Friday, September 21, 2012

Cruise Report Copenhagen to NJ on the Brilliance

9/21/12 Hello from JFK airport, where we are waiting to board our flight to Cincinnati, and from there back to Chicago. We will be staying overnight at the Country Inn and Suites, where we left our car, then driving back to the Cannell/Daly farm tomorrow. It is sad that our cruises are over, but we had a wonderful time and are now looking forward to a happy reunion with Elaine's older sisters and their families. As always, when we have been on a ship for a long time and had very limited internet access, this will be a long blog post, with lots of pictures. Just a "heads up" - for some reason the pictures seem to lag behind the written text by about one picture, so please try to adjust it in your mind, because I can't seem to find a way to fix it!!! First of all, I want to post several pictures I should have included in my last post after the Vision fjords cruise. Our friends, Marcia & Lawson Albritton achieved Pinnacle status so there was a special award for them at the Top Tier welcome back party. To become Pinnacle, you have to have over 700 cruise nights on Royal Caribbean. Here they are receiving their award:
and here is a picture of them with Lisa Romine, Marcia's twin sister. She will also be Pinnacle by next May.
Some of the friends sat with us at this event so we could cheer for Marcia and Lawson. From left to right are Elaine & Mary, Peter & Jim, and Kathy and Don Mueller.
In Copenhagen, Royal Caribbean transferred us to a very nice hotel, The Scandic Copenhagen, where we had a top floor room with a fabulous view:
It was located about 6 blocks from the main square in town, and on our walk down there, we passed the central train yard, which enabled us to take this picture to show the light rail cars
Their public transit system is fast and efficient, and they even have WiFi on the cars! The next picture was a banner on one of the buildings, which I thought was amusing:
Don & Kathy Mueller were staying at the Scandic Palace Hotel and the other four good friends, Geri and Terry Hill, and Doug & Jane Rice, were staying at a hotel near Nyhavn Harbor. We all met at Don & Kathy's where they supplied everyone with happy hour drinks in the sitting area of their hotel.
It was so good to see everyone again because we hadn't cruised with them since Fall, 2010 on the Adventure. Once the wine was gone, we all walked to a nearby Italian restaurant called Vesuvio's where we enjoyed good food and catching up on each other's news:
On the walk back to our hotel, we walked by the entrance to Tivoli Gardens, where we took this picture showing some of the lights:
The next day we boarded the Brilliance of the Seas and this picture was taken as we sailed out of the harbor:
The Danes are making good use of wind power now and even have wind turbines out in the water! Of course, we enjoyed Happy Hour drinks in the Diamond lounge every evening, and here we are with some friends:
One of the other pleasant surprises was that Diana Junea, the Loyalty Ambassador whom we first met on the Jewel, was on this ship now. Here we are with her, and also Gary & Sharon Hallauer - also friends from the Jewel.
Of course, the Twins, Marcia and Lisa, were with us too
More pictures of friends will be on this blog later. Our first port was Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands.
Luckily, the day there was chilly but mostly sunny. We had to be tendered to shore, so that took a while. This is a view from the ship towards the shore opposite the town:
This was one of the larger estates and you can also see a few sheep on the hillsides. There are LOTS of sheep in these islands, and also the famous Shetland ponies.
Here is a view of part of the town:
Once we got off the tender, we were immediately impressed with the stone buildings
This one is the city hall,
where the second floor has many colorful, historic stained glass windows.
Then we walked around the town and here is a picture of a typical house along the coast walk:
There was a beautiful walk along the shore but it was so windy and cool that we could only do part of it. At the harbor, we saw Charles and Clare so Elaine posed with them in front of the colorful public restroom building:
Unfortunately, we missed the next port, Klaksvik, the Faroe Islands, because of bad weather due to Hurricane Leslie. The ship hurried to Reykjavik, Iceland where we had 2 great days in port. The first day I had arranged a private shore excursion provided by Fun Travels, with a 16 person van,
and an excellent guide named Pall. We were able to fill the van with all of our former cruise friends:
For the first several hours, we had a city tour. One of the stops was the Pearl building, at the top of a hill overlooking the city, where there is a viewing platform all around the top for 360 degree views and pictures.
It was raining pretty steadily, so we didn't get very good pictures. On our way into the building, we got some shots of local school children walking by on a field trip:
Here is a picture of Geri & Terry with some of the statues in front of the building:
And here is Elaine with David Dow:
The tallest city building is the Luthern church, which we didn't visit but which will now be on our list for next time:
It has a pipe organ inside with more than 5000 pipes! Inside the cafeteria of the Pearl, the high costs here were brought home to us when we saw the food prices:
This large cookie cost 380 kroner, and there are 120 kroner per dollar. The shop there had lots of troll dolls, which are commonly found in all the northern countries, especially Norway and Iceland.
