Bar Harbor, Maine, August 16, 2013

Weather: Sunny, high temp around 70 (turned clock back 1 hour last night)

The weather was gorgeous for our day in Bar Harbor, a town on an island just off the coast of Maine.  There are about 5,000 year-round residents here, but in the summer the population when the hotels are full is about 30,000.  We took a HAL excursion to the Acadia National Park.  The views on the way up to Cadillac Mountain, from the top, and back down again were beautiful.  We saw some summer "cottages" that are really mansions.  The Rockefeller family gave a lot of money to build bridges, carriage trails and other works in the park and the town.  After the tour ended, we walked around the town and had lunch (wonderful lobster rolls) at the West St. Cafe.  We visited St. Saviour's Episcopal Church and saw the beautiful stained glass windows (some of them Tiffany).  Bar Harbor is quaint and lovely.  The tender got us back in time for trivia, then we packed before our 3rd complimentary dinner in the Pinnacle Grill.  After the final Pub Trivia game after dinner, we said goodbye to Noel and Rod from Melbourne, Pastor Rick from the First Congregational Church in Boston, and Ilan and Dahlia from the San Francisco area.  There were many nice people on this cruise--we met only a few cranks and complainers.  The pedometer says we walked about 127 miles--not bad.  This adventure has been wonderful, but home will be a welcome sight!

Cadillac Mountain

View from Cadillac Mountain

Bubble Rock- Acdia National Park (from bus)1

Bubble Rock - Acadia National Park (from bus)

Law and Order producer Dick Wolf's House (from bus)1

Law and Order producer Dick Wolf's house (from bus)

Bar Harbor (from bus)1

Bar Harbor (from bus)

Bar Harbor-2

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor

St. Saviour's Episcopal Church

Bar Harbor-3

Bar Harbor

At Sea, August 15, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, windy, high temp in upper 60s (turned clock back 30 minutes last night)

Today was our last sea day and we were a couple of slugs.  We're both feeling under the weather and think we're getting colds.  We're looking forward to seeing friends and family soon and hope to experience some warm weather in MN before it turns cool again.  Tonight we had dinner with Dahlia, Ilan and Judy, as it was a formal night and our last chance to dine together.  The five of us have been together as a trivia team since the first day of the cruise and have gotten to know each other.  Hopefully we'll keep in touch and share photos when we get home.

St. John's, Newfoundland, August 14, 2013

Weather:  Rainy, humid, high temp in mid 60s

St. John's is a beautiful town (even in the rain) of about 200,000 people.  We went out on our own thinking we would take the trolley, but the system was overwhelmed by all the cruisers with the same idea.  There was a cab near the trolley stop, so we took it to Signal Hill, where Cabot Tower was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland, and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.   The building was used primarily for flag signaling.  Marconi received the first trans-atlantic radio transmission on Signal Hill on December 12, 1901.  We called the same cab driver to pick us up (he was very friendly and chatty) and take us back to the ship.  Then we decided we should see some of the city, so we walked up a very steep hill to visit St John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral.  The guides told us a lot about the church and its history.  We went farther up the hill to see the Basilica of St John the Baptist, which is very impressive on the outside with its twin towers, but was quite dark inside and not as pretty as the Anglican church.  We got back to the ship just in time to have a quick lunch and play trivia.  We didn't win in the afternoon but won at Pub Trivia and Name That Tune.  A Congregationalist pastor from Boston named Rick has joined our team for a lot of trivia games and is a likable fellow and an ordinary Joe.

Signal Hill

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill

From Signal Hill

Lighthouse from Signal Hill

St. John's from Signal Hill

St. John's from Signal Hill

St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral

St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral

Churches (from ship)

St. John's (from ship)

St. John's (from ship)

St. John's from ship

St. Anthony, Newfoundland, August 13, 2013

Weather: Sunny, light wind, hi temp in upper 60s

The cruise is winding down and so are we.  It was nice to see blue skies after the rainy, cool days, but the town of St. Anthony is spread out all along the bay and the tender dock is in a mostly commercial area, so we didn't see much on our walk.  The population is about 2,500, and the town has a large impressive-looking hospital.  Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell came from England around the turn of the century and became responsible for the health care of 30,000 residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.  He lived a life of service and is the town's hero.  Tourism has replaced fishing here as the top industry and there are whale-watching boats and other adventures available.  We walked around for about an hour and a half and bought a small jar of bakeapple jam to try at home.  The lady in front of us in line bought a whole shopping bag of souvenirs and she asked the clerk how the bookmark worked.  It wasn't the only strange question we heard today.  After the sail away around 2:30, a whale was sighted but we missed it.  Barbara went to the Indonesian Crew Show this afternoon--it doesn't change much from cruise to cruise but is very entertaining.

