Below are a few additional thoughts about the Greenland to Toronto trip described in earlier posts.

The Ship

The 4000 ton Clelia II was built in 1990. It was one of Renaissance Cruises small ships. After the demise of that line it was a private yacht and was often chartered. It currently is one of Travel Dynamics three ships. It underwent a renovation in 2009 to equip it for cold weather travel. Despite the recent work the ship shows signs of wear. There were nicks and scrapes around the sliding door that led to our cabin’s balcony. As already mentioned, the elevator didn’t always work. There was no heat in our 6th floor room. The best the engineering staff could do was give us an electric heater. Other cabins were said to be too hot. The television didn’t work. Not caring very much we didn’t report this until half way through the cruise. It turned out that the heater was plugged into the only socket that could accept the TV’s plug. So we could watch or be warm, but not both. We opted for the latter. Even with the heater on the temperature was still brisk. The engineers also plugged the air conditioning vents which were gamely pouring out cold air with blankets and plastic. They gave us regular reports of the room temperature in an effort to compensate for the lack warmth. There were also a few rusty spots about the outside of the ship that probably shouldn’t have been there.

The public areas of the ship was all in good order. The lounge on the 4th floor seemed open virtually all the time. Unless your taste in beverages wandered to the exotic there was no additional charge. You could drink until you dropped. Tea was served here every afternoon except for a few days when it was warm enough to serve tea on the outside rear deck on the 5th floor.  There was another lounge on the 3rd floor. This was where all the lectures were presented as were the movies that were shown during the trip.

The Food

There was plenty of it. You could have it sent to your room any time you wished. You could eat all your meals in your room if you felt so inclined. Dinner was open seating but at a specified time. There was about 30 minutes of wiggle room for the start of the evening meal. The small number of passengers – about 80 – meant that most got to know each other pretty quickly. People readily joined other guests at what ever table had space. In general, the food was very good. The kitchen did better with beef than fish. Much of the fish tasted as though it had been frozen too long and had dried out. There were many items not on the menu that could be had by request. It took us a few days to figure out what they were. After dinner there was nothing to do but drink, which is what a number of passengers did. There was piano player who played in the bar. We went to sleep after the last meal. The only warm place in our room was under several covers  topped by a coat.

The Staff & Expedition Leader

The stewards, waiters, and expedition staff were the best I have ever seen at sea. They knew everyone’s first name by the second day and were very quick to figure out what ever special needs the guests might have. Given the advanced age of this group there were a lot of special needs. If a guest was on a low salt diet low salt food followed him like a bad habit. After quickly figuring out what everyone liked to drink the staff presented the favored drink as soon as the passenger slowed enough to grasp it. Despite multitasking as waiters and butlers the staff managed to be unfailingly cheerful.

John Frick

The expedition leader, the equivalent of the cruise director on a more conventional cruise, was John Frick. He gave regular updates and summaries about where we were going or had been. He went out in a Zodiac and checked every landing site before the guests went ashore. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable about the arctic. He even gave an astronomy lesson on the ship’s top deck. Unfortunately there was a full moon that night which made astronomical observations with the unaided eye difficult. Mr Frick was the perfect host or shepherd for this tour. He was unflappable and omnipresent.

The Lectures

There was at least one lecture a day. many were related to where we were, but some were a stretch. The two most frequent speakers were Ron Smith from Yale. I linked to him on the first part of this series. The other frequent speaker was Capt Alfred McLaren, USN (Ret).

Smith’s talks were:
1. Living in High Latitudes
2. Greenland and Global Climate Change
3. Seasons in the Arctic: The View from Space
4. Global Warming: Data and Controversy

McLaren’s talks were:
1. Discovery and Habitation of Greenland, Baffin Island and Labrador in Ancient Times
2. Baffin Bay
3. The Evolution of the Arctic Submarine: 1648 to the present
4. Return to Titanic: 1999 & 2003
5. Triumph & Tragedy: DKM Bismarck

Both lecturers offered interesting presentations that were well prepared and well illustrated.  Both are true believers of man-made global warming, Smith especially so. He was challenged by one of the audience who while vociferous did not make a good counter argument. What Smith showed was a strong association between a rise in atmospheric CO2, presumably the result of the combustion of fossil fuel, and an increase in surface temperature. From this association he assumed causality. This is a common error made by scientists. Association does not prove cause. The association may indicate cause and effect, but additional evidence is required before causality is proved. An experiment needs to done where only one variable is changed. If the uncontrolled variable also changes as predicted by the hypothesis undergoing testing than causality is established. Unfortunately, the experiment need to prove that increase CO2 emissions are the cause of global temperature increase is staggeringly expensive, ie markedly reduce carbon emissions. If we do it and temperature doesn’t change the cost would be ruinous. Even if the two are causally related the cost of fixing the problem may be worse than the temperature increase itself. In any event, Smith’s lecture were provoking and worth serious attention.

McLaren is the archetypal crusty old salt. He’s spent 5 years of his life under water in a submarine. He’s still ready, even in his late 70s, to risk life and limb for the next adventure. A nuclear submarine commander and undersea explorer, his tales were fascinating even when they had little to do with the arctic voyage.

The Experience

So would I do it again? Yes if I hadn’t already done it. Many on board were a little disappointed that things weren’t more painful. They wanted more wet landings and difficult hikes. The level of difficulty for me, however, was just about right.The price was pretty steep; but the trip was pretty far from the conventional cruise.

The only hesitation I have about recommending this or a similar trip on this ship or line is that Travel Dynamics International is a small company. A global hiccup could easily put it out of business. So before you sign up for one of their journeys make sure you can buy an insurance policy that covers bankruptcy for any reason. Otherwise go for it.

Orion Expedition Cruises announced the forthcoming long-term charter of Clelia II, a 100-passenger, all-suite luxury expedition cruise ship, to be renamed Orion II.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here