If one was asked to do Ten Best Sunrises, the list would include waking up at such luxury hotels as Amangiri in Utah, or in The Peninsula in Bangkok, or running over Sydney Harbour Bridge. That is three.
You will find seven more more described on this luxury lifestyle trip, as the marvellous expedition ship Silver Explorer follows the Viking trail from Tromsø to Dublin. As with every cruise, there are always some who get up early – more at the beginning, when people vow to be good, and to exercise.
The number invariably tails off as days progress. Actually at the beginning of the voyage it was cloudy. We sailed into Leknes, in the Lofoten Islands of Norway, and no sun at all.
At the island of Runde it was raining so hard the sun was a distant memory. Hey ho. We took zodiacs close to shore, looking back at Silver Explorer framed, as it were, between two rocks that had been there since prehistory.
We got close enough to Runde’s caves and steep cliffs to see thousands of gannets perched precariously on the tiniest ledges. Each makes a unique noise so its partner, returning with food, knows whom to come back to.
Thinking of sunrises, I am reminded of Anthony Hopkins’ quote: ‘I’m most suspicious of scripts that have a lot of stage direction at the top of a page, sunrise over the desert and a whole essay before you get to the dialogue’.
It was in Bergen that the sun began to show itself early. I did my usual 20-lap deck walk, always in an anti-clockwise direction, while the doctors from Taiwan did their tai chi on the stern deck. They have 19 rescued dogs back home -wonder how they react when tai chi is going on?
It was in Bergen that we met the mad fork-lift truck driver from northern England who, having reached mid-life crisis at 40, had thrown it all up in favour of cycling round Europe, carrying everything from tent to cookpots to fishing rod with him.
In Invergordon the brilliant sunrise illuminated views of stumps of oil drilling rigs or similar. Soon, as the sun came up, we were to see the old oil platform that that controversial Egyptian, Mohamed Fayed, once planned to make into a hotel. What a monstrosity. He has a massive fishing estate nearby, so I guess he wanted this for his guests.
There have been even weirder hotels, like the Ice Hotels in Sweden and now Canada. The Canadians particularly seem to go in for oddities. An IT millionaire named Zita Cobb wants to give back to the island of her birth, Fogo Island in the Barr’d Islands of Newfoundland.
Only 2,400 people remain there. She will shortly open a $25-million, 29-room Inn with super-luxury hotel fittings, and a couple of artists’ studios as added attraction.
Orkney’s sun came up beautifully, and a couple of non-exercising Silver Explorer travellers ventured up with their cameras. There is something about a sunrise, knowing another day is starting. Best time of the day, say many.
That was certainly one of the best times of that day because, as we watched, an orange ball appeared, not too far away from the sun. The Taiwanese guy said the Swedish ship’s doctor knew what it was, the Swede said the Taiwanese knew, but the general consensus judged it not to be a good weather omen.
Orkney, particularly its second town, Stromness, turned out to be a delight, anyway. The discovery of the town’s Pier Arts Centre with its amazing Hepworths and Lowrys, all so magnificently displayed in a building that had once been the Scottish headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was very moving. The Company, and thus Canada, would never have grown to what it is today without the influx of Scottish explorers who opened up the country, and its trading.
Take John Rae, who finally discovered the Northwest Passage but also found out, from the Inuit, that previous explorers on Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition had resorted to cannibalism. Real Victorian men do not ‘do’ that, and for suggesting they had he was not knighted, and was shunned by society.
Sailing into Skye, the morning sky looked a little threatening, but in fact the day turned out to be glorious. Lots of trekking on dry land, while the German tourists’ cars bustled around the island (thanks to the bridge to the mainland, they can drive here pretty easily).
Yet another lovely day on Silver Explorer. The German baker’s breads at breakfast, service from Tommy from the Philippines or Oksana from the Ukraine, or Shane from South Africa. Yet another magnificent buffet at lunch, yet another multi-course plated dinner in the evening, sitting with who you wish.
The gal’s advice for luxury cruising is never, ever go on any ship which has set seating, and where you have to pay for drinks. You do not drink more, on ‘all inclusive’, but because you can drink whatever, whenever, and because service is included, you can dine with whoever you like, when you like.
And so, a sunrise came up as we slipped into our berth in Belfast, opposite the new Titanic Centre, and another, on the last day, as we came into Dublin, to disembark. A few new friends continued on, to the Scilly Isles and the Canaries, and even on to Tomé, and Accra and Cape Town en route to Antarctica.
But most of us disembarked, and with typical Silversea efficiency we were given a view of the aftermath of last night’s American football game, Notre Dame versus the US Navy at Dublin’s new Aviva stadium. The Notre Dame coaches were, I think, on our plane back to London (stubble hair, big muscles). Bet they do not eulogise about sunrises.