Saturday, March 24, 2019 – Sea Day – This one scheduled ! – Mayday!

The seas were rocky last night!   The movement of the ship didn’t bother me at all – in fact, I sort of liked it!   Reminds me of rocking a baby to sleep!   But….I’m guessing that others might not have enjoyed it!  I noticed more white caps when I looked out our verandah window this morning.   Even took a few pictures!

Terry is an early riser, so each morning, he goes to the 1st floor & brings back a latte to the state room for me.   Written on the cup:  Coffee Cantata – “How sweet coffee tastes!  Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter than Muscatel wine!”    Johann Sebastian Bach    On the other side of the cup:  Tea – “If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.”   William Gladstone

Alexus & Debbie & Terry & I ate lunch in the Restaurant – they all had yummy hot dogs, and I had a salmon souffle and everyone enjoyed!   We did notice the the waves seemed to be getting  higher & more white caps, so we decided to go up to the Explorer Lounge (7th floor) to watch the waves go by!!   It was sort of like a roller coaster up there with the ship rolling from side to side, and as time went on, the waves got larger and the roller coaster ride was more thrilling!

It wasn’t long before the chairs were sliding from side to side, even with people in them!   Moved the chairs back a few feet to the carpeted area for safety reasons, and then other things began to move – decorative plants, lights were falling from the ceiling, a LARGE green planter that was coffee table height, bumped into the piano!   Alexus was videoing it all, drink glasses were sliding off the bar and breaking, and things were getting rough!!  THEN…… the general emergency alarm went off!   Seven short bleeps, and one long bleep….. just like we hear and practice for in the safety drill at the beginning of every cruise!   We knew then that things had moved from fun to watch & experience to serious!    We immediately went to the theater,  our assigned muster station!   Life Jackets were passed out and we were told that we would be evacuated, one-by-one, by helicopter!  And there we stayed for about 24 hours!   Just an fyi…..orange life jackets are uncomfortable and HOT, and orange is not the new black!!!   We sat with Ron & Ruth Ann Popp, Ralph & Laura Williams (not only our friends but our travel agents), and Alexus & Debbie, so we did enjoy our company, even though it was LONG!   The Viking staff did an amazing job of escorting us to the restrooms as needed, bringing snacks (apples, cheese, chips, yogurt, sandwiches, fruit, etc..) during this LONG time.  

Smiles for now!

The  helicopter evacuation process was long, and at least three of our group were extremely fearful of heights, so we pretty much decided, if given the option, that we’d go toward the end of the evacuation process!   With 915 guests on the Viking Sky, and 458 crew, we figured it would  take about 20 people an hour for evacuation!   At that rate, it would take a LONG TIME to evacuate everyone!

The ship had lost power from all four engines in the 50’-60’ waves that we were watching in the Explorer Lounge.   We heard the term ‘cyclone bomb’(a winter hurricane!) for the first time when this storm was described and the area we were in when that happened was the Hustadvika, – reportedly one of the most dangerous stretches  on the Norwegian Coastline.  OF COURSE!!!  Anyway, it crippled Viking Sky, and the world soon knew about it, thanks to Alexus’ Tweet & video about it on social media!!!

The Captain was very good at communicating what was (or was not) happening during this time.  When the Mayday alert went out, tug boats were called for, the anchor was dropped, and one of the engines was able to be fixed, so Viking Sky just hung out, rocking and rolling in the North Sea, only about 1 1/2 miles from the rocky shore!

It’s over!!!

Much, much later, as we had hoped & prayed for, the tug boats arrived, and all 4 engines were running, so the Viking Sky was escorted into Molde, Norway, where we disembarked @ 6:45 for a charter flight to Oslo, heading back home to Omaha.   Our original flights had been cancelled since the cruise ended, and EVERYTHING had to be rescheduled!    Viking provided a room for us in Oslo (3 hours sleep), before continuing on to Omaha at 4:00 a.m. through London Heathrow, then Philadelphia, arriving home at 10:30 p.m. on Monday night – one day earlier than originally scheduled.  

Pulling into Molde, Norway!

The CEO & founder of Viking Cruise LIne, Torsten Hagen, personally went to the evacuation site and to the Viking Sky to share his comments to us regarding this harrowing experience.  His message was warm and sincere, and told us that the cost of the cruise would be refunded.  That was done promptly, as the money was in Terry’s checking account the very next morning!

Looking back on the entire experience, we know it could have been a terrible tragedy, but thanks to the fast action of our ship Captain in dropping the anchor immediately after the engines quit, injuries were few and no lives were lost.   

Isaiah 26:3 reminds us, “He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast  because he trusts in you.”    We were calm during the storm and that was indeed a gift from God, knowing that all was in HIs hands!   We praise and thank Him for our safety in this unforgettable travel experience!

