One ship was still in port and looked most festive from a short ways away.

Cruise Ship Mania; 7:30am: I pulled the thick dark curtains shut when I went to bed last night. Now I stumble forth to draw them open upon a new day and… Voila! A massive take-over-the-world-cruise-ship (Independence of the Seas, registered in the Bahamas, capacity 4,370 passengers) has landed and the occupants are disembarking. My imagination is not that active—it’s why I cannot write fiction—but Leviathan was the word that immediately sprung to mind, an enormous sea creature with a rich and gruesome history…vomiting up last night’s supper.

With my first sips of coffee a possible scenario manifested itself—this monster could pull innocently enough into souvenir village at the head of the bay and the creatures pouring out could be anyone…. Monsters, the Undead, Enemy Soldiers, Trump’s Base….  They look harmless enough right now, cleverly concealed in hooded raincoats, umbrellas overhead, but as they spread throughout the city in numbers way too big to ignoreand rip off their coverings it’s anybody’s guess. It’ll be immediately obvious if they’re the Army of Sleazy T. They’ll start chanting…. “Trump is God, Woodward is the Devil; We’re Here from MOG (Middle-of-Godland), to Save You From that Evil.” But then…all of the Norwegian trolls in front of all the souvenir shops come to life, and soon their comrades are streaming into town from under bridges and behind boulders—together they push the white strangers with the Nazi tattoos back onto Leviathan, set her loose to drift back out to sea where slowly the ship’s infrastructure starts to disintegrate, and … I think the invaders eventually drift to Plastic Island where they must live for a plastic eternity.

Sorry. I should stop drinking wine for breakfast…just kidding, it’s just my usual Nescafe, Wasa rye crisps and Roros butter.

I have become completely obsessed with cruise ships however. There might even be three in port today. I’m quite excited. Between that and the Petroleum Museum my last day in Stavanger is very nearly perfect. Well it is perfect actually. It’s raining.

Here is the description of the Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas from their website. I’ve just kept the best parts.

In the spring of 2018 (Independence of the Seas) was extensively modernized. New attractions include the Sky Pad virtual reality experience, a new escape room, a glow-in-the-dark laser tag facility, and the “Perfect Storm” waterslide trio for all water lovers aboard. New restaurants, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Playmakers Sports Bar and Sugar Beach extend the culinary offer on board./A large part of the guests on board this ship comes from the United States, but the ship is also popular with many Europeans. Cabins: … As with the ships of the “Voyager” class, there are even cabins with a view on the shopping promenade of the ship. Culinary Delights: There are different possibilities for enjoying the fine food on board. The main restaurant spans three decks and is decorated classical and stylish. The intimate “Portofino” restaurant offers delicious specialties of the Italian cuisine. …