was located.  Turns out it was not too far away and it didn’t take too long for John to find it hidden behind a rock.

IMG_6542 IMG_6547 IMG_6566 IMG_6567 IMG_6568 IMG_6579 IMG_6585 IMG_6588From the cache site you could climb further away from the town and up higher and see the bay on the other side of the hill.  This we did.  The view was spectactular!

IMG_6598 IMG_6600 IMG_6606After taking some pics we made our way along the rocky hilltop and over to another cairn that overlooked the bay where the ship was docked.  John picked up a pointed rock as he walked along and placed it on the top of the cairn to finish it off.

IMG_6607IMG_6611  IMG_6615 IMG_6619We continued on in a sort-of-toward-town direction to a third cairn and then made our way back to the road and the long flights of stairs down to the town center.

IMG_6620 IMG_6621 IMG_6623 IMG_6624 Lots of long flights of stairs to get from one section of houses to another cutting off the road switchbacks.

We boarded a tender and were back on board about 3pm.  Plenty of time to check our photos, choose the ones for the blog, and dress for dinner.

We really enjoyed our day here. Gorgeous scenery, nice sunshine, cool but not cold, and we were only assaulted by the tiny black flies at the start of our walk. Being brilliant, I planned to bring our Australian fly covers with us. Being stupid, I left them at home.  Oh well, we survived the onslaught.

In the evening the fog lifted and we sailed through a large iceberg floe.  Some of them are humongous and there were lots of smaller ones – an amazing variety of shapes and sculptures.  One gigantic one looked like it had been put through a sawmill the sides were so perpendicular and the top was so flat.  And others were bumpy or had very tidy-looking globes on them.  Really cool stuff.

IMG_6632 IMG_6634 IMG_6635 IMG_6643 IMG_6644 IMG_6662 IMG_6663 IMG_6670 IMG_6677IMG_6683IMG_6675   IMG_6681 IMG_6679Awhile later I went up to the stern and watched the sunset.  The sky looked like it was on fire.  And the moon in the other direction was almost full and throwing a glistening stream on the water.  A magical end to a wonderful day.

IMG_6685IMG_6684  IMG_6693 IMG_6697 IMG_6713 IMG_6719 IMG_6723 IMG_6730 IMG_6733 IMG_6735 IMG_6736 IMG_6742 IMG_6744Tomorrow we are scheduled to do some scenic cruising in Prince Christian Sound. The fog was rolling in again while we ate dinner and parts of the Sound are still blocked by icebergs so we will see what tomorrow brings.  Today was a great day!

2015 Jul 29 – Day 5 – Red Bay, Labrador

Red Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.  It provides the world’s earliest, most complete and best preserved testimony to the whaler’s work and life of the 16th century. Several thousand Basque whalers would spend the summers here harvesting bowhead and right whales, the oil of which was shipped back to Europe for use in lighting and manufacturing.

There is not much of a town; a dozen or so buildings in total.  The area was only ‘settled’ in the last 150 years.  The year-round population is about 120.  If a cruise ship comes to town the population expands by about 200 per cent.

We woke at 6:30 and opened the drapes to discover thick fog.  Red Bay is a tender port.  Obviously such a small community would not have a cruise terminal.  We were on land and getting in our school bus by 9.  We passed by a substantial iceberg still stuck in the bay.  We will see more of them as we approach Greenland but it was pretty neat.  Remember that 90% of the berg is underwater so no matter how large the top you can see may be it is much, much larger below.

IMG_7514 IMG_7519 IMG_7521 IMG_7524 IMG_7526 IMG_7528 IMG_7529

IMG_6343Our tour took us on a drive along the coastal road– which, incidentally is the only road – to the Point Amour Lighthouse, bouncing regularly over the pot holes.  It really brought John and I back to our time driving in Newfoundland last year.  Our bus driver (she is a regular school bus driver) did the same as John would do and drove on the other side of the road to try avoid the worst of them.

We did a rolling stop on a little bridge to get a photo of ‘the small waterfall’ on the Pinware River.  Well, the rapid anyway.  Not really what we would call a waterfall but it was a nice view. Traffic is so light in Labrador there is no risk of holding up other vehicles if you stop in the middle of a bridge to let a bunch of tourists take photos.  During our entire 40 minute drive we saw 4 cars and one gravel truck.

IMG_7530 IMG_7531The only other stop on our way to the lighthouse was at the L’Anse Amour Burial Mound where a Maritime Archaic child was buried 7500 years ago.  It is just a pile of rocks but it is an important historical point of interest; showing just how long people have been harvesting the fish from the ocean in these parts.