March 24, 2019 – Sunday – Stavanger, Norway – Cancelled

March 25, 2019 – Sea Day – Cancelled

March 26, 2019 – Tilbury (London), United Kingdom – Cancelled

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Friday, March 22, 2019 – A Sea Day, not Bodo, Norway

This turned into a sea day as the seas were too rough to dock in Bodo (pronounced Buda)!   Bodo has a reputation of being windy, so this probably isn’t the first time they’ve had to adjust the itinerary!   Plus it’s raining.

I decided I wanted a waffle in the Explorer Lounge – the Norwegians love their waffles   They are even heart shaped, and in Norway, traditionally, they are eaten with sour cream, jam and brown goat cheese!   Very pretty to look at, but, “No thanks!”   I’ll eat them my way!   Anyway, the Explorer Lounge was a good place to spend a couple of extra hours watching the waves go by! 

Ate lunch with A&D & Ralph & Laura in the Restaurant, then  4 of us played Scrabble.   Close game, but Alexus & I won the 3rd game.   Then we went back to the Explorer Lounge to watch as we passed back over the Arctic Circle.   There is a tiny little island with a globe on it to mark the passage.  When we entered the Arctic Circle, it was dark, so we couldn’t see it then.  Everyone got a certificate saying that we had sailed above the Arctic Circle, dated March 16, 2019.

Arctic Circle Globe

We had reservations at 6:00 at Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant.   All four of us had steak of one kind or another and the meal was excellent for all!   After dinner, A&D went to their room to watch a movie, and we went to the Theater to watch the 9:15 “Musical Journey — Coast to Coast,” with much-much-loved hits from Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Aretha and more.   It was good.  Looks like a fun job, but it would be a sacrifice to be away from home, family & friends for the 7 month gig!  

 

Thursday, March 21, 2019 – Day 2 – Tromso, Norway

Tromso is Scandinavia’s largest city within the Arctic Circle, and is home to symphonies, theater troupes, art galleries and cafes and was central to Norway’s popular electronic music boom.   It is sometimes considered the “Paris of the North”, but I think that would be a stretch!

It was snowing when we woke up,  and the comment the Captain made during  his 8:00 a.m. announcement was, “Enjoy the very authentic Norwegian experience today!”   

It was a nice, lazy, morning.  Our guide, Sarah,  told us yesterday that the weather changes 12 times a day here and we did notice that!  The sun would pop out from time to time, but didn’t seem to stay out long.   The locals are ready for Spring and some sunshine also, but do NOT complain about the weather and make the best of it, enjoying hiking and being outside in ALL weather.   Most all of the shops are closed on Sundays in Norway, not because it’s Sabbath or a day of worship, but it’s the national hiking day!

We took the cable car to the top of the 1,378’ summit of Mount Storsteinen where the views of the Tromso cityscape were stunning!  Lots of snow there!   

Since we were docked very near the city center, we walked around the streets of Tromso.    Found a souvenir shop to get the kids a Norway t-shirt, and Debbie got a pair of Viking Boat ear rings!

Tromso is said to be the party capital of all of Norway,  probably because about 40% of the population is under the age of forty!  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 – Tromso, Norway – “Gateway to the Arctic”

View from our State Room

We arrived in Tromso, considered the “gateway to the Arctic,” about 8:00 a.m.   It was 37 degrees & snowing lightly upon our arrival so sunglasses weren’t needed today!  Lots of snow here.   The Viking Sky was docked right next to the city’s historic center, so we could easily check things out!

Our city excursion left at 11:30 for a 2 hour tour of Tromso – the ‘o’ at the end is pronounced as “ah”.  Cosmopolitan Tromso is Scandinavia’s  largest city (75,000+) in the Arctic Circle and is home to symphonies, theater troupes, art galleries and cafes and is central to Norway’spopular electronic music boom.

First stop was the Planetarium, about 20 minutes away.  The theater there was a 360 degree dome with reclining seats!   The Northern Lights show we viewed there was produced by a photographer who has filmed the Aurora Borealis over the past five years.   It was very interesting, and made us feel very good about what we had seen on Saturday night!  It would have been quite easy to take a nap in this setting, but we did NOT!

The University Medical Center is one of 8 universities in all of Norway, and the only hospital in a very large area of Norway.   If you live in Narvik or Alta, Tromso is the only hospital choice.   Telemedicine is used here, which makes perfect sense!

As in most of the places we’ve docked, temperatures are much more temperate (usually in the 30’s) than we had expected, because of the Gulf Stream.   It is amazing to me that water from Florida  can make such a difference in coastal areas so far away from the Gulf! 

Another stop was at the starkly beautiful Arctic Cathedral.  During long winter nights, lights emanate from the enormous cathedral windows, which appear to emulate the aurora borealis.  We could see this from our stateroom on Viking Sky.

March 19, 2019 – Tuesday – Alta, Norway – Day Two

Amid spectacular natural beauty, by some accounts, Alta is the northernmost city in the world!  

