The island of Borðuy is situated at the most north-easterly point of the Faroe Islands. Six islands make up the northern islands, three of which are connected by causeways, and Borðuy is regarded as the main island of this group as it is linked to the larger island of Eysturoy which, in turn, is linked to Tórshavn on Streymoy.
Borðuy is also home to the second-largest town in the Faroe Islands, Klasvik, where we berthed this morning. It is home to the main brewery in the Faroes- Föroya Bjór – a family business founded in 1888 and the beer is easily recognised by the picture of a ram on the label. The modern church, Christianskirkja, was built in 1963 and has become a landmark of the town. It is built in the Old Norse style and its open roof construction is the same as was found in Viking halls.
A fresh and seemingly cloudy day didn’t affect the enthusiasm of our guests when they headed off on their excursions. The first group went to the neighbouring island of Eysturoy for the ‘Gota’ excursion; ‘Faroese Wool’ was a visit to Snælden where a traditional wool producer and knitwear manufacturer is located; lunch was included on the ‘Northern Eysturoy and Gjógv’ excursion when guests ventured to these two fascinating towns; there was cruising on the sailing boat ‘Dragin’ which sailed around the shorelines of some of the most northerly Faroe Islands; there were also some wonderful walking and hiking adventures.
For those guests who wished to explore the town themselves there were a few shops and cafes, but the two major sites to see were the Klaksvik Museum and the Christianskirkja (Christian’s Church), dedicated to the memory of the sailors who lost their lives during World War II.
The early evening entertainment was an interview, as NTS Entertainment Manager, Robert Lovie, spoke with entertainers Siobhan Miller and Wilma MacDougall about their lives and their careers.
After dinner the Discovery Lounge was again in a festive mood as our guests, and yes some of my officers and staff too, danced the night away at the Ceilidh. But the real highlight of the night was when Hotel Director Eddy, who is from Belgium, was presented on stage wearing a kilt.
We made our approaches to Tvoroyri on the island of Suderoy at 0600 in the morning. As expected the wind was blowing hard from the North East so we had to “crab” the ship to counteract the wind. We embarked the pilot and continued in to the very windy harbour. Another challenging day I thought. Anyway the pilot and I reminisced about our times on supply boats in the North Sea; once you know you have worked in that environment you all know you can “ship handle”, so we manoeuvred off the berth using the wind to help turn the ship and were soon alongside in this rather quaint place.
Suðuroy is the most southerly of the Faroe Islands and is the archipelago’s fourth-largest island. It is around 20 miles long but just 3 miles wide. The west coast is characterised by steep cliffs rising to a height of almost 500 meters (1,640ft), which are home to a large seabird population. Most of the island’s villages are to be found on the gentler east coast, where fjords cut deep into the landscape.
The main settlement on the island is Tvorøyri. It lies picturesquely on the north side of the Trongisvágsførður on the east coast. The town started life in the 19th century as a solitary shop but quickly grew into the most important trading post of the Faroes. The focal point of the town is the tall church which was originally constructed in Norway, then moved piece by piece and reconstructed here in 1907.
There were quite a few excursions, but the most popular were the walking and hiking ones such as ‘Beinisvørð Hike’, which was a hike up a steep green slope to the craggy, triangular top of Beinisvørð; ‘Hvannhagi Hike’ was a magical hike to the Hvannhagi Valley, designated a Special Nature Area in recognition of its unique flora and fauna ; ‘Wildflower Walk’ was a guided walk by a local wildflower expert; there was ‘ Dßmun Boat Trip’, a leisurely sail on the traditional sailing boat Torshavn around the small islands of Dßmum which lie to the north-east of Suðuroy; and there was also a relaxing Panoramic Tour.
Since it’s the first time Saga Pearl II has visited this lovely port we were visited by the port officials for a coffee and a chat, and an exchange of gifts when I proudly presented them with a Saga Pearl II plaque.
Sailing out of the harbour was straight forward, so we sailed out and turned south, leaving not only our final port of this cruise but also the final port of my career with Saga!
Show Time this evening was extremely special and highly entertaining, as my Filipino staff and crew had organised this fantastic entertainment. The Filipino Choir opened the show and proudly sang the Philippine National Anthem accompanied by The SAGA Orchestra, there then followed a wide variety of entertainment that made us all laugh and cry. In between the acts Resty, who hosted the crew show for the very first time, told us stories about their homeland, gave us information about the folk dances and shared some of the funny stories behind each of the acts. What always truly amazes me, and touched everybody’s heart, was the Hand Mime of the Restaurant Waiters. Towards the end of the show Resty invited me to the stage and I said a few words, about how proud I have been to be their Captain and how I am going to miss them when I leave. I have to say, my voice faltered as I said my thanks to the crew.
