Cruising the North Atlantic
by Professor Judy Salwen
Wonders of the world, natural and man made! So many wonders on my Abercrombie & Kent summer trip to Iceland, the Faroe Islands of Denmark, and Scotland's Shetland and Orkney Islands. There were spouting geysers, newly-formed lava islands, hot springs, thermal pools, volcanoes, a massive glacier, puffins and other species of birds, whales, grey seals, intriguing destinations, congenial people, and a cruise ship with the comforts of home. This trip was a masterpiece!
Joining Abercrombie & Kent's ship, Explorer, on a two-week expeditionary cruise, I flew Icelandair to Reykjavik, capital of Iceland, on a comfortable and secure flight. Service too, was excellent and Icelandair is highly recommended.
Checking into the Scandinavian style hotel, The Loftleider, a modern hotel complete with restaurant, pool, sauna, bar and travel services, I telephoned a former Brooklynite, a Jewish woman who lived in Iceland for twenty-five years. Hope showed me around Reykjavik: the beautiful Botanical Gardens, the artistic Perlan Center and the Hofdi House where Reagan and Gorbachev held their 1986 summit meeting. Transferring to the Explorer the next day, I also visited City Hall and drove by the fish harbor en route to the Ship.
In the time aboard Explorer, we made many stops to different locales, sometimes dockside, other times arriving by zodiac. Often buses awaiting to show us new destinations would take us on a half-day tour. We were invited on optional naturalist walks. There were times we went out into the water on zodiacs scouting seals and birds. From the ship, we spotted killer and humpback whales. Near the basaltic lava island, Papa Stour, in the western Shetlands, we explored caves in the water, weaving in and out one after another by zodiac. We visited archeological remains on Orkney. On Grimsey Island, Iceland, we made a late evening visit to where the Arctic Circle bisects the Island and it was still light! Explorer's itinerary was diverse and interesting. We even got to see the whale, Free Willy.
Evening activities were fun. There were films, lectures by experts, and programs such as hilarious recall quiz and a photo caption contest. One night, we visited a herring museum and were entertained by singers and dancers of the region. Most evenings, the staffed recapped the days' events and briefed passengers about the next day's schedule. And, the Captain invited everyone to a welcome cocktail party and dinner, the second night at sea and to a farewell cocktail and dinner party, the day before we disembarked.
Explorer is a medium-sized ship, modern, safe and comfortable. The staff did everything possible to make the trip interesting and passenger oriented. Passengers were a quality group of self and school educated, well-traveled adults, couples and single. Everyone mixed, aided by open- seated mealtimes, meals that were delicious breakfast and lunch buffets, and waiter service at dinner. I feasted on fruits, vegetables, grains and fish. Outstanding trip!
Disembarking in Dundee, Scotland, I was escorted around The City of Discovery by Wendy Carroll of the Tourist Board and introduced to many attractions of the 3J City: famous for jute, jam and journalism. What I enjoyed most was the industrial museum, Verdant Works, which in its own unique, interactive way told the story of its now dormant jute industry, and the tremendously once thriving trade in sacks, ropes, strings, tents and carpets. It even showed a jute mini skirt designed by Mary Quant in the 1960's. In this world class museum is the original working machinery, computer displays and a social history gallery, a living remainder of a vanishing world.
The final stop in Dundee was to see the synagogue, a beautiful building in a residential section of the city. Wendy explained that he synagogue is the spiritual home of six remaining Jewish families in Dundee. It is open on important holidays and for special occasions.
I took the train to Edinburgh my last stop in this trip and after checking in at the George Intercontinental Hotel, I walked to 4 Salisbury Road, where the synagogue is located. The building was closed and the Rabbi unavailable but I appreciated seeing the House of Worship.
Returning to the George, which is known as the Bond Street of the North because of its ideal location, central to everything and to the financial artery of Edinburgh, I marveled at the elegance and beauty of this Georgian hotel, with its friendly, cozy atmosphere. The size, 195 rooms, is perfect, reception most welcoming and management catering to individual needs of its guests. I found a delicious fruit bowl, bottled water, and a small box of chocolates in my room. And, I was delighted with the restaurants: Le Chambertin, where I had evening dinner of salad, fish, vegetables, bread and fruits, and Carvers, where I took breakfast, a typical Scottish breakfast the following morning. Highest quality, comfortable rooms, excellent hotel!
When at last, it was time to fly back to the United States, I flew Icelandair from Glasgow to Reykjavik to New York, and enjoyed, once more, all the comfort and security of a well-managed airline.
Wonders, natural and man- made never cease. My trip to the North Atlantic is testimony to that. For information:
Abercrombie & Kent:
Intercontinental George, Edinburgh:
0131 225 1251
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