Month: July 2010

  • Akureyri, Iceland!

    Iceland is simply gorgeous.  Yesterday we were in Akureyri, and Mom and I were up early to make our Lake Myvatn tour.  When we got off the ship, it was to discover another large cruise ship, the Aida, docked as well; that's it to the left:

    We started off with a bus drive-round the town, which was very pleasant, then we headed out of town toward Lake Myvatn.  The first stop was Godafloss, aka: The Falls of the Gods.  Beautiful!  


    After the falls we went to a geothermal field to see a pit of bubbling mud, and multiple steam vents.  We were strictly warned to not set foot beyond the marked paths, as the ground can be very thin and fragile, and horrible accidents have occurred to those who ventured where they ought not.  

    Next was an area of lava formations, where we were again warned to stay on the path, but this time to also stay together, as it is frightfully easy to get lost in them.  The North American and European  continental plates meet there, and I think this is's surprisingly not marked.

    Afterward we were driven to a lovely hotel for lunch, consisting of utterly delicious herb bread that had been baked in the hot ground, fresh mushroom soup (in a metal tureen I coveted), what they called "lake trout" but Mom said was "salmon trout", which I didn't eat.  No dessert, a disappointment to us all.  Oh well!  

    The lake is big, and quite beautiful:

    Our three buses were late getting back to the ship, so the sailing was held up for us.  "All aboard" had been 2:30, with sailing at 3, but we didn't arrive back until a few minutes until 3.  The crew was certainly happy to see us.  ;^)

    Mom and I were quite tired from the all-day excursion (we'd left at 8 in the morning), and the inclines in the hike through the lava formations, so we collapsed in our cabin after we got back, skipping both the sailaway festivities and the Arctic Circle Swim (Linda, the annoying cruise director, and some of the other crew jumped into the Lido pool), though we recovered in time to go to dinner.  Tried the show at 8, but found the "electrifying Elvy Rose" to be less than electrifying so returned to the cabin.  Turns out we had to set our clocks ahead yet again (sixth time), so we just read until time to go to sleep.

    Yesterday was also the first anniversary of Dad's death, which was much on our minds.  Hard to believe it was just a year ago!  Been missing Dad and Don quite a bit.

    Time moves on, though, and I came across a verse in Nehemiah I cherish:  "Do not grieve, because your strength comes from rejoicing in the LORD."  (Neh. 8:10b)

    And that's the truth.

  • Iceland!

    Cruising Prince Christian Sund yesterday was phenomenally beautiful!  The captain took us one of the long ways, involving serious sailing skill, we were told, and I'm thrilled he did.  The mountains and glaciers and icebergs were stunning.  Mom and I could sit in our cabin and watch Prince Christian islands go by (apparently they tend to be numbered); PC island 4 had a tiny town, and a couple of motorboats zoomed out to have a look at us.

    Last night was the Master Chef's dinner, where chef hats were provided for everyone to wear, only I'd not known about that and had decided to wear a black top and slacks with a $10 necklace/earring set I'd bought onboard with a horn on the necklace, and the Viking horn headgear.  When Mom and I went up to the Crow's Nest for a drink before dinner, darned if some people didn't applaud my attire.   The waiters at dinner performed a "napkin ballet", and I took a video with my cellphone but there's no sound.  Hadn't realized if it's set on vibrate, it won't record sound.  Boo.

    Mom was a sport and donned the chef's hat.  silly

    This morning the shipped docked at Isafjordur, Iceland, about 10:30 a.m., and Mom and I went on the Fjords and Flowers excursion today, which took us through a long tunnel through a mountain...part of it ONE LANE, with the traffic coming toward us having right-of-way, so the bus driver would pull over to one of the spots provided along the side, until the other vehicle had passed.  It was a busy day in the tunnel, according to the tour guide, as we'd had to pull over for six cars.  We went to a garden in a town the name of which I never grasped.  Mom had been told about the macro setting on her camera, so vastly enjoyed herself taking up-close photos of flowers.

