We started out our journey with a tedious overnight flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt on Aug. 1st. over the Pole covering much of the area that we would eventually duplicate by sea. After a night in the Steigenberger Airport Hotel in Frankfurt we set out with our Eurail Pass and went to Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France. Here we stayed at le Grand Hotel right by the rail station. We then toured north-east by rail to Kassel, Germany where we stayed with long-time friends at their place in Immenhausen. They took some time off work and drove us north to the East Sea where we stayed for a few days at Groemitz right on the sea. We then went together to Copenhagen for a few days and they left us on the dock on Aug. 11th where we boarded the Eurodam.
There were a number of ships in port that day and the city was very busy. We had used the HoHo bus in Copenhagen the day before and renewed our knowledge of this great city. We were staying at a B&B near the airport.
We were much too early to board the ship but we wanted our friends to have the full day for their drive back to Immenhausen.
When we travel, we are very "Canadian" and don't allow many things to bother us. I always marvel at the mindset of many travellers who seem to have a "tunnel-vision" approach to everything. I saw many travellers complain and whine that they were just soooo tired that they must get on board immediately. There often doesn't seem to be any consideration given to the fact that over 2000 people have just vacated and the same number must now embark. It's like an elevator. You must wait for people to leave before you get aboard. Anyways, we got on in good stead and patiently awaited word that our stateroom was ready. Everything in due time. We are on holidays!
Our room was lovely with ample space, a clean and spacious bathroom and a nice verandah. Our room stewards kept the place spotless and we had a very comfortable bed that allowed us to be refreshed and ready for each day. The ship is elegant and polished with understated earth tones and features. We had fixed 8:00 dinner seating and were well taken care of by our servers. The food was very good and we never had a complaint in this department. Surprisingly, our only setback was the meal we had one night at the Pinnacle. We have sailed on HAL ships many times but this was the first time we had ever bothered with the Pinnacle dining room. We must have picked a bad night because it seemed they were having difficulties with pretty much everything. People always seem to rave about the food and service here but the experience fell short for us.
The shows that we saw were very good and we appreciated the Icelandic lecturers and their discussions of the north and routes and habits of my Viking ancestors.
The Casino, as usual, did not get any donations from us.
Our first port was South Queensferry which provided access to Edinburgh. We were fortunate to have tickets to the Military Tattoo and it was a very impressive show indeed and something we would recommend to anyone. We nighted over in port (on tender) and travelled back into the city the next day. It was raining heavily this day so it was not the best day for walking. There was a shuttle provided to take passengers back to South Queensferry. Here we were very disappointed with the actions of some of our fellow passengers. The line that many of us had formed was "rushed" when the bus arrived leaving many of us still standing. It is obvious that some "adults" will never grow up! Anyways, we shared a cab with a few "nice" passengers and enjoyed the trip back.
The next day saw us in Invergordon where my wife toured the Loch Ness area and I sampled the Glenmorangie Distillery.
Our next port of call was Iceland and after an enjoyable drive across country we had an interesting swim in the Blue Lagoon. It was fun to swim outdoors this close to the Arctic Circle and also see people with silica mud splattered all over their faces. It took nearly two days for the dryness of this mud to disappear but it is supposed to be very good for your skin.
The next landfall was probably the highlight of the trip. We scenic cruised the Prins Christian Sund all day marvelling at the glaciers and huge icebergs. A helicopter approached and took some marvelous pictures of the ship. These pictures can be found on the HAL blog under "Eurodam". We viewed a small village and greeted all the Inuit and their children that came out in boats to wave to us. The next day saw us in another village, Nanatorlik, where we went ashore and learned about life in the Arctic. I'm sure that these people have a tough existence but they live in one of the most beautiful and scenic places that we have every seen and they all seemed very happy. We sailed away to the south with monstrous and mysterious shaped icebergs in every direction.
The Captain (another Canadian) informed us the next day that because of Hurricane Bill we would be diverting west and avoiding the open waters off the east of Newfoundland. He was concerned about potential 30 metre waves so this was no place for a cruise ship! We travelled down the channel between Labrador and Newfoundland and stopped in Cornerbrook, NL. Again, the weather was not the best for walking but we managed to make the best of the situation and see a town that we had never been to before. Unfortunately, we had made earlier arrangements to visit with friends in St. John's so we contacted them and cancelled our luncheon plans. We were on the opposite side of the "Rock" as Newfoundland is called. We also missed St. Pierre which is a little rock south of Newfoundland that is still governed by France. This is the second time that our plans have been thwarted to visit this island. I guess it's just not in the cards?
Another port option, following along with our changed Great Northern Adventure saw us stop for the day in Gaspe, Quebec in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We had been here before a number of years ago on a 3 day drive from Montreal through Quebec City and all the way around the peninsula back to Montreal through New Brunswick. We had a nice lunch onshore in this very pleasant and tidy little French Canadian community. Here we were again on tender and again we saw the "raw" side of some of our fellow passengers. I can never figure some people out that seem to think that they are so special that they shouldn't have to follow the "rules of the road" set for everybody. A few minute wait in line seems to be such an imposition for some and I can't recall hearing this much whining in a child's nursery! I suppose some people just don't know how to relax and enjoy. I guess many people just wait far too late in their lives to really appreciate their travels?
Our next port of Halifax was a lovely sunny and warm day and a far cry from the cool Arctic that we had left. A lobster lunch was in order and contrary to what I continually heard from my American passengers, this was not a Maine lobster; it was a Nova Scotia lobster!
After a day at sea we completed our journey and after a relaxing morning on board (remember....we are in no hurry) we calmly disembarked, grabbed a cab and checked into the Marriott Marquis Hotel on the 42nd floor, at eye-level to the New Year's ball on Times Square. A fitting and very enjoyable 2 day end to a marvelous trip. Again, we used the HoHo busses and got a very grounded feel for Manhattan. We went to 2 wonderful restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed our time in the city. We will certainly be back to sample more of New York.
HAL has always been our favorite and we are pencilled in for another HAL cruise (destination to be determined) in the near future.