Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, August 27, 2015 — My 18-year-old son and I crossed the Arctic Circle today. Our morning flight from Copenhagen brought us to Kangerlussuaq, a former World War II military base that today serves as Greenland’s main international airport. After 4.5 hours in fairly cramped seats, we trundled down the steps of the Air Greenland Boeing 737 to set foot on the hallowed ground that for centuries has captured the imagination of Arctic explorers.
Like those explorers, we had come to see Greenland ourselves on Silversea Cruises’ stalwart Silver Explorer. Our eight-day voyage will begin by dipping below the Arctic Circle late tonight before taking us north to once again cross 66° 33′ north, the parallel that marks the threshold into the seemingly barren and inhospitable Arctic realm.
We gathered our luggage and made our way outside the airport terminal to a small dusty parking lot. There, a yellow Thomas school bus awaited us for the transfer to Silver Explorer.
In order to give the crew time to prepare the ship for embarking guests, we were taken on a hourlong tour. While this may seem like an inconvenience, it is necessary. Why? Inside the terminal were guests who had disembarked from the previous voyage, and here we were at around 11 a.m. ready to be taken to the ship, which the crew had to clean and make fresh for our arrival. That process takes a few hours.
And so it was that after a bumpy 20-minute drive up a dusty road, we arrived at a mountaintop. “Let’s plan to be back on the bus in 30 minutes,” said our Danish-accented driver. That seemed like a lot of time, but the half hour was to pass quickly. From one vantage point, Alex and I looked out at the Kangerlussuaq airport complex. All around it was barren. From another perspective, we peered at the edge of the massive ice cap that covers more than 80 percent of Greenland. The air was crisp and clean, and despite not having a jacket, I wasn’t cold. My iPhone, which had a 3G signal, showed a temperature of about 45F°.
The school bus took us back down to the flats adjacent to the airport. We stepped out to observe a herd of musk ox. Not too close, the driver warned us. From a distance, the creatures appeared a bit like buffalo but with shaggy coats and large curved horns. When we were back on the bus, the driver announced: “I have some bad news. Unfortunately, we will not be able to continue in this bus.” I thought he was joking. He explained there was a problem with the drive train that made the bus unsafe, and so he had summoned another bus to come fetch us.
That bus, a modern motorcoach, wouldn’t be able to make it down the road we were on, however. We would need to walk five minutes to a T-junction. Everyone seemed to take the news — and the walk — in good stride. With expeditions, you need to be prepared to resort to Plan B. While mechanical issues are rare, Mother Nature may necessitate a change of plans.
The motorcoach took us along a paved road for about 20 minutes until we reached a harbor. Three expedition vessels were at anchor, Iceland Pro Cruises, Hapag Lloyd’s Hanseatic and Silver Explorer. Of these, only Silver Explorer falls within the luxury segment. That means that guests on Silver Explorer will enjoy open-seating gourmet dining, butler service, luxurious staterooms and suites, marble bathrooms, a high staff-to-guest ratio, complimentary beverages, elegant service, an engaged expedition team and much more.
Alex and I completed our medical questionnaires and walked down to the pier, where we draped inflatable life jackets around our necks before grabbing the forearms of two staff (the sailor’s grip) who assisted us into the Zodiac. In less than 10 minutes, we were alongside Silver Explorer. Welcome aboard.
The boarding process was zippy. After a few handshakes and hugs from staff who I had cruised with before, a butler escorted us to our suite, 704, with a bedroom and living room, walk-in closet and expansive balcony. At around 2, we headed down to the restaurant for lunch. Afterward, there were a few mandatory meetings, a Zodiac briefing and a life boat drill, before we set sail along the Kangerlussuaq fjord.
The landscape was gorgeous, with glaciers from both sides snaking down to the sea. We were but a small speck exploring a slice of the world’s largest island. Bundled up in parkas that Silversea gives to each guest, Alex and I stood out on deck, breathing in Greenland’s beauty and excited about all that was ahead as Silver Explorer made her way under the Arctic sky.