The Land of Icebergs and Midnight Sun

In three weeks I’m setting off to explore new waters. I’ll board Holland America’s ms Zuiderdam to sail the northern Atlantic and trace the Voyage of the Vikings.

This 35-day cruise starts and ends in Boston. It sails through New England, the Canadian Maritimes, Greenland and Iceland, then stops in Norway and Rotterdam, the Netherlands. On the return we sail to Ireland and Northern Ireland and then stop at different ports in Ireland, Greenland and Canada.

The Voyage of the Vikings is one of Holland America’s most popular longer cruises, and previous cruisers rave about it. My two sisters are joining me. Three in a cabin promises to be an adventure in itself. We have booked an inside J-category, on the lowest deck and near the middle. I’ve heard these J cabins are some of the largest inside cabins in the fleet (and Holland America is known for larger-than-average cabins).

We booked this cruise 18 months ago, and I’ve participated on the Cruise Critic roll call for most of that time. If you are a cruiser and haven’t discovered the Cruise Critic roll calls, you should check them out. There is a thread for virtually every cruise. The website organizes them by cruise line, then by ship and lastly by specific cruises.

Each thread develops its own character as fellow passengers join and post. On my previous cruises as many as a fifth of the ship passengers have participated in roll calls (which are independent of cruise lines).

Our roll call participants have scheduled two “meet and greets” during the cruise. We have joined together to book private tours and share information about the ports and cruise line. One group from Florida already has met. We will have a cabin crawl to see the layouts of various classes and sizes of cabins and suites. People have formed interest groups for photography, mah jongg, knitting and other crafts. With about 15 sea days, we will have plenty of time for these activities.

Meanwhile, I also am putting together my packing list. I’ve written here and here about these for previous cruises. This time I am committed to packing lighter (no 12 pairs of shoes!), especially because we have three people in the cabin. My current list includes:

  • All-weather jacket with zip-out lining
  • Hat and gloves
  • Hoodie and sweater
  • Long-sleeved tops (4)
  • Short-sleeved tops (4)
  • Dress and dress pants/tops with various scarves for evening and gala nights
  • Water-resistant shoes, sneakers, sandals and dress sandals (total 4 shoes)
  • Swimsuit and water shoes for Iceland lagoons
  • Underwear, socks, nightgown

I’ll also take toiletries, first-aid kit, prescription medications, laptop, cell phone, assorted charging cables and my sketching supplies. I debated long about whether to take my SLR camera and lenses, but will probably leave them at home. My iPhone along with Ollo lenses will suffice, and I would rather spend time ashore sketching than taking hundreds of pictures.

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