Earlier this year we visited Antarctica. When we saw the opportunity to visit Greenland in the same year, it appealed to our sense of balance. The opportunity came in the form of a cruise on Holland-America's Prinsendam with an unusual itinerary: Leaving from Dover, England, it would visit Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Scotland before disembarking in Amsterdam.
We booked the cruise through our favorite travel agent, Vacations to Go, and since it ended on a Thursday, we added on two more nights in a hotel in Amsterdam. We bought our airfare directly from American Airlines where, for once, it was significantly cheaper than buying it through Holland-America.
The first leg of our trip was from San Francisco to Chicago on a 767. The seats were so close together that my knees were jammed painfully into the back of the seat ahead of me. I could either spread my legs and have the edges of the seat back resting on my knee caps, or put them together and have the metal bar at the edge of the pocket going across my knees. At lunch time we were offered the opportunity to pay for airline food. The four hour flight was so unpleasant that it left me dreading the following eight hour transatlantic flight.
After the ordeal on the 767, the overnight flight to London on a 777 was a pleasant surprise. The seats had enough extra legroom that I was able to sleep. Supper on departure and breakfast before arrival were surprisingly good. We arrived at Heathrow in better shape than expected.
Since we had paid for the transfer to the ship, Holland-America met us as we cleared customs, and shepherded us onto a motor coach (British for "bus",) for the trip to Dover. After a brief wait in the Dover Cruise Terminal, we boarded the Prinsendam and made our way to our cabin.
Since we recently returned from Antarctica, the question of comparing the top and bottom of the earth springs to mind. First off, the regions we visited are hardly typical of the polar realms. In Antarctica we visited the Antarctic Peninsula, which sticks way out past the Antarctica Circle towards South America. Unlike the bulk of the white continent, it has open water in the summer and hosts a small variety of species at that time.
The northern lands that we visited benefit from the warmth of the Gulf Stream. This, and their proximity to Europe and Canada allowed human settlements to exist, adapting to the harsh climate. So, while the south was majestic, barren, and lonely, the northern lands spoke of human tenacity, and of the malleability of living things. But there certainly were moments of similarity: cruising Prince Christian Sound brought to mind our time in the LeMaire Channel; the towns in northern Iceland face the same harsh environment as Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.
As far as the journey goes, the two ships could hardly have been more different. The M/S Ushuaia is an expeditionary vessel in the same spirit as Shackleton's Endurance while the elegant Prinsendam is a far cry from the Viking longboats of yore.