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Iceland, Greenland and Scotland explorer, August 18, 2018. This cruise is not for everyone, but it certainly was for us. You need to enjoy smaller ports of call and visiting isolated communities to really enjoy this itinerary. We live in such a community in Alaska and this was an opportunity to see how different locations cope with common issues. What clinched this for us, however, was flying over Greenland on a trip back from Europe and seeing the Denmark Strait full of ice. Greenland is more of ground zero for global warming than we are in Alaska. We had to go. An added incentive was our interest in Norse history. Combining the former Norse Islands of the Shetlands and Orkneys with the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland gave us the opportunity to see places we had read about and to cruise on waters used by the Vikings. Being stuck in a North Atlantic Oscillation between an Azores High and Icelandic low gave us some idea of what it might have been like to have been a Norse traveler. (One joke we heard in the Faroes was “We should have been Icelanders but got seasick and stopped here.”) Prinsendam has excellent seakeeping so was a good ship to experience this on. We did not suffer seasickness, but on a couple of occasions Captain Dag advised us to “take a pill.” The on-board lecturers added to the experience. We had one expert in Norse westward expansion and more modern Arctic exploration. The second was expert on maritime history and law, including current Arctic Ocean issues. These were supplemented by our location guide who provided good introductory lectures on our ports of call and excellent commentary during “scenic cruising.” We made an unscheduled call at Appilattoq, Greenland. On our first passage through Prince Christian Sund we stopped to deliver some Pizza to this village of 200 and have the staff check out the port. On the way back through Prince Christian Sund we made an unscheduled stop there. Passengers could get tender tickets for specific times (so we would not overwhelm the village all at once) and the Captain invited the village onto the ship. We ended up having a party on the lido with little kids, moms, dads and elders, including a drummer and dancer. That day also included a passage through this remarkable sound in perfect weather. In Nanortalik, Greenland’s Southernmost town, the village invited us to a hymn sing at the local church and in Qaqortoq, a local tour operator arranged for us to get a lift on a small boat to some old Norse ruins. Another highlight was Torshavn in the Faroe Islands where we visited a farmer whose family had farmed the same land for 17 generations. As I mentioned, Prinsendam has good seakeeping, which was important on our voyage from Iceland to Scotland, where we had to skip both a stop in the Westman Islands and the alternative port in Scotland. (This meant that we got to Kirkwall in the Orkney’s 12 hours early, allowing us to enjoy local music in the evening.) Others have mentioned in reviews that Prinsendam is old with some dings in the furniture. The dings gave it a homey feeling that added to the ship’s charm. The ship is well maintained and, aside from an elevator being out of order some of the time, things on the ship worked. I like Prinsendam’s size, it was comfortable for us and, frankly, a larger ship would have overwhelmed some of the ports we visited. The evening entertainment was fine, with a special hats-off to the Prinsendam Singers and Dancers. Of course, there were glitches. The ship keeps ship’s time in visiting the Greenlandic ports. Holland America did not offer tours in Greenland so we organized our own torus on-line. Because the ship was on “ship’s time” one of our tours would arrive back after the ship left. We had to burn up some expensive phone time on the ship rearranging the tour. The ship did not let local people know of the change in time, this meant that museums were not open when we expected and that people showed up an hour early for the Nanotortalik Hymn sing. But, all told, we loved the cruise and, since it is being offered in 2019, we are thinking of doing it again. If you want more information on this cruise I kept a blog with photos. https://rich.mcclear.net/2017/09/16/quick-before-it-melts-2/

Vikings, Greenland, Isolation, and Global Warming

Prinsendam Cruise Review by Captain Ricky

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Trip Details
Iceland, Greenland and Scotland explorer, August 18, 2018.

This cruise is not for everyone, but it certainly was for us. You need to enjoy smaller ports of call and visiting isolated communities to really enjoy this itinerary. We live in such a community in Alaska and this was an opportunity to see how different locations cope with common issues. What clinched this for us, however, was flying over Greenland on a trip back from Europe and seeing the Denmark Strait full of ice. Greenland is more of ground zero for global warming than we are in Alaska. We had to go.