    After the garden the bus took us to a fishing village called Flateryi, pronounced "flattery."   First we went to the church, where there was a singer to entertain us.  Except instead of Icelandic folk songs or something equally suitable, he sang songs he'd written, including one that had a chorus line about "go out to get high, I don't know why."  Strange music to hear in a church!  He kindly brought his first CD for us to purchast, but I'm pretty sure he didn't have any takers.  The church was incredibly lovely, however!

    We had coffee and pastries at a cafe, then strolled around a bit before boarding the bus to return to Isafjordur.  The excursion pamphlet said we were first supposed to visit the Maritime Museum only we didn't, and I'm considering requesting a refund for the admission cost.

    The cafe (isn't this exciting?):

    In Isafjord I walked around before returning to the ship, and went into the church, which had been built fairly recently as the prior church had burned.  Got to say, it's the first time - and most likely the only time - I found a flock of metal birds at the front of the sanctuary:

    A shot of Isafjordur as we sailed away:

    After dinner tonight we went to see Chris Diamond, a magician/comedian, and enjoyed his show a lot.  How on earth he got that guy's $100 bill into the center of a lemon that was carried on-stage in a basket of fruit, I can't imagine! 

    Tomorrow we arrive at Akureyri, Iceland, where Mom and I have to be in the Rembrandt Lounge at 7:50 a.m. (the horror!) for the 6 1/2 hour excursion to Lake Myvatn, which should be spectacular.  Early, and long, but spectacular. 

    Due to the need to get up a good bit earlier than is my custom, I came up to the cabin directly after the show instead of going to the Piano Bar to listen to the music and play games on my iTouch.  The view from the verandah window has been fabulous, as we've been sailing north along the coast of Iceland, but all of a sudden here came the fog, and with it, the fog horn.

  • Psalm 48
    1  Hallelujah!  Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights.
    2  Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts.
    3  Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars.
    4  Praise Him, highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens.
    5  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created.
    6  He set them in position forever and ever; He gave an order that will never pass away.
    7  Praise the LORD from the earth, all sea monsters and ocean depths,
    8  lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind that executes His command,
    9  mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
    10 wild animals and all cattle, creatures that crawl and flying birds,
    11 kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth,
    12 young men as well as young women, old and young together.
    13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted.  His majesty covers heaven and earth.
    14 He has raised up a horn for His people, praise from all His godly ones, from the Israelites, the people close to Him.  Hallelujah!

    Surely it's impossible to see the fog-festooned mountains and crags and riverfalls and icebergs and not have one's soul rise up in praise of the Creator!  I've been awestruck for hours now, watching God's majesty and power on display in the terrain of Greenland, and the depth of Prince Christian Sound (up to 1200' deep in places).

    The ship sailed past a tiny community - same brightly painted houses - that is as isolated as isolated can be, and here came a couple of motorboats zooming out, with the men waving and one trying to stand and get a photo of the Maasdam.


    Earlier this morning I was out on the deck to see everything, but the chilly, wet weather sent me back inside to the cabin, where I've been enchanted to discover I can lay on the loveseat, pull the coffee table around in front of me, and read my bible and write my blog post while being simultaneously mesmerized by the astounding landscape.  Truth be told, it makes reading and writing difficult, as the passing landscape tends to grab and hold my attention.

    Finally peckishness drove me out of the cabin and up to the Lido deck to snag some lunch, and just as I filled my plate I looked to the portside and saw a stunning glacier!  All tables were taken, and there was I with a plate of food in my right hand, my camera in my right pocket, and a fabulous photo op sliding past.  Dumped the plate on a horizontal surface and got the shot.


    I've spent most of the afternoon in the cabin, transfixed by the scenery.  Waterfalls!  Glaciers!  Icebergs!  Ice fields!  How could one leave? 

    Tonight is another formal night, with an Ice Ball later, whatever that is.  Tomorrow's a sea day, then Iceland!



  • Ahoy from off the waters of Greenland!

