My expedition on Silversea’s Silver Endeavour continues to be a delight onboard the ship and worthwhile and enjoyable on shore, but not necessarily the most “expedition” experience I have had. I do keep in mind that this is a repositioning expedition, a transitional one from expedition to cruise and the last Arctic cruise of the season before Silver Endeavour undergoes some improvements and maintenance before heading to Chile and Antarctica. (That should have your interest in a number of areas!)
The sixth day of our expedition had us transiting Prince Christian Sund; a labyrinth of a fjord that cuts across the southern tip of Greenland. I was up and out on Deck 6 forward at 7:30 AM, literally alone for an hour of dramatic views with a light snow falling and enough bergy bits to add texture and contrast to the quiet waters and dramatic stone walls on either side of the ship.
Our expedition leader said it would be far more breathtaking than Lemaire Channel. I think he makes a good argument, if not only because it is so much larger, but because one spends much more time transiting it, so when the sun came out, it was an entirely different feeling. However, Lemaire will always hold a special place in my heart and where the most breathtaking sunset I will ever see happened (while being stared down by a leopard seal).
Later that day we arrived at AApilattoq, Greenland, a tiny village with only 130 people and falling. (The modern world touches everywhere and younger people are moving away for a more connected life. Heck, I had some of the best mobile phone service of the journey, so I am sure Netflix is being streamed into the small wooden homes.) When I arrived – quickly seeing a hunted seal was being “stored” under our landing dock – a young boy waved for me to come over. However, when I took off my life vest and went to find him, he was gone. He later found me. We exchanged hellos and then I said, “How are you?” With most in the village not speaking English, he paused…then said proudly, “Good!” I gave him a thumbs up and was responded to with a big smile. Magic!
I wandered the village, being amazed, as the last time I was in Greenland, at the striking beauty and power of the landscape juxtaposed to the colorful, though weathered, houses dwarfed in both size and permanence.
I did take some time to visit the church where some of the locals were giving us a choir performance. Not my cup of tea, but I did want to show my respect.
Afterwards, I wanted to purchase something as both a Thank You and a contribution to the community. I had noticed one older woman with some necklaces laid out on a blanket. Interestingly, everything was $35; you know, so you can give her $40 and she won’t have change. Gotta give props! Anyway, she spoke no English so it was all smiles and hand signals. I bought one, her eyes lit up, she kissed the money, raised her hand and we both did I little celebratory dance together. Magic again!
Little did I know, but this would be my last exposure to the Greenland that grabs my heart, as the next day we arrived in Nanortalik, Greenland. As our zodiac arrived at the dock, my senses went from innocent peace and smells of wilderness to diesel, processing fish, and truck noise. Ugh.
While we were directed to head to the left to visit the town and a museum, well, you know me, I went to the right. Up a hill and then down to the water where some beautiful views and some birds greeted me.
But then I headed towards the museum and it just felt like cruise ship tourism. A couple of vendors were selling overpriced “art” (for $35) and the museum – which was actually pretty good – required we wear wristbands to prove we (Silversea) paid to get in. Huh? Not exactly the warm greetings I have received almost everywhere else in Greenland. So, it was quickly back to the friendly (and quiet, non-diesel-infused) confines of Silver Endeavour.
In the afternoon we hit another – for me – touristic spot, Uunartoq Island, for a sort of hot spring. Basically, it was a warm water hole that someone expanded and then added two changing rooms. I chose to give it a miss and have a massage, but quite a few guests had an enjoyable soak coupled with Silversea-supplied champagne. Again, too cruiseshippy for me, but fun for others not as expedition-focused as I am…in Greenland.
Our final day in Greenland had me starting to feel a bit sad. I know I am incredibly fortunate and, to be honest, a bit jaded. I have been to quite a bit of Greenland (though really just scratching the surface) during my two visits. But I wonder if I will ever be back to explore more of it.