An added incentive was our interest in Norse history. Combining the former Norse Islands of the Shetlands and Orkneys with the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland gave us the opportunity to see places we had read about and to cruise on waters used by the Vikings. Being stuck in a North Atlantic Oscillation between an Azores High and Icelandic low gave us some idea of what it might have been like to have been a Norse traveler. (One joke we heard in the Faroes was “We should have been Icelanders but got seasick and stopped here.”) Prinsendam has excellent seakeeping so was a good ship to experience this on. We did not suffer seasickness, but on a couple of occasions Captain Dag advised us to “take a pill.”

The on-board lecturers added to the experience. We had one expert in Norse westward expansion and more modern Arctic exploration. The second was expert on maritime history and law, including current Arctic Ocean issues. These were supplemented by our location guide who provided good introductory lectures on our ports of call and excellent commentary during “scenic cruising.”

We made an unscheduled call at Appilattoq, Greenland. On our first passage through Prince Christian Sund we stopped to deliver some Pizza to this village of 200 and have the staff check out the port. On the way back through Prince Christian Sund we made an unscheduled stop there. Passengers could get tender tickets for specific times (so we would not overwhelm the village all at once) and the Captain invited the village onto the ship. We ended up having a party on the lido with little kids, moms, dads and elders, including a drummer and dancer. That day also included a passage through this remarkable sound in perfect weather.

In Nanortalik, Greenland’s Southernmost town, the village invited us to a hymn sing at the local church and in Qaqortoq, a local tour operator arranged for us to get a lift on a small boat to some old Norse ruins. Another highlight was Torshavn in the Faroe Islands where we visited a farmer whose family had farmed the same land for 17 generations.

As I mentioned, Prinsendam has good seakeeping, which was important on our voyage from Iceland to Scotland, where we had to skip both a stop in the Westman Islands and the alternative port in Scotland. (This meant that we got to Kirkwall in the Orkney’s 12 hours early, allowing us to enjoy local music in the evening.)

Others have mentioned in reviews that Prinsendam is old with some dings in the furniture. The dings gave it a homey feeling that added to the ship’s charm. The ship is well maintained and, aside from an elevator being out of order some of the time, things on the ship worked. I like Prinsendam’s size, it was comfortable for us and, frankly, a larger ship would have overwhelmed some of the ports we visited.

The evening entertainment was fine, with a special hats-off to the Prinsendam Singers and Dancers.

Of course, there were glitches. The ship keeps ship’s time in visiting the Greenlandic ports. Holland America did not offer tours in Greenland so we organized our own torus on-line. Because the ship was on “ship’s time” one of our tours would arrive back after the ship left. We had to burn up some expensive phone time on the ship rearranging the tour. The ship did not let local people know of the change in time, this meant that museums were not open when we expected and that people showed up an hour early for the Nanotortalik Hymn sing.

But, all told, we loved the cruise and, since it is being offered in 2019, we are thinking of doing it again. If you want more information on this cruise I kept a blog with photos.

https://rich.mcclear.net/2017/09/16/quick-before-it-melts-2/
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Cabin Review

Large Ocean-View Stateroom
Cabin C 345
The cabin was fine. We had the same room steward that we has on our one other Holland America Cruise, three years ago and he remembered what we liked. That was amazing. This cabin is midships and rides the seas well. It has a bath tub, we would have preferred a shower but stall. The bed was comfortable and the closet space was generous. The prom deck was above us but we were not bothered by noise.
Main Deck Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Akureyri
    I wanted to take this tour because of the unique geological nature of the place so we visited sites around Lake Myvatn. I did not find the lake itself is not so engaging, with swarms of midges getting into eyes and nostrils and biting at will. However, the area around the lake IS engaging.

