July 31, 2018 - Today, Viking Sky is anchored off the coast of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. The view from our balcony this morning shows a much flatter terrain than we left behind in the Shetland Islands.
Our excursion today is one of the ship's included tours: 'Highlights of Historic Orkney' and we are supposed to meet at the tender pier on shore at 12:40. That means we have to allow at least 30 minutes for the tender ride to shore, which means, we have little time for lunch (which starts service at 11:30). World Cafe is the obvious choice for a quick meal. Today, Chef Noack is featuring a Caesar Salad bar on the Aquavit Terrace (Deck 7 aft). Options include grilled chicken or seafood, bacon, Parmesan cheese shavings, croutons and a variety of breads. My salad was delicious!
After lunch, we hurry down to Deck A to board the tender boat to shore. A huge crowd has formed in the Deck A elevator lobby waiting to board the tender, and an even larger group of guests is coming off of the tender and returning to the ship. Traffic in this area can get pretty hectic at peak periods. However, soon, we are able to board the tender and I have to say, these are extremely nice tender boats.
When we arrive ashore, we board our motorcoach for the 2 & 1/2 hour tour. After a brief drive through the town of Kirkwall, we drive about 20 minutes to The Ring of Brodgar. This Neolithic henge and stone circle is found about 6 miles northeast of the town of Stromness on the largest island in Orkney. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
The ring is actually a massive circular arrangement of 60 stones, 27 of which remain standing. A large ditch surrounds the stone circle. Nobody really knows why the stones were placed here, or how. We walked around the entire ring, attempting to take some photos while avoiding the hundreds of other tourists—not an easy task. The best time for photos here would be early morning or late afternoon, before or after the cruise ship traffic descends on the site.
The Ring of Brodgar is one of the most interesting historical sites we have visited. As we drive away from the Ring of Brodgar, we pass by the Ness of Brodgar, an archeological dig, and the Standing Stones of Stennes, yet another neolithic henge monument. Our next stop is Stromness, the second-largest town on the island.
A statue of John Rae stands at one of the streets entering the town. He is credited with discovering the final portion of the Northwest Passage.
We spend about 45 minutes walking through the streets of Stromness, occasionally popping into a local shop. Honestly, there is not a lot to see here, but it is nice to be outside on this beautiful sunny, and uncharacteristically warm, day in Orkney. And, this is a great town for walking, which is something we need to do more!
The coach ride back to the port of Kirkwall takes us by Scapa Flow. This body of water is sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It has been used by ships since prehistory and it has played an important role in travel, trade and conflict throughout the centuries - especially during both World Wars.
During WWI, Scapa Flow was home to the British Fleet. Following the German defeat in WWI, 74 ships of the Imperial German Navy were interred at Scapa Flow. The German officer in command made the decision to scuttle the fleet because the negotiation period for the treaty had lapsed with no word of a settlement.
Soon, we arrive back in Kirkwall and board the last tender boat back to Viking Sky. This evening, we visit The Star Theater where we enjoy 'Beyond The Sea', a show performed by Cruise Director, Arron Syfert.
Aaron performed songs from artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra.
The theater was completely packed for this performance and everyone gave a standing ovation at the end. It was the perfect finish to another wonderful day aboard Viking Sky.
Tomorrow, Viking Sky will be in Edinburgh, Scotland.