IMG_7565IMG_6348IMG_6351 IMG_6352 IMG_7538 We reached our destination at the Point Amour Lighthouse, the tallest in Atlantic Canada and the second tallest ever built in Canada (the tallest is in Quebec somewhere). Johnny, our guide, told us we had one hour and 15 minutes to explore the gift shop, climb the 132 steps to the top of the lighthouse, or walk the foot path along the shore. Naturally, we climbed the lighthouse.  My schedule will always include climbing up whatever is high. I love to see the ground or water from above.

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It is hard to see, but rocks under the water along the shore look like paving stones in a yard.IMG_7556 IMG_7560We returned to Red Bay with only two photo stops. The first was made so that Johnny, our very funny and excellent guide, could run over to a flag pole and take down the Labrador flag so that all the people on the bus could get a good look at it.

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The second was at an overlook of the Pinware River.

CAM00317 CAM00318 CAM00320IMG_6387John and I had hoped to find at least one geocache during our stop here but the nearest one showing on the GPS was almost half a kilometer back through town and when we got to the site it had a second set of co-ordinates to follow which would have taken us even further away from the pier.  The last tender left the dock at 2:30 and it was getting close to 2 o’clock by then so we walked back and caught a tender back to the ship.  The fog was still so thick we were almost upon the ship before it was visible; one moment there was a solid white wall and the next there was a ghostly-looking ship skulking out of the mist.

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Notice that the stone path around the information plaques at the Parks Canada Information Center is in the shape of a whale.


A foggy day, but a good one. We had a good bus driver, a great guide, and explored some new land and history – some of the best things about travelling.

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I spotted this star fish as I was going down the gangplank to get on the tender.  He’s a pretty big one.

2015 Jul 27 & 28 – Days 3 & 4 – At Sea and Cornerbrook, NL

Yesterday was a sea day and we did nothing.  There was a whale sighting in the afternoon and we were on the starboard side where it was swimming.  I looked and looked and never saw it.  John not only saw the fins and back he saw the whale breach.  Figures.

It was formal night so we got all duded up for dinner.  After dinner we went to the Showroom at Sea where the captain introduced the ship’s officers and we had a champagne toast to a successful voyage (Gotta love the free champagne).  We skipped the evening’s entertainment in the show lounge – a jazz clarinet player – and went back to our cabin to read until bed.  I didn’t take one photo all day. So that was that.

IMG_6286We arrived in Cornerboork, Newfoundland at 8 am under partly cloudy skies.  Cornerbrook is a mill town with a large pulp mill right at the end of the bay and the town growing up the hillsides around it. We had no excursions booked and our only plans were to try find a light-weight cardigan to replace the one I left on the banguette in our Boston hotel restaurant and then go searching for some geo-caches. 

IMG_6302 IMG_6301 IMG_6299We wandered off the ship mid-morning and walked into town.  The ship was docked about a kilometer from town (a bit longer if you walked via the highway) There was a free shuttle but along the T-Railway path into town there were a couple of geo-caches.

The T-Railway is a province wide connection of walking/biking paths on the old railroad line.  The railway service in Newfoundland was discontinued quite a few years ago and all the tracks were taken out and either gravelled or paved.  An energetic person could go for miles and miles around the province on T-Railway.

The first cache was located quickly.

IMG_6293 We searched and searched for the second one to no avail.  We read the previous logs to see if there may be a hint posted but all the posts were DNF (Did not find).  No one had found it since 2010 and yet the person that hid the cache checked it in January and said it was there, the co-ordinates were accurate, and “the cache was visible from a meter away without lifting a finger.”  The location was a little sitting area with big rocks forming a semi-circle, two benches, flower beds and rose bushes in bloom.  We looked and we looked and we looked and we finally gave up and walked the rest of the way into town.

I managed to find a new cardigan in the first shop I checked (my kind of shopping – in and out and done) and we walked back to the T-Railway to find some more caches.  There are seven hidden along the trail extending about 2 km to the west of town.  These Newfies hide hard-to-find caches.  We did find three more; only one of which was a quick find, and we gave up on the last one after searching up, down, over and around a big rocky slope for half an hour.  By then both our phone batteries were dying so we turned around, walked back to town and went to Tim Horton’s for coffee and an apple fritter for lunch.  After that it was a leisurely stroll back to the ship and we were on board again by 2 pm.


All in all it was a very exciting day in Newfoundland.  We enjoyed it though. And now we are sailing to Red Bay, Labrador.


