The Galápagos Islands Day 11 & 12

Saturday, April 16th, 2022 & Sunday, April 17th, 2022

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Well, after the canceled American Airlines flight we were able to rebook for a flight to Miami, Florida leaving Saturday afternoon. Of course this flight still had us missing our connections so there was no way we were going to make it home Saturday. We also checked every other airline and their available flight times were even worse! The fact that we were able to get a later flight out of Quito on Saturday meant we didn’t have to spend the money for another COVID-19 test. To get back in the United States the test was only good for 24 hours! It was either spend another night at the hotel we were and change rooms, take another COVID test or get to Miami Saturday evening and spend the night there and fly home Sunday morning. We chose flying to Miami on Saturday.

Since our flight was leaving early afternoon we were able to have breakfast at the hotel.

Morning at our hotel

We enjoyed our last day of fresh fruit! We were sitting in the restaurant with others from our group when we felt the room shaking and experienced our first earthquake tremor. We all froze and weren’t sure what to do next! The wait staff went on about their business and weren’t bothered. We asked about it and they told us they have these tremors almost every day! When you live in Ohio you don’t experience those things.

Those of us on the afternoon flight had a mid-morning bus ride to the airport so we would be there three hours in advance. Below are pictures taken from the bus on our way to the airport!

We were told that Ecuador required you be at the airport three hours in advance for international flights. Our arrival so early gave us time to shop at the airport! We purchased shirts again since we would have an extra night in Miami!

Our flight left Quito on time.

We arrived in Miami and went through customs without any problems. We waited for our hotel shuttle and were finally settled in our hotel room by 10:00 PM.

Sunday, April 17th, 2022

We were up by 6:30 AM so we could catch the 7:15 AM shuttle to take us back to the Miami airport for our 9:43 AM flight to Columbus. This flight also left on time! Goodbye Miami!

Hello Columbus! We arrived home about sixteen hours later than we were originally scheduled.

It was a fantastic ten days in Quito, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Everyday was a new adventure and we will treasure those experiences and the new friends that we made on this trip. Having a small group was perfect and we enjoyed getting to know each other! A big thank you to our guide, Fernando, for his patience, knowledge, and words of wisdom.

Road Scholar Travelers

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 14, 15, & 16

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022, Friday, February 4th, 2022 & Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Today we slept in because we weren’t going to Lerwick, Shetland Islands. The nasty weather that hit the east coast of the United States was now coming across the ocean.

We went to the front of the ship to read and also walked around the ship. When we look out the windows we can only see water and fog, no more beautiful mountains.

Nothing but water!

Late afternoon the ship began crossing the North Sea and heading toward London. The wind was blowing about 31 mph and the ship was swaying a little bit. We enjoyed visiting different places so we were rather bored with sailing today and then tomorrow too!

We also were given instructions for filling out the Passenger Locator Form for our arrival in Tilbury (London). We also would gain one hour, from six hours ahead to five hours ahead!

This evening was the farewell celebration even though we have one more day of sailing. They felt that if they did it tomorrow night people would be busy packing and wouldn’t attend the celebration. The captain spoke and champagne was served and refills were given! Tonight’s entertainment was “Stage & Screen- A Viking Venus Variety Show”.

A song from Hamilton

Day 15, Friday, February 4th

This morning was our last time to do a saliva COVID test, health survey and temperature check! From this test, we would be given our results on an official paper so that we could enter England and fly home tomorrow!

Today was another day at sea heading toward England. Sunrise was at 7:51 AM and sunset was 4:37 PM. It was our longest day so far.

This afternoon Mr. Terence Murtagh, a guest lecturer on this cruise, gave a talk entitled, “Your Aurora, Your Experience”. He shared some of his photos and time-lapse photography of the Aurora Borealis that occurred during our cruise. He also shared some of the passenger photos that were sent to him. It was fun as he discussed the techniques of the photography and reviewed what causes the northern lights. He also shared a great site for those interested in aurora alerts, you can submit photos, and up to date information on the science related to the sun. It was spaceweather.com

Katie Healy, our cruise director, entertained us tonight with a variety of swing songs.

Day 16, Saturday, February 5th

We docked in Tilbury (London), England around 4:30 AM. For our disembarkation from the Viking Venus we were to meet in the atrium at 6:30 AM. When our color tag was called we disembarked from the ship and boarded our bus for Heathrow Airport. The sky was beautiful as we rode along.