Our 10:30 tour today took us back to the Northern Lights Cathedral for a short stop before going to visit the Alta Museum, located in a field of rock carvings and traces of a prehistoric settlement.  Dating back as far as 4200 BC, these carvings were only uncovered in 1973!  Since then, more than 6,000 etchings by the Komsa people have been uncovered.  These are fascinating depictions of hunters, gatherers, rituals, animals and geometric symbols!  

We had lunch when we got back from our shore excursion, then just visited in the Explorer Lounge until time for 4:00 tea & scones where we connected with our friends, Ralph & Laura.  

None of us were hungry, but went to the World Cafe for a salad before going to a 9:15 comedy show in the Star Theater with Taffy Spencer.   We walked out of his show when the Northern Lights appeared a few nights ago!   We got good seats in the 2nd row, and as happens so often, Terry was picked out to go onstage and help out with an act.   It was hilarious and fortunately, Alexus & Debbie had their cell phones to take pictures, as I had left mine in our room.  

After the show, Terry & Debbie went up on Deck 9 to check on the clouds, and even though there were a few areas of clearing, no Northern Lights sightings tonight.

 

Monday, March 18, 2019 – Alta, Norway – “The City of Northern Lights”

The City of Lights Cathedral

Pippi Stone in the Alta Museum –   approximately 4,000 – 5,000  years old!  Found in 1950 Being silly In the Alta Museum!   So happy we saw the real ones a few nights ago!!!

Terry always gets up early and usually walks around the deck or somewhere else on the ship, then brings me a latte.   Today he added a large plate of fresh fruit!  What a guy!  We arrived in Alta about noon and spent 36 hours here.   With snowcapped mountains greeting us out our verandah window, it was truly a spectacular site as we cruised toward Alta!

We attended a 9:30 lecture of “Northern Lights & Other Sky Phenomena” by our favorite lecturer, Michael A. DiSpezio (Google him!) then had the rest of the day free until our evening excursion to the Northern Lights Cathedral & private organ recital there.  

In the afternoon, we played another game of Scrabble, and this time Terry & Debbie won!  Of course, we’ll have to play another game sometime to break the tie!

Our tour left at 6:00 for the boldly designed Northern Lights Cathedral.  Located  in the center of town. this Lutheran church is a vision in titanium –  its circular exterior spirals upward into a narrower cylinder and a breathtaking belfry.   They actually hold worship services here every Sunday, unlike the church we saw in Narvik on Sunday.   That was good to hear!  It’s 6 years old and made with concrete inside, and titanium outside, which is very strong & designed to reflect the northern lights and also snow!   Inside, a bronze, 2 1/2 ton,  contemporary statue of Jesus as a cross , with his arms out-stretched, one hand in a fist, symbolizing his strength, and the other hand open, a sign of welcome.  His head was looking upward anticipating going home to Heaven.

A young man played a selection of songs on the organ, which lasted about 30 minutes, then we went back to the ship for a later dinner, then to bed after another very good day.

Weather was partly cloudy most of the day, and although Alta holds the designation of “The City of Northern Lights”, they weren’t seen from here tonight.

Sunday, March 17, 2019 – Narvik, Norway

Narvik is situated on the innermost shores of the Ofotfjorden (the fjord’s name), within the Arctic Circle, and is encircled by mountains in every direction!   The little town is a major exporter of iron ore, mined in nearby Sweden and it’s port never freezes because of the Gulf Stream coming up from Florida.   I find that absolutely amazing!

Our tour today was a city drive seeing local sights.  Narvik is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts, and some of the best extreme and alpine skiing happens here.   The world downhill skiing championships will be held here in 2027, and plans are already being made for this big event for this little city!

Since today was Sunday, none of the stores were open, and that’s NOT because everyone goes to church.  In fact, most churches here only hold a worship service once a month!   Their Sundays are used for doing family things and being outdoors!   The Norwegians love to be outdoors, and we saw lots of families walking and playing in the snow covered parks with their children.   Today was an absolutely beautiful day with sunny, 29 degree temps!

The tour was about 90 minutes, so we ate lunch when we got back to the Viking Sky, then Alexus bought a nice sweater from a vendor selling them at the port where the ship was docked.   We walked 4 times around the deck on the ship (1 mile), then Alexus & I teamed up and Debbie & Terry teamed up and we played a game of Scrabble.   Terry had never played before, and Alexus & I won!

Terry & I went to the ABBA Songbook show at 6:30, but Alexus doesn’t like ABBA music (how can that be?!?!?) so they didn’t join us.  The show was excellent & reminded me of when both Nikki & Erika were performing on cruise ships several years ago.

Skies are clear, so we’re hoping to have another experience watching the Aurora Borealis tonight!

One of the stops on our city tour was to hear a small ladies choir perform a couple of songs for us. Terry decided to dance a few steps with their leader!!

2nd stop was the small boat marina in Narvik.