Experiencing Norwegian Medical Care...
A dentist's visit was not on our original itinerary. During breakfast hub discovered a piece of tooth dislodged, not hurting but bothering him. Realizing another week traveling with a broken tooth would be upsetting at best, he made a beeline for the ship's reception desk. Luckily the ship was scheduled for a three hour stop in Bodo, a town of 50,000. The staff made a dental appointment and ordered a taxi to be waiting at the dock.
The ship docked about half an hour late. Disembarking, a car awaited at the bottom of the gangplank. The driver, speaking excellent English - he spent time at school in the states - drove us to the dentist, who happened to be the driver's brother.
The office was neat and clean. We noticed several pairs of shoes along one wall, and a waiting patient pointed to a sign on the wall - leave shoes here (in Norwegian, but we figured out what the sign meant). Luckily hub wore socks without holes, not a regular occurrence!
The dentist visit proved successful, a positive socialized medicine experience. X-rays taken, the tooth fixed, the dentist called his brother on his cell phone to pick us up.
The office's credit card machine did not accept our credit card. Most machines in this part of the world nowadays require a chip and password. Hub paid with cash. He did not have quite enough to cover the bill, but the dentist accepted whatever we had and sent us on our way.
Walking outside our cab pulled up. Hub requested a stop at an ATM, then handed our driver the rest of the money owed on the dental bill, telling him to give the dentist (his brother) the cash.
We pulled up in front of the ship with about ten minutes to spare before sailing.
Life aboard ship...
The extended darkness blends together day and night. Towns are lighted by house and building lights, street lights, and holiday lights. Leaving for a tour on shore during the day, the atmosphere seems like nighttime. Returning one wants to head for bed, feeling as if it is late at night when only mid-afternoon. Our bodies are conditioned to sleep when it is dark outside, and that feeling envelops us even though we might not actually be tired.
Road Scholar is part of an Astronomy group. Leisure time is punctuated by a series of eight lectures offered by an expert on the skies in this part of the world. In addition our tour leader, John Haywood, an authority on the Vikings and the author of books on the subject, offers a series of five lectures.
Ship life is slow-paced. Our stateroom is small, but there is lots of public 'hanging out' space. We linger over meals, move to the bar area for after lunch or dinner drinks, and socialize with fellow Road Scholar travelers. We read and use computers, although internet is not free, often sporadic or non-existent.
At times we hit rough seas. We make sure everything in our cabin is stored away and secure. Hub is fine, I feel queasy at times, although have not needed the travel sickness bags placed strategically around the ship.
The best time to view the Northern Lights is evening, and we walk outside to examine the skies. No sign of stars, the overcast night does not bode well for seeing anything. We retire for the night. If there is promise of viewing the phenomenon, we hang out a while longer. Some nights the ship's chefs offer treats on the observation deck, such as potatoes and fishcakes (prepared the Norwegian way).
Sailing through the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, and the Arctic Ocean, I am amazed at the number of inhabitants and the variety of businesses in this part of the world. Tromso, calling itself the capital of the Arctic, is a vibrant city of over 70,000 plus home to a university. Towns bustle with economic activity, fishing and tourism the major industries, but companies from mining to high tech maintain facilities in towns along Norway's Arctic coast.
Next post, hopefully pictures. The ship's internet connection in our current location refuses to upload photos.