    That's where we were today, anchoring about 12:30 p.m.   It was fascinating to watch the coast of Greenland approach through the fog, with intermittent chunks of ice, including small bergs.  The weather had certainly chilled down, in addition to being foggy.  Fortunately the fog cleared as we approached land, though it remained cloudy and nippy, requiring jackets.    We had to take tenders into the pier, discovering it was raining in the town.  Naturally Mom had her umbrella, while I'd left mine in the cabin, seeing as it wasn't raining on the ship.  Typical!  That makes twice this trip that that's happened, i.e. my leaving my umbrella behind while Mom takes hers, then it rains.

    In the above photo, that's the Maasdam to the right, and a big ol' iceberg on the left.


    We were greeted by some boys when we came down the ramp from the tender, being given wide, charming smiles, told 'welcome', and had our hands shaken.  They were also present when we left, being much taken with the hand sanitizer thingummy, and one little boy intent on mingling with the crowd so as to get on the tender.  The HAL people kindly but firmly stopped him each time.


    The town of Qaqortoq is comprised of brightly painted buildings that made a cheery note in the dreary day.  To be honest, there isn't a whole lot there to see.  There's a small museum that has a traditional Innuit house, with whale ribs supporting the walls, which were made of sod.  Incredible number of weeds growing from the walls.

    Mom went inside, while I chose to settle for peering in the window.  Very tight quarters in there!


    Across the street was the "oldest fountain in Greenland", which also happens to have the distinction of being the only fountain in Greenland, meaning it could have been built last week and would still fit both criteria. 

    Walking back in the opposite direction we came across carvings of and in stone...a seal statue, a ram's head in relief in the stone wall, a whale etched into the stone, and a wall with multiple whales or fish carved on it.  I've no idea how long ago they were created, though.

    The rain had lessened to a great extent, so when Mom decided to head back to the ship, I elected to remain and poke around a bit longer.  The rain picked back up, all I could find was a grocery store where I purchased a couple of Danish chocolate bars, and I discovered that the drivers in Qaqortoq drive like crazy people, whether it's raining or not, or a bunch of tourists are walking along the street.

    Even though four tenders were running, it took half and hour to get from point A to point B, yet I felt I'd could have swum to the ship.  The length of time caused quite a bit of comment from several of the riders. 

    All I wanted was a hot bath in the whirlpool tub, and that's what I enjoyed.  Then I determined to fill out the postcards I'd purchased so I could get them down to the front office in time for the port agent to take them to the Qaqortoq post office, missing the Crow's Nest music and happy hour.  Turns out there is no port agent, so the cards won't go out until Iceland, and with Icelandic stamps.  Boo.  I'd wanted them to get mailed with Greenlandic stamps, which would have happened had I purchased stamps in the tourist office, only it was very crowded with a long line.

    Tonight's dinner was delicious as usual (I had turkey (lots) with a miniscule amount of stuffing), and a cherry pavlova for dessert.  A grilled vegetable tower by way of starters, then cream of chicken and artichoke soup.  Yummers!

    The entertainment was provided by a young man from Poland named Kuba, who reminded me eerily of Zhenya.  He played the digital vibraphone, and a couple of other odd instruments, one an African instrument he picked up in Argentina called the carimba (sp?), and one designed by a Russian scientist years ago which uses radio waves to create sound.  He put on a wonderful show!  I'll bet if y'all went to YouTube you could find both Kuba and last night's performers, Livewire, plus the pianist Elliot Kinkle. 

    After his show I went to the Piano bar, drank a strawberry lemonade, and enjoyed singing with some other people some songs from the 30's and 40's with Darryl the pianist.  Very pleasant evening indeed!

    Tonight we have to set our watches ahead an hour, and tomorrow is a sea day.  The plan is for us to cruise Prince Christian Sound, but if the fog is too heavy we won't be able to (the forecast isn't optimistic and I just heard the fog horn sounded).  I'm praying for the fog to clear so the ship can make it through the Sound, as it should be spectacular.  It'd also be nice for the weather to clear so there's a possibility of our seeing the Northern Lights.

