Friday, August 8, 2008

Last night on M/S Polarlys, sailing to Kirkenes

We’ve had a pretty good last day - quite a few highlights in one day, altho I didn’t think it would work out that way - I didn’t sleep well, and after getting up for breakfast (firmly taken behind dark glasses) I went back to sleep until lunch time. M was meantime sailing happily into Honnigsvard, where he went exploring for the usual - post office, newspapers, etc. We lunched on board and then set out together, first to the post office, to send 4kg of stuff home - another accumulation of newspaper cuttings, brochures, acquired goodies, unneeded clothes and sundry bits and pieces which, three weeks into this trip, I know now for sure I won’t need.

Our next stop was at the local gift and wool/fabric emporium! The women there (we forgot to ask her name, I’m sorry, she was so helpful and friendly) performed a vital task and finished the translation of my little Norwegian knitting project. It was something to see - she and M bent over the bench while I went fossicking for more products! He took excellent notes, and with my knowledge of knitting terminology in English (‘knit one; purl two’), her ability to turn Norsk into Southsk, and M’s quick research-writer note-taking, we soon had the task done.

I found many wonderful things in this shop - gifts, knitting wools, glass beads, bobbles, fabric, etc etc. I bought quite a bit of stuff, and we realised as we carried the bag back to the boat that I had pretty much replaced the entire 4 kg of stuff we’d posted home. Oh well .. tomorrow in Kirkenes there will be another entirely efficient Norsk post office and I can spend as many hours as I like (and as it will take) sending lots of little parcels to my dear ones. [Tomorrow goes like this: we have already taken our 4 main cases to the drop-off place on the ship, from whence they will be de-boated onto the bus into town. We will then dump them (and as much hand luggage as we can) at the hotel, and take off to the post office. The remainder of the day as it comes. Then on Saturday morning, late-ish, we get on a bus to Inari, and repeat but without the boat. And, perhaps, without 4 more kg of stuff. But no promises!]

We sailed from Honnigsvard at about 4pm - we both immediately had a good Net fix, altho I ran out of time for poor old T and S because of needing to send purrsonal emails. That done (eeeeeek my family are emailing me about Christmas! I am in DENIAL about that) M returned panting from an info session about leaving the boat, to tell me we had two deadlines to meet if we wanted maximum help with suitcases. At this point we were sailing through open sea on a windy afternoon, so we spent quite a funny couple of hours falling over while we tried to encourage our possessions to telescope back into our bags. Not helped by me doing another presto vwala with the outgoing vs incoming - I went up to the gift shop to get stamps and post a last lot of cards (for franking on board) and while I was there I ahem oops seemed to leave with a number of things in pockets equalling or possibly overtaking the weight and dimensions of what I’d posted. Sighh .. I am a consumer, not always happily, but if I explain that one of these things was a cat, would you furgive me???? I hope so. She is a very nice little green glass cat with rather wonderful reflective green glass triangular eyes. You DO see how I couldn’t resist?

And, once again, the time slipped away with no mark, because there is no night as such this far north in the summer (the barely 9 degrees with a howling wind off the sea summer!). M had to drag me away from finishing our laundry, so we could go to dinner. It was a seafood feast, to mark the end of the voyage north for all the passengers; to farewell those sturdy souls taking to the land; and (I presume) to stun the return passengers into a calorific daze so they don’t feel like the trip home is the same again backwards. Even the captain made an appearance, so we were informed. But I am very peeved to report that he didn’t come to OUR table to say hello. Maybe we weren’t consuming enough Aquavit for only another umpty kroners per teaspoon ... the seafood feast was just that, a huge buffet of wonderfully fresh designer goodies - salmon done three different ways, crab, prawns, lobster, filled crab shells, ‘Light’ fish (which Steve warned us is always described as ‘an acquired taste’, which to all of us translates as ‘don’t feed to a dead dog’).. as well as reindeer stew (tasted like beef strog to me), umpteen veggies with cream, and the usual array of rich sauces and salad creams. As the boat was still in open sea, the sight of dozens of passengers simultaneously trying to cram their plates and stay standing was most amusing. I ended up with three bits of damage - a little American lady attacked my wrist with the lettuce servers, I fell off my left foot and nearly dropped my plate, and a hefty Norsk elbow rearranged my right boob for me, en passant. I thought it had been quite well-behaved lately, so I guess it’s a good thing it was taken care of...

Everyone at our table ate very well, everyone also had a big bowl of dessert, well for heaven’s sake there was creme caramel again, as well as chocolate mousse, fresh icecream, apple cake, redcurrant and blueberry compote and other bad, bad things. Served with 3-pint jugs of fruit jus, pouring cream and maple srrp. I had a bit of nearly everything, with a bit of nearly everything on top. It was fabulous. And yes I did also have blackcurrant jelly with cream at lunchtime, so ner. Be jealous!