But unbeknownst to me the farewells were not over. The Hotel Department arranged a wonderful night for my family and me with a Journal of my time with Saga. It was very touching, and to go to those lengths made me very emotional I have to say.
And just to top off my last days at sea, as we sailed down the Minch by Stornoway we had to call out the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter to medically evacuate a passenger. I wasn’t going to get away with an easy last day at sea!!
Then, on the last evening, we had the Farewell Cocktail party. This, after 8 years with the National Trust for Scotland, having been requested to be their Captain for all their cruises, was another sad day. I have had a wonderful professional and personal relationship with them all, and I was thanked with a lovely and moving Poem written about me and my time with the National Trust for Scotland. I was also presented with a wonderful crystal decanter and an invitation to be a guest at Fyvie Castle near Aberdeen, to stay in the towers and be wined and dined with family and friends.
I have to say that with all the good wishes everyone has given me, the endless staff who have written me cards and come to say a tearful farewell, it certainly hasn’t been an easy leaving. And again it reinforces what I have said about the staff here, they are second to none. I am so humbled at the way people have said goodbye to me. I have always said I have no ego, as I know there can be in this industry, I am just a normal lad doing a job I love, “what you see is what you get” has always been my motto. As my Father said, just be sincere and honest in what you do and never forget your crew. These are words I have lived by, and hopefully they have served me well.
So with a heavy heart I bid you all farewell from me, from my Blogs, and thank you all for your wonderful good wishes which have touched me. It’s been my great privilege and pleasure and honour to have been one of Saga’s longest serving Masters and to have been a part of their history from the start. Saga will always have a place in my heart.
To all my colleagues, both past and present, and to all the passengers I have known
It’s delightful to be back on board Saga Pearl II; today I joined the ship in a rather wet and windy Bonny Scotland together with Cruise Director Kayleigh McMahon and Chief Engineer Mark Cameron. I’ve just returned from a fantastic leave with my family, and although it’s always so hard to say farewell to my wife Kelly and my two sons Corey and Joey there is always a fantastic warm welcome from the Crew when I join this little gem of a ship.
Today was also tinged with sadness however, as for the last time the ship was handed over to me by my esteemed colleague and dear friend Captain Alistair McLundie. Alistair is leaving us today to take up a role ashore so that he can spend some more time with his family and I’m sure you’ll all join with me in wishing Alistair, Jenny and Scott all the very best for the future.
The passengers who disembarked today were from the National Trust for Scotland charter but some of them have decided to stay with us for the two day trip ‘south of the border’, as well as some passengers joining us who will sail onward from Dover to ‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’.
Thankfully the rain abated as I stepped out on to the Bridge wing to complete the departure manoeuvre and in no time we were making our way out along the Clyde at full speed.
Main show time tonight featured the talent of Flamenco and Classical International Guitarist Adam Westcott; he wowed all the guests with such skill and passion in his music intertwined with some great anecdotes from his musical career.
We made our approach off the white cliffs for late morning and with our harbour pilot safely onboard we confirmed our slot with Dover port control and made our way into the harbour through the eastern entrance and across to our berth at Cruise Terminal One where we were safely alongside before midday.
All staff and crew from the various different departments worked their socks off as usual in getting the vessel ‘ship shape’ ready for our newly embarking passengers, and in what seemed like no time at all we began welcoming our guests onboard.
During embarkation it was our cruise department team who welcomed our guests aboard and the housekeeping team who helped and guide them to their cabins. A sumptuous embarkation buffet had been wonderfully prepared by the galley team and was served in true Saga style by our dining staff.
In honour of the 71st anniversary of D Day we welcomed our guests out onto the open decks for a rather special sail away including glasses of ‘Bubbly’, music from the Saga Orchestra and the highlight of it all was an outstanding aeronautical display from not one, not two, but three Spitfires from the Biggin Hill Heritage Centre. The perfect start to what I’m sure will be a very special cruise.
We now venture north to the land of the midnight sun, I shall report back soon............
