"TOP OF THE WORLD" REVERSE TRIP FROM NEW YORK TO DOVER
Our return voyage on Tahitian Princess from New York to Dover followed a different itinerary from the outward voyage.
At Halifax, Nova Scotia Captain Ravera departed for his vacation. His replacement was a British captain, William Kent - who holds the rank of Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve. He is a really excellent captain and proved to be a great host, with a wicked sense of humor. Some of his jokes at the captain’s cocktail party could not be repeated here, but were really funny.
Halifax was very misty, so passengers who had booked the morning shore excursion to Peggy's Cove did not see very much. We were glad we had reserved a rental car, because the coast is beautiful. We drove to Lunenburg and miraculously, the mist cleared 20 miles from Halifax. We had a great time but on our return, Halifax was still misty. During our walk back to the pier, we passed the "Garrison Brewing Company" and tasted several of their ales. Absolutely superb, so we purchased a few bottles for the refrigerator in our cabin.
St Anthony, Newfoundland does not appear to be geared to tourism. There were no taxis at the harbor, and few signs of life. Staff who manned the tourist desk at the harbor were unhelpful and not particularly knowledgeable – and we thought this port was slightly disappointing.
We visited the L'Anse Aux Meadows Viking Museum, which was interesting but not spectacular. The museum covers a large area and visitors need to view the archeological remains. Part of the site is outdoors and might be unsuitable for anyone with walking difficulties. And you might need a good imagination, to visualize some of the ancient buildings. However, we passed through lovely scenery, on our way to the museum.
During our outward voyage from Dover, the ice pilot advised Captain Ravera that there was too much pack ice for us to visit Qaqortoq safely. This time, we managed to visit the port without any serious problems. However, there was still a lot of ice as we approached the harbor and when we sailed away, we passed many enormous icebergs. Consequently, I have no doubt whatsoever that Captain Ravera’s decision on the outward voyage was 100% correct.
ICEBERG NEAR QAQORTOQ
The town was very similar to our previous visit (in 2003) and they are definitely not geared up for mass tourism. The Tourist Office had not arranged any special events for our passengers, so we walked into the hills behind the town. The ground was very rough and we needed to scramble up some steep rocks to enjoy wonderful views over the fjord. The terrain would be far too difficult for anyone who is infirm.
Our visit to Nanortalik was quite spectacular, and this was one of the most enjoyable ports, since we left Dover. There was a lot of pack ice in the area, so the captain had to maneuver the ship on a zigzag course, to enter and leave the harbor. There was still so much ice that I would not have been particularly surprised, if it had prevented our visit to Nanortalik.
ICEBERG BLOCKING EXIT FROM THE HARBOR
The town is not especially pretty. However, the local community makes a great effort to welcome cruise ship passengers. Full details are available on the website at www.nanortaliktourism.gl/uk/cruise_ships.html. Inuit children performed local dances in the Community Centre. Then, we visited the church and listened to a small choir, which performed traditional Greenlandic songs. Then, we visited the museum. There were so many interesting exhibits in the various buildings - and were treated to a kayaking demonstration.
Finally, my wife climbed the small mountain behind the town. This time, the terrain was too difficult for me, so I returned to the ship.
After Greenland, we visited three Icelandic ports - and had a great time. Incidentally, visitors should try to avoid Icelandic currency. Everyone in Iceland seems happy to accept US dollars, Euros, British pounds or credit cards.
Grundafjordur was lovely. The scenery is magnificent and we shared a rental car for a tour of the Snaefellsness peninsular. However, there are very few self-drive cars available, so most passengers would need to take one of the ship's tours. A half-day drive round the Snaefellsness peninsular is probably the most attractive option, although it does involve walking from the tour bus to several of the sights.
Isafjordur was a very remote harbor. We had made no prior arrangements for this port – which was fortunate, because it poured with rain with gale force winds. The weather didn't matter too much, because during our visit to the Maritime Museum, local young people in national costumes presented a very professional program of readings and local music.
At Akureyri, we shared a pre-booked taxi and toured the area. The scenery was magnificent and we saw waterfalls, lava fields, hot mud pools - and a thermal power station. It was a great tour.
Lerwick was different yet again. This was Scottish island life in miniature. The Shetland Isles are very windswept and the scenery was magnificent. We had booked an 8-seater van and our party of 6 traveled in comfort with an excellent driver/guide. We toured the South of the main island and saw many Shetland ponies, basking seals and thousands of nesting birds on the cliffs. A really enjoyable day!
Then, our ship sailed to Bergen, in Norway. The old city is fascinating, as is the fish market. A ride on the funicular railway up Mount Floyen offers wonderful views - if the weather is fine. However, Bergen suffers very heavy rainfall (300 days of rain per annum), so there would be no point in going into the mountains, if it is raining. Another possibility might be a visit to Troldhaugen, home of Edvard Grieg, the composer.
We were fortunate because despite a pessimistic weather forecast, the sun was shining. We traveled up the mountain on the funicular railway and walked for miles!
The next port was Kristiansand and following our arrival, the rain returned. The offshore islands (skerries) are supposed to be very pretty. However, the summer holiday season had ended on the previous day, so there were no boat trips around the islands or along the coast. Consequently, we decided to travel by bus to a local fishing harbor. There was very little at the harbor, so we sheltered from the heavy rain. Then, we took the bus back to the open-air museum, with a street of traditional houses and a separate farm. The museum was attractively laid out, and we enjoyed our visit. However, we thought that overall, Kristiansand was slightly disappointing.