Then we started the Golden Circle Tour which involves quite a lot of driving. First we stopped at this volcano caldera which has been dormant for a while and now has a lake in it:
The next stop was a waterfall, the name of which escapes me right now:
You can see the fish ladder behind me, on the left. Iceland has quite a lot of geothermal activity, due to all the volcanoes, and they use it to heat everything, and also for electrical power. We stopped at the Strokkur Geyser,
and there were other small active geothermal features there as well. This shows a building which is built over an active area and the steam comes out of the pipes:
In the tourist building at this place there is a huge store selling everything iconic about Iceland, including reindeer pelts such as these.
They cost about $250 each. They also had a couple of stuffed goats on display
On some of the off-shore islands, there are thousands of Puffins, so the store had a huge stuffed one:
And this was on one of the tee shirts:
The friends enjoyed a break a the cafeteria there:
As we drove around the island, we saw lots of Icelandic horses, which are different than the ones in the Shetlands:
One of the major island attractions is the Gullfoss waterfall:
Too bad it was still raining heavily because we could have done a nice walk here. Then we drove to the Pingvellir National Park. Iceland is located on the rift created where the American plate meets the Eurasian Plate. Here Elaine and I are standing on the edge of a dramatic part showing the split that creates:
And this shows that chasm from the side:
The water was amazingly clear and in this picture you can see all the coins in the bottom which people have thrown in to show the clarity:
There was also lots of rivers and waterfalls in this park:
And here is a view of the mountains in the distance, and a waterfall in front of them:
On our way back to Reyjkavik, we drove along the shores of a massive lake:
And in the distance, you can see the steam plumes of some geothermal vents, a view which is very common on this island:
The next day, Elaine and I took a public bus to the Blue Lagoon. Mostly what we saw on the way there was lava fields, often with houses built right on them:
Here I am right outside the entrance to the building at the lagoon, and you can see the bluish water, with white calcium on the bottom and sides, and the black lava fields where it is located:
The lava has been there since 1226, and is called the Evil Lava because it is so rough and porous. There is an ingenious system for the lockers and entry points in the building. You are issued a blue plastic bracelet
to wear which has this configuration on it:
The lockers and turnstiles also have this on them. You hold your bracelet up to the E design and it registers your number, so it opens and closes your locker, you can purchase food and drinks with it, and then when you get ready to leave, the turnstile won't let you out until you pay your bill. Visiting the Blue Lagoon isn't cheap either - $51 per person, plus $20 for the public bus out and back. If we had it to do over again, we would go out there to see it and take pictures, but skip the actual bathing part. It was rather crowded in the locker rooms, and very cold in the air before we got into the hot water. There are hot spots in the lagoon, so you can kind of choose how hot you want to get, and there are containers of somewhat abrasive mud which people spread on their faces, like a facial. The actual hot water area is really huge:
In this view, you can see the small dots of people soaking in the hot water, with the plumes of the geothermal plant in the distance
The Blue Lagoon is man made, using the water from the geothermal plant. The city of Reyjkavik has 7 thermal pools, and nearly every farm and home has a hot tub. There were some pictures here of the aurora borealis (Northern lights),
but we never saw them while we were there. Marcia, Lawson and Lisa took an excursion where they drove to the far northern part of the island and saw lots of icebergs. Here are a few of their pictures:
And here is a picture Lawson took of the glacier:
Back on the ship, we then spent the rest of the days at sea, because the weather was bad and we had to hang around in the north for a while so a storm south of us could pass, thus we missed our planned stop in St. John's, Newfoundland. Thank goodness Elaine and I had spent several days here when we spent the summer in Newfoundland a few years ago in our RV. So here we are in the lounge with Wayne, the beverage manager whom we previously met on the Jewel
Formal nights find everyone dressed pretty nicely so we took lots of pictures. Kathy and Don Mueller:
Doug & Jane Rice:
Terry and Geri Hill
Sandra & Pat, friends from the Jewel cruise:
Gary & Sharon Hallauer - also friends from the Jewel:
Peter and Jim, also friends from a former cruise:
Jim is a fantastic pianist, and he often delighted everyone by playing in the Diamond lounge:
Charles and Claire from New Orleans, have been on several cruises with us and we always enjoy their company:
Bill Shaefer, another old cruise friend:
Heather and John, from the UK, were with lots of us on the Adventure transatlantic in 2010:
One of the perks of being what Royal Caribbean calls Top Tier cruisers, is that we get invited to a very nice lunch with lots of the ship's officers. Here we are with Erik, the hotel manager, and Anders, the main refrigeration officer:
It was a great cruise, with lots of good friends, but I don't think we will be ever doing the NORTH Atlantic again!!