Surrounded by spectacular scenery, steep mountains and tumbling waterfalls, Eidfjord is situated at the end of the magnificent 111 mile long Hardangerfjord. Nearby is the beautiful 2.500 square mile Hardangervidda, the largest National Park in Norway which is also Europe's largest high mountain plateau and home to one of Norway's biggest glaciers. The region is sometimes called the Orchard of Fjord Norway because of the sheer amount of fruit grown in the area, the result of its mild climate.
Today was a rather odd one in that we arrived at 8am and initially held position off the small town while we ferried passengers ashore by tender due to another vessel occupying the berth, however once the berth was clear we made our way alongside. The first group of passengers to set foot in the village were booked on our excursions, which included ‘Norwegian Rhapsody’ where they went to see falls, glaciers and visit the Norway’s biggest national park with its abundance of lakes, streams and wild moors; ‘Hardanger Nature Centre’ included a visit to a living activity centre, with exhibitions depicting local wildlife and our guests were offered the chance to watch a film that would take them on a journey past fjords, mountains and waterfalls. The last tour, with two departures because of its popularity, was ‘Waterfalls and Waffles’ that included a trip to Vøringsfossen Waterfalls, one of the most famous falls in Norway, then to round things off a delicious waffle was served with ladles of jam and cream.
Having departed at 8pm we now wind our way further north, next stop Bergen.
Having made all fast on our berth by 8am the first excursion to depart today was ‘Iconic Norway’, a comprehensive day-long tour which included a scenic train ride; ‘A Taste of Hardanger, was the next to leave and offered a sightseeing tour around the beautiful Hardanger region, renowned as a prime fruit-growing region; ‘Ole Bull and the Island of Light’, took our passengers to Lysoen, the Island of Light by shuttle boat to visit the world renowned violin virtuoso and composer, Ole Bull; and lastly the easy going tour, Bergen City Panoramic.
The evening’s entertainment commenced with a fabulous classical concert from the Excolo Quartet featuring the works of Mozart. This was followed by our very own Explosive Productions Cast with their performance of ‘Jersey Meets Mersey’, celebrating the music from two of the legendary bands of the 60’s - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and The Beatles.
Our organised excursions today were ‘City Panoramic and Cathedral’, perhaps the most relaxing and easy way to explore this lovely town, visiting Cathedrals and the place where Hitler’s Tirpitz was finally sunk by the British Lancasters; ‘An Overview of Tromsø with Botanical Garden’, excursion began with a visit to the museum to learn about the challenges facing the native Sami people as they struggle to preserve their way of life then guests took a thrilling cable car up Mount Storteinen for a bird’s eye view of the city; next was the ‘Polar Museum and Wilderness Centre’. The Wilderness Centre is located about 12 miles from the city amid beautiful Arctic scenery, and our lucky passengers were able to meet some 200 huskies which are trained to pull sledges. Then it was on to the Polar Museum which is located in an old customs warehouse dating from 1830. The museum is home to several exhibits relating to early polar expeditions, hunting and trapping. The last excursion was ‘The Sami Story’, where our passengers learned about the Sami people, their way of life, culture and hunting techniques plus they were entertained with a traditional Sami folk song.
As we sailed away the Cruise Team joined our guests out on the open decks, enjoying the splendour and wonder of nature complimented with a glass or two of the special sail away drink ‘Norwegian Sling’ especially concocted for this cruise and beautifully served by our Bar Staff.
As soon as the gangway was landed and we received clearance from the port authority, passengers and crew alike were free to explore Honningsvag. As they wondered ashore many stopped for a ‘Kodak moment’ with the large bronze statue of the famous St. Bernard Dog, named ‘Bamse’, the heroic mascot of the Free Norwegian Forces during the Second World War, and the big Troll which stands proudly in front of the souvenir shop.
For those wishing to participate in an organised excursion there was: ‘Bird Safari’, where guests boarded a small boat and cruised across the chilly waters to the Gjesværstappan Nature Reserve, made up of over 100 islands, where our passengers spotted a diverse range of localbirds; ‘King Crab Experience’, where guests were taken to the pier where crabs are collected from large tanks or traps pulled from the ocean and brought to the lavvo tent where they were shown how to prepare and cook them, and were then able to sample freshly cooked crab over a cup of coffee; ‘Magerøy Island’ included a guided tour to the island, where our passengers were greeted with festive music, learned about winter life in the village and also visited the North Cape Christmas and Winter house; while ‘North Cape Transfer’ allowed our passengers to explore the fascinating North Cape independently.
