If you’ve read my books, you might have picked up a few mixed feelings about cruise ships. On the one hand, they are probably the best way for tourists to see Greenland. On the other hand, they encourage a sense of detachment (in my opinion) between the tourists and the locals, supporting what I experienced as the “living museum” kind of visit when tourists disembarked and wandered “everywhere” and into “everything” on the island. I threw a couple of curious tourists out of the school as they just barged in.
But it gets worse.
Travel is hellish expensive in Greenland – for everybody. One of the most affordable ways to visit family up and down the coast was to take the ferry. One year, while I lived on the island of Uummannaq, the ferry was discontinued. It just stopped sailing. This presented a problem for a lot of Greenlanders wishing to travel, but struggling to pay the helicopter and plane tickets that were suddenly the only option.
To make matters worse, the ferry came back the following year (see photo above), but this time it sailed under new ownership as an adventure cruise ship with a modest number of tourists instead of local families.
The tourists buy a couple of things when visiting the different stops along the route – nothing more than coffee money, really – but it’s the tourist companies who make the most money. So if you’ve ever wondered why cruise ships feature so heavily, and not always positively in my stories… now you know.
However, I still recommend a cruise as the best (not necessarily most ethical) way to see Greenland. Because it really is.