Welcome to Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, Arizona.  An Orwellian amusement park with a bright side: the promise of a new and different horizon on the other end of a massively long plane ride.  I woke up in Phoenix on 3 June, and by that afternoon I saw the Sun from the Washington Dulles Airport, however briefly.  Dulles is a labyrinthine structure replete with secret tunnels, dungeons, and corridors, all of which had to be navigated properly in order to reach the final destination: the plane to Copenhagen.  We flew Scandinavian Airlines, and my mother and I were separated by one seat, which eventually came to be filled by a somewhat cantankerous Dane that looked a bit like Bilbo Baggins.  Crossing time zones, we lost nine hours. But there was some gain: temporary weight. Our legs resembled the pillars of the Parthenon by the time all was said and done after sitting in the same position for 14 hours. The Sun never set that night. I tried to dream for a while but I didn’t get much sleep at all, due to extreme chair discomfort and the lack of black in the sky at 35,000 feet.  We passed over Greenland, Scotland, Iceland, and England, and saw plenty of glaciers and green, and lots of mighty Atlantic underneath. Toward morning (though it had never really been night) the landscape changed into a lush, fertile valley, replete with tiny houses and millions of tiny little train tracks zigzagging through the countryside. We had reached Denmark–Copenhagen specifically, the Land of Enchantment. Paragon of the Green Movement, Copenhagen was the embarkation point for my European Odyssey. We exited the plane and went through passport control without a hitch before stepping outside to the buses that would take us to the ship. Copenhagen Airport was very modern: Sterile, bright white in color, with lots of glass and metal features; also very labyrinthine, just like in D.C.  It was bright outside, cool in the shade and warm in the sun, with a very light humidity. On the bus, they showed us a few sights in Copenhagen on the way to the ship, the Emerald Princess.  What a hulk it was upon first sight!  I couldn’t believe the size of it.  We walked into the check-in area and were given our cruise cards (the Emerald is a cashless society so the cruise card is connected to the credit card used to book the vacation and is used for the casino, drinks, boutiques, etc.) and signed a form saying we were in good health. Then we had about five hours to kill before boarding, so we took a taxi down to a canal in Copenhagen.  There, we boarded a small watercraft and took a DFDS Canal Tour through the city, seeing the sights and experiencing the breeze.  There were many seagulls, but they don’t act like they do in the United States. Instead of constantly being on a mission to find food, they sailed in slow arcs across the sky as though they hadn’t a care in the world, purely out of enjoyment.  I was fascinated, of course.  The city itself was lovely: a regular Venice in Scandinavia (as were a couple of the other places we visited).  The tour lasted about an hour and then we walked through the city, trying to absorb as much Danish as we could.  We found a restaurant along the canal called “Restaurant La Sirène” and had some pizza (I know, pizza? In Denmark? What can I say, fish just didn’t sound appealing after all that travel).  We ran to find a taxi and took off back to the ship.  We saw our room which was small but very comfortable, and walked through the ship a little bit before heading out onto the highest deck, where we drank cocktails and watched our ship embark, waving out to people as we left to the open sea.

We signed up for traditional dining at 6PM, meaning we had to be in the Botticelli Dining Room at 6PM every night for dinner. For other meals we could visit anywhere else (buffets, pizza bar, etc.).  Our dining room was on the 6th floor Aft (the rear of the ship) and it was the only thing on that particular floor at that point, and we never found it that night.  In fact, it took us 8 days to figure out the best way to get there, but more on that later.  We missed it that night and ended up eating at the International Cafe, where we met Gina, a waitress and new friend on the ship.  I had probably the smallest dinner I had on the entire trip: A mozzarella and prosciuto sandwich, shrimp salad, a pomegranate and blueberry smoothie, and a small tiramisu for dessert, which was delicious. We said goodbye to Gina and I followed my mom to the casino.  On the way, we walked through the main area, called The Piazza. It was incredible! All the lights twinkling, 2 grand staircases, marble floors, and a string quartet playing at the base of everything (which reminded me of Titanic, which I thought was cool).

Now, normally I’m not a fan of gambling, and I told my mom as much, but she is every bit as stubborn as me and went ahead anyway. She won over $200, and at that point I decided to join in.  I won $40 and quit.  That was the last time I ever won at the casino on the ship and rarely did it again after that, as I’ve discovered I’m “unlucky.”  Around 9:45PM we walked up on the deck to discover that the sun was still up!  It was very windy and cold on the water, and the water was a scaly, inky black.  It looked sort of like we had been riding on a gigantic writhing sea creature, carrying us off on its back to magical destinations.  The sun finally sank into the icy waters after 10:30PM but it remained light outside until we went to bed for the night.

Oslo was to greet us in the morning.