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Trip Report LIVE FROM ICELAND AND GREENLAND ON THE TAHITIAN PRINCESS

July 15th. I can’t begin to count the number of tours that are available to us during our 18 day “On the Top of the World”, cruise. However, one tour in particular has been the butt (pun intended) of many discussions and jokes among the passengers, officers, crew and staff aboard the T.P. The Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland is a spa done up in Scandinavian modern style where clients pay to take a dip in geo-thermal heated mineral water contained in a man made lava pit. The Crabby Old Guy insists on referring to this beautifully exotic and luxurious place, picked by Conde Naste as one of the top geo-thermal spas in the world, as a place where you bathe in a rock bed filled with industrial waste and pay a nice hefty price for it. In good sanitary style the spa management requires each patron to take a shower “with no clothing on” before you enter the Blue Lagoon waters. Some how this too offended Crabby’s sensibilities as he felt somewhat insulted by the notion that he needed to clean up before getting into the “algae mineral pit”; some guys just do not get it.

Of course all of the hype about this shower protocol captured the imagination of all and folks began to speculate. Deep questions such as; just who takes a shower with their cloths on? And will the Blue Lagoon make me look like a Smurf if I stay in too long? Etc. Many of us also began to wonder if Iceland, being the liberal minded country that it is, would only have co-ed shower rooms (this one was mostly a source of speculation by the guys on board). The women on board even went so far as to plan, if necessary, to have their husbands stand in front of them in the shower room. By the way all shower rooms are separate and gender specific, thank you.

Many of us ladies and the more enlightened of the men, felt it would be a sin to travel all these thousands of miles to Iceland and not experience the Blue Lagoon. So bright and early, 7:15 AM to be exact, we all boarded our bus with our bathing suits and towels packed (tip to others, bring flip flops and a robe too!) and had a 45 minute drive through a rather desolate lava strewn countryside. It was almost eerie to be driving for miles without seeing at least one tree. The land, due to volcanic activity, is filled with lava rock and almost reminds you of the craters on the moon. Our tour guide informed us that it would take at least another 200 years before the area will be filled with trees.

We finally reached our destination and believe me we were all still rather clueless regarding what to expect. Thankfully, when we got into the facility, everything was quite civilized, modern, ultra-clean and very pleasant. We were given a high-tech wrist band with a microchip to wear which we were told was used to scan our lockers and lock them. The Crabby Old Guy, who is not a swimmer, was hoping that it was also a means to track him in case he got lost in the Blue Lagoon. No matter what your age is we all did a quick sprint (the sprint was definitely faster than most of us have moved in a good number of


years) from the locker rooms into the lagoon. The air temperature was 53 degrees F and felt a tad bit nippy to be walking around in our bathing suits, even when dry. The water was an eerie murky opalescent blue and I’m guessing that it was at least 100 degrees F but it felt wonderful. We were on the tour with two couples who we met onboard the first night. The six of us were floating in the lagoon when we saw a man with his face covered in white just like a mime. We thought he had put on some zinc oxide since it had become quite sunny. The next minute we saw him with a group of his friends and they too had white faces which led to a comment by one of our friends that they belonged to the Marcelle Marceau tour. It wasn’t long before we discovered pails filled with white silica that you ladled into your hands and then smeared all over your face for a Blue Lagoon facial. One of our friends, Carol had been swimming off in the distance when she returned and saw us all in white faces. The look of shock was priceless! We all decided that we must have a photo of all of us in our white masks; the kids will never believe that we would do this without proof positive!