St. Anthony

St. Anthony lighthouse from ship

St. Anthony-4

St. Anthony-3

Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell - most influential resident

St. Anthony-2

At Sea, August 12, 2013

Weather:  Cloudy, windy, high temp in low 50s (turned clock back 30 minutes last night)

Another lazy sea day.  It was bumpy all night because of strong winds, but things calmed down in the afternoon.  A very well-traveled and interesting guy from Sydney was at our table for dinner.  Another lady at the table from FL couldn't understand anything he said, but we enjoyed his strong accent.  He's probably seen more U.S. national parks than most Americans.  The food was Indonesian tonight and the dining room person who seated us was wearing the monkey mask.

Indonesian Night1

Indonesian Night in the dining room

Nanortalik, Greenland, August 11, 2013

Weather: Rain, wind, high temp in upper 40s

Everyone on the ship was happy that we were able to go ashore in Greenland.  We went by tender and walked around the town of Nanortalik (translates to "place of polar bears").  The town is on an island near the mouth of the Tasermint Fjord.  Greenland is the world's largest island, but has a small population of around 56,000.  The town of Nanortalik was first settled by the Inuit--Norsemen arrived in the 18th century.  People make a living crab fishing, seal hunting and fishing.  The speaker yesterday said that mineral deposits have recently been found, and gold is being mined and there may be a lot of oil.  The people may all be wealthy someday, but the homes here now are small and modest and most are painted in bright colors.  Tourism is growing as people come to enjoy the pristine wilderness and wildlife.  The best way to travel is by plane or helicopter.  There was a steady rain the entire time (around 2 hours) that we were ashore and it was hard to keep the camera lens and our feet dry.  There was one building that was a tourist center/souvenir shop and it was almost impossible to find and pay for things because most of the people from the ship were shopping.  We won at trivia today (surprising how many people know the sign of the zodiac that Elvis was born under--Judy had it right with Capricorn).  We stayed in the Crow's Nest for the sail away.  An iceberg flipped over right in front of us around 3:00.


Girls in traditional Greenland garb


The Old Timber Church was built in 1916


Typical homes in Nanortalik


A cold, rainy day


Icebergs around Veendam


The iceberg to the left flipped over while we watched

Prins Christian Sund, August 10, 2013

Weather: Alternating between sunny and cloudy, high temp in upper 40s  (turned clocks back 1 hour last night)

This morning we went to the lecture called The Wonder of the Great White City about the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  After trivia at 2:30, Barbara went to a talk called "Greenland - The Land and the People."  Judy, Ilan, Dahlia and the two of us dined together tonight.  We were enjoying our wiener schnitzel as the ship passed beautiful glaciers and icebergs.  The light kept changing, and around 6:45 we were in a channel called the Prins Christian Sund.  Ships hopefully can pass through the length of the sound, which is 36 miles long, but the ice and time of day meant we could go just a short way into it.  The width of the channel is only 1,300 feet, and the mountains are about 5,000 feet high.  We enjoyed the incredible scenery and were glad we were able to see as much as we did.

Prins Christian Sund-5

Prins Christian Sund

Prins Christian Sund-2

Prins Christian Sund-3

Prins Christian Sund-4

At Sea, August 9, 2013

Weather:  Foggy, high temp in low 50s (turned clocks back 1 hour last night)

The ship didn't leave Reykjavik last night at 11:00 as scheduled because of strong winds, but left this morning around 6:00.  We had a few paperwork items (disembarkation, Canadian customs) but otherwise it was a day with little to do, which is nice.  We won at Name That Tune in the piano bar with Rod and Noel from Melbourne and Lyn from Chicago.  It's run differently from the Crow's Next version where you hear a little bit of a recording.  At the piano bar the host plays a little bit of the song.  We won the first round with 10 of 12 right and then won the second round over 2 other teams with 4 of 5 right.  It was a team effort, so a nice win.  We skipped the comedian, who we heard later wasn't funny, and also skipped the Ice Ball.  There was a lot of movement on the ship today as it is still windy.

Reykjavík, Iceland, August 8, 2013

Weather:  Rain, wind, high temp near mid 50s but wind chill was a factor!  (turned clocks back 1 hour last night)

Human history in Iceland began in about 871 with the arrival of Ingólfur Arnason.  Reykjavík translates as "Smokey Bay" which is a reference to the columns of steam Arnason discovered in the area where he built his farmstead.  The town is home to 130,000 of Iceland's 320,000 people.

