Sunday, June 13, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn Inaugural and Maiden Voyage - Part X (Seabourn Never Says "No"...and You Can't Make This Stuff Up!)

As I noted in my last post, the day was not over and Seabourn had time to wow me some more...and it did.  (Trust me on this:  I do not get paid to say everything is wonderful.  I get really offended if anyone tells me to say everything is wonderful.  I couldn't sleep if I said something was wonderful if it wasn't.  The Seabourn Sojourn, its staff and crew are just that darn good.  Amazing!)

We had a second dinner at Restaurant 2 with some friends.  I won't bore you with the menu, but suffice it to say the menu won't bore you because it changes frequently.  Dinner was excellent and the service was great.  (What amazed me was a quiet "apology" the next morning that the service wasn't 100% perfect.  It wasn't?  I must be slipping...or Seabourn keeps raising the bar!)

After dinner I slipped in to see a bit of the Seabourn singers, having been my one comment of concern.  What I saw as much better, if still not my cup of tea.  But was of very promising note were the comments made to me and overheard (nah, I don't do that) that there was huge improvement in the show.  Possibly the first night was a matter of jitters.

OK, so now I am all set for Heimay Island, Iceland.  We have a boat tour organized, then a leisurely lunch, pack up and fly to Reykjavik for the evening and next day.  The plans came to a crashing halt when it was announced:  DUE TO ROUGH SEAS, HEIMAY ISLAND WAS BEING PASSED BY.  And with three sea days the next chance I had to fly home to the kids and pressing business would have been four days later.  I told Seabourn the world would not come to an end, but getting off would have been a much better option for me.

So what did Seabourn do?  Pam Conover, luckily onboard, gave the order:  The Seabourn Sojourn was to turn around and head back to Heimay Island...and had a pilot boat come out for me and my wife!  (And, no, I didn't ask for such treatment...It just happened!)

Talk about being embarrassed!  So we packed up in a hurry, the excitement spread around the ship, in typical Seabourn fashion, we had time to enjoy a last cup of coffee in the Seabourn Square with some friends and clients...very civilized.  Civilized right up to when they put life vests on us and passed us, while still underway, from the Seabourn Sojourn to the local pilot boat!  My embarrassment continued when I saw guests on their balconies supervising the operation!  (At least it gave the remaining guests something to do and talk about after the port was canceled.)  NOTE:  Seabourn does have a policy of never saying "No".  That policy may not apply to a request for a mid-cruise custom disembarkation on a small volcanic island in the middle of the North Sea.  As your travel agent I prefer you do not ask me to arrange same.

But of course Seabourn also had its port agent waiting for us and assisted in getting our day reorganized.  (And this is why I love travel.)  Having already done the partial circumnavigation of Heimay Island, seeing the nesting kittiwakes and puffins, the place the reacclimated the orca known as Free Willy and the spectacular scenery and cliffs...and the rough seas...we decided to give our 11:30 a.m. boat tour a miss.  This left us with lots of time to kill on a pretty rainy day before a 5:20 p.m. flight to the mainland.

We plunked ourselves down in Café Kro, where we were to pick up our boat tour tickets.  The owner, a lovely woman, named Unnur (pronounced almost like it looks!), was making up place settings and began to chat with us.  She told us about her family, her trip on a motorcycle riding down Route 66 (and showed us the local paper's article about it), life on the island, how she got married, the wonders of how only one of her children has blond hair (the others being ginger)...all over a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup.  And then she said that we could exchange the boat tour tickets for bus tour tickets as she owned the café, her husband, Capt. Simmi owned the boat and one of her sons operated the tour bus!  Who knew we would cozy up to the mogul of Heimay Island!

As we waited for the 1:30 p.m. tour Unnur showed us a video of the truly devastating volcanic eruption on the island in 1973 which consumed over 200 homes.  Heimay Island is a very small island and you can literally see the lava flows just outside the harbour - where they fought to stop the lava flows with millions of gallons of cooling sea water.  It gave a whole different perspective to this place and a much greater respect for those who live there.

After a nice freshly caught cod lunch it was time for our bus tour...with about 10 other people.  Unnur and Capt. Simmi's son was quite funny with a dry sense of humor.  I am glad we took the bus trip, not only because we were able to see this wonderful little island, but because it was more like spending time with new friends than your typical tour.  BTW, Heimay Island is supposedly one of three windiest places on earth.  Note to self:  Find out the other two and don't go there!  The wind was absolutely incredible when you left the harbour.

A cold beer and some fries at Café Kro and it was time for our flight to Reykjavik.  We made our flight without issue (no security, no luggage tags, and they served chocolates on the 20 minute flight...are you jealous?) and started the end of our adventure.  But, alas, our trip is not over!