    Well before humans understood plate tectonics this place could have been viewed as the gateway to Hell. It's where North America and Europe meet, or rather where they separate. In the mid-Atlantic the North American and European plates are moving apart by, some say, around a centimeter a year. This is one of the places it is happening. Hverir Iceland smells of fire and brimstone, sulfur, and, depending on where you are it can be a smoking yellow plain a cauldron of boiling blue gray mud or a line of steam vents looking like a line of spouting whales, but on land.

    Iceland makes use of this place to generate wealth. Of course, there is tourist wealth but the steam, which gushes upward at 200 degrees Celsius is directed to run turbines to generate electricity. Then it is used to heat water to be piped to cities for heating. Icelanders used to use the water from underground directly but the sulfur smell put off too many people so there is a heat transfer unit. Some of the water is then reinjected into the earth so it can reheat and be used again, not depleting the water table. A small amount is used to create “nature baths” that not only bring tourists but locals to soak in the warm, very blue, silica suspended water. We took our turn and it felt wonderful. The water has pools and tubs of different temperatures and those with certain conditions get free admission as part of the healthcare system.

    At Dimmuborgir lava flowed over lake and marsh. It boiled the water below which caused explosive outbreaks. The resulting potholes craters and lava field are strange and wonderful, “bad lands to travel through.” But color-coded hiking trails guide you through the field without getting you lost so you look at all sorts of shapes of lava which are easy to imagine being forms of gods, elves or trolls. It is such places where myths are born.
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  • Edinburgh (South Queensferry)
    Instead of taking the train to Edinburgh we took the shuttle bus provided by the town of Dunfermline.

    Helen is a local host who talked to us while we rode in on the bus. She is a delight. She told us about the history of the town, the capital of Scotland before Edinburgh, the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie (“We have a Carnegie library AND Carnegie Hall”.)

    We were let off near the town’s high street near the fine Guild Hall and Linen Exchange and a beautiful town hall. There are lots of friendly people here. One woman stopped us on the high street to welcome us to her town. She was so glad we were here and we mustn’t miss a walk through “The Glen.” Then she looked at the skies and said “Well perhaps that’s another day.” There were all sorts of quirky signs. I mean, would you hire the Macbeth law firm to represent you?

    But the highlight of the town is the Dunfermline Abbey, founded in 1128 on the site of an even earlier monastery. It became a Benedictine Abby dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland. Over the years it collected Important relics of St. Margaret and remains of Scottish Kings, like Robert the Bruce.

    From the outside, it looks larger than it does from the inside. From the outside it looks Romanesque, on the inside it looks like early 19th Century British Gothic Revival. A women at the information desk explained. “During the reformation John Knox didn’t much like the Abbey so he ordered it burned, but the brothers put out the fire before it destroyed the whole abbey. They saved the back bit.” That was in 1560. In 1570 the nave, the part the brothers saved, became the parish church of Dunfermline. In the early 1800s the church outgrew the nave and the rest was rebuilt on the foundations of the old, destroyed, abbey. The older nave served as a vestibule for the new church in which, the woman at the desk said, “The poor people could worship while the rich were closer to the altar in the new church.” Which is not my understanding of “What would Jesus do?”

    Some of the important graves and relics were moved to the new section, including the grave of Robert the Bruce. As the congregation shrunk the old section became part of the Abbey museum while the new section is the parish church. While Robert the Bruce is in the new section, the old section has a 1970s stained glass window commemorating him. A plaque at the back of the church lists all the head ministers since 1570. The current minister Mary Ann R. Rennie is the first woman to hold that position.

    Both sides of the Abbey are interesting in their own ways. The old part has an odd optical illusion, the pillars are grooved in ways that make them look tapered while they really are the same circumference all the way from bottom to top. The old part is lit in a way to show off the clearstory in a pleasing light even on such a dreary day.