Weather conditions made us a little late into Reykjavík and we left the ship about 9:00 for our excursion.  We went by bus to the Blue Lagoon, about a 45 minute drive, for our swim.  The water is very warm, but strong winds and driving rain prevented us from really enjoying it (Jay joked that it's called the Blue Lagoon because that's the color you turn).  Our trivia friend Judy loved it, and smeared the white stuff all over her face and stood under the waterfall.  We got back to the ship about 1:00 and met Ilan and Dahlis in the Lido.  We went out and took a cab to the largest church in Iceland--a Lutheran one called Hallorimskirkja Church.  There's a statue of Leif Ericksson in front of the church.  The building is a simple design but beautiful.  An interesting feature inside is that the seats can easily be switched to face the alter for a service or toward the pipe organ with 5,275 pipes for a concert.  From the church we walked to the Harpa Concert Hall and Convention Centre (pronounced Haspa).  The hall is an unusual design with hexagonal pieces of glass making up its walls.  We took a 45 minute tour and saw the 4 halls within the building.  The hall was being decorated for the Gay Pride celebration scheduled for the weekend.  We returned by cab to the ship about 5:00 and walked through the rain (Jay saw ice crystals) that was hitting us in the face.  A hot shower never felt so good.  The captain reminded us that we had lovely weather for 5 of our 6 stops in Iceland. Unfortunately we had a change of luck in Reykjavík, where they're having one of the worst summers in 60 years. 

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

Hallgrimskirkja Church1

Leif Eriksson and Hallgrimskirkja Church

Hallgrimskirkja Church-2

Pipe organ in Hallgrimskirkja Church

Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall - Kaldalon chamber hall

Harpa Concert Hall - Kaldalon chamber hall

Harpa Concert Hall - Eldborg main hall

Harpa Concert Hall - Eldborg main hall

Harpa Concert Hall-3

Harpa Concert Hall



Vestmannaeyjar (Heimaey Island), Iceland, August 7, 2013

Weather: Overcast, windy, high temp in l0w 50s

We took the tender with Ilan and Dahlia in late morning and walked around the village of around 4,000.   Vestmannaeyjar, a fishing village on this island,  is a short ferry ride away from the main island of Iceland.  A volcano erupted here in 1973 and they were able to get the people evacuated.  Some stayed behind in an attempt to save the harbor, as that is the livelihood of these residents.  They turned fire hoses on the lava and were able to prevent a lot of damage.  We walked around the lava and Ilan broke off from us and walked to the top of the volcano.  The 3 of us went to see the Stave church and then had lunch at Subway (yes--a taste of home), where Ilan found us.  We checked in around 2:30 to see about our scheduled tour, which was a circumnavigation of this island, but found it had been cancelled due to strong winds.  We were disappointed, and went in search of the puffins we had hoped to see on the tour.  Ilan spotted some in the cliffs and got some nice pictures with his good camera, while our pictures were very poor.  We bought a postcard of this cute little bird with the short wings who works so hard to fly anywhere (they are actually on the menu at some restaurants).  There are supposedly 8 million of these birds around this island at times, and we didn't get to see one up close.  Keiko, the whale from the Free Willy films, lived here for awhile before being freed.




Lava from eruption in 1973


Blooming cactus in lava


Stave church and our ship


Cave in outer harbor




Puffin (postcard)

Djúpivogur, Iceland, August 6, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, windy, high temp in low 50s (turned clocks back 1 hour last night)

The captain may have discouraged some people from going ashore in the tenders with his warnings of getting our feet wet and getting chilled in the cool conditions.  The tender ride was fine, and there was a strong breeze but it was very pleasant walking around this little town of about 360 people.  It is a fishing village, but the brochure from the visitor's center said tourism is getting strong because of the wildlife in the area. Jay took a photo of the brochure cover (below) because the setting is beautiful but most of the buildings are dull and drab and the harbor is not what you would imagine in a fishing village.  There was an interesting outdoor work of art that consisted of 34 stone eggs on pedestals that represent the birds of the area.  The tiny church is in need of repair, but the oldest building, the cultural center, was built in 1790 and is well-maintained..  An hour and a half was plenty of time to walk around this town whose name is pronounced (roughly) Jeep-a-vogur.  It's best known for recording the highest temperature in Iceland--87° F in June of 1939.  Barbara knew the answer to the bonus question at trivia today--what HAL ship did Lee Harvey Oswald sail on in 1962 when he came to the U.S.?  The answer is the ms Maasdam (she read it in a Stephen King novel).