2015 Jul 27 – Day 2 – At Sea

I slept like a log and checked my phone for the time when I woke up. The light visible through the narrow crack in the window shade had that ‘very early still’ look to it but my phone said it was almost 8.  There was to be an interdenominational worship service at 9 but John was still sound asleep so I thought I would go back to sleep as well.  I drifted off and woke a while later, checked the phone – 8:18.  Oh well, I may as well just get up.  I gathered up my things, shut myself in the bathroom and showered and dressed for the day.  I was just brushing my hair when John poked his head in and said, “What are you doing?”  “Well it is after 9, so I figured I would get up.”  “It is quarter to 6,” he replied.  “No, it’s not.  I checked my phone three times because it looked ‘early’ outside, but it is after 9.  Here, see for yourself.”

“My phone says its quarter to 6.”  But when he checked my phone it said it was quarter to 9.  For some reason my phone did not pick up the right time zone.  Yikes!  And now I was showered and dressed at 6 am!  John crawled back in bed, I picked up my Kindle and my puzzle book and headed for the Lido on deck 11 to find coffee.  Continental breakfast service begins at 6:30, full buffet at 7.  I worked on puzzles at a table, savouring a couple of cups of coffee, ate breakfast and went to the Showroom at Sea to wait for the church service to begin.  John came in just as it was starting; having enjoyed three more hours of sleep.  It was going to be a long day!

My phone did eventually find the correct time, but not until mid-morning. Very strange.  I have never had that happen before (and I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen again anytime soon).

Fog rolled in during church service so we took a lap around the promenade deck to watch the water, then found a chair and read until lunch.  Because we had calm seas all day and we had no sights of land there are no interesting photos.  I took some of the water rolling away from the ship.  John loves to watch the water whenever we sail.  He could happily stand at the rail for hours.IMG_6271

IMG_6261 IMG_6265  IMG_6272 IMG_6275After lunch we returned to the cabin and I posted yesterdays’ blog as a time trial.  I had pre-written all the text, chosen and downsized the photos and had them in a separate folder so when I went online I could just copy and paste the text, upload the photos and put them where I wanted.  It didn’t take too long so I may be able to do my blog more often than I thought.  Perhaps it helped to have people out and about on the ship and not in their cabins on their computers so the server wasn’t bogged down.  Who knows, but I was quite pleased with how quickly it went; considering how slow internet at sea can be.  Internet on a ship arrives via a direct satellite transmission from 22,000 miles away and onto a moving vessel so weather conditions and other factors can have a significant impact.

We spent today sailing about 26 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia – very slowly during the fog and then the Captain sped up a bit to make up some of the lost time..  Tomorrow is another day at sea – and our first of 9 formal nights – and Tuesday we dock in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. We spent two nights in Cornerbrook on our cross-Canada trip last summer so we have no tour planned.  All the excursion are places we previously explored.  We plan to find some geocaches.  John downloaded locations of caches at all our ports of call onto his new palm-size GPS so anywhere we either have no excursion or the one we are taking is only a few hours long we hope to see what we can find.


2015 Jul 25 – Day 1 – Sailing from Boston

We got up early enough for breakfast today – $16.50 for bacon and eggs, $5 for coffee and $3 for toast = $24.50 plus tourist tax and state tax made for a $51 brekkie.

At noon we checked out of our room, walked out of the hotel to the taxi stand and got a ride to the cruise terminal.  Check-in didn’t take too long and our room was ready when we go on board.  We had booked an interior cabin on deck 5 but got upgraded to a slightly larger cabin with a window one deck down. We are only a couple of rooms away from the stern stairwell that goes right up to the dining room on deck seven.  Convenient I think.

IMG_6214 IMG_6218 IMG_6216We did a quick tour to get our bearings which is pretty easy to do since we have been on several HAL ships and the layout is pretty much the same on all of them. Then we got our Kindles and found a deck chair until the mandatory safety drill at 4:15.

After the safety drill we went to the dining room for dinner.  We were placed at a round table for eight with 2 couples from Florida (different areas – they didn’t know each other) and two ladies from Seattle.  While we were at dinner the ship sailed backwards out of its berth in Boston and then turned around and we were on our way.  We went on deck after dinner and took some photos and watched the skyline of Boston disappear.

IMG_6222 IMG_6224 IMG_6229 IMG_6232 IMG_6241 IMG_6247 IMG_6251 IMG_6256John finished his little bit of unpacking and we loaded our photos onto the computers and bought some expensive internet minutes.  I wrote this text, chose the photos I wanted to add to the blog, logged on to Word Press to upload a blog for the day and the password was not recognized.  Strange since I went through a similar rigamarole at the hotel the day before and just set up a new password. I opted to leave it alone for now and went to bed.

Thus endeth Day 1.

PS.  There may be more typos than normal or the photo placement may be skewed now and then because I am not going to spend a lot of time online tweaking my blog posts.

2015 Jul 24 – Voyage of the Vikings

We flew to Boston yesterday.  The ship doesn’t sail until tomorrow at 5 pm but we have done enough traveling to know it is not wise to take plane rides scheduled to arrive the same day you are scheduled to leave for somewhere else.  Too many things can go wrong.