After returning to the ship and a quick on-board lunch we decided to take a ride into Reykjavik by taxi. The cab driver told us we had to taste one of their famous hotdogs at what translates into “Town’s Best Hot Dog Stand”. He told us that this stand, which has been there since the 1930’s, is where locals go after being away from home to get a right proper hotdog. So as we stood in a rather impressive line of locals (it was after all 2PM) we spotted a photo and a cartoon inside of the stand of Bill Clinton eating one of their hotdogs. Imagine that. The cab driver had told us they don’t like to tell people that the following week President Clinton suffered a heart attack. The hot dog tasted like a mix between an American hotdog and a sausage and the mustard they use is a khaki color and tastes completely different than our mustard and more like a honey base product. The dogs were also frequently served with mayonnaise or “bread crumbs” (which really taste like those fried onion things you get from a can and use on green-bean casserole). We walked for an hour or two around the main district shopping area and found the prices to be rather high.

July 16th was a sea day- translate - another eating-sleeping-reading-meandering day on board the Tahitian Princess. Everyone was very excited about entering Prins Christian Sound in Greenland the next day. Sadly, the excitement didn’t last long when the Captain announced that the Sound would be closed due to a large number of ice floes and icebergs that came down from the Arctic and now surrounded the entrance to the sound. We also were encountering rather substantial wave action and gale force winds that made navigation very perilous and once again those of us who have sailed with Captain Ravera before were very thankful that he was at the helm.

July 17th at 8:00AM Captain Ravera, who had been on the bridge since 4:00AM that morning monitoring the seas, the weather reports and working with an on-board Greenlandic pilot, brought us as close as safely possible to the entrance of Prins Christian Sound and many of us witnessed for the first time up close and personal huge icebergs surrounding the entire coast line of Greenland like the rings of Saturn. New words were added to our vocabulary such as “bergie bits” (floating ice bigger than a piano), and growlers (sort of the size of a person). Massive pieces of polar ice were also being moved all around us by 50 knot winds (gale force) and we watched in amazement at the raw spectacle of Greenland’s snow and ice covered mountain coast. Parallel to the coast were two belts of ice floes and it didn’t take long for us to realize this wasn’t a Disneyland ride, this was the real deal. It was a time when all of us, once again, appreciated having a professional crew on a well managed ship to give us as good a view of the land as possible but to keep us all safe and comfortable in some fantastic weather. This was all very dramatic and many of us sitting in the Tahitian Lounge watching the area were at times in awe and at times somewhat tense when a wind or wave gust took the ship. Crabby of course didn’t help matters as he continued to hum the theme song of the Titanic in my ear. One other modest observation to share. It’s interesting to note that there is very little animal life to be seen in this region. It is not at all what you see in Alaska or the Antarctic.

July 18th was supposed to be Qaqortoq, our only port of call in Greenland. Once again Captain Ravera announced that due to weather and a belt of ice directly in the path of our port we would not be able to dock in Greenland. Disappointment could be heard throughout the ship but we all understood that his decision was made for our safety. Still many wondered how if the Sound and the port are closed to the ships more often than open and whether Princess Cruise Lines Corporate should add a note to the itinerary stating the possibility of closure. Many people felt a bit frustrated that after visiting the Faroe Islands on Sunday when everything was closed and then missing out on Greenland only to have an additional port in Canada be added (Sydney, Nova Scotia) it was not the itinerary they had traveled from as far away as Australia for or had hoped or paid for. Everyone was thankful that Captain Ravera was at the helm and looking out for our safety and we are quite aware that Mother Nature can be fickle at times but it would have been nice to be informed from the start that there was a very large possibility that these two events could be cancelled. Several people onboard told us they have taken a similar itinerary and have also been closed out of the sound before. One couple even mentioned this was the fourth time that they had cruised to the Sound only to have it closed. At any rate, when life gives you lemons you might as well enjoy some lemonade so we are now looking at three continuous days of not so scenic cruising in the rather cold and foggy North Atlantic heading to St. John’s, Newfoundland which we should arrive on the 20th.

But there are some bits of good news. Due to the diligence of the crew and the passengers the Norovirus onboard has been contained and we are now at yellow alert which is the norm. The food is great, the ship is comfortable, the entertainment staff is working hard to put on some additional activities and the well heeled and well traveled companion guests on this rather eventful voyage are most interesting to talk with.

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