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Port Notes: At Sea -- Bound for Edinburgh

The clocks turned back an hour on Saturday night, which had the welcome effect of making us all feel extra virtuous when our bodies woke us up early anyways. The Lido buffet opened to a gathered crowd of hungry travelers, and most of the people arriving at 8am choir practice were already quite awake--with only a few folks collapsing into outer circle armchairs to serve as sleepy observers. Singers learned to support their voices with breaths from the gut, and Garrison praised the addition of new baritones in the mix.

It was a good day for learning new things. Serious student-types crowded the Wajang Theater for lectures by Bjorn and Melissa, and there was only standing room left at Garrison & Brian's presentation on Nordic humor. Contributions by audience members, including a limerick about Norway, were welcome additions to the program. Morning performances continued to be busy: the "Faces for Radio" talk by Fred, Sue, and Tim in the Ocean Bar filled up until there was only sitting-on-the-floor room. A mirthful audience listened, enthralled, as Heather Masse sang at the Mix Bar and pianist Jed Wilson harmonized on the choruses. Meanwhile, members of the Knights Quartet kept things interesting with a variety of compositions including a few violin duets.

Weather-wise, the day started off rather cold and grey, but just after midday the sun seemed to shine gloriously and exclusively into the Lido Pool, which was otherwise populated by the sound of children and the smells of nachos. On the promenades, a few guests dozed off, wrapped in blankets on chaise lounges. Those who opted to rest a while in their cabins found their swag bags complete with goodies including APHC shot glasses, notebooks, and earbud holders.

"Spirits" were high in the Crow's Nest at John's scotch tasting, the air heavy with the sweet smell of the liquor. Tasters scattered throughout the room in small groups discussed their favorite bottles--I hear #2 and #5 were especially delicious. As the afternoon wound down into night, we prepared for the first big showroom performance with Garrison and for our first stop in Edinburgh.

Lecture Notes -- Rich MacDonald

Being a naturalist is a joy! It means rising early to observe all manner of ephemera and phenomena, as well as working with a host of wonderful characters. This year, that host consists of five.

Bjorn Follestad has been a Norwegian geologist since 1970. Geology really is the bedrock of our natural sciences, so if you have any questions about rocks, minerals, glaciers, or climate change, Bjorn is your man.

Melissa Gjellstad may hail from the prairies, but she is as Scandinavian as her name sounds. A background in academia suits her perfectly to teach us everything we ever wanted to know about Vikings, literature, language, and Norwegian culture.

Bendik Rugaas describes his life as having been wrapped in books and poetry in various capacities at UNESCO, as a professor in Norway, Britain, the U.S., and the Norwegian embassy. He is a real English major's English major (except that he is Norwegian).

Natalie Springuel is expert on everything to do with the ocean. Want to know about whales? She is your woman. What is that funny looking boat? Natalie can take you through the history of various fisheries. She is a master navigator, too; so pay attention when she opens up the nautical chart.

And me? I'm the bird nerd! My career as someone who knows things about birds began when I was 10, banding ducks on the Niagara River. I have studied boreal birds and waterbirds in New York States Adirondack Park. And now I lead birding tours in Maine and beyond, teach ornithology, and continue with bird research.

Performer Profiles -- Brian Dan Christensen

Brian Dan Christensen is a true renaissance man. He's a novelist, translator, poet, carpenter, songwriter, and now, our resident funny man. He's onboard to talk about Nordic humor, about as dark as a Norwegian winter. Get ready to laugh.

Brian grew up in Åarhus, Denmark, but fell in love with America from afar through the music of pioneers like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Simon and Garfunkel. He says, "It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw - I've gone to look for America." These troubadours made him want to explore the U.S. He first came over when he was 22 and traveled widely, discovering the place he'd dreamed about for so long. He returned to Denmark briefly to earn a master's degree in comparative literature (and a change of clothes), but came back soon after. He now makes his home with his wife Dana in Brooklyn.

Brian works primarily as a writer and translator. He just finished a novel that's being published in Danish, The Road to Alberta. Most of us will have to wait for the English version to come out. He's currently working the Danish translation of a 600-page biography about Muhammad Ali. Brian is somewhat of an expert on the Louisville Lip, as he also translated Norman Mailer's The Fight about the 1974 boxing title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire.