  • Trip itinerary

    July 17:  Depart from Boston
    July 18:  At sea
    July 19:  St. Pierre, France
    July 20:  St. John's, Newfoundland
    July 21:  At sea
    July 22:  Qaqortoq, Greenland
    July 23:  Cruising Prince Christian Sound
    July 24:  At sea
    July 25:  Isafjordur, Iceland
    July 26:  Akureyri, Iceland
    July 27:  At sea
    July 28:  Alesund, Norway
    July 29:  Bergen, Norway
    July 30:  Scenic cruising of Norwegian coast
    July 31:  Oslo, Norway
    Aug. 1:   Copenhagen, Denmark
    Aug. 2:   At sea
    Aug. 3:   Dover, England
    Aug. 4:   Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Aug. 5:   Amsterdam
    Aug. 6:   At sea (English Channel)
    Aug. 7:   Dunmore East, Ireland
    Aug. 8:   Liverpool, England (I'm visiting Chester!)
    Aug. 9:   Dublin, Ireland
    Aug. 10:  At sea
    Aug. 11:  Heimaey, Iceland
    Aug. 12:  Reykjavik, Iceland
    Aug. 13:  Reykjavik
    Aug. 14:  At sea
    Aug. 15:  Nanortalik, Greenland
    Aug. 16:  At sea
    Aug. 17:  St. Anthony, Newfoundland
    Aug. 18:  Corner Brook, Newfoundland
    Aug. 19:  At sea
    Aug. 20:  Bar Harbor, Maine
    Aug. 21:  Home!

  • Hello from the Maasdam!

    I have got to get smarter about using the internet on board the ship, such as composing blog posts, emails, etc. OFF LINE, then cut and paste them in.  So far I've used half the minutes I bought on Saturday.  =8^o

    Yesterday Mom and I were in St. Pierre, France, a small island just south of Newfoundland that is part of France, and mercy Maud, is it ever!  You never saw such a French place, right down to the post office being closed for lunch.  Naturally Mom and I discovered this after we'd written the postcards we'd purchased and tried to mail them, wanting them to have St. Pierre stamps and postmarks.  To get to St. Pierre from the ship required either a tender ride or a hike into town, which the cruise ship info said would take 20 minutes but that was a bunch of baloney. 

    Mom and I left on the tender, returning to the ship to have lunch, then a bit afterward I decided a 20 minute walk would be good for me so off I went down the road to St. Pierre, intent on mailing those postcards.

    Took me over well over half an hour to get there.  At least the post office was open, so I was able to mail the cards, then instead of walking back to the ship, I caught the tender.  It's embarrassing, actually, considering the number of elderly people who'd passed me as I'd walked into town.  Presumably they'd walked in as well but by jingo, there they were walking back again.  The weather was phenomenally gorgeous, and the port agent told the captain it was literally the best weather this year!  We were quite blessed.

    Last night we heard Elliot Finkle, who is a pianist, and we enjoyed him tremendously.  He's going to have a classical show later in the cruise, which should be terrific.  The night before we'd gone to the ship's 'Club Nevada' show and left after a few minutes, as the two male singers weren't especially good, and there were just four dancers who didn't do much.  Sad to remember the wonderful shows HAL's performing troupe used to put on.  I guess the costcutting measures hit the entertainment area hard.  Tonight was a comedian I didn't care much for, but tomorrow night will be 'Livewire', a "whirlwind of music and Celtic spirit."  That sounds good.

    Today was St. John, Newfoundland (did you know Newfies hit the "land" hard?), which was utterly charming.  It's a city of about 160K, built around a bay, with buildings running down to the sea.  There are lovely row houses painted in bright colors, reminiscent of both San Francisco and Bermuda.  Mom took a trip to a science museum, while I went on a bus tour that took us to Signal Hill, St. John the Baptist basilica (the tour guide said the big Anglican church was also named St. John the Baptist, as are a couple of other churches....very popular name in the area), the Governor's grounds, and Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America.


    Here am I at Signal Hill:



    Then me at Cape Spear:


    To get to the lighthouses on Cape Spear required hiking up long wooden steps, and again, doggoned if a couple of older men didn't stride briskly past me as I huffed and puffed and paused along the way.  Very demoralizing, it was.  However, I eventually got up there and saw one or two whales!  Okay, fine, it's not like they splashed their tails or leapt out of the water, but still I saw the dorsal fin and part of the back.  A whale's a whale.


