Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Lofoten Islands, Norway

Welcome to the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle.

On our itinerary this port was listed as Lofoten Islands (Gravdal). The Lofoten Islands part was right but the Gravdal part wasn't. Today was a tender port, with the tenders dropping us off between the two villages of Leknes and Gravdal. There was a shuttle for $19.95 you could take to get to Leknes. But not Gravdal. 

Gravdal Norway
Leknes Norway

Thanks to the first organized tour I've taken so far I wound up visiting both from the inside of a bus. And Ballstad as well.

I only got off the bus once at the last stop but I was still able to snap plenty of photos. 

Dragestil church in Gravdal Norway
Dragestil church in Gravdal

All the road signs made me glad I wasn't doing the driving. I'd get lost for sure.

We saw lakes, beaches, and jagged mountains. 

mountains reflected in water in Lofoten Islands, NorwayHaukland Beach NorwayHaukland Beach Norway

Haukland Beach Norway
People swimming in the 47 degree water at Haukland Beach

We again saw hillsides in so many shades of green with yellow dandelions added in for some extra color.

field of dandelions in Lofoten Islands, Norway

Can you tell this is a school building?
bikes outside school in Lofoten Islands, Norway
We also visited the fishing village of Ballstad.
peaks reflected in water in Ballstad Norway
marina in Ballstad Norway
fisherman's cabins in Ballstad Norway
Fishermen's cabins along the water

While others hiked up for a better view of the area there I used the restroom at the grocery store. And took pictures of the signs, of course.
Norwegian handwashing sign
Learn to wash your hands in Norwegian
Another bathroom sign
Having used their free restrooms I felt obliged to make a small purchase. While I didn't buy fruits or vegetables I did admire the colorful produce case.
colorful fruits and vegetable case in Ballstad grocery store in Ballstad, Norway
It was a quick two hour bus trip around the area, just enough time for my first time in a crowded bus.
drying fish at cruise ship pier in Lofoten Islands, Norway
Ugly fish at the tender pier
Tomorrow we have a sea day and then on Thursday we'll be in Trondheim. See you there!

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Honningsvag, Norway

Hello from Honningsvag, the northernmost point of our cruise.

Honningsvag, NorwayHonningsvag, Norway

We’re in the land of the midnight sun now. Any guesses on what time I stayed up to take this picture?

midnight sun in Norway

12:30! It made for a short night for sleeping because when the Captain announced a little after 6 AM we had whales on both sides of the ship, I wrapped myself like a mummy in my brown fuzzy blanket and camped out on the balcony. 
Early morning minke whale watch
I saw a ton of whales. Unlike humpbacks, these minkes didn’t travel in pods and weren’t breaching and showing off their tails. They just swam along similar to an orca, up and down, up and down. 

Once we arrived in port many passengers took tours heading to the North Cape but I stuck close to home. Since today was Sunday and most stores were closed I got my laundry done before heading off the ship around 11. I started off by going up a little slope towards the shopping area to give Scooter a chance to prove himself on hills. 

Oops, forgot the picture of the slope

Yep, closed up

He wasn't a fan of the incline (go figure) but he really wasn't a fan of all the uneven pavers. During Idaho winters we sometimes get frost heaves when the roadway buckles, bulges, or dips from the freezing weather. Here the roads themselves seemed to be smooth but when it came to the sidewalks, watch out. The changes in the pavers made the scooter go up, down, and sideways. 

What a rollercoaster of a workout to keep control

Thankfully there were other areas to explore. The marina had wooden walkways and pavers in better shape  and certainly the scenery made up for the bump-bump-bump my bum bum felt there.

colorful boats in marina in Honningsvag, Norwaycolorful boats in marina in Honningsvag, Norway

colorful boats in marina in Honningsvag, Norway
I watched people hike this mountain. Wow.
There were several pieces of art made from trash found along the coastline. 
Trolls are big in Norway.
I even discovered other objects decorating spaces.
I stopped for a treat...
before I made my way back to the ship.
Island Princess docked in Honningsvag, Norway
It was a beautiful day for exploring. I'll be back here again in August and based on today's little jaunt I've already made my plans for then.

Tomorrow a sea day then off to Gravdal in the Lofoten Islands. See you then!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Tromso, Norway

Hello from Tromso!

Tromso, Norway

Today we docked in what is considered Breivika Cruise Terminal which really meant we were docked in an industrial area.

