Friday, July 20, 2007

Greenland, Euro-style

This Greenland expedition is American-friendly -- but it's a decidely European experience.

On the American-friendly side: Announcements are in English as well as Danish (and often, German.) Tours are offered in English, and the staff speaks perfect English. It's also relatively easy to get here from America: Air Greenland offers a direct flight from Baltimore that takes about five hours.

Despite the ease, there are only five Americans on board: myself, The Husband, and three Californians. Dave is an astronomer; Arden is a geologist with his wife, Charlene.

European twists: Bedding, food, faiclities, pricing and even the languid pace are Northern European. No children's programs here; a few families have brought pre-teens and teens, but they stick with parents or grandparents (unless they're racing cars on the X-box right here next to the Internet cafe.) Our beds feature duvets but no topsheet -- as is the custom in Germany and Scandanavia. Facilities includes European favorites: workout room, Jacuzzis and a sauna.

And foodwise, the approach is definitely Northern European: fresh and tasty, but heavy on fish (fresh and smoked), starches (potatoes, macaroni salads), sugary desserts, meats smoked and those well and thoroughly cooked. (Reindeer features regularly and, predictably, tastes like beef.) Dinner is a set menu of starter, soup, entree and dessert; the alternative entree must be ordered early in the day.

Things you won't find on board: Red cocktail sauce, light beer, spa and casino.

Another European trait: A sense of reserve among many guests. This is due partly to language, partly to generation: Most of the guests on board are well past 65. (Those younger are more likely to chat, we've found.) Part of it is also culture. Americans as a breed tend to be outgoing; experience has taught me that it's much rarer for Europeans to chat up strangers and the staff.

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