By ROGER M. GRACE
July 8, 2009, on board the Regent Voyager, in Norwegian Waters
Cruise ship Captain Dag Dvergastein: what a guy!
At least that’s the notion which hype from the Regent Seven Seas Cruises line is aimed at instilling in passengers on the June 26-July 10, 2009 Norwegian voyage.
“Captain Dag” serves as an “identifiable character”—sort of like Ronald MacDonald is for a hamburger chain.
The cruise is billed as “Captain Dag’s Homecoming Voyage.” That’s because a July 8 stop was scheduled at the obscure Village of Nevlunghavn, hometown of the captain. According to publicity relating to the voyage, “[u]pon arrival” in the village, “you will experience the same warmth and charisma that is so characteristic of Captain Dag.”
One early morning during the first week of the journey, there came booming over the PA system an advisory by the cruise director—a British bloke who forces jolliness and buoyancy—that the captain had attempted to negotiate for a purchase of wares from a fishing boat but that there had not yet been a catch. I would doubt that captains of cruise ships customarily perform as procurement officers, but this, after all, was Captain Dag! Some time later, Mr. Merry was back at the mike, enthusing that the captain was on board the fishing boat, engaged in bargaining. As passengers looked over the rails, a deal was struck! The captain brought back fresh fish for us to savor.
“Your captain—he’s really something!” his publicist exclaimed over the PA system.
The fish were on the next night’s dinner menu.
Was this a spontaneous purchase, a reflection of our noble captain’s enterprise and negotiating skills? No. A crew member confirmed to me that this was an event that occurred each year on the cruise along the Norwegian coast. That is to say, it was a pre-arranged show for gullible passengers.
The ship had initially been scheduled to dock on June 30 at Svaristisen. A later itinerary listed the docking time as noon. There was no docking. Why? No explanation. However, about 5 p.m., the captain’s voice blared over the PA system, intruding into the cabins, to announce that the ship would be diverted by 11 nautical miles from its planned course and that, at about 11 p.m., it would sail through Troll’s Fjord, a place only rarely visited by cruise ships. (The ship was in northern Norway; it was the time of year of the midnight sun, and there would be broad-daylight visibility.)
Then, the Rah-Rah Boy got on the mike, recounting that the last time he had gone through that narrow passageway was in 1996 on a ship of another line that had a Greek captain. After squeezing through the fjord, the ebullient huckster recited, the dogged captain declared he would never make the attempt again. That ship, the cruise director noted, weighed 17 tons; our ship was 50 tons.
Ah, the drama! Our heroic captain would endeavor to navigate a ship through a strip of water so slender that the commander of a vessel weighing less than half of what ours does vowed never again to undertake that challenge.
What’s wrong with this picture? Weight is, of course, irrelevant to width. The 50-ton Regent Voyager has 12 decks. The 17-ton vessel might well have had one deck, or a few more than that, but been wider. The cruise director made no hint at any greater width of the Voyager. It was a matter of smoke and mirrors.
When the ship was about to enter the fjord, the voice of the boisterous Brit again boomed over the loudspeakers repeating his experience in 1996 and jesting that if the ship got stuck in the fjord, it would become the most costly-constructed hotel in Europe.
The scenery was, indeed, spectacular. But, in truth, the fjord was just not that narrow. And belying the buildup as to the rarity of excursions there, another cruise ship was in sight—the passengers of which, I would suspect, having been spared the fable of the rarity of travels there.
Then on July 6, awhile after leaving Gudvangen, Captain Dag again addressed us, letting us know that he was about to embark on a craft to a place ashore that made waffles, and would bring a batch back to us. Gosh. The captain was personally foraying to a waffle factory to make sure our near-dinnertime appetite for waffles was satisfied.
He and his officers went off in an orange-topped craft, landing at a nearby point within sight from the ship. After a short time, the craft returned, the captain waiving triumphantly to those viewing him on deck. He was Dag, the Waffle-Bringer.
Waffles were then served on an upper-deck, with the regal procurer in attendance. It was about 5 p.m.
Norwegian recipes for waffles are not secret. They are in books; they are available on the Internet. While the ship’s cooks are not particularly proficient in culinary arts, they should be capable of making waffles.
It was another show, another farce, another publicity stunt glamorizing the Voyager’s own Ronald MacDonald.
To hear part of announcement over the ship's PA system that waffles would be served—with the cruise director proclaiming that “they are delicious, they’re glorious”—LEFT-CLICK HERE.
On July 8, the ship docked at Nevlunghavn so that passengers could trek up a hill for 20 minutes in order to enjoy the privilege of having soup in the garden of Captain Dag’s home.
Norwegians are not, by nature, grandstanders. My Norwegian mother once told me that among things Norwegians may never do is to brag or whine. Yet, Captain Dag engages in bragging, not directly, but through surrogates.
He licenses his identity as a Norwegian to Regent Cruises, and cooperates in the falderal. I agree with the ship’s cheery rallier of spirits that the captain is “really something.” And what is that thing he is?
Reprinted with permission from Metropolitan News-Enterprise. Copyright
2009, Metropolitan News Company.