High Summer in Greenland's icy, sunny, mountains
Subject: High summer in Greenland's icy, sunny mountainsThe travellers were mostly UK, a few Scadinavians and Dutch. All transactions are in the English language and in £ sterling. Passengers were adult only , median ages 50s and 60s but range 16-90+
Fred Olsen Cruise. Dover. Aug 7-23. Boudicca
Outstanding itinerary, quite amazing sights.
We have used Fred on a few occasions and the pull factors are always the same. Destinations are interesting not least because small ships enable small ports and seaways to be visited No container port berthing with a 2-3 hour each way coach ride to the local attraction or endless waiting to disembark in a huge theatre.
The boats are attractive, smart and feel recently refurbished though I gather that Boudicca is to be dry docked in October 20 Our mid ships starboard side cabin 8025 was a bit small but well maintained apart from a draughty balcony door seal. One small maintenance item, a loose loo seat, was replaced within a few minutes of our room maid reporting it. She’d noticed it first!There are the usual Fred moans about expensive and unreliable IT. In a valued public Q and A session with the captain and senior officers it was admitted to be an issue. To resolve it Mr Olsen needs to fork our about $100 million to buy his own dedicated satellite like some other lines. More fares or more connectivity?
Cabin care was prompt, timely (serviced at our mealtimes), detailed, reliable (ice bucket at 1800) and cheerful. This was typical of all staff throughout the ship in restaurants and bars alike The Hotel Manager and Maitre d’H were able to find us a window seat to enable better sightings of the North Atlantic wildlife, although there wasn't a lot to see on the open ocean A wildlife expert was always available on deck with binoculars etc. We dined in the Four Seasons restaurant and enjoyed high quality food and service, nothing was too much troubleThe captain was a rare delight, understated, charismatic, an outstanding leader Instead of boring sets of staff introductions on a formal night he subjected senior staff to an obviously unscripted Q and A session which brought out the human side in one and all. Literally an inspiration. He is always seen around the ship and so therefore are his staff. No hiding here behind a daily briefing from the bridge, though that was always unusually detailed and informative. On the final formal night he invited representatives from all departments eg deckhands and engine room crew to introduce themselves, which they did with obvious pride
On a trip with nine sea days the quality of activities and facilities on board did not disappoint. Quiet as well as busy lounges, calorie teasing mid afternoon teas, specialist lectures to suit a wide rage of tastes, dancing, charity events, quizzes, cards and the like. A refreshing absence of so -called fine art auctions and endless calls to separate you from your cash were not missed.
We sped out of Dover to avoid an imminent Force 9 gale with its 60 knot winds and 6 metre swell. We had looked forward to our sail down the Channel, round Lands End and SW Ireland to Iceland and were disappointed. But the Captain was right to scurry up between the oil and gas rigs of the North Sea and then by the Northern isles of Orkney. There will have been big savings on broken table ware, vomit bags, wasted food and poorly travellers
Three days later and in to Reykjavik. Dry bright but coldly wIndy. The city of night clubs, fiendishly expensive beer and girls who can’t wait in the usual queue using the gents loo standing up. It’s a 2k walk into town from the ship but there’s a free shuttle every 30 mins
We visited two good if expensive museums [ used to free cultural access in the UK ] and visited the cathedral outside ( closed for Sunday service) We had booked before leaving UK a tour via our agent which gave a cheaper and more personalised experience. We took a private tour to a remarkable attraction , old lava caves where the molten lava had simply drained out leaving a gi-normous boulder strewn pipe roughly horizontal under the ground. We had full safety gear, hard helmets with powerful lights. It was totally absolutely black yet there was a little micro life to see.
On the second day we took a ships arranged tour around the Golden Circle, a whole day cornucopia of eathqubake zones ( recent urban destructions to be seen), geysers, the mid Atlantic fault line and historic monuments and places from Nordic and Viking eras. You literally could have one foot on the European tectonic plate and the other on the American plate. Not just pulling apart by several centimetres a century, but displacing vertically by similar amounts. Hugely informative with a guide whose enunciation and pronunciation was as good as HMQs
Then off to Greenland across the steel grey Atlantic until the morning of day three from Iceland. We sailed for 6 hours through narrow sea fiords seeing up close glaciers, ice fields, waterfalls, ice floes bumping against us. The captain was beside himself with an explorers zeal and joy. He launched our RiBs for up close trips of 90 mins or so for a very reasonable £40 for a 30 knot double outboard diesel 600 bhp ride. Just right for the boys and the Clarksons amongst us. An exciting day!
In all four days were spent in Greenland,a harsh but sparsely peopled land. We landed in three small settlements and could visit others on tour. Greenland is one third the size of Oz but with only 60000 people, mostly Inuit. To refer to them as Eskimo is akin to using the N word. Don't . They are still part of Denmark They are working towards full independence if they can work out if they prefer less wealth (Denmark subsidises them) or full freedom. Or maybe Mr Trump will try a compulsory purchase. He made an offer while we were there.
The scenery is remarkable, jagged peaks, ice smoothed rock faces at lower levels, ice fields sparkling in the sun, waterfalls pouring from both hillsides and glaciers floating by. No trees, only a few fields of grass and cereals in very sheltered spots. Fishing is the basic livelihood and with only 45k of metal roads in the whole country you need a boat, plane or helicopter to get around. There's quite a few historic sites from the early Middle Ages and well organised and guided tours from the boat. The cultural heritage seen in these small villages, is rich and instructive. As well as the ever popular RIBs, the captain treats himself to an occasional drive and will reward staff with a free trip tooThere is only a small handful of sailings a year from UK; get there soon before the crowds to discover this amazing unspoiled country
In summary. An elegant ship, innovative itinerary, outstanding crew across all ranks, attractive food, reasonably priced drinks, plenty of social spaces on board from quiet to lively, a wide variety of events each day and evening. Cabins are a bit small, but well serviced. This ship/cruise has a nice style and very pleasant atmosphere. No surprise to be told it had almost 80% repeat bookings on this trip
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