Greenland – 3 ports, 3 adventures, Epic Norwegian Cruise Fails

I’ve been curious about what was across the Denmark Strait and how similar, or not, it might be to Iceland. Travel is not done by car but rather by boat when weather permits or by small planes. I picked Norwegian Cruise to Greenland specifically due to only having a few sea days and that it would reach three Greenland Ports, Nanortalik, Paaimut, and the capital of Greenland, Nuuk.And besides, I want to be able to say, ‘yes, I have been to Greenland!’ Haha

Boarding the cruise ship was quite messy. There wasn’t any staff to direct you to baggage drop off nor signs for baggage drop off. Even though we had priority boarding, we had to stand in the long line in a strong cold wind for nearly two hours. Once on board, our suite wasn’t ready and we were instructed to drop our carry on bags at another drop off place. We opted out of that and took them to our unlocked room where we met our wonderful cabin crew who let us leave the luggage in the closest storage room.

It was a stressful start to the cruise, so a stop at the Mojito bar to order a flight of Mojitos seemed in order.

There are three stops in Iceland before heading across the Denmark Strait to Greenland. The first port was Djupivogur. We anchored but the ocean was too choppy to take tenders ashore and the port was cancelled. The following ports were Akureryi and Isafjordur. Both towns were terrific stops though I sympathize with the locals that the cruise ships with 2350 passengers are difficult to manage in small towns. You can read more about our stop in Akureryi and Isafjordur.

After a successful day in Isafjordur it’s time to head for Greenland! I am excited to see the Viking ruins and in Nuuk, catch our fish and then go to a restaurant that cooks it! And a fjord cruise in Nanortalik.

Greenland was settled about 985 by the Viking Erik the Red who was actually banished from Iceland because he was such a trouble maker. He had murdered his neighbor in a dispute and the Parliament banished him for 3 years. It was the first, but not the last time that Erik, my ancestor was banished from Iceland. He probably should’ve just kept sailing and discovering new places since he didn’t seem to be able to follow rules.

It is said that when the Vikings came, there weren’t any indigenous peoples. The ancestors of the current Greenlandic natives date back to 1200, approximately 200 years after the Vikings. It was a curiosity to learn that there are no roads connecting the towns and villages in Greenland.

Our arrival is delayed in the first port of Nanortalik due to heavy fog and storm warnings and these itty bitty things called icebergs. One that floated a tad too far out to get a good picture was at least 3 stories high and as long as our ship. It was cool to watch them.

For our tour in Nanortalik, we board a private boat for a tour of the Tasermiut Fjord that I booked 7 months in advance. Well….. we were supposed to do that — until Norwegian Cruise canceled the tour and wouldn’t explain why! By the time we were given notification, there wasn’t anything left to book and truth is the village is so small, it doesn’t really have the infrastructure to accommodate 2350 tourists on a day trip. It’s not the best port to stop in, especially too when we learned we have to use the dreaded tender to get ashore.

For those unfamiliar with tender boats, it is a small craft that takes you from the cruise ship to a dock when the cruise ship is too large to dock on its own. When I first booked this cruise, I looked at the itinerary to see if it had tender ports and only found one listed so thought it would work fine. Instead, there are four out of six ports that are tender ports- No Bueno! Such a hassle!Barrett and I have priority access to get on/off the tenders so that helps with the annoyance of using the small boats but they pack you in like sardines and everyone is always in a hurry to ‘get there first.’Now that our lovely private fjord tour was cancelled, we decided to take a walking tour of the village on our own while trying to kill 10 hours in a port that only has 2 cafes and limited things to do. Wait, 1 cafe, the other is closed. The people of Nanortalik were very friendly, waving and saying hello to us. The poverty was palpable and not lost on us as this huge cruise ship sits in their bay.

Mission accomplished — I’ve been to Greenland! Yay.

They have an open air museum with original buildings that we found of interest. One had original kayaks with seal skins and frames of kayaks to show how they were made.

Everything gets shipped in – including vehicles, building materials, and day to day necessities.

It’s hard to bring perspective to how big the icebergs are, but this one that was banging on the ship outside our balcony was the size of a house.

You can see by the hills next to the icebergs that they are about the same size!

Paamiut is locked in by ice. Port of call cancelled. Not so much a big deal as there really wasn’t anything to do there with the population only 1308 people. The captain stated we were going to move further toward Nuuk, but the ice flow is an issue and is also now cancelled. An announcement is made that due to the ice flow we will anchor in place until a freighter comes through to help us safely navigate out of the ice field. How fun was that?!

Well, at least we were on this ship and not ‘this’ ship – the sailboat followed us out.It was like a tag team – the Freighter, the Norwegian Star, and the sailboat.

And later, there were three icebergs depicting our little tag team with iceberg 1, the freighter in front, iceberg 2, Norwegian star, and tagging in back is iceberg 3, the sailboat — just as it had actually happened earlier.

