Posted by: Gary Guertin | December 6, 2016

1. World Cruise–Jan. 4 to Apr. 26, 2017

Hi All,

I’m back and with the most happiness I have ever had in starting a cruise blog.  A few weeks ago Susy broke the news that since I would be 80 years old in 2017 she had booked us on Holland American’s yearly “round the world cruise”.  This is a dream come true for me as I have been wanting to go on this cruise for years and Susy (rightly so) had said not while our grandchildren are growing up.  Well now she believes they’ve reached an age (and we have reached an age) were it’s Ok to go.  By the way, even she can’t wait to have the rest, fun, and “quietness” of a long cruise.

Let’s look at the cruise:

Map of World Cruise - 1

36 Ports, 10 overnights, here is the itinerary:

Itinerary - World Cruise -002

Itinerary - World Cruise -003

Itinerary - World Cruise -004

As you can tell from the new “Header” above, the         MS Amsterdam is our ship (the same ship used each year for the World Cruise).  We have been on the Amsterdam several times and it is a wonderful ship, just the right size (I believe around 1500 passengers).  We also been to many of the ports (this is our 27th cruise), but there are some new ports that we have wanted to see for years (i.e. Beijing and the “Great China  Wall”).

Well, that’s it for this first post.  If anyone has any suggestions or helpful comments for taking a 111 day cruise please let us know through the comment area at the bottom of this post.  Yesterday was only 30 days to sailing, so Susy and I have a lot to accomplish before leaving.

I’ll try to answer any comments and let you know just before sailing what it’s like getting ready for an almost 4 month cruise.  Until then;

I Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | September 2, 2015

16. Viking Cruise – Jul. 29th – Aug. 19, 2015 – MS Prinsendam

Hi All,

It’s time to close out another cruise.  As you see above, my Blog will return to it’s “can’t wait till the next cruise” state, dreaming of calm ocean sailing.  To finish I want to highlight our ship, the MS Prinsendam:

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This ship is one of the smallest of the Holland America fleet, holding only 765 passengers and 474 crew members.  It is 673 feet long and 106 feet wide.  What is interesting is it uses 92,400 gallons of portable water per day, but has the capacity to make 145,000 gallons per day.  The other interesting fact is that it uses 16,000 of fuel per day, but has a fuel tank which holds 394,000 gallons.  The ship is 38,000 tons and has a maximum speed of 21 knots (1 knot = 1.15 miles = 1.85 kilometers).

If you remember from past cruises, every day when you enter the elevator you always know what day it is:

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Out side the sport deck has the main the pool which, as you see, was not enclosed, so it didn’t get a lot of use:

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And the rear deck pool which got a little more use because of the distance from the pool to hot tub to shower:

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Inside their was an excellent decor from the staircases:

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To the corridors:

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Table decorations each night in the dining room:

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Our cafeteria “the Lido”:

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And lastly our favorite “private” restaurant on board the “Pinnacle”:

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The Prinsendam lived up to it’s reputation as a small, friendly ship, perfect for getting in and out of the small ports, fjords, etc., that we faced on this cruise. For Susy and I it wasn’t  a cruise we would do again, but it was a great experience to view that part of our world and see how people live in the dark from Oct. thru March.  It was a good cruise, but was dampened, as most of you have heard, by Susy’s back problems and my bad cold upon our return.

It will be some time before we head out again, but as soon as the two of us are patched up and look back on these wonderful cruises, we’ll probably give in and go.  I’ll let you know, so until then;

I Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

P.S. Thanks again for your many comments, they make my writing of these posts worthwhile and remember if you have any suggestions for improving them (the posts) please chime in.

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 27, 2015

15. Viking Cruise – Aug. 17, 2015 – Edinburgh Castle & Tattoo

Hi All,

At our last post we reached the castle gate, so let’s go in and look around this 12th century castle that sits on volcanic Castle Rock.  Here’s another welcome sign:

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To get to the actual castle you must cross a huge esplanade (parade grounds) which is where the Tattoo (which I’ll cover later) will be held:

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This is one of the most famous castles in the world, one that movie makers, Disney, etc. have copied as the typical “Medieval Castle of Europe”.  Look closely at the front entrance:

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Notice the “Moat” (A deep water channel around the castle to prevent approach by the enemy from land) and the old ramp across the moat into the entrance which in the old times could be drawn up when the enemy approached.