Arial view of Djúpivogur (from brochure)




 Búlandstindur mountain (1,068 meters above sea level)

Eggin í Gleðivík

Eggin í Gleðivík


Djúpivogur church


Langabúð (oldest building - 1790)

At Sea, August 5, 2013

Weather: Cloudy, rainy, high temp in mid 50s

Our three ports in Ireland wore us out, so we were happy to have a sea day to recover.  We're playing lots of trivia but not improving our performance.  The ship is rocking tonight (a formal night) with bigger swells than we've had for awhile.  Coming up are three ports in Iceland.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, August 4, 2013

Weather: Sunny, hi temp in low 60s

The ship was not in port in Belfast for a whole day, so we had to choose between seeing the city and the Titanic museum or going out of town to see the Giant's Causeway.  We chose the Giant's Causeway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was about a 1.25 hour bus ride each way. The basalt columns were formed when volcanos erupted, cooled and contracted about 60 million years ago.  The legends, however, involve an Irish giant named Finn MacCool and a Scottish giant named Benandonner.  Stories vary, but somehow the legend is that the causeway was made by one of the giants across the North Channel (you can see Scotland from this coast).  We also drove by the Bushmills distillery, a golf course that was once the site of the British Open and many beautiful green hills and farms.  Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge were interesting photo stops.  


Bushmills Distillery


North Atlantic Resort Area (from bus)


Dunluce Castle


Giant's Causeway


Giant's Causeway - the pipe organ


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge


Northern Ireland Countryside

Dublin, Ireland, August 3, 2013

Weather: Sunny in morning, some rain in mid-afternoon, hi temp in mid 60s

We left the ship around 10:00 and walked around Dublin for about 4 hours (5 miles on the pedometer).  The driver of the ship-provided bus gave us a map and dropped us off near Trinity College.  From there we walked down Grafton Street where we enjoyed the street musicians.  St. Stephen's Green is a pretty park and we walked through it to St. Patrick's Cathedral.  We went inside the huge church but really enjoyed the gardens around it.  From St. Pat's we went to Christchurch Cathedral (Anglican), but there was a wedding and we couldn't go inside.  Our next stop was Dublin Castle, where we saw some sand sculptures in the courtyard.  We stopped for lunch at a small cafe on Temple Bar Street and then made our way to the Ha'penny bridge.  The Molly Malone statue was our last stop before we headed for the shuttle pick-up.  By the time we were finished with our sightseeing, the streets were very crowded with tourists and locals.  Our good luck with weather held out in Dublin.  We've joined forces with 2 nice gentlemen from Melbourne and a gal from Chicago for Name That Tune.  It's fun, but we're usually a point or two from winning.

Aviva Stadium

Aviva Stadium (Dublin Arena) from ship


Trinity College


Grafton Street


St. Patrick's Cathedral


Sand sculpture near Dublin Castle


The Chapel Royal


The River Liffey from Ha'penny Bridge

Along the River Liffey

Along the River Liffey

Molley Malone

Molly Malone (The Old Tart With a Cart)

Ringaskiddy (Cork), Ireland, August 2, 2013

Weather:  Mostly sunny, high temp in upper 60s (turned clocks back 1 hour last night)

HAL arranged for a shuttle to take us from the port into the city of Cork.  We left the ship around 9:00 with Ilan and Dahlia and took the shuttle, then went to the bus station to catch a bus to Blarney Castle.  The bus got us to the castle around 10:00 and we spent several hours walking around the beautiful grounds.  We didn't climb the 120 steps  to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney stone, as we did that some years ago.  Back then lying on our backs to kiss the stone wasn't much of a challenge.  There were a few raindrops, but for the most part it was a great day for a walk around the lake and through the fern garden and the poison garden.  Blarney House, where the owners of the estate live, is very nice.  When we arrived back in Cork we found a pub and had fish and chips and Harp beer.  Ilan and Dahlia, who live south of San Francisco, are very interesting and good company.  They grow grapes and have their own cabernet sauvignon made for them.  After lunch we walked through the English Market, where they had quail eggs, kangaroo meat and pigeon filets in a display case.  We had dinner on the ship and went to the Irish comedian's show.  Here's one joke:  Murphy was a Jehovah's Witness and his wife was an atheist.  Their children would knock on doors for no apparent reason.  

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle2

Blarney Castle

Blarney Estate

Lake on the Blarney Estate

Blarney House

Blarney House

Blarney House-2

Blarney House

Blarney Castle3

People in line to kiss the Blarney Stone


Pub in Cork

At Sea, August 1, 2013

Weather: Some sun, hi temp in mid 60s

We appreciated a relaxing sea day after our busy time in Amsterdam.  The captain announced a change of plans for tomorrow.  Instead of going to Dunmore East (Waterford), which is a tender port, we are going to Ringaskiddy, where we can dock (it is the port for the city of Cork).  This change was caused by weather conditions, and the captain wants to make sure we can go ashore.  He has a good sense of humor and told us that there's not much to see in Ringaskiddy besides the pharmaceutical companies that make Viagra and many other meds.  We had dinner tonight with Judy, Dahlia and Ilan and played pub trivia with them at 7:30.  The questions are easier than the daytime session of trivia.

© Jay 2013