Wandering around Greenland with Nowhere to go. It could be the icebergs and ice flow OR it could be our captain has been in the whiskey bar a bit too much. The light blue line is our path the last 5 days LOL

Plan B is announced and that is to go to a protected fjord and have a good look at a glacier and then make port to Qaqartoq. Oops….. did the captain think the ice field would disappear? I mean he did announce he was getting updated ice maps! We DO have access to! But Barrett finds a very handy holder for his mojito in our room! No spilling in high seas!

You might be able to guess, but just in case you haven’t, after yet another unplanned sea day, it is announced that the fjord is locked in by ice but not to worry! Qaqartoq is still good to go. The mad scramble to find a tour in the small port city is on as 2348 crazy people crush the shore excursion desk desperately hoping to have something to do in Qaqartoq. Barrett and I are NOT in crazy mode, so we are not counted in the 2348.Of course this is an unplanned stop so I didn’t anticipate anything wonderful on the ship offerings, nor was I able to find anything wonderful, or even moderately fun on my own searches. There was already a ship in Qaqartoq and with limited resources, all typical excursions like going to the Viking ruins were booked by the other ship. I went out and took pictures of the bergs and the ice flow because I figured that’s all we’d be seeing until getting back to Iceland.

In the specialty dining room that night, I was left to wonder who looks at the plate presentations to make sure they aren’t….. ummm…… icky? Weird? Unappetizing?Barrett and I decided, if the ship actually got to Qaqatorq, we would get off and see if we could find a helicopter ride. We didn’t dare try to book anything with Viator since they require a 24 hour advance cancellation and with the way the Greenland leg was going, we would maybe get 24 minutes warning from the bridge — despite they know well in advance what the weather conditions and ice flow look like.

An announcement was made at 830pm for those of use with priority disembarkation to be prepared to get off early at 7am the following morning instead of the planned 9am. I’ll forget about sleeping in but at least the plan was still in place when we went to bed.

We got up early as instructed and checked the map on the screen to see we were nowhere near port and early arrival was not happening so we decided to grab breakfast. As we were standing in line waiting for a table, the lady in front of us said she was a very upset because she had been in line to get an early tender ticket for 2 hours (5-7am) and they were just told that there’s too much ice and we are not going to anchor in Qaqartoq. Huge disappointment! Our new map and itinerary now showed we were heading for South Korea! No joke!

I’d say I was surprised, but I’m not. The lack of communication on all levels by Norwegian is pitiful. An hour went by before the captain announced what we already knew — it’s another sea day! People were amped up yesterday due to the cancellations, delays, and stress and today, the ‘crazy’ is on full tilt. There’s not enough wine or whiskey on this ship to bring down the tension (and of course in some cases that makes it worse) and certainly, since they don’t increase the entertainment/distractions, that’s of no help either. It’s passengers gone wild down at guest services with lots of yelling and hand waving.

Part of traveling is dealing with adversity and unexpected issues. In this case out of 6 ports, we managed to get to 3 and only one of those was in Greenland. That happens. It’s how we all react and how the crew reacts that makes or breaks the adversity and stress levels.

The cabin crews and staff in all of the restaurants were wonderful. Despite long hours, and sometimes crabby guests, the cabin crews and restaurant staff were positive, helpful, and kind. They were the best part of the crew aboard this ship. Well, the two young ladies at the coffee bar who would have Barrett’s coffee ready as soon as they saw him coming, were also pretty great.

Weather issues notwithstanding, because that can happen to any cruise, it’s the lack of communication, the rudeness and lack of training of several of the guest services and shore excursion folks, the cramped ship (it’s too small for 2350 people), and the overall ‘Dollar General’ feeling that I would never recommend Norwegian cruise lines.

This is the best notice we received from the cruise staff in 10 days! And yes, the cruise will definitely ‘stay with us’ but not in the way we had hoped!

The positives are that I’ve been to Greenland! Our two stops in North Iceland were wonderful, and the best news is that this ship is going to dock a day early in Reykjavik adding on an extra day of fun in Iceland. Oh…. and though they’ve told us we can stay on the ship that night ‘for free,’ my suitcase is already packed, the hotel extended 1 extra day, and a dinner reservation at one of my favorite restaurants, Old Iceland House, is waiting for us.

Barrett and I are anxious to get off this ship and reorient ourselves to having the rest of our adventure in a positive mindset. Once we arrive back at the Hilton Konsulat Hotel, we stopped in the lounge at Apotek to have much needed stress relievers after six days of wandering the oceans of Greenland and returning to Iceland. FREE AT LAST AND SO HAPPY! A 20 year Graham’s port can fix pretty much anything!The analogy for Norwegian cruise lines is that when they can’t get all their ducks in order, you just don’t give a duck!

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We love to travel and especially encourage women to go out and see the world! We love history, archaeology and understanding the different cultures throughout the world.

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