    Which reminds me of an amusing warning on the shore excursion listings; when an excursion is intended to allow viewing of whales and such, the listing adds "The wildlife is not in the employ of Holland America Line, therefore sightings cannot be guaranteed."  That's a diplomatic way to put it.  ;^)


    The tour guide also told us about how St. John's bay entrance had submarine nets during WWII, as it was feared Hitler would attempt to enter North America in that way, seeing as how it's the closest point to Europe, and in fact a U-boat sank a couple of ore frigates (well, something like that) off the coast, with great loss of life.  Years after the war it was revealed that Canada and England had a secret agreement that in the event of Newfoundland falling into enemy hands, it would be firebombed, with everyone killed, so as to protect the remainder of the continent.  My seatmate on the bus was from Ontario and she was stunned, saying she'd been told that in school but had assumed it was a joke. 

    Oh, and the weather was also remarkably beautiful in Newfoundland today, at least where we were.  Now we're out on the ocean the fog has come and the ship's fog horn keeps sounding.  Did it during the night, too.  Makes it hard to sleep.
    Next day!  It's Wednesday at sea, and so far I've attended a short worship service (I love how we sing every single verse of the hymns), a talk about Alesund and Bergen in Norway, gone to the Cruise Critics (an internet forum for cruisers) meeting, then left there to go to the Mariners' reception.  The captain was supposed to be present but due to the foggy conditions and ice beginning to be seen, he decided it would be prudent for him to remain at the helm, with which decision we all heartily concurred.

    After awhile I'm going to the swing dance class, then listen to another speaker, this time about the Innuit's justice system.
    It has finally dawned on me I've not posted my itinerary, so I'll do that in another post.

  • We're at sea!

    And I just got back from a deliciously looong "tension sampler" massage/facial/etc treatment in the spa, courtesy of my brother, Louis, who surprised us with room credit.  Didn't take me any time at all to start using it.  Tomorrow I'm getting my hair cut.  Been letting it grow for months just so I could get it done on the cruise. 

    Dinner was marvelous, though I had to skip the dessert to make my appointment.  Whiskey-glazed barbeque pork ribs that were fall-off-the bone tender.  Seriously yum!

    I'm about to go settle somewhere quiet and read my bible for a bit.


  • First blog post from on the ship!

    We're here!  The Maasdam's just as beautiful as I remember, and I've been wandering around while Mom unpacks, recalling various spots where Don and I would hang out. 

    Met some awfully nice people already, including a retired lawyer named Joan from California, and a waiter whose name is Joan...he doesn't pronounce it the same, however.

    Back later!

  • Mercy Maud, isn't it just the WAY?!?!

    We'd noticed recently the temp in the house being warmer than it ought to be, even allowing for The Leakiest House On The Block, and when it was 80° at noon, there was no question but that it wasn't working properly.  The nice guy showed up late this afternoon, and after turning on the heater so as to thaw out the frozen whatzit up in the attic, he figured out what it was.....a part that needs to be ordered, naturally.  And not a cheap part, either.  

    Right before I leave on the cruise.  As in, I'm going tomorrow morning!  bummed

    Went ahead and paid in advance, since I can't leave the goes with me.  On the bright side, at least the unit's working well enough to keep it in the low-to-mid 80's, and it happened before I left.  Definitely preferable to getting a communication from the boys while I'm away, saying the a/c isn't working and what are they supposed to do about it?

    Speaking of which, my cell phone - as in the equipment - won't work in Europe, but will on the Maasdam, and it's only wildly pricey ($2.49 per minute!) if I make the call, not if I receive the call.  And it's 50 cents for me to send a text message, but only a nickel to receive one.  So this is great!  I can keep up and talk with the fam occasionally.  Plus I'll be checking email morning and evening.  And updating the blog (compose the posts offline then post them quickly, and upload pictures at internet cafes).

    Dmitry's 20th - yes, I said 20th, can you believe it?!?! - birthday is on August 16th, while I'm gone, so I'm wrapping a present for him and hiding it.  He'll get instructions as to where to find it On The Day.  (No fair searching in advance, Dimka!)

