‘WTF is that’: Freak sight on my first ever cruise
"Dude, WTF is that?"
We were standing on the deck of our cruise ship, passing through the Arctic Circle (hi Santa). It was 11pm, the sun was still up - not blazing but lit *so were we*- when we saw something huge on the horizon.
"Mate, it's an iceberg. We are about to go full Titanic."
"No way, it's a massive cruiser. Probs the QE2"
"Andrews. Iceberg. It's floating door time."
GAH hang on I went to the end of the story. Start again, start again:
SCENE ONE: THE BEGINNING
My pal Tess and I were being posh bishes on our first ever cruise because like all virgin voyagers, we were on the pursuit of that Titanic life. Dedicating ourselves entirely to The Full Kate Winslet circa Rose, we packed glam outfits to rock on-board at all times, matched with the best lipstick hair combo the silver screen has seen since Judy Garland went colour in Oz. FACT: a blue silk onesie and leopard print turban at the seafood buffet champagne brunch with ice sculpture is not extra, it is simply on point.
Our vessel was the Azamara Pursuit - the newest addition to the Azamara fleet - taking us on a 15-day journey around Iceland and the UK. It was more like a floating boutique hotel, having just been gutted and outfitted (in the same shipyard Titanic was built, how rando is that), so like us, it was ready to be extra.
Boarding in South Hampton (same departure point as Titanic, WOOT) we spent our first day at sea drinking champagne before arriving in Belfast. It was straight to the Titanic museum to pay our respects and shed a tear because damn, history be sad. Following a special performance for the whole ship at St Anne's Cathedral that evening, we set sail for the main event: Iceland.
With another full day at sea, we behaved like novices trying to fit everything into 32 hours. We ate at all five restaurants (from steak and seafood, to fancy Italian, to buffet to grill), sipped martinis in the lounges (free-flowing drinks 24/7 may Oprah bless Azamara's CEO Larry Pimentel), watched the resident artist paint with coffee, had champers with Captain Smith (Titanic's captain had the same name, another co-inkie-dink), hit the D-floor on ABBA night and said yes to as many program activities as we could. From trivia and watercolour classes, to an on-board red-carpet launch of Chanel's newest fragrance, we packed it all in like kids at their first slumber party going hard before our parents came to get us.
The ship docked in Reykjavik for a night, giving us two days to explore. We visited lush volcanic plains, geothermal springs and geysers, swam in the Blue Lagoon, wandered the shops in town and danced in the street at Iceland's biggest cultural festival (excellent timing, Azamara). then, off again to the next port of Ísafjörður - a colourful fishing village of 2,600 residents, with a name that only elves can pronounce.
SCENE TWO: THAT FATEFUL DAY
Opening the cabin curtains, I saw earth rising from sea to sky, looming over the ship like a dirt version of The Perfect Storm. The tiny town was completely bordered by fjords and I felt like we had time travelled because FACT: it looks like Mars will in 56 years once we colonise it.
Joining a half-day tour we drove through a mountain to a fjord behind a fjord to visit Flateyri, an even smaller village of 120 peeps who, according to our guide 'pretty much just live on fish'. Tess and I had lunch at a family-run restaurant where the morning's catch was drying in the sun on black rocks out front, then spent the arvo drinking from waterfalls, hiking hills and eating wild Icelandic blueberries.
We watched the Mars-mountains pass us from the on-deck spa, a G&T in our paws, when Paula (captain of our trivia team) called out to us: "Girls, quick! Get up here, there are whales." Wrapped in pool towels we watched a mamma whale and her baby breach the waters and blow us a farewell, as the fjords shrank from view.
Dressed in our best as per, dinner was a four-course meal and we watched an extremely slow-sinking sunset reflect off glassy-flat ocean while discussing how long we would last in the water if we ever did Titanic. Tess: half an hour. Me: three hours cos I was on the swim team at school. (A: 1-2 hours from hypothermia).
Dessert, a musical performance in the cabaret lounge and a final martini to finish it all off, we headed to bed via the deck to see the last of the night sun, when …
SCENE THREE: BACK TO THE FUTURE WHERE THIS STORY BEGAN.
'Dude WTF is that?' Iceberg, cruise ship etc …
A system announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen I know it's late, but there is a huge iceberg that will be Starboard in 15-minutes. Grab your jackets and your camera. This is most unusual."
We squeaked. We jumped up and down. We did a dad dance on the spot, high-fiving, fist pumping the air and started singing My Heart Will Go On. The iceberg was coming towards us. Very, very slowly. Like, stupid slowly (srsly, how did they not avoid it in 1912?).
The deck got hekkers. Passengers swarmed like ants from below just as excited by the forthcoming 'berg as us, clicking their massive cameras as we all discussed global warming (and the Titanic). Shivering in our Rose threads, once again we confirmed that we'd share the floating door because we ain't selfish like a certain someone. FACT: Jack could have fit.
"This is a first in my life" said the ship's on-board NASA ambassador who suddenly appeared beside me. 'I was in the Navy for years, and have spent over three thousand nights at sea but I have never seen a rogue iceberg." The sky was an eerie cold blue and the creepy night-sun was adding to the drama. "That's two miles away - look how big it is."
With a huge cavern at the front, a tall peak above it and flat back, it looked like a monstrous ghost ship. There was nothing to give us perspective on its height (my guess was a three story house) until an announcement confirmed the height of the berg out of the water was over 100 metres. So underwater was around a kilometre - maybe more? Mental.
The sunset appeared behind the iceberg and we realised Captain Smith was doing a lap for us to view the whole shebang. He knew his audience. We were all out here to Titanic this eve. This collection of 600 global travellers, Titanic'ing as one, at the top of the world. Whale Country. Iceberg territory. My dream come true. I was Rose, biiiish. Done up in my threads, lippy five-star and ready to go down … stairs cos it was -1 degree.
The rest of the trip kept giving. We spent two more days exploring Icelandic towns and learning about their Viking history from people who looked like Vikings, before heading back to the UK. We made our way south from Scotland, saw The Pope in Dublin (again, excellent timing Azamara), met a Nobel-Peace Prize winner at an evening on-board, visited beautiful old fishing ports, saw lots of street art, and continued to lap up the cruise life every night. We discovered many passengers were addicted to cruising. I met a lady on her 33rd Azamara voyage (her fourth in 6 months), and a man who had stopped counting after his 80th cruise, ten years ago. "It doesn't matter where we go" he said to me over at our final breakfast, "The ship is our destination."
FACT: cruise ships are floating 5 star hotels that bring the world to you … and bring dreams to life. Specifically dreams that are all about being Rose on the Titanic (but without the sink). Guys, dreams do come true - never stop believing.
This writer was a guest of Azamara Club Cruises
The next 15 day Icelandic Voyage with Azamara Club Cruises.