After our visit to Ireland and a short stop in London, it was time to make our way back to Seattle. We decided to do something different this time and take a ship back across the Atlantic. We left from Southampton, UK and ended up in New York 16 days later. There were some great port stops on the way and we visited some places we hadn’t seen before. At this time of year (September), these are called repositioning cruises as the cruise companies move their ships from Europe to the Caribbean for winter. The cruises are a good deal from a cost standpoint because the cruise company is “trying to fill seats”. The only real downside is the number of sea days (there were 7 on our cruise). The North Atlantic isn’t great pool weather at this time of year, but there are plenty of activities on board and just kicking back and enjoying a book is also good.
While I wasn’t thinking about this when I booked the cruise, this is essentially the same route that 35 million people took in the 1800’s and early 1900’s escaping persecution or looking for opportunity in America. We had visited Ulster American Folk Park in Ireland which portrayed the story of Irish emigration and depicted life in Ireland as well as life aboard a full scale sailing vessel that carried these folks across the ocean. Transit time by sail then was 5-6 weeks under less than ideal conditions. With the advent of steam power the time decreased to 7 days which is about the same amount of time it takes today with no stops. My grandfather and grandmother on my fathers side emigrated from Sweden about 1900 and they would have followed a similar route. My grandmother died in the 1940’s so I never met her but “Pa” lived until the early 1960’s. Our family lived in his house at that time so I got to know him as a child. One of my regrets is that it would have been nice to know him as an adult and to learn of his life in Sweden, why he came to the US as well as about the journey itself.
Our crossing was not difficult and we really enjoyed it. We stopped in Bergen Norway, Lerwick, Shetland Islands, 3 stops in Iceland and Halifax Nova Scotia. We were also supposed to stop in St Johns, Newfoundland but missed this stop because of a storm and had an extra day at sea.
After a relaxing day at sea, the first Stop was Bergen, Norway. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway and was significant trading port since the 10th century. More recently it has become a popular cruise port with over 300 ships docking there each year. We visited the old town know as Bryggen with its recreation of the Hanseatic buildings. There is also a seafood market (although our guide says it is just for the tourists) and numerous places to grab a bite to eat and people watch. I am sure we will visit Bergen again.
The next port of call was Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. The islands are the most northerly part of the British Isles. There are over 100 islands but only 12 of the islands are inhabited. We opted to take a shore excursion to Mousa, one of the uninhabited islands, located about 12 miles south of Lerwick. The main attraction here is the wildlife and an ancient relic called a “broch”, a circular double walled stone tower-farmhouse built in the 2nd century. Wildlife consisted of some seabirds and seals but not great numbers of them. The island was OK but I think next time we will stay in town and shop.
The cruise made three port stops in Iceland-Akureyri, Isafjordur and Reykjavik. Iceland is an interesting place, a land of stark contrasts. It is a land of fire (with volcanoes, geysers and hot springs) and also ice (with its mountains, glaciers and cold winter temperatures). Its geological age is between 16-18 million years old as compared to North America which has over 500 million years of geological history. It is located just south of the Artic Circle between the Atlantic and Artic Ocean and lies at the intersection of the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. These plates are moving in opposite directions and there are several places where you can actually peer down into the gap. The language is difficult (at least for me) and I can barely pronounce the names of the ports we visited. The one thing I picked up in my three days is that if its a waterfall, it will have “foss” as the last few letters. I am going to do a more detailed blog on these stops next year but for now will share a couple of photos.
Our last port of call before we hit New York was Halifax, Nova Scotia. We had been to Halifax before and this time I wanted to spend more time at Peggy’s Cove, have a lobster lunch and visit some seaside fishing villages. We did a taxi tour so we could dictate where we went and how much time we spent at the various stops. Peggy’s Cove was great as was the lunch with lobster and oysters. The best fishing village was Peggy’s Cove but I am sure we missed some during the one day we were there.
Finally. we docked in New York. Since our flight did not leave until the evening, we did a tour of the city with a stop at ground zero. It was a good tour and we will do again or spend extra days next time.
Will we do this again-Absolutely!
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