    After exploring the towh, we hopped onto Helen’s bus. She decided we needed a closer look at the Forth Bridges so stopped at North Queen’s Ferry, the base of the earliest bride, the 1890 steel cantilever bridge, for a closer look, and to hear the trains rumbling above, on the way to Edinburgh.
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  • Isafjord
    We took a tour booked through ShorexIceland. It seems similar to tours offered on the ship but less expensive.

    The two main goals of the tour were to visit Dynjandi Falls, a beautiful waterfall, and to visit the fish processing plant in Sudureri. To do this we actually drove along 5 different fjords, the road to the final one was a summer only gravel mountain road that has emergency mountain huts for those traveling over the road on foot in the winter.
    Each fjord was in a different stage of morning fog. It was a beautiful experience in a misty way, one that could never be caught on film, or a chip for that matter, but views to wonder at.

    The fjords and falls were worth the trip. In the Fjord hosting Tingeyri the main occupation seemed to be salmon farming and processing. In Sudureri fish was also the mainstay but it was handled a little differently. At each stop in Iceland we have seen museums celebrating the heritage of small boat fishing but in the harbors we saw big trawlers. Sudureri bills itself as the sustainable fishing capital of the Westfjords. The fishing boats were small long liners. The whole town is powered by hydro and geothermal power and all the buildings are heated by geothermal. The town’s boats and cars do use non-renewable power but the rest of the town has a low carbon footprint. There are no fish farms here and the two processing plants are modern, the shiniest fish houses I have ever seen with workers in white coats, many immigrants, processing haddock, cod and Atlantic wolf fish.

    The town is making its fishing industry a tourist attraction selling “seafood trail” tour packages that include samples of different fish processed different ways, including traditional dried and salted cod. They have a hotel and restaurants for tourists and sell fish to take home.
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  • Kirkwall
    We had pouring rain but still enjoyed the port stop. We arrived 12 hours early so got to enjoy an evening in Krikwall including a concert at St. Magnus Cathedral. The Cathedral is well worth the time you spend there. We went back during the next day to look at the modern artwork (decorated viking sails) and the building itself. There is also a visitor's center close by.

    For me a Kirkwall highlight was the Orkney Wireless Museum, which for an old radio head like me was like being in a toy store. World War 1 and II buffs will also be interested in the military exhibits and the use of radio by the ships in the Scappa Flow.

    We enjoyed some Orkney Ice cream and scones and tea. A lot of fun.
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  • Lerwick (Shetland Islands)
    We opted not to take a tour here but took the shuttle bus from the port to the center of town and walked back to the ship stopping along the way. It was Sunday, not much open, but the museum was excellent.
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  • Golden Circle
    We booked a mini-bus tour so we wouldn't be on a big bus. It was a good move because the mini-bus could go to parking lots that bigger buses cant use. The driver would let us off at the top of a falls, for instance, and pick us up at the bottom The driver/guide Sis was engaging, humorous and well informed.

    We took the tour on an absolutely terrible day, rain, wind, and far too many people at some of the places, crowded beyond a comfortable carrying capacity. But being on a small bus made it easier to cope. For me the highlight was Thingvellir, the tectonic valley and site of the world's first parliament. We got a chance to take a nice walk during the one break in the rain we got all day.

    The one problem with the tour itself was the minibus, Which for most people would be fine, but I am big and tall. The seat back headrest fell on m shoulders, which meant no back support, so I needed to hit the spa when I got to the ship to put my back in place. For a normal sized person this would not have been an issue. The advantages of the mini bus outweighed he backache.

    The company was easy to deal with and the way the booking and tour went was professional.
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  • Torshavn (Faroe Islands)
    We took a tour with Smyril Line to Kirkjubø. They offer a different tour each day and this is Monday's offering. We visited the ruins of the St. Magnus Cathedral, burned during the reformation and the older, still active St. Olav church. The drive was beautiful with stops for pictures. The highlight was visiting a farm on land that has been worked by the same same family for 17 generations. Johannes is a gifted storyteller and this tour was one of the highlights of the cruise.
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