Two shy, charming girls about age 8 approached me with delightful smiles—one holding some flowers. I motioned to them that I would like to take their photo, and their smiles grew even broader. They didn’t appear to speak English, so I wordlessly gave them each a chocolate candy bar before waving goodbye as they scampered off to join nearby friends.
I was on a Viking Star shore excursion in tiny Nanortalik, the most southern town in Greenland, population 1,100. My husband, Carl, and I had signed up for a 90-minute walking tour on a crisp, sunny August day—temperature 45 F. Our group of some two dozen was led by a proud native of the area and recent college grad. I was in awe of the bright green, red, yellow, orange and blue modest wood houses set against the gorgeous scenery, so I lagged behind the group taking photos.
Later Carl filled me in on what I had missed: The town has one hospital, one small hotel, one hostel, one grocery store, one cafe, one Lutheran church, one gas station, one youth center, several schools, 2 physicians (from Denmark), and three cops.
I learned from the ship’s “Viking Daily” that “Nanortalik translates locally into ”place of polar bears” and was established in 1770. It is nestled on an island near the mouth of a fjord on southwestern shores. Longtime Inuit traditions include fishing for crab, hunting hooded seals, and welcoming visitors with a festive kaffe-mik, a coffee party with plenty of their famed Greenlandic cake.
Carl and I had experienced a kaffe-mik on a previous shore excursion to Qaqortoq in 2018 that was hosted by an Inuit grandmother in her modest hillside home with a fabulous seaside view. And that is just one reason that we had decided to book this same cruise itinerary, our favorite of some 30 worldwide cruises we have taken: 14 nights from Bergen, Norway, to Montreal, Canada. The unique itinerary included the Shetland Islands; Faroe Islands; Reykjavik, Iceland; the two stops in Greenland; and eastern Canada: L'Anse aux Meadows, Saguenay, Quebec City and Montreal. This trip, however, winds made it impossible to stop in the Faroe Islands or in Qaqortoq.
Our trip started with a five-day visit in beautiful Bergen, where we enjoyed strolling along the pier and sampling the fresh fish. Luckily, we had just one hour of rain and sunny days for the rest of the time.
“It’s like a fairy tale,” I emailed several friends, sharing photos.
The Floibanen—a funicular railway, one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions that is visited by more than a million visitors each year—takes riders to Mount Floyen, which offers commanding views of Bergen’s city, marina and port. We also loved doing a daylong “Norway in a Nutshell” tour via train, bus and ship—highly recommended to view gorgeous fjord and mountain scenery, including the Flam Railway, one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.
The highlight of this latest cruise—“In the Wake of the Vikings”—was revisiting Greenland and the Shetland Islands. During the pandemic shutdown we enjoyed watching the award-winning Scottish crime drama series (based on Ann Cleeves’ novels) “Shetland,” that was filmed on the breathtaking Shetland Islands (which are actually closer to Norway than to Scotland). We fell in love with the capital town of Lerwick (population. 6,700), where much of the series is filmed, even joining a couple of other tourists snapping a photo of the seaside house used as the home of the series’ star detective, Jimmy Perez.
There’s also a nice bookstore in town, shops, restaurants, jewelry and dress stores, a maritime museum, and several pubs. A fan of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Carl was thrilled that their small shop was open to purchase some nautical gifts. Many passengers chose “The Shetland Pony Experience” shore excursion to see the island’s famous ponies.
Another treat for Carl and me—huge “Downton Abbey” fans—was attending two evening performances in the ship’s theater featuring Mary-Jess Leaverland, known for singing the theme song of the popular British series. We were lucky enough to pose for photos with her. Another treat was sampling the executive chef’s international cuisine, especially the mouthwatering Iceland Hot Dog!
This westbound cruise brought some other comforts, as well: a facial and massage in the ship’s spa and being able to turn the clock back an hour every few days for some extra sleep so that we arrived in Montreal with no jet lag.