Our day started in Qaqortoq, Greenland, the largest town in southern Greenland. This is definitely where the business of fish processing and more gets done.
Rather than explore the town Silversea offered a hike around a fairly large lake. The hiking group was small – about 20 people – and was eventually broken down into three groups based on ability and desire. I fell in between the “badass hikers” out for exercise and the moderate hikers. The third group gave it a go for a few minutes and turned back for a stroll through town.
The badass group moved along this narrow, rocky, trail at a rate of about 15.5 minutes per mile. I stayed with them until the top of the lake, where I decided photography and just taking in the beauty was more important. The guides agreed I could leave the group of four guests, and head back towards the moderate group. (There are not a lot of polar bears around the lake, as it is not the season and they are hunted – you saw the pelts above – so ya gotta be careful!)
I met up with the moderate group of ten people and then headed back along the same trail at a very leisurely 37 minutes per mile. Perfect.
Once the hike was over there was a little time to see the town, but I really had no desire. I had seen enough for me.
The afternoon was a stop at a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Hvalsey. The remnants of a Norse village from sometime after 1300 with a well-preserved stone church and the foundations of a number of farmhouses. (Farmhouses usually housed both animals and families.)
The afternoon was filled with sunshine, beautiful skies, and warm temperatures. I took some time to have a quiet wander up the hillside and then down by the water’s edge. It gave me a chance to take in the beauty of Greenland’s mountains and vistas one last time. In other words, a chance to say a warm Goodbye to Greenland.
Note: There are two philosophies when it comes to discussing places that are visited: Explain them in detail after you arrive (hopefully giving a more WOW factor) or before you arrive (giving a more in-depth understanding of what you will be seeing). Silversea relied upon an Iceland guide to give information at the site. Bravo for having him, but he really fell short as I obtained more information from two posted signs and my prior visits to Norse ruins. I would have preferred a pre-arrival detailed explanation of what would be seen.
I do want to take a moment and discuss the demographics onboard Silver Endeavour. I am not sure that it fairly represents the normal one, but I have a sense that it more does than doesn’t. The demographic definitely skews older than on my other expedition experiences, but overall not “elderly”. This does affect both what is offered and overall participation.
Leaving aside the sparsely participated-in hikes – that on more active expeditions would be virtually the entirety of the guests – some of the “easy stuff” was also less embraced than I would have expected on an expedition cruise. However, as I mentioned, this is a transitional/repositioning cruise, so I think there are some that are onboard simply because it is Silversea (I can’t blame them for that!), others want to tick off Iceland and Greenland as places they have visited, others want to experience sailing into New York City, and others want to experience Silver Endeavour at a lower price than normal as she is repositioning and ending the Arctic season rolled into one.
As some examples:
I also noticed that time out on the zodiacs was occasionally limited due to colder temperatures. On other expeditions, we would be out for two to three hours no matter what. We did, however, once spend about three hours out when conditions were warmer and the seas calmer.
These are not criticisms, but merely observations and, to be sure, a definite statement that Silversea knows its guests and balances its offerings to appease both the active and less active ones. The active options are generally there, whether for just a few guests or more.
I will be back on Silver Endeavour on November 21, 2023, heading to Antarctica so I can experience the Fly the Drake option. It is a short, but intensive, six days in Antarctica. The same amount of time “on the ice” that most classic expeditions that sail the Drake have but without the four days of crossings (that I feel adds to one’s experience and others are fearful of…usually needlessly!). It will be of great interest to see how the energy and participation of the Silversea guests compare (including me!)…as well as how landings and zodiac cruises are operated. By the way, if you want to join me on my Antarctica expedition on Silver Endeavour, let me know!
With two sea days ahead of us as we head toward the Canadian Maritimes and more of a cruise is coming, it is time to settle down and store my muck boots, but keep my hiking shoes at the ready! The Canadian Maritimes are stunning. Let’s hope the weather continues to be on our side.