Day 6 – Isafjordur

Leisurely start, again, very civilised. I even had time for a proper breakfast! Tender port, so we just pootled until all the organised excursions had gone ashore.  Trying to get into a 100-person lifeboat/tender at the same time as six coach-loads of people want to, does not make for happy motoring. So we waited for the all clear to say that the excursions were all gone, and that we independent passengers could set off to begin our day. Walked into town and found the Tourist Information office – standard map purloining and postcard purchases.  Then we pootled down the only shopping street – the whole town is only about ten roads in total, I think.  Bought a couple of souvenirs and some expensive drinks. You know, the usual visiting a new town kind of a morning.

Iceland’s currency is a little annoying. Basically, a glass of coke or a coffee costs 350 krona, roughly. But the coins are in denominations of 100. This means you need the strength of an ox to carry around a purse, because you would need at least 7 coins just to buy coffee for two. A t-shirt costs 3,500. There are 500 krona notes, but they don’t seem to use them much. And if you pay in Euros, which equates a coke to around 4.5 euros, much more manageable (yes, that is dangerously close to a fiver), the locals will only give you change in their local currency and will only accept euro notes, not coins. It’s bizarre and invariably means your wallet weighs more than any purchases you could possibly have made, short of buying an actual entire car.

We ate in a local cafe for lunch. Not exactly local cuisine but it was all we could find. Icelanders don’t really do lunch. They’re more of a cake and coffee and large supper kind of a nation. I had a plate of chips – being a coeliac affords certain perks when eating out – my menu choices are very limited and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Mum and Dad shared a 15 inch pizza and, yes, they did finish it between them!

One thing Iceland is very good at is disabled-access toilets. Even little cafes have proper loos. It is quite impressive and very useful. In fact, they have very nice toilets generally.

But no matter how pretty the little wooden houses painted in bright colours, or how breathtaking the mountains behind, or how enjoyable our visit, one street is, after all, just one street, and we were back on board by 3.30pm. With very rosy cheeks. The weather was bright but overcast, dry but windy (that’s sunglasses and hooded jackets, to you). And I mean windy. Isafjordur is located in an inlet (fjord) that runs northwest to south east in the top left-hand corner of Iceland, with mountains on three sides, so the wind funnels straight in off the Atlantic, via Greenland and the Arctic, and smacks straight into if you’re walking down the main street. If you’re lucky, it hits your back. If you’re going the other way, it slaps you right in the face. Sunburn is one thing. Wind burn is quite another. My cheeks are still tingling and I have been back on board for over two hours.

Films I have seen so far this cruise: Paddington – LOVED it. So did the parents. When he missed his footing (pawing?), the whole cinema gasped. Devil’s Knot – meh. Did the weird teenagers kill the children? Didn’t they? Don’t really care, to be honest. About Time – schmaltzy but nice. Time travelling romance. You can’t go wrong with a bit of Bill Nighy. Les Mis – yet again – the musical film version. Always enjoyable. And always on on a P&O cruise, because most Med cruises stop at Vigo. Edge of Tomorrow – surprisingly gripping Groundhog Day with futuristic warriors and alien enemies. Tom Cruise even acts in places. No, really. Philomena – well, I haven’t really been watching it, because I find it so upsetting, but it is like an old friend, popping up on the telly every so often. A few minutes of Judy Dench can cure a lot of ills. 3 Days to Kill – dying CIA man does one last job in exchange for life-extending drug. Another surprisingly good action movie – Kevin Costner this time, not Tom Cruise. He is really rather good in this. He has always been good at playing protagonists you don’t like much but develop a grudging respect for (think Waterworld) and he does it again here. He’s not a very nice man and he doesn’t treat people very well, but you can’t help but root for him.

And today: Lucy. A fast-moving but thoughtful action movie/meditation piece about what humans are really on Earth for and what we have the potential to achieve if we just stop grabbing more stuff. Morgan Freeman really does do the wise old man thing very well indeed, although in this, he is pretty much reprising the God role from Bruce Almighty but without the laughs, so it was hardly taxing for him. Scarlett Johanssen is not my favourite actress but as this required as little acting as possible – she was supposed to be losing her emotions – she did just fine.  If you like blood, gore, Scarlett Johanssen in need of a more supportive bra, and a touch of existential philosophy, this, you will love. Needless to say, it is Luc Besson, whose work I love anyway. I’ve watched it twice through already. It may well go into my list of favourite films ever, up there alongside Leon.

Silly little administrative niggle that could get out of hand if I could be bothered #1:

I don’t think I have mentioned the ongoing saga with the water, so, as I am up at 4am with no internet signal, you can get it all now. The day after we boarded, I get a letter in my cabin saying they needed to do some repairs/maintenance and would be turning off the water while we were in Killybegs. So I thought I would be clever and order some mineral water. It’s not cheap, nearly two pound for 1.5 litres, but I’ll always drink it if it’s there. I knew that they have what they call a ‘package’ available, a sort of bulk discount. So I rang Room Service and they said the package was buy six, get one free. Fair enough. So I ordered. Nothing came. So two hours later, I rang back. Oh no, madam, only the cabin steward during the day can bring you a package. But I’m thirsty now and they are turning off the water in the morning. So they brought me one bottle and I signed for it. Pay attention now, there will be a test at the end.

The next day, my water didn’t come until I chased and when it did, it was 5 bottles, which I signed for. Apparently the package is 5+1, not 6+1. Still with me? When I looked at the new bar chit, it said I had signed for 6 bottles. So I went to Reception. They tried to give me a long spiel about the difference between Room Service and cabin stewards. Like I care about their internal administrative boundaries. So then they called the Deck Supervisor and printed my bill, so that we could try and establish precisely what I had been charged for and compare it to what I had actually received. No can do. Because the person who deals with water orders doesn’t bother billing daily. They wait until they have a huge pile and then do them all at once. So despite the guidance in the daily onboard newspaper saying to print out your account to keep track of your spending, you can’t, because they haven’t bothered to bill you.

When I got back from dinner that night, there was an extra bottle of water in my cabin. Still counting? So, by my calculations, I have currently received 7 and signed for 7. Which doesn’t seem like much of a discount to me… Although how many I have been actually charged for is anybody’s guess! Day Six and the water still has not, to my knowledge, been billed, so I am no closer to getting this sorted out. It’s a bit of a farce, really. Naughty, even, because if I wasn’t feeling so relaxed and holiday-like, offering a discount and then not giving it is, of course, a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection Against Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Which all my regular readers will now be well-trained in reciting, I trust! But no need to go there just yet… YET… Watch this space. I’m not going to chase it. If they don’t want to charge me anything at all for seven bottles of surprisingly salty Devon mineral water, why should I care?

It’s called Tarka, by the way. It’s probably less dangerous than drinking neat sea water, but it doesn’t refresh you in the slightest. Seriously, in the event of a nuclear fall-out, you could probably get away with drinking it, but unless the world is actually ending and every other water source is polluted, I’d leave it, if I were you. It’s the least refreshing drink I think I have ever tasted.

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