    My next update should be tomorrow evening from Boston!  Where I understand it's going to be hot and muggy.  Oh joy.  The hotel Mom's got us at is a first-class establishment, the Fairmont Copley Plaza, so that's going to be delightful.  Thank you, Mom, for this fabulous treat!   heart

  • Wow. And to think I used to feel guilty if I didn't post for a week.

    Facebook has been taking over, but I'm determined to wrest my blog back from it, whatever "it" may be.

    The horse races were rather fun, though it seems a useless thing to do, both racing the horses and watching the races, much less betting on them.  It took a long time between races, upward of half an hour.  Mostly I enjoyed sitting on the grass with E&A friends and chatting, occasionally walking to the fence to cheer on whatever horse someone had bet on.

    They usually lost.  Still, it's a nice venue.

    The last Sunday of June was a baby shower for Beth, who got more diapers than you can shake a stick at.  Lillian won't need them bought for her for ages!  Here's Beth reading a card, with Bethany, Hannah, Faith, Kirstin, and Jill at the far right:

    Hannah was an enthusiastic helper:

    As was Faith, of course:

    Margaret, Meredith, Elaine and Mom:

    It's always a delight to have my two toddler poppets together!

    And me with my thus-far youngest granddaughter, Brielle.  Lillian should be joining us next month, though, and we are so excited! 

    On July 3d I went on a catamaran with a large E&A group to eat dinner and watch the fireworks on Lake Lewisville.  The boat was quite pleasant.  The staff was friendly.  The Blue Mesa food was okay.  The DJ, music played, and behavior of a bunch of the attendees was deplorable, however.  I hate finding myself in such situations, where I feel obligated to ask the LORD's forgiveness for being there.  Since E&A (Events & Adventures) is largely advertised on a local Christian radio station, I was completely unprepared for the unsuitable language and music, which set the tone for the party.  Emailed feedback to that effect but didn't get a response.  Not only the wretched, LOUD music (big speakers on a catamaran means there's nowhere to hide) and foul-mouthed DJ, but the boat didn't return to the pier until around 11:45, so by the time I hiked to my car it was midnight before I set off for home.  Only took 50 minutes, shorter than the hour I'd feared.  The last two years, I'd been told by those who'd gone, the boat would return between 10 and 10:30.  One of the other middle-aged women and I were huddled in abject misery the last hour and a half, muttering about mutiny. 

    The big news is that on in THIS Friday!...I'm leaving with my mother on a 35 day cruise on the Holland America Maasdam, departing from (and returning to) Boston, visiting a tiny French island off the coast of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Newfoundland, and Bar Harbor!  Trying to pack for such a long trip is a daunting task.  I'm planning upon blogging through it, though the charge for (slow-as-molasses, from what I've read) internet access on the ship is steep.  Still, so long as I compose the posts off-line, it shouldn't take that many minutes.  Not playing any Facebook games, that's for certain sure.  My crops and animals are simply going to have to manage without me for a while.

    Today Joe bought a new - to him - car, having sold his truck a couple of days ago.  A 1999, deep blue Firebird!  Sweet.  And he's going to learn how to drive a standard any minute now (Viktor drove it to test it, and home):

    Above is Zhenya, Dmitry, Viktor, and Joe.  BTW, lest anyone get any ideas about breaking in, three of them live here, and Viktor is here more often than not, so I wouldn't advise it.  Not to mention the five cats.  And the neighbors who will be watching.  All things considered, it'd be best to just move along. 

    This afternoon brought a visit by Nadia, the daughter of Vera, our facilitator for Dmitry's adoption.  Since Vera was in the hospital when we stayed in their apartment for the meet-Dmitry trip (seven years ago last June, can you believe it?!?), it was Nadia's task to act as interpreter between her grandparents and Don and me, and a crackerjack job she did, too.  The boys took her to Taste of Europe, aka: the Russian restaurant. 


    Nadia's here for the summer, working at a popcorn shop in Flower Mound.  I asked what the best-selling flavor is, and she swears it's dill pickle.  {#emotions_dlg.shocked}  I suppose after seeing the cotton-candy flavored vodka, I should stop being astonished at these weird comestibles and beverages.