I thought I’d go a little off the beaten path in my postings and give you a travelogue or two, or three. Linda and I recently returned from a cruise that started and ended in Copenhagen. We spent a couple of days there at each end, as surprisingly, even with hotels, it was marginally cheaper than doing a just in time arrival and a get out of Copenhagen quick schedule.
As a little background for those of you who don’t know us, we started cruising in December of 1985 so we’re coming up on 30 years. Now don’t take this as cruising every year, but we did do a significant amount of cruising while we were both gainfully employed rather than living off the fruits of our working lives as we now do. (Although after this cruise, the fruit basket isn’t nearly as full as it used to be.) We’ve been fortunate to see most of the Caribbean, French Polynesia, circled the UK, visited Iceland, and seen a significant portion of the Mediterranean and vicinity. Some of my favourite stops were Icleand, Istanbul, Ephesus, Rhodes, Malta, Santorini, and several other ports in Greece.
Now for this trip.
We flew Iceland Air and while I’d like to say the airline was exceptional, sorry can’t do that. However, they did get us to Copenhagen and back safely. We flew from Vancouver, BC (YVR) to Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) with a short stopover and change of planes before connecting to Copenhagen (CPH). The advantages of this routing to CPH, for us, were a shorter duration in travel time than going through Heathrow and better fares than we could get from competing airlines. We received an “upgrade” (according to the sign they kindly put at our seat) from our original assigned seats to Business Class seats. However, don’t get too excited, all we got was the service we paid for without the perks of Business Class. For me, this was great as I enjoy the larger seats and increased leg room. For Linda, not so much. She has trouble reaching the floor to set her feet flat and has to use the footrest the whole time which also isn’t that comfortable.
Surprisingly, we needed to clear security in Iceland after having gone from a secure area in YVR and never stopping anywhere else (thankfully). This was a requirement to enter the Schengen area which is comprised of Iceland and 14 other countries that are not part of the EU. The lineup was horrendous as a number of planes arrived at the same time, only two security gates were in use, and the airport is undergoing major renovations. Getting through passport control took less than a minute but it took at least 30 minutes to get through security. The pics below are from a previous visit to Iceland.
We could have taken the train from the airport to the central station about 2 blocks from the hotel. However, we were burdened with nearly three weeks of luggage and were not in the right frame of mind to take the train. We did take it from the airport hotel we stayed at on the way back and it is very fast and very reasonable compared to a taxi. However, you do have to pay attention to the routing as several trains come and go from the airport and the central station has a lot of tracks with trains going to many places and not just Denmark.
Our hotel in Copenhagen, the Scandic Palace, was right in the heart of the city. It is an older hotel but well maintained with incredibly friendly staff. We were at the hotel by about 2:30PM local time (9 hour time change from home), settled in, and went for a walk. After being on a plane for so many hours, stretching our legs felt great. Our biggest challenge was finding a place we could agree on for dinner. Not a bad challenge I realize. We settled on an Italian restaurant. The fresh salmon for Linda and baked tortellini for me. (Sticker shock on prices!)
After being awake for over 24 hours, we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep. We endeavoured to stay awake past 9:00PM but it was a wish rather than reality. We fell asleep and then started reading our books at 03:00 AM. Sleep was elusive to say the least. For me, this was the worst case of jet lag I’ve ever experienced. The 9 hour time difference really played havoc.
Our second day in Copenhagen was spent wandering the streets looking for things to buy for our new Grand Nieces but without success. Hard to believe. The photos below are of the Little Mermaid and a guard in front of the Royal Palace.
We went to Tivoli Gardens late in the afternoon as a tourist brochure said it had 40 restaurants. How can we not find something to eat here? If you’re not aware, Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the center of the city. It cost 99 DK which equates to about $20 CDN/$15 US to get in. That’s before rides and food. We were only interested in food but still had to pay the admission price. We had a really good dinner at one of the restaurants. It was definitely frequented by locals as Danish was the predominant language of the people seated around us.