This afternoon our resident ‘King of the Keys’, Dave Peterson, tinkled the ivories with some British classics for our very special afternoon tea in honour of the Queen’s Official Birthday and the Trooping of the Colour.
At 5.30 pm we held a Commemorative Service of Remembrance for all those who lost their lives in the Arctic Convoys, led by our ship’s chaplain Arthur Hawes and yours truly. I’m always so proud to see my officers, staff and crew marching down before the service and paying their respects. It was an emotional service for many, especially when our Master at Arms, Bharat Lal Shrestha former Lieutenant in the Indian Army, passed me the Wreath, a Chaplet of Poppies, to place on the altar as the Last Post was played.
Our next stop is Mother Russia and the port of Murmansk.
Murmansk, in northwest Russia, is the world's largest Arctic city. Due to it being ice free in winter, because of the influence of the Gulf Stream, it is the largest seaport Russia has on the Arctic Ocean making it not only a key Russian naval base but also Russia's most important submarine base. Its situation on Kola Bay, above the Polar Circle, means that there are weeks of total darkness during the winter and, conversely, weeks of 24 hour daylight during the summer months - and there are no trees. Murmansk is the home port of the world's only fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, and the possible terminus of the Arctic Bridge between Russia and Churchill, Manitoba facilitating trade between North America and Europe.
As passengers could only proceed ashore today if they were booked on an organised excursion there was a plethora of tours to choose from such as ‘A Taste of Murmansk’, a sightseeing tour of the city, where our guests also visited a number of monuments and, for their last stop, had some traditional Russian pancakes served with sour cream and jam accompanied by tea or coffee; ‘City Highlights and the Museum of Regional Studies’ visited many of the historical places and cultural heritage of Murmansk followed by a trip to the Museum of Regional Studies which provided a wealth of information and appreciation of the region's natural and human history; ‘Maritime Murmansk’ visited the Murmansk Shipping Company Museum, dedicated to the history and technology of Arctic exploration and the first Nuclear Icebreaker in the world; ‘Northern Fleet Museum and Allied Cemetery’, covered the history of the Soviet and Russian Northern Navy from 1916, including the WWII Allied Arctic convoys, to the modern fleet and aircraft carriers before our guests then made their way to the Cemetery for the seamen from the Allied Countries who, during WWII, gave their lives to bring the Arctic convoys to Murmansk. During this visit Archdeacon Arthur Hawes led a prayer and laid a wreath in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Kirkenes is a small town situated in North East Norway about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and east of Finland, whose inhabitants speak Norwegian, Sami, Finnish and Russian. Approximately 60 miles south of Kirkenes, in the Ovre Pasvik National Park, is the Muotkavaara, the border of Norway, Finland and Russia, although it is actually illegal to circumambulate the border. Originally the peninsula was called Piselvnes, meaning "Pis River Headland", but this became Kirkenes, "Church Headland" after Kirkenes Church was built in 1862.
During WWII, when Norway was occupied by the Germans, Kirkenes was a base for the German Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe until its liberation by the Red Army in 1944. Reportedly, at the end of the war, only 13 houses remained intact.
As soon as the ship was cleared by the local authority the first tours started to depart, commencing with ‘Grense Jacobselv & the Arctic Ocean’ where guests experienced the fjords, the mountains, the ocean and the wonderful valleys surrounding the area plus they visited Oscar II’s chapel from 1869; ‘Skoltesami Culture & the Finnish Border’, was a guided tour of Skolt village cultural heritage site including a short visit across the Finnish border to Nääätämö; ‘Borderland Museum & Sightseeing’, was a guided tour to the Russian border and the Borderland Museum which exhibits the history of this fascinating area, and the iron ore mines in Bjørnevatn; ‘Riverboat Ride to the Russian Border’, was a riverboat trip from Kirkenes to a camp on the Russian border, with a pause to collect King Crabs, before our guests headed to the Russian Community of Boris Gleb where the crabs were cooked and served together with a glass of wine; the most energetic tour was the ‘Quad Safari (ATV) to the Russia Border’, with guests booked on this tour driving first for 20 miles to the viewpoint of Kjerringstupet then, following a few stops, reaching the Russian border at Skafferhullet.
Following our afternoon departure the early evening entertainment commenced in style with a pre-dinner classical recital from the ever popular ‘Excolo String Quartet’ who played ‘Nationalistic Romanticism’ featuring the works of Dvorak’s American Quartet and Brodin’s Quartet No.2.