As we checked in our luggage at Heathrow airport, the agent from United asked us if we wanted to fly on an earlier flight to Chicago. Our original itinerary had us flying from Heathrow to Washington, DC, then from there to Chicago, and then Chicago to Columbus. This change would eliminate one flight and get us in to Columbus about an hour earlier. We were happy to change our flights. The flight from London to Chicago left about two hours earlier! We had time to get through security and get to our gate and then it was time to board!

Leaving Heathrow

Snow was on the ground again as our flight got close to Chicago.

Snow covered land outside Chicago

We arrived in Chicago on time. We went to Global Entry, claimed our luggage and went through security again to get to the gate for our flight to Columbus. We had time to catch a late lunch before boarding our last plane!

Our time in Norway was marvelous. Every port we visited we learned more about Norway and its people, customs, traditions, and history. And our highlight was seeing the Aurora Borealis! It was another memorable adventure!

We can’t wait for our next adventure!

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 8

Friday, January 28th, 2022

Of course today started with our 2 ml. of saliva in our test tube for our COVID test, our health survey and our temperature check.

When we looked outside the ship decks had drifts from the snow and wind as we traveled to Alta, Norway. Around 11:00 AM we docked in Alta.

The ship sailing in the Altafjord, 23 miles long, had beautiful views.

Being this far north, the sunrise was at 9:33 AM and sunset at 12:47 PM. It was 23˚ when we arrived in Alta. It was windy too so it felt colder than the temperature indicated.

After lunch we had a three hour excursion that was a tour of Alta which has about 2,000 inhabitants. An interesting fact they shared was that Alta is on the same longitude as Athens, Greece!

Our first stop was the Northern Lights Cathedral. We listened to the Cathedral guide give us a brief history and explanation about the building itself. It was a parish church of the Church of Norway and was located near the center of town. If you walk down Alta’s main shopping street you will run into the cathedral. The church was built in 2013 and seats 350 people and it is made of concrete and wood. The exterior was made of titanium in a circular shape.

Inside was an impressive organ and a bronze statue of Christ that is a little over 14 feet.

The Cathedral’s lower level had an exhibit about the aurora borealis and it included a ten minute video that was a compilation of Northern lights viewings. It was beautiful!

A statue of Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) was located outside of the cathedral. He was a Norwegian scientist who first tied the northern lights with electromagnetic storms from the sun. One is currently heading our way and we hope to see the northern lights this evening!

Kristian Birkeland Statue

The Alta Museum and World Heritage Rock Art Centre was another of our stops.

It would be best to visit this museum in the summer. It’s known for its thousands of rock carvings. These carvings are from a settlement dating from 4200 to 500 B.C. It’s also an UNESCO World Heritage site. Unfortunately for us, all of the carvings (petroglyphs) are covered by several feet of snow!

The carvings are buried in snow!

Instead of looking at them outside we went through the exhibit, Traces in Stone, explaining the carvings. This exhibit did have some loose rock carvings that gave us an idea of what was outside!

The stone below was named after the popular fictional children’s book character Pippi Longstocking who was known for her pigtails! In 1950, this stone was discovered in a potato field about 12 1/2 northwest of Alta.

“Pippi Longstocking” Rock Carving

The museum had an exhibit called “Natural Born Killers- Predators in Norway”. It showed the thirteen species of natural predators, from the smallest, a snow mouse to the largest, the polar bear. The exhibit talked about the lives of these animals and their role today in Norway. The exhibit had each predator represented by a taxidermist version of the animal.

A temporary exhibition was of Sami (native Norwegians) clothing and traditions and crafts. Jorunn Løkvold spent three years researching the use of mica which in the Sami language is called “fox gold”. The clothes were beautifully decorated.

A permanent exhibition about Bjorn Wirkola, one of the world’s best ski jumpers, and he was from Alta. The exhibit included his medals, awards, skis, boots, etc… It was quite a tribute to him.

Bjorn Wirkola Exhibit

The museum had a cafe where we enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate and the views out the back.

At 8:30 PM we left full of excitement because we were heading out in search of the Northern Lights! It was an hour drive out of town to our stopping spot. The roads were narrow and steep!

