POESIA of the North Atlantic – Part Two
By Kalle Id
May 26 – Tórshavn
The next item in our itinerary was Tórshavn, the capital of Faroe Islands (an autonomous province of Denmark). We were scheduled to arrive at 1 PM, but came in a bit early. To make most of our six hours in the city, we skipped lunch and headed out as soon as it was possible. Tórshavn turned out to be fascinating city of small, winding streets and small corner shops selling just about anything imaginable.
After some hours spectating the buildings we made our way to a beach opposite to the harbour for what I thought was going to be my last shipspotting rendez-vous of the cruise, documenting Smyril Line’s 2003-built ferry NORRÖNA. The NORRÖNA maintains a long-run ferry service, linking the Danish mainland to the Faroe Islands and (during the summer months) Iceland. Arguably this makes the NORRÖNA the only ship alongside QUEEN MARY 2 to maintain a liner service on the North Atlantic – but of course, the NORRÖNA is a workmanlike ferry quite far removed from the luxuries of the QM2.
After an exhausting wander around Tórshavn we returned onboard an hour or so before departure. As we were making it onboard the ship, an interesting ship I had not known I’d encounter during this trip arrived in port, namely the local Faroese ferry SMYRIL. Owned by Strandfaraskip Landsins, she provides a connection from Tórshavn to the town of Tvøroyri on the Suðuroy (South Island) of the Faroes. While my wife retired to our cabin for a nap, I stayed on deck, photographing the SMYRIL’s departure and then proceeded to take some photographs of the MSC POESIA’s interiors while the ship was still (relatively) empty.
May 27 – at sea
Another overcast day on the choppy North Atlantic awaited us on the morning of our fifth day onboard. After breakfast (mostly fruit on my part) we headed to the Carlo Felice theatre for a lecture on Iceland. This turned out to be quite basic, if interesting. It worth pointing out that this one lecture was the only Iceland-related activity onboard during the entire length of the cruise, despite the fact most passengers were probably onboard on this cruise to see Iceland, not so much the onboard experience itself.
Following the lecture it was time to head to the gym again for an extended workout. At my suggestion we followed the workout with a trip to the jacuzzi on deck – a very interesting experience when the outside temperature was around +8 degrees Celsius (+46 degrees Fahrenheit).
I haven’t yet said much about the dining experience in the main dining rooms. After our previous cruise on the MSC SINFONIA, we were expecting to be served excellent Italian cuisine rich in taste and made from fresh ingredients. In this respect the MSC POESIA let us down: many of the ingredients were not fresh and the items served lacked taste. What particularly suffered from this were the fish courses and basic items of Italian kitchen you’d expect MSC to do well, namely pastas and risottos. In part the problems were due to MSC’s insistance of offering Italian cuisine made from Mediterranean, rather than local, ingredients. As an example, on this particular night we were served swordfish that clearly came from a freezer (like most other fishes served) and lacked both the taste and appearance of fresh swordfish. We left the dining room wondering why frozen fish was served when we were sailing on the best North Atlantic fishing waters and passed from one fishing industry town to the other?
Following dinner it was back to Carlo Felice for another well-produced show. As MSC caters to a bewildering array of languages and nationalities, certain types of entertainment are ruled out, but the company does a very good job with what they are left with. This night, we were treated with an extravaganza of dancers, a juggler, a magician and gymnasts. Not present this particular night were trapeze artists and a bewildering array of vocalists (incidentally including Mimma Barra, who was also onboard MSC SINFONIA during our visit to that ship). As an additional small point in MSC’s favour, the male artists in the shows were clad in outfits as interesting and revealing as the female dancers, which got much approval from our group of two.
May 28 – Akureyri
Our first taste of Iceland was the country’s second-largest urban center Akureyri, located on the island’s northern coast. This turned out to be a small town with 17 000 inhabitants but an array of interesting sights, including a botanical garden, churches and museums. Of an interest was also an outdoors public pool – mainly due to the fact it was well-patronized by locals, despite the fact the outside temperature was around +10 degrees C. The pool, alongside many other buildings in the city, was to my delight in 1930s functionalist style.
We somehow managed to spend closer to eight hours walking around the city, despite the fact we thought we didn’t do much. Hence it was time for us to head back onboard the POESIA. It turned out we hurried for nothing as our departure was delayed by over an hour while waiting for water provisions.
With the disappointments of the previous evening firmly in mind, we opted to dine at Villa Pompeiana. The pizzas and make-your-own burgers and hot dogs were not much to our tastes, but there was also an excellent salad buffet which we eagerly patronized, especially since the salads section during other meals had been quite slim. Following dinner was retreated to the S32 disco/observation lounge, skipping the evening’s official entertainment in favour of the beauty of the Icelandic coast. In this respect we were not the only ones, with a number of other passengers and even some crew members spending the evening in the disco or outside deck, admiring and photographing the views.
Kalle Id, MaritimeMatters' Helsinki correspondent, is a Finnish maritime historian, photographer and journalist, with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Helsinki. His early-age exposure to ferry travel led to a lifetime fascination with passenger ships, both the cruise ferries of his home waters and the cruise ships and ferries of further afield. Kalle maintains his own ship photography blog at kships.blogspot.com. Contrary to the popular belief, he writes under his real name.