Tromso, Norway
Front of the ship
Tromso, Norway
Back of the ship

Lots of fishing equipment around

When I was researching this port I had several options I was considering. Good thing I'm flexible as those options not only didn't pan out but I had to come up with other ideas on the spot. Plan A became Plan B became Plan C and so on and so on.

Plan A: Hop On Hop Off Bus. In looking at tickets prices before I left home I kept seeing the word "unavailable". I figured maybe it was because they hadn't set summer season prices. But just recently the unavailable meant really unavailable.

Plan B: Take the shuttle into downtown. The bus that used to cost around $8 has now turned into a $19.95 ride. $20 to get to a place where I could shop for nothing I needed and then pay for something to eat or drink that I wouldn't be able to taste or smell? Seemed like not the smartest way to spend my money.

Plan C: The Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden. The world's northernmost botanical garden is on my list for August when more flowers will be blooming. With the free admission I thought it might be fun to go today and take some pictures and then compare them with August. It's right across the street from the ship, but when I looked at the slope of the hill I realized Scooter would never be able to make it. Now I even have to rethink my August visit here.
Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden in Tromso, Norway
Plan D: Stay onboard for a while and get some laundry done until I came up with another plan. With everyone off the ship it would be a great time to avoid the rush on the laundromat and have some clean clothes again. Yeah...no.
Plan E, Part I: Bust into the mini bar I haven't yet touched.
Plan E, Part II: Combine the mini bar with a Crystal Light packet and a plastic straw from Sonic and open Deb's Tromso Vodka Bar. With a view!
Plan E, Part III: Open a pizzeria in the afternoon.
Plan E, Part IV: Issue a disclaimer that anyone partaking in pizza will have a staring role in an Alfred Hitchcock film. For said pizza will attract very aggressive seagulls.
Those seagulls will call other seagull friends and you will be required to wave them off with your napkin, take cover inside, shut the door (and lock it for good measure), and hide from the dozens who continue to dive bomb the area where you just were. Norway's version of The Birds.
Too fast to capture photos of them all
Quite a unique experience I won't soon forget. All without leaving the ship.

Tomorrow we'll be in Honningsvag, Norway. It'll be the farthest north we'll get on this trip in. See you then!

Friday, June 16, 2023

June 16 Sea Day

A sea day above the Arctic Circle with decent Internet? On a Princess cruise ship? Yep!

Back when we were in Akureyri, Iceland I took a picture when I spied some workers installing these square panel things on poles up behind the Movies Under the Stars screen.

starlink internet equipment on Island Princess cruise ship

I knew what they were and knew the importance they were going to have for our Internet. Each day I ran a speed test, waiting for the key words to pop up. The day after we left Seydisfjordur they did. 

SpaceX Starlink went live June 9

I’ll skip sharing my opinion of the person who is making the money off all of this, but I was looking forward to seeing what kind of Internet stability we’d get. While not even close to being super fast, it has been a tremendous improvement from we’ve seen before. With the old system there is no way I’d be posting this blog - with pictures - this far north. 

Another big piece of news was announced today at the Most Traveled Guest luncheon. The Captain Circle host position is now officially gone on this ship. Going forward the Future Cruise Consultant will now be in charge of these types of events. Very stupid move.

Being today was a sea day, I didn’t have too much planned as I’m still trying to get my strength back. The past two full days out and about in port about did me in. 

Since finishing yesterday’s blog post I:

*sat on the balcony and fell asleep until the Captain made his evening announcement. 
*headed to grab a bite at the buffet for dinner.
*came back to the cabin and took a shower.
*went to bed and was sound asleep before 9 pm. Other than a brief nighttime coughing fit I didn’t wake up until the alarm went off this morning at 6:30. 
*went to Sabatini’s for breakfast at 7:30.
*came back to the cabin and took a nap until 11.
*changed clothes.
*went to the Most Traveled Guest luncheon where I sat listening to the table talk.
*came back to the cabin, changed into comfy clothes and put on my slippers, and fell right back asleep until early evening.
*ordered dinner.
*ate, showered, and was in my nightgown by 7:30.
*started on the blog.

I was even kind of hoping the Internet would be down today so I didn’t have to post to the blog. So just a quick few pictures of today’s luncheon and, you guessed it, I’m back to bed. 
Most Traveled Guest Luncheon Menu on Island Princess cruise ship
Today’s menu
poached seafood with pesto on Princess cruises
herb crusted filet of beef on Princess Cruises
white chocolate cheesecake on Princess Crusies

This is a very port intensive cruise and I guess my body knows best so no use fighting it. Hopefully I’ll have something more exciting to share tomorrow from Tromso.