Narrow 2-lane road.

When we got off the bus at 9:30 PM the aurora borealis was dancing in the sky. The night sky was full of stars and “dancing lights”! We were in awe and for awhile we just enjoyed the spectacular show. We had until 11:30 to view the lights. We were back on the ship after 12:30 AM.

Seeing the Northern Lights was definitely a highlight of our trip! It was a “bucket list” item that we were lucky enough to check off and also experience a new country, Norway!

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 5 & Day 6

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 and Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

We are combining two days because Wednesday is a day at sea. It just made sense to combine them!

We were up early just so we could do today’s saliva COVID test because we had a tour this morning, “A Snapshot of Bergen”. This was an included excursion.

Our first stop was The Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene. It was one of the best preserved buildings in Bergen. It was the 16th century office and home of an affluent German merchant. It was located next to St. Mary’s Church. The museum consists of 3 assembly rooms and a kitchen. The first rooms we visited were assembly halls for the Hanseatic merchants. The Hanseatic League lived here from 1350 to 1750. These merchants traded stockfish and grains.

The Schøtstuene was where all the cooking of food took place. Due to the danger of fire it was placed separately behind the other office buildings. In winter hot meals were served here.

After the museum we walked through Bryggen. It was nice walking around this area again because it wasn’t raining!

The walk along the harbor was enjoyable today.

We stopped at the Fantoft Stavkicke (Fantoft Stave Church). It was originally built in 1150 in Fortun and was moved to Fantoft in 1883. It burned down in 1992. It was rebuilt to resemble the original structure.

The Fløibanen which takes you to the top of Mt. Floyen was closed for remodeling, so we didn’t get to ride it to the top which would have been great because this morning was the best weather and the sky was clear!

The clearing in the mountain where the Fløibanen is located.

After our morning tour we were back on the ship and immediately ate lunch because the ship was going to set sail at 1:30 PM and we wanted to be out on the deck as we left Bergen. As we were heading out on deck the captain made an announcement that our departure would be delayed about 45 minutes. So we went back to our cabin and out on our veranda we saw passengers disembarking with their luggage! We had heard approximately 18 people had a positive COVID result and had to quarantine in Bergen. What a shame to travel here and be excited for your cruise and not be able to go. (Travel insurance is certainly a necessity during this pandemic so you are protected.)

Bergenhus Fortress from the ship.

Of course it was raining by the time we set sail. We still went out on deck and walked forward and aft.

After the ship had sailed and we were pretty wet, we found a spot in the Explorer’s Lounge to continue to watch as sailed out of the bay. The Explorer’s Lounge is at the front of the ship and had all glass windows! Once we got closer to the open North Sea, the wind picked up considerably.

This evening was the captain’s toast and an introduction to his senior officers. Our captain was Norwegian and had a great sense of humor. He shared that there were 417 guests on board and 451 crew representing 47 different countries. The crew members outnumbered the guests!

Captain Rune and the senior officers

Wednesday was a day at sea so we did not have to be up early. We did need to do our COVID test before 9:00 AM so the room steward can collect them and get them to the medical lab on board.

We attended three lectures that were offered today. The first lecture was with Dr. Kathy Stearne. She discussed the Northern Lights and if science can explain the “geomagnetic storms or if the gods are just over the horizon”.

At 2:00 PM we participated in the celebration for crossing the Arctic Circle, the “Blue Nose Ceremony”! In Antarctica we did the polar plunge where you actually jumped into the water off the ship but for this Viking Cruise they turned their hot tub into a freezing cold “sea” of water. We watched them dump load after load of ice into the water. Guests were invited to jump into the icy water and then they were given a “blue nose’ and a shot of aquavit which is the national spirit of Scandinavia. After our “polar plunge” we went back to our cabin and took a hot shower.

The next lecture was with Mr. Terence Murtagh. He spoke about the science related to the aurora borealis and also how to capture them with a camera. He gave suggestions for settings of a digital camera set on manual.

After his talk we participated in the daily afternoon tea. We each had a our own selection of tea in our own teapot and a selection of tea sandwiches and desserts!

After tea we enjoyed the views from our veranda as we sailed toward Narvik, Norway. One of the bridges the ship sailed under was very close. There was approximately three feet between the top of the ship and the bridge.