Please note that my “live” voyage reports are slightly behind schedule due to internet connectivity issues and a busy schedule that includes Zodiac landings in remote villages, hikes, local performances, fascinating lectures, scenic cruising through iceberg-choked fjords, gourmet dining, complimentary beverages (yes, including champagne) and conversations with a friendly group of like-minded travelers.
Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland, August 29, 2015 — Alex and I aren’t the only father-son duo on Silver Explorer. Benjamin, 21, is also here with his father. They hail from Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and they appear to be having as good a time as we are having.
I can’t say whether expedition cruising on Silversea is the right kind of trip for all teenagers and young adults, but I can say that it is the right kind of trip for my son. He’s cruised on Disney’s flagships, Royal Caribbean’s big ships and Carnival’s Fun Ships, but he prefers the adventure-seeking, thought-provoking expeditions offered by Silversea. The best trip of his life thus far: Russia’s Far East last August on Silver Discoverer. That trip certainly ranks high in my book of favorites as well.
It’s not that Silver Explorer offers many diversions for young adults. There’s no teen program to speak of, no sports courts, no rock climbing walls, no gaming arcades and the like. There are, however, on-demand movies (we bundled up in bed with popcorn to watch 22 Jump Street last night) and, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, plentiful room service.
There are lectures on geology, glaciology, history, culture, language and much more that can easily hold the interest of an adult for 30 minutes or more, but taking in those lectures can be more challenging for an 18-year-old boy. Even so, he’s learning a lot, and when he has questions, he has access to experts (the expedition team).
“Does Greenland have volcanoes,” he asked Expedition Team Leader Stefan. “Yes and no,” Stefan answered, explaining that there are no active volcanoes but there is geothermal activity in the form of hot springs. He offered to show Alex a map and explain how Greenland was formed. You just don’t get that personal access to such knowledge back home.
There’s also a lot of quality time for us to bond, both on the ship and on the daily (sometimes twice-daily) excursions ashore, such as the one we did today.
Dispelling A Couple Of Myths
From the village of Qeqertarsuaq, we set out on a guided walk through the small fishing and hunting town of 1,000, then headed along the beach and up into the hills where in a little less than an hour, we reached a series of waterfalls.
The hike dispels a certain myth about expedition cruising. This is far from a cruise with bus tours. The only bus, or vehicle, that we’ll be on this week is the one that takes us between the airport and the ship. We will spend lots of time in Zodiacs, though, zipping us between ship and shore.
Another myth to smash: Traveling with only a little more than 100 guests, you may be concerned about the “communal” aspect of an expedition on a small ship. Indeed, nearly all of the guests joined the hike today. Did the hike feel clustered or crowded? Were the others invading our space? Far from it. On all of the expedition cruises I’ve experienced, which must be more than a dozen now, I’ve found that I’m traveling with guests who have like-minded interests. After all, you don’t pay several thousand dollars to cruise Greenland if you’re not curious about ice, geology and Greenlandic culture. On an ocean cruise, people may be there for different reasons — to get away from real life, to experience gourmet dining, to breathe in the luxury lifestyle, to sip the fine wines, to spend time in the spa, to soak up the sun, for example. On an expedition, we’re all here for pretty much the same, single reason: to explore.
We did just that today. At the waterfalls, the power and beauty of Greenland seemed to overwhelm us all, a common experienced shared with others from many nations — China, Norway, Austria, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and more.
If the thought of sharing your trip with so many others concerns you, not to worry. At each landing, guests are given choices: join a guided town tour or take a strenuous hike into the hills. Wander on your own if you wish. You can even stay on Silver Explorer and admire the beauty from your balcony.
Alex and I are free to dine in our suite, breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between. If we want to dine alone in the restaurant, there are plenty of tables for two. Or we can join others if we wish. There’s also the Outdoor Grill, where we’ll dine tonight, with our parkas on.
It pretty much works like this: When you’re feeling social, you have other guests around to socialize with; when you’re not feeling social, you can be alone in a way that doesn’t seem rude or odd. With its multiple dining options, Silver Explorer works well for this type of dining dynamic.
Recently graduated from high school, Alex is taking a year off to figure out in which direction he wants to aim his life (his dad took seven years off before entering university). Except for his young face, his appearance, particularly his 6’7” frame gives all indications that he is a man, prepared to take on life. He is not. He is a boy in need of a father to usher him into life.
My goal, over the next two months of travel with Alex, is to teach him what I know of life, not only the vocational skills, such as photography and filming, but also whatever life skills I can pass on to him from my experiences. What better place to begin than on an expedition voyage, where distractions are of the natural kind — icebergs, native people and wildlife — and experiences are shared?
“When I saw you together, I was reminded of my travels with my father.” Billy, a waiter on Silver Explorer, poured coffee for me this morning at the “Early Riser’s Breakfast” in the Observation Lounge of Silver Explorer.
“We cruised,” he said. “It was not on a luxury ship like this one, but on short cruises in the Philippines.”
Who would not remember fondly their travels with their mother or father? It is a rite of passage, one of the best gifts a parent could give to a child. No doubt, Alex is a lucky kid, the son of a father who makes his living by traveling and writing about those travels. And I am a lucky father in turn, to have two wonderful kids. I have had the good fortune to show them a slice of the world.
I am sure that eight days in Greenland will further strengthen my bond with Alex, just as it will for Benjamin and his father. We are all lucky to be here with those who are special in our lives.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that travel experiences hold little meaning unless they are shared. What good is standing in front of a glacier alone after you have done it so many times? The best moments in travel are those that passed together with the ones you love most — and on this trip, nearly 100 like-minded others.