I’d forgotten how expensive things are in Denmark and all Scandinavian countries for that matter. A standard Starbucks Grande drip coffee was 29DK or about $6 CDN/$4.30 US. Now bear in mind, the Value Added Tax here is 25% so I guess we shouldn’t complain about our 12% in BC. Overall, the cost of items were 2-3 times more than we pay at home.
Our trip to the ship was interesting. First, some ships now dock a long way from downtown Copenhagen. Previously, we could have walked to the dock if we were so inclined. Second, we had a taxi driver who was very interested in engaging in religious conversations but also did a nice job of playing tour guide. The latter was good as the traffic was slow so we at least got to hear about some of the sites we missed and about how Copenhagen was growing.
Time to once again familiarize ourselves with the ship. Since we were on it last October, it’s developed a vibration. According to one of our servers, the vibration started a couple of months ago. Hopefully it will get fixed at the refit in December. It bothered some people.
We had dinner in the Tamarind. It is perfectly positioned on the ship to allow panoramic views and has food which is most certainly unique. Holland America Line advertises the Tamarind as “Delight in the stunning panoramic views and tantalizing food evoking the rich culinary traditions of Southeast Asian, China and Japan.”
We had Evelyn, one of the servers from our last trip, serve us. She remembered my face but not my name which is pretty amazing. (Unless I should take it as insult that I have a face that is unforgettable!) The food was every bit as good as it was in October, as were the staff.
Our first stop was Oslo and we decided to take a shore excursion to the Viking Ships museum, Kon Tiki museum, and a sculpture park. All were worth the price of admission. How the Norsemen were able to take their small ships across the seas to Canada and beyond is amazing. The smallest ship I want to be on for that type of trip is a cruise ship! You have to enjoy history to appreciate the ship museums. If you haven’t heard of the Kon Tiki, you should Google it as the story is quite fantastic. Both of us read the book, so we were very interested in seeing it.
Vigeland Park has the world’s largest collection of sculptures executed by one single artist—Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). He gave all the sculptures to the people of Norway providing they were put in a park without any admission fee in perpetuity. He did the work basically for room and board. If you were offended by nudity, this wasn’t the place to be. There was one statue of a man who had a very shiny body part. Gee, I wonder how that happens? I saw a woman holding it to have her picture taken. I wonder? Hmm
Our next stop was Kristiansand and it was every bit as pretty as we remembered it. We didn’t take any tours but roamed the streets in the morning. We were going to go back out in the afternoon but we got down to the gangway and everybody coming back was soaked so we turned around and went back to our cabin. So much for getting something for the babes in Kristiansand. The fort in the picture was used once in a battle and they lost, so it wasn’t used again as a defensive fortress.
Our next port was Stavanger, Norway and we docked in the heart of Stavanger. There isn’t much room for the Captain to maneuver. I definitely think this is a port that requires pucker power. As we entered the channel, we were in heavy overcast with fog. The Captain said there were times where they could see about 150 feet.
We walked around the city. It is a beautiful combination of old and new. There is no question it’s an oil based economy. Lots of service ships and two drilling platforms in the area. I found it interesting the lowest recorded temperature here was only -1C. Hard to believe. The fog lifted somewhat in the afternoon and it was as gorgeous as we thought it would be. The Captain said it is one of his favourite ports. The weather didn’t deter us from enjoying the trip.
Back to the Tamarind for dinner again. Linda was asked what she would like for dessert. She said “Nothing” so here is a picture of her “Nothing” dessert. We had a good laugh. Great servers in Tamarind.
Our next port was the Shetland Islands. I really wanted to see some Shetland Ponies! There’s a tour which takes you to see them but we were just going to wander around. Everyone has to show their passports either at the gangway leading to the tenders or in one of the lounges whether you go ashore or not as we are now in the UK.
To be continued…