Brian's artistry is certainly not limited to the written word. You may have heard him doing his renditions of Elvis tunes on an APHC broadcast from the Ryman in 2014. He describes his voice as a "late-night baritone," plays 6-string guitar, 4-string tenor guitar, piano and fiddle. He currently gigs around New York playing country songs and originals. Brian also has an affinity for fixing up old things, which he attributes to his Nordic blue-collar stock. He comes from a long line of cabinetmakers and fishermen. He feels right at home on the sea as an open-water swimmer and sailor. His last time on the North Sea, unfortunately, was a harrowing experiencing in a tiny fishing boat that played terrible tricks on his stomach. He bravely says, "I'm ready to reconquer the Skagerak."

Shirley and & Christian Stehr, members of the "All Cruises Club" hail from Hilton Head, North Carolina. Christian, a retired Anesthesiologist, emigrated with his family from Bavaria to Chicago. Shirley is an RN from Kansas City and they met, in of all places, the operating room. Shirley is also a nurse for Holland America, and the two of them have traveled more on water than on paved roads. But they point out that when they cruise with Garrison, it is no work and all play.

When did you first start listening to APHC?
Shirley: I read Lake Wobegon back in college and became a fan before I randomly came across the show listening to the radio. Chris started listening to the show after we got married.

One sketch or joke that stands out from the radio show?
The "Mom" sketches where Sue Scott plays the meddling guilt-giving Mom to her beleaguered son Duane (played by Garrison Keillor).

Best part of about an APHC cruise?
The people we've met, especially from Savage, Minnesota that have been on past cruises - the Hudciak's, Frank and Margorie - who invited us up to finally see Garrison perform live at the 40th Anniversary Show at Macalester College.

Easiest part of an APHC cruise?
Shirley: Since I work as a nurse on cruise ships, my coworkers think I'm crazy to spend our vacations on a ship because to them it's work. For us, we're able to switch from crew to passenger mode easily with this kind of cruise.

Greatest place to be on the ship?
Walking on the Promenade Deck either sunrise or sunset. That would be our hangout place.

One person who really stands out for you in the show?
Fred Newman, who is very personable, very animated - and we are fascinated by the way Fred reacts when Garrison throws him a sound effect curve.

Next APHC cruise you'd like to go on?
We would love to go to Antarctica, during January; the naturalists would just go nuts. It's like being in another universe. Unfortunately, they don't do charter cruises there. So our next choice would be South America.

View From the Bow -- Natalie Springuel

Yes! You can expect to see marine mammals on this cruise! Look for minke whales, harbor or gray seals, white-beaked dolphins and common porpoise. Sperm whale and orca may even join our adventures. On the bird front, look for great skuas, northern fulmars, and Atlantic puffins, to mention just a few.

Spotting wildlife can feel daunting in the North Atlantic. It takes time, patience, and a good bit of luck. Join the "Naturalist on Deck" to increase your odds. More eyes make for more observations! We'll share wildlife spotting tips and camaraderie in this Prairie Home cruise favorite. As always, seasoned and newbie nature lovers are welcome.

Naturalists on Deck programs are located on the bow (front of the ship) of Deck 4 - the Promenade Deck, in front of the Showroom at Sea. The best way to get there is via Deck 3 (Lower Promenade Deck). Proceed along the Outdoor Walkaround of Deck 3 until you get to the bow. Look for the double doors on the forward- facing starboard (right) side of the bow. Open these doors, then head up the stairs and go through the door to the bow deck.

Look at your daily schedule to confirm times.

Literary Limericks

Excerpted from Garrison's forthcoming book of limericks to be published by Grove/Atlantic

The great transcendental Thoreau
Went to live in the woods long ago
And wrote lovely prose While his mom washed his clothes
And fixed him hot lunches to go.

Here is a yawp for old Walt
Whitman, who's well worth his salt
Though sometimes he'll slip
And just let her rip
And say, "Camerados! What is this blade of grass? Who am I? Who are you" And you have to say, HALT.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was a love goddess back in the day, She tangled with men
And girls now and then,
And drank a lot too, but okay.

Travel Tips

Today is our first day on dry land, and our first stop is Edinburgh: a city rich in history, legends, and culture. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the desire to soak in as much Edinburgh as possible, but you don't know where to start, might I suggest a hop- on, hop-off bus tour?

Once you get into Edinburgh, you'll find an abundance of colorful double-decker buses waiting for you at Waverly Train Station. These buses leave every 10 minutes or so, and they offer commentary and views on the must-sees in town: the new Scottish Parliament building, the National Museum of Scotland, Old Town and New Town, and of course, Edinburgh Castle.

Journal entries:
Rotterdam | North Sea | Edinburgh | Inverness | North Sea | Trondheim | Ålesund | Flåm
Bergen | North Sea | Oslo | North Sea | Rotterdam | Talent Show