Main Showtime was provided by our very own in house stars ’Explosive Productions’ with ‘Cool Britannia’, featuring the music of the swinging 60’s which was followed by the Saga Orchestra and cocktail pianist Dave Peterson, who played some toe-tapping tunes well into the wee small hours.
Hammerfest is northern Norway’s oldest town and the region has been populated for an estimated 10,000 years, with the indigenous Sami people being present in the region during the height of the Roman Empire. Much of the region was ruined following the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, and the area has developed over the second half of the 20th Century. As such, only a few buildings dating from before the occupation remain.
For the active tourist Hammerfest’s big draw is fishing, both sea and freshwater and (believe it or not!) scuba diving. The town is a popular starting point for northern tours and speaking of tours, we had two excursions to choose from today; ‘Hammerfest and Beyond’, which took our guests through the centre of town to the Meridian Monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that commemorates the pioneering work carried out by Norway, Sweden and Russia to measure the size and shape of the earth, then they drove to the 282-foot peak of Mount Salen then finally to the Mikkelgammen Sami Camp for refreshments and traditional Sami food and; The other excursion was for those feeling a tad more energetic, ‘Mount Sale Hike’ started at the pier, and our guests then walked all the way along the steep path to top of Mount Salen and were able to enjoy the magnificent view of the town and its surroundings. They also visited the Mikkelgammen Sami Camp for some well earned refreshment as they rested on reindeer skins around an open fire while listening to a special Sami chant.
Our main showtime saw the farewell performance of Piano Showman Chris Hamilton as he tinkled the ivories to music from Cole Porter, Grieg and Noël Coward.
Captain Wesley Dunlop
Captain Wesley Dunlop
Jun 17, 2015
Our last port of call within the Arctic Circle, the town of Leknes is located in the geographical centre of the spectacular Lofoten Archipelago which cruise ships have been visiting for well over 100 years. Although there are magnificent soaring mountains, numerous farms and fishing villages, testament to the productive soil, rich seas, and temperate climate, have grown up where-ever there’s flat land.
There were three interesting excursions on offer today; ‘Loftor Viking Museum’, where archaeologists made the sensational find of a chieftain’s farmstead proving that the Lofoten Islands were once an important Viking stronghold; ‘RIB Adventure’, an exciting 90-minute sea adventure, cruising past sweeping vistas of steep mountains and white beaches; and the more relaxed way to venture out with ‘Lofoten Panoramic’ covering the highlights of the town, the scenic landscapes of the Lofoten Islands, and Norway’s best preserved fishing villages.
Showtime this evening saw us welcome back the ever popular International Virtuoso Violinist, Michael Bacala performing classic hits that are close to his heart - one number was even dedicated to his beautiful 4 month old daughter, Martina. Our Gentlemen Hosts led the dancing following the show while the Saga Orchestra played a selection of ballroom classics.
The atmospheric city of Trondheim is the third largest in Norway and the capital of the Trøndelag province. It lies in a fertile region on a fjord at the mouth of the River Nid, and is dominated by Nidaros Cathedral, parts of which are 900 years old. This magnificent building was constructed in honour of St Olav, the patron saint of Norway who actually established Trondheim.
During World War II, Trondheim was occupied by Nazi Germany from 9 April 1940, the first day of the invasion of Norway, until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May 1945. The city was a key submarine base for the Germans and Dora 1, as the huge bunker complex was called, had room for 16 U-boats and about 200,000 German soldiers. It now houses the city’s archives and the submarine pens are used as a harbour for private boats.
The first excursion to depart today was the ‘Pilgrimage Nidaros Cathedral’, a walking tour that took our guests through the last leg of the pilgrim route to Nidaros Cathedral, the only one in Norway and the largest medieval church in the Nordic countries; ‘City of Kings’, was a regal tour that gave an insight into the City of Kings, as Trondheim, the one-time capital, is popularly referred to, where our guests visited museums, cathedrals and other historical places; ‘An Introduction to Trondheim’, led our guests on a panoramic coach tour where they visited some of Trondheim’s most famous sights; the final tour that departed was in the afternoon, ‘Ringve Manor & Botanical Gardens’, a tour of the elegantly decorated manor house with guides dressed in traditional costume who explained all about the exhibits and played some classical Norwegian instruments, afterwards our guests had the chance to visit the Botanical Gardens overlooking Trondheimfjord.
We now make our way further south to the last port of call this cruise, beautiful Stavanger.