Our first plane of the day left Kelowna at 8:50 am, which necessitated a 5 am wake-up.  Thanks very much to Carmen for picking us up at 6:30 and driving us to the airport.  This duty usually falls to our daughter but she had to be at work already at 6 am – go figure.

We arrived on time to check our bags, go through security, sit a few minutes and board the plane for Toronto.  Nothing exciting to report about that.  We had 1 1/2 hours between flights in Toronto. We had to do a hop through LaGuardia Airport  because WestJet doesn’t fly direct to Boston and we had to take an affiliate flight on Delta from La Guardia to Logan Airport in Boston. (WestJet just announced that they will be making direct flights from Toronto to Boson.)

Because we were now going to be entering the USA we needed to collect our bags and go through Customs and Immigration.  Our bags took over 1/2 an hour to fall down the shute.  We then had a long walk to Terminal A where we put our passports in the kiosk reader, received our receipts and entered the zigzag line to go through screening.  By the time we got to the tail of the line we had 30 minutes until our flight was due to depart.  The zigzag was 6 rows long and moving slowly. Not going to make it….

A fellow a couple of lines over heard us say we had a flight in 30 minutes so he flagged down a US customs officer and told them our problem. There was another couple in the line a row ahead of us in the same dilema.  The staff member waved us over to the NEXUS priority boarding line and we got through security quickly. We speed-walked to our gate; arriving just as the plane was due to begin boarding only to find out it was delayed 15 minutes.

Perfect!  We were starving – 2 mini-bags of 15 corn chips do not constitute a meal.  (No food on planes unless you pay extra for them.  John had a $7 turkey bunwich but I didn’t bother). We hustled over to a nearby food supplier, picked up an egg sandwich, a ceasar salad, one bottle of water and a granola bar.  Total cost $33.06!  Yes, you read that correctly.  When my mouth dropped the clerk said, “You have to love airport taxes.”  Seriously!!!  More like, “One does not have to like airport rip offs.” (Obvioulsy I should have opted for the overpriced airplane bunwich)

Anyway we swallowed the bullet, paid for our food and made it back to the waiting area as  boarding commenced.  Flight time from Toronto to New York is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  We arrived a bit early  – about 6:50 pm EST.  I had a window seat on this flight and could see the ground almost the entire flight, which was nice; usually all you have is a great view of clouds.

IMG_6165 IMG_6167 IMG_6171The above three pics are blurry so don’t worry about your vison. We were flying out of Toronto and it was a bit shaky on the plane.IMG_6173 IMG_6176 IMG_6177 IMG_6179 IMG_6174 The normal airplane view. Our flight to Boston was scheduled to leave at 8 pm.  We landed at La Guardia and the Captain announced that the air control tower had put us into a queue formation that they don’t use because it doesn’t work well and we would be delayed getting to the terminal.  We sat out on the runway able to see a long line of stationary airplanes ahead of us.  15-20 minutes later the Captain came on again: the plane using the same gate we were scheduled to use had also been stuck in the queue and had just arrived at the terminal. Therefore, we would have to wait for it to deboard the passengers, get cleaned and re-stocked, board the new passangers and move away from the gate so we could get in.  Estimated wait time 30-45 minutes.  He shut down the engines while we waited.  Two more updates followed and we eventually deplaned at 8:10.

We were hoping that our Boston flight may have been caught in the back log and delayed in leaving but no such luck; it had departed on time.   We made another long trek to the Delta service counter in the next terminal and managed to get re-booked on the last plane of the day from New York to Boston, leaving in an hour.  With a 20 minute delay in departure time and a 35 minute flight time, plus luggage collection and a hike through the almost empy Logan airport we arrived at our hotel, checked in and got to our room at 15 minutes after midnight, Eastern Time.  The only available place to eat closed at 12:30.

Mad dash downstairs for food – made it with 5 minutes to spare! With the time zone change it was really only 9:30 Pacific Time but our bodies felt it was a lot later and we crashed as soon as we got back to our room.  Breakfast is served from 5 am until 10:30. We missed it.  We woke at 11:30 and then dozed until 12;30 so breakfast was lunch.  No bacon and eggs today.  Tomorrow maybe…. Just as well we don’t have to be anywhere until then.

PS.  Tomorrow we board the MS Veendam and begin our 35-day Voyage of the Vikings cruise.  Internet on board is VERY slow and VERY expensive so my blog postings will be sporadic.  If we have a port of call with a short shore excursion, or no excursion at all and we don’t spend all our free time looking for geo-caches, I will try find wi-fi to work on a blog.  I will do my best, but make no promises about scheduling.