At about 11pm the M/S ? passed us on the return voyage. There was much hooting and camera flashes and flapping of banners over the side of the other boat. I don’t know how many on this boat went out to wave back. It was a fine sight to see ourselves sailing away in the other direction - the M/S ? is exactly the same shape etc as this ship. We could see them for some time in the fading grey rainy light, a liner in full flight does kind of stick out on a grey sea and sky background. I thought it was magnificent. Very quick though... I tried to take some photos but I think they’ll be poor quality because of me being on the inside of a double-glazed window. But anyway, THAT’S what WE look like!

Now it is 11.30pm, purrfectly light outside (the type of grey light you get on a fairly rainy day, which it is - I can’t speculate on the amount of sunshine you might see because it’s been grey and squally since Tuesday afternoon); M has taken our cases away, and our cabin looks anonymous again without all our interesting stuff everywhere. I will have to leave behind the beautiful red roses, even I can’t think of a way to manage them as hand luggage for three days. We’ve had a most fascinating time doing this cruise, learned a lot of things, and seen some sights I could never have dreamed of. Successful all round, and most instructive as to what we might change if we did something like it again.

What would I do differently? Mostly I’d go somewhere warm, so I could spend a lot more time outside on the boat. It’s been far too cold to do more than nip out, try to suck in a breath of cold air untainted by cigarette smoke, and nip back inside again. The vacuum-sealed nature of the common areas has bothered me; I have literally popped my ears a couple of times when the pressure has felt odd. So, yes, I think I can’t claim to have fulfilled a long-held fantasy of lying around on a deck chair while a nice purser with tanned legs brings me a margarita on the half-hou, until I roll off... I’d perhaps try to find a cruise where water wasn’t treated as such a luxury item. Even for water-wise Aussies, having to pay for ordinary drinking water when you are surrounded by bloody vats of the stuff just lying around waiting to be filtered, is a bit of an insult. And the price-hiking of booze annoys me a bit... it costs several crucial limbs to pay for the cruise anyway!

The coffee-deal would have impressed me if the standard of coffee had been better. The coffee WAS filter coffee, always pretty fresh, but why why WHY was fresh milk only available at breakfast for the cereal? The ship certainly took on and off many tonnes of goods at every port, including French people, so why don’t they supply fresh milk? They can’t claim to be too far from civilisation when they can produce fresh tropical fruit every day. Tsk tsk Hurtigruten. I tried the non coffee-deal coffee twice - I saw ppl drinking espresso so I thought I’d cough up for a latte. But that came out of an instant latte machine - once again, fresh coffee, but with an auto-milk-frother, so you got the latte made as a milk-coffee mix. NOT the same. Fresh milk I think, but auto-frothed. This all affects the flavour, which is what I’m really going on about.

The final minor key for me was the row of silent, unmoving grey nomads in the Observation Lounge - all the way up at the top and front of the ship, their chairs set in a row as close to the windows as they could get. And so they sat, hour after hour, day after day, watching water moving towards them. A lot of the time they were asleep. This afternoon when I went up there briefly to knit, I swear about 10 ppl in a row were a neat line of motionless, sleeping heads. Missing it all... people didn’t seem to be very keen on interaction; unless they were sticking to fellow countrymen. I vote the Norwegians as the happiest travellers, even the somewhat irritating fellow up there this arvo, who kept whistling the same bit of Don Giovanni thru his teeth while I was trying to count my rows. The Germans seemed to be having the least fun; looking dour and never cracking a smile. The Americans, in my extremely jaundiced view, were feeling ripped off because it wasn’t exclusive enough. The other poxy passengers weren’t dressing for dinner, or being suitable impressed by being in their august company, and as for the food! No poptarts! No plain green salad! And ‘soss’ on everything. Not good enough. The British? I put them in two groups - the ppl we got to know at our fixed seating lunch and dinner table - we made a hearty group and much jollity was experienced. Other (generally more elderly) English people seemed to be a bit lost - they were wearing their special ‘touring trousers’, ‘holiday boots’, and matching marital backpacks, but they didn’t seem to quite know what to do and where to go. As for the French, they were harmless enough .... Madame la maman could have washed her hair last week, and Papa le comic didn’t share the child-minding enough for my liberal views, but the little boy was charmant.

Enough. T and S was always intended as an opinion-venting outlet, but enough! I must sleep so I can get up too early for my liking and hump bloody plastic bags full of STUFF around at unnatural hours of the day. And possibly suffer for a while before I can get a cup of coffee the way I really like it. But that won’t kill me. Meantime, today brought to you by eau de very fresh sea wind, that wet-fresh smell of just-washed cotton clothes, and a blast of Gucci across the prawns. And I must quote Nigel, who described Troll Fiord as ‘a wet cul-de-sac at midnight’. That’s how to kill poetry!

1 comment:

Ness said...

Mmmm, coffee... could do with some of that right now.

You got Norsk wool?!? Sooooo jealous! I totally failed to resist wool from Bendigo Mills so we'll have to do a combined wool drooling session when you return :-)

Maybe you & Alex should swap memories so you can get the hot weather cruise stuff and he can get the cold weather stuff?

Da boy is doing well, standing up without pulling up on things and starting to be more adventurous with walking. So very cute, he has been getting regular B hugs so he won't feel too deprived by the time you return :-)

Missing you *hugs*