Once your inside the castle you begin to climb up a winding road to all the interior buildings:

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From the ramparts of this castle the views are outstanding (here’s a few):

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Now let’s look outside and inside some of the buildings in the castle:

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Having finished our tour of the castle, which was closed at 6:00 PM, Susy and I next prepared for the evenings activities.  Just outside the parade grounds were various Pubs/Restaurants where we would have a five coarse dinner as a part of our entrance fees to the Tattoo:

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As we near the start of a great show, Susy and I wish all our new friends at the dinner the best, with the best single malt scotch whiskey I have ever tasted:

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TATTOO

This spectacular show is just that “a show” Officially called ‘The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo”, it is self described by its promoters as a “thrilling demonstration of military musical precision and theatricality.  The Tattoo was first and always held on the Castle Esplanade in 1950.  The show is performed every year about this time and is next scheduled 5-27 Aug. 2016.  There never has been a cancelation.

Now, I can tell you having seen the show, it was spectacular, but Susy talked me into a new philosophy.  She argued that I normally spend all my time filming these shows and not enjoying them, when we can buy a professional version of the whole thing and I can spend my time enjoying it. So that’s what I did/will do.  The professional DVD will be out in October and I’m inviting you all over to watch it when I get it.  In the meantime I’ll try to give you a brief look at the evenings show.  First the night’s program:

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The show was 90 minutes non-stop, so here, the head Piper is getting a shot of Scotch before he gets things going: (lol, but true):

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The opening bagpipes:

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Scottish Dancers:

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The United States Air Force Color Guard made me proud of my service (photo from program):

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China was there with many units:

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and you can not believe how the castle was used for background for the acts:

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That’s it for Edinburgh.  One last post left, a review of the ship and the cruise overall. 

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Hi All,

As you can tell from the date of this posting Susy and I are home.  I want to finish this cruise with 3 posting, one today, and in the next week or two the last ones.  Today, I will cover our last port, Edinburgh (Rosyth is its deep water port, 20 to 30 minutes by train from the center of Edinburgh). Next, because of length, I want to review Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, one of the most spectacular shows of military and civilian precision marching/dance/music in the world.  My last post, as usual, will feature the ship we sailed on, the MS Prinsendam.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and second largest city with about 600,000 inhabitants (Glasgow is the largest). It’s best known for the major hub of the 18th century intellectual movement, the Age of Enlightenment, which was orchestrated to advance knowledge and reform society.  Since Susy and I had purchased tickets to the Tattoo show in the evening (including dinner) we decided to go into the city center by train in the early afternoon and walk the “Royal Mile” up to the castle, which is located way above the city. First, as usual, we see the ship and, port signs:

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We bussed to the train station and caught the first train for Waverly Train Station in the center of Edinburgh.  The train ride in was very scenic and I got this one photo of a fort on the water:

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As we came out of Waverly Station we looked across the roof of the station at this beautiful city:

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You immediately feel like your in a historic city like Paris, London, Madrid, and, yes, even Buenos Aires. There are bridges everywhere and we had to cross one to get to the ‘Royal Mile”:

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One of the beauties of this city is that there were flowers everywhere:

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The Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline:

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Crossing another bridge:

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An old hotel “the Scotchman”:

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A typical street scene on the “Royal Mile” (Susy out ahead as usual):

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I might explain that the “Royal Mile” is the main street of Edinburgh, and as its name, is about a mile long ending at the Edinburgh Castle.
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As you walk along you notice that if you want a cold one you don’t have far to go.  Here’s a typical Tavern, flowers and all, which isn’t far from the next one:

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One of the important buildings along the way:

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As we drew near the Castle, the crowds got thicker. You felt like you were in medieval times in the streets around the main castle, when the King was having a festival.  As we walked along we started to run into street musicians, jugglers, and in this photo a group of Japanese’s marching for some cause:

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Another Tavern:

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One last look at one of the many side streets/sidewalks off the main street, most of which lead to courtyards or other streets:

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And the courtyard behind:

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The Castle in just ahead at those flags:

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And finally the Castle:

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That’s it for this post.  In the next post I’ll take you into the Castle, and then give you a flash of the Tattoo.

