Compared to the leisurely speed of 12.7 knots from Kristiansand to Stavanger, we did a relatively fast 16.5 knots from Stavanger to Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands. We had to do an additional 63 nautical miles compared to the distance from Kristiansand to Stavangeer (117 kms/72 statute miles), so the speed was necessary to make our anchorage on time.
Lerwick is a really pretty city on the coast of Scotland. Our fears about passport control taking a long time were unfounded. Immigration just wanted to know if we were returning to Copenhagen. Based on previous experience, getting off a ship when you need to present yourself at Customs and Immigration can be painful. There have been times when everyone from the ship had to be checked before anyone could go ashore. There were always people who felt this requirement didn’t apply to them and wouldn’t show up. That meant a call over the ships communication system for so and so from cabin such and such to show up. If they didn’t, someone had to be sent to their cabin to find them. Which meant the entire disembarkation was held up until they were cleared.
We waited until after all the tours were called and then went ashore. We tendered in and it was a good day for tendering. Little in the way of waves and a light wind. No long line ups, which was nice.
The city is really conducive to walking and is catering to the tourist trade, at least near the waterfront. Many streets are blocked from traffic and have been made into pedestrian corridors but you still had to be on the lookout for delivery vehicles. There were two ships in. Ourselves and a Fred Olsen Line ship. Fred Olsen caters primarily to the British cruise trade with older ships doing UK, some Med, and Scandinavian itineraries. I was glad we were on the Eurodam. Fred Olsen is a well established diverse Norwegian company.
We North Americans need to pay attention when we’re in the UK. Don’t look LEFT before you cross the street. Look Right because that’s where the vehicles are coming from. Remember, they travel on the left here. I saw a couple of close calls as people were so intent on crossing the street they looked left but not right. Unhappiness by many UK drivers.
In Lerwick, we had the best fudge we’ve ever eaten! (You knew I had to get around to food sooner or later.) It was buttery in its smoothness and didn’t have a sugar crystal in it. I’m not a big fudge eater but I could have eaten a lot more. However, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have bought their signature fudge, Puffin Poo! We were wishing we’d bought fudge to take with us back to the ship but it wouldn’t have made it to the gangway. (Darn, I just found out they ship worldwide! Quick take away my Visa card!)
The Islands are quite isolated. I didn’t see any Shetland ponies although I looked.
The next day was a sea day. We had 483 nautical miles to travel but we did it a rather sedate speed of only 14.1 knots. The seas were relatively smooth. We didn’t have a great deal of sun.
I enjoy sea days. There is little stress on a sea day. No rushing to get ready for a shore excursion or port visit. Fewer people at the breakfast buffet at the time I like to go because a lot of people take a sea day as an opportunity to catch up on sleep. Other than planning your meals, the day is your own. I know you’re probably wondering how you can have any stress on a cruise vacation. Trust me, getting ready for a tour and then traveling with 40-50 of not your closest friends can be stressful. I think in some ways, people’s true personalities come out in this environment.
Our sea day was uneventful. Well maybe I should clarify. We did have one exciting event. Her Majesty’s Coast Guard (which has been privatized and now has brand new helicopters) radioed the Captain to see if he’d be willing to participate in a simulated casualty evacuation from the ship. He readily agreed as it gave him an opportunity to test his own emergency procedures. A large Search and Rescue copter hovered over the stern of the ship and lowered the “casualty” to one of the rear decks. It then held station while the person got ready to be evacuated.
The skill of the pilot was amazing. We didn’t slow down and he matched the forward speed of the ship perfectly. It was like he was in a dead hover. This was no easy task as there was also a strong crosswind. The wind was so strong, the outside doors to the promenade deck were closed for a while.
They lowered the rescue basket and picked up the casualty like it was an everyday occurrence. After they picked up the casualty and had him safely on board, they accelerated and did a fly by as we all waved like fools while they waved back. Linda said there was another helicopter as well but I didn’t see it.
Our Cabin Stewards made new towel animals every night. This is what we came back to after dinner. Very cute.
I know you may find this hard to believe (we did) but we deviated our course to get outside the UK 12 mile limit so the casino and shops could be open for 4-5 hours. I know the buys on watches are good, but seriously!
Greenock, the port for Galsgow, brought us our first full day of sunshine with temps in the 25-26C range. Our tour guide was very happy about this as they haven’t seen much sun this year. She said it was the first time they didn’t have to wear jackets. It was a nice day for a trip to town. While Greenock and Glasgow are only 21 miles apart, it took 45 minutes to travel there. I think I can say I’ve been through more roundabouts in one day than I have in a month in any other city. You’re traveling down the M8, a major 6 lane highway, and suddenly, you get a warning of a roundabout. I’m sure it’s very efficient but it just seems wrong. Sort of like spending all that money to upgrade the Island highway and then putting in all the traffic lights.
Our tour consisted of Glasgow highlights and a tour of the Kelvingrove Gallery. I know I’m being a little critical here and I apologize to my Scottish friends who are from the area, but frankly, I didn’t see much to highlight in Glasgow. While there is a great deal of history the darkness of the city takes away from the experience. The old industrial stains show throughout the city. You need to remember Glasgow was by and large the industrial capital of Scotland for a long time so the fruits of its labour are clearly seen in the buildings.
We had a good tour guide who explained the buildings and sites of historical significance. Our one stop before the gallery was a church that was finished in 1497 and is the only church to survive the reformation when all other Catholic churches were altered or destroyed. It is a magnificent building and I took far too many pictures of it.
There weren’t a lot of opportunities to take good pictures out the bus window so I didn’t get any pictures of some of the other historical buildings.
The Kelvingrove Gallery was very interesting. The majority of the paintings and artifacts have been donated by the wealthy of Scotland. Many of the paintings were purchased for family collections and turned over to the gallery. There are paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rembrandt, and Matisse to name a few. A very impressive collection. We had a good hour to look around which is about as much as my feeble mind can assimilate in such a place.
When it was time to leave port, we were serenaded by a full pipe band with the local tourist volunteers and officials waving us goodbye. I was going to add the movie of the band but unless, as my brother puts it you like “the wailing of cats”, I thought it might be too much for sensitive ears.
We would have been able to leave early but two people were late getting back. As it was, we were only a couple of minutes late. Had they been much later, they would have been looking for passage to the next port on their own. This Captain firmly believed once everyone was on board, drop the lines and get underway! We consistently left early.
The town or Portree on the Isle of Skye is beautifully situated in a long fjord. Because it is somewhat isolated, Gaelic is often spoken and is one of the few places left in Scotland where the majority of the population is capable of speaking it.
We anchored a 15-20 minute tender ride from the dock. Again, the seas were good for a tender trip. Off the starboard side of the ship was a large salmon farm. Some of the salmon were very large. We could see them jumping while the food was being delivered to the pens. Farther into the fjord was a floating petroleum station of some kind. It looked like it may have been there to load tankers but I didn’t find out what it was used for.
The town is very small and easy to get around. There were a number of people from the ship buying fish and chips from the local chip shop. I found it interesting the frozen chips were McCain brand which is based in Atlantic Canada. We walked through a good deal of the town as there really isn’t much to it. None of the shore excursions here appealed to us.
We bought some Scottish cookies and fudge for our favourite servers in Tamarind. One of them said she had never tasted fudge so we thought it was a good gift. We bought a small bag for ourselves. While it was good, it wasn’t as good as what we had in Lerwick. When Linda dropped them off, they were very pleased and told us in later days how much they enjoyed the treats and appreciated it.
As usual, we departed the Isle of Skye early en route to Invergordon, the port for Inverness.