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 21, 2015

13. Viking Cruise – Aug. 15, 2015 – Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Hi All,

As you know Susy and I lived in Europe, but surprisingly enough we had not heard or became aware of the Faroe Islands until this trip.  On Saturday, Aug. 15th, we arrived at the capital of the Faroe Islands, and major city/port; Torshavn.  The Faroe Islands are located northwest of Scotland, half way between Iceland and Norway.  The archipelago consists of 18 islands covering an area of roughly 550 sq. miles or about 70 miles long by 47 miles wide shaped like an arrowhead.  The islands have a population of 48,308, with almost 20,000 living in the area of our port visit; Torshavn.  They are a self governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark.  It has its own parliament and its own flag.  Like most of this area of the world, the Faroe Islands trace their history back to the Vikings and the city of Torshavn traces its name back to the Viking God of war – Thor.  You might be interested in the fact that the Faroe Islands have a long-standing tradition which involves hunting pilot whales as a food source.  We were warned that there could be problems because of on-line protests against cruise lines who stopped there, although we were assured that Holland American does not condone such practices.

Now let’s take a look at the port, which by the way was our first and only tender port.  Here’s a panoramic view as we pulled into the bay:

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Susy and I decided today to ride the tender into the port, and just walk around, as both the old and new areas of Torshavn came together at the pier where we were being dropped off.  Here’s a series of photos I took from the tender, mostly of the old city:

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You notice for the first time in the photo above and below, most of the oldest buildings have grass roofs, are tarred black, and have white paned windows, a trademark of the area.

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One of our tenders going out:

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We finally arrived at the pier and our ship sign greeted us:

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Looking around the port we see more colorful buildings:

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And to show Susy was there:

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We came to a small park where children were being monitored as they painted:

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We next see Susy with one of the local residents relaxing next to her:

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Now we entered the old town:

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These stone streets/paths are said to date back to the Vikings:

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White building with “Visit Faroe Islands”:

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A last look at the “old town”:

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Susy returning to the pier and our tender:

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A last look at the boats in the harbor:

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And finally, Susy and I after a long day in a lovely new port, on the way back to the ship and the comfort of our cabin:

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If you noticed a difference in the size of the photos, it’s because I accidently dropped my camera of many years in the water and it went out of commission.  Fortunately we have our cell phones, tablets, and a movie camera to get us through our last port, Rosyth (Edinburgh), Scotland, so until then:

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu & Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 20, 2015

12. Viking Cruise – Aug. 12 & 13, 2015 – Reykjavik, Iceland

Hi All,

I know that most of you have heard of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and its largest city.  Let’s put Reykjavik in perspective.  It has 120,000 habitants and our first port, Akureyri has 80,000 habitants, but there are only 320,000 habitants in all of Iceland.  As the capital, on the western coast of Iceland, its history, like most of Iceland, goes back to the 9th and 10th  century. It was first believed to be settled by Celtic and Norwegian immigrants, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that a full-fledged township was developed. It has become a tourist center in the summer, when its temperatures get up to a balmy 55 degrees F..  The main draw is what is referred to as the “Golden Circle”; including waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, mountains, and the famous “Blue Lagoon”.

Now after all those words about Reykjavik, we arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 12th to a rainy, cold, and windy (up to 60 miles per hour) day.  Our departure, which was to be at 4 PM the next day, was delayed until midnight on Aug. 13th due to inclement weather around us.  Since Susy and I at least wanted to make an attempt at seeing this port, we ventured out into this lovely weather.  Our usual ship and port signs including a look at the port store/building:

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Susy and I almost got blown away when going over to that port store, so the decision as to take a one hour tour around town on a hop on/ hop off bus or a 7 hour bus tour around the “Golden Circle” was easy to make; go hop on/ hop off.  Here we are leaving the port:

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You’ll have to put with the rainy photos just as we did looking out the bus windows.  Houses:

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Luckily I got this church through an open door:

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A colorful building:

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And for the young ones, the Whale building:

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My traveling companion sometimes (lol) comes up with some great ideas.  She had seen that a building called HASP, which was a new large opera/ theater with galleries, restaurants, etc. had a small theater that showed the “Golden Circle” tour in a 360 degree room that had projectors on the ceiling and all four walls.  Here’s what we saw, first fjords:

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Then the waterfalls:

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The scenic coast:

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And the scenic interior:

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Fields of glaciers:

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I need to stop here as we look at the glaciers and let you know that this part of the world is very fortunate regarding energy. Between the waterfalls, and the geo-thermal water (underground water with temperatures at about 147 degrees F.) they generate not only all their electricity, but all the hot water for heating their homes and buildings, at basically only the cost of installations. In our virtual tour here is one of the most famous “hot springs” in Iceland called the “Blue Lagoon”:

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And we got to see the famous “Northern Lights” you see in the winter when there is darkness all day:

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And to finish our tours, a look at the many volcanoes in the area, both active and not, day and night:

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So that’s it, in a little over 20 minutes, in a nice warm theater, we had accomplished a 7 hour bus tour, and with our hop on/ hop off bus  tour saw metro Reykjavik all accomplished in one day instead of two.  In the meantime the storm continued for both days.  However, as you can guess, at 8 PM as we were going to sail away in a few hours, the sun came out, and Susy and I took these three photos from our dining table:

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Only two ports left, Torshavn, Faroe Island on Saturday, Aug. 15th, and Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday, Aug. 17th., so until Torshavn,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu or Opa)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 18, 2015

11. Viking Cruise – Aug. 11, 2015 – Isafordur, Iceland

Hi All,

Today, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 we entered our second Iceland port, Isafordur.  Like Akureyri, Isafordur depends on fishing as its major income, but it is much smaller.  Tourism, however, is becoming very important to the area, because it has some of the oldest dwellings in Iceland and because of its beautiful surroundings, which offer many sport activities and scenery.  The port itself is set in a valley between two large mountains.  Here’s two panoramic views from one side of the ship looking away from the port and the other side looking at the town/port itself:

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That first panoramic is 5 photos combined, the second 3.  Now look at the view of the entrance to the port:

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Again Susy and I decided on a walk around the town, so first the ship’s sign then the port sign:

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As we walked into the town center we came upon some unique buildings, the first from 1910:

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Downtown, the main square:

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Susy shows us this 1924 Model T, worked into a bakery wagon”":

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Another colorful building:

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If you don’t like blue how about green:

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A last look downtown:

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One last blue building:

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The town is so interesting you forget that you are in the middle of such beauty (look at the background of the photos), so let’s look up:

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Back on the ship I thought I would take you along to one of our special dinners.  It’s early, 6:00 PM, as we enter the Pinnacle, our 5 star restaurant on board.  We are met by the maitre’d (our friend since Susy and I eat there many evenings) and white gloved waiters with trays of champagne (sorry Iwonka isn’t Lauren Perrier) . The menu for the evening:

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If you counted it’s a 9 course meal paired with 7 wines (one Champagne) and a glass of champagne at the beginning with the first course and one with the 6th course.  This was on the table when we arrived and we thought it was table decoration:

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This was the first course, “Edible Earth” and you can’t believe how good it was with the champagne.  We had dinner with two Dutch friends we met on this cruise, Hans and
Barbara:

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This is Chef Jean who explained each course:

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Finally, this is the main course, “Grilled Chicken Roulade” (if you want to know what’s in these wonderful dishes just go back to the menu):

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Needless to say after 9 courses and 9 different glasses of wine we were all very happy, finishing about 9:30 PM.  Just a typical meal aboard the Ms Prinsendam. lol

Until our next and last Iceland port, Reykjavik,

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

Posted by: Gary Guertin | August 16, 2015

10. Viking Cruise – Aug. 10, 2015 – Akureyri, Iceland

Hi All,

First, again, I want to thank all of you for your comments, including my grandson, Nicko and yes, Nicko we’re having a “blast” of a time.

After sailing south for two days we finally reached Iceland on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 and the port of Akureyri.  Akureyri is named the “Capital of North Iceland” and has a population of about 80,000, the second largest city in Iceland.  It was first settled in the 9th century, but only established as a city in 1562.  It is booming today based on it’s major industry, fishing.  From the dock we look down the ships railing aft:

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and forward:

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I had to take a selfie:

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A look out at the entrance to the port:

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A closer look at the townhouses on shore:

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Susy and I decided to spend the day walking the central part of Akureyri.  First the ship’s sign:

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A look at a map of the city:

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We finally got to see a Polar bear and her cubs up close:

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And Susy has a new friend, a “Pullin”, a bird common to this area:

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We ran into our animal friends just outside the ship.  As we walked along the bay toward the town center we began to get a feel for the beauty of Akureyri:

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The town plaza:

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A local having a conversation with a friend:

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And Susy runs into a couple of locals:

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If you want a different meal, how about Indian curry:

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This city is clean, well kept, and very colorful.  Everywhere you looked you saw freshly painted colorful buildings:

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Trees and large flower pots everywhere:

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The main church of the city:

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I ran into this Viking princess again (short horns):

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In case some of you were worried about Susy getting out of practice “shopping”,don’t worry.  She first figures out the local words for “sale”:

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Then she heads in:

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On the way back to the ship we passed an interesting tea house on a hill:

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As we left this port we looked back at one of the most beautiful city ports we have visited:

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Until the next port, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2015, Isafordur, Iceland.

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)

THIS IS PART 2 OF THE 9. Ny Alesund POST, PLEASE DON’T START UNTIL YOU HAVE READ 9A Aug. 7, 2015 – Ny Alesund – PART 1 WHICH IS THE NEXT POST BELOW.

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Here’s an administration building:

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This is why we were warned to stay on the path.  None of the residents go outside this area without their rifles, because although polar bears look nice and friendly, they are always looking for food; human, animal, or whatever they can get, thus the sign:

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All we saw, however, was a few reindeer out in the distance:

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A dog pound for the site:

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Beautiful views everywhere you look:

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As I returned to the ship,  a fellow passenger agreed to take my picture after the long trek:

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One last sign re the lab:

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On the way out of the port, the captain announced some polar bears had been sighted, so I rushed out with my camera and snapped away at the far off cliffs. After to many photos to count I think the best I can show you is this photo which looks like a polar bear on top of some ice (or something white):

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That’s it for Ny Alesund.  On Saturday, Aug. 8th, and Sunday, Aug. 9th, we sailed toward Iceland and our first port there; Akureyri.  Until then,

Love You All:

Gary (alias Gagu)

BECAUSE OF THE SIZE OF THIS POST I HAVE DIVIDED IT INTO 2 PARTS.  PLEASE READ THIS PART FIRST AS PART 2 MAY BE ABOVE THIS IN A FEW DAYS

Hi All,

To begin with, I need to warn you, get out your reading glasses and have a lot of time to spend with this post.  This is the longest post I have done over the years, with over 50 photos.  My rule to keep these posts to 10 to 20 photos and as little comments as possible had to be broken to give Ny Alesund research station its complete due, as you will see.  OK, having been warned, let’s go.

The night of Thursday, Aug. 6th, our cruise director informed us that our Norwegian pilot (as you know, when your going into ports a pilot comes on board and captains the ship because of his knowledge of the local waters) had advised our captain that he had permission to take us into one of the largest fjords in the Arctic area on the way to the Ny Alesund port, and certainly would be a first for a ship of our size.  Our captain agreed and the catch was, we had to go in at 5 AM and be out within an hour to an hour and a half.  OK, here’s going into the Lilliehookfjord:

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As usual we had fog and full cloud cover, the air temperature about 41 degrees F., but believe me it felt a lot colder. I was there at 5 AM:

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If you look at that back ground you can see that it looks like there are several glaciers coming into the fjord, but that low one to the right looked a mile or more across. Let’s start looking at that wide glacier:

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Up close:

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Enough of fjords, they are all beautiful, but they’re walls of ice coming at you and this one is certainly the widest one we have seen. We left the Lilliehookfjord and at 8 AM arrived at the furthest research station north.  Here the ship sign as I debarked (you noticed Susy was not with me, because of her comfortable perch in the cabin, when it’s almost freezing outside at 8 in the morning):

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The research station from the ship:

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The beautiful view off the bow of the ship:

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and I was there:

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Ny Alesund has it own beach for warmer days:

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Now here’s were we start on our hike through the station.  To help us and save me typing we will pass signs which explain what we’re seeing and afterwards I’ll show the photos of what the signs are explaining. We’ll start with the overall information sign (as I said get out your reading glasses and if you still can’t read them, click them twice with the mouse and they will enlarge, hit the back arrow to go back to the blog):

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Did you note that the station has 30 (winter) to 150 (summer) residents?, next:

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Green is little barren, this is northern green:

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How about the Arctic yellow of these buildings?  Next, I stopped at the one and only store.  The way it works is you get into the check out line which weaves through the store and pick up your purchases as you wait (up to more than 45 minutes):

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THIS IS THE END OF PART 1, PLEASE GO TO PART 2 WHICH I WILL POST ABOVE THIS IN A FEW DAYS.

LOVE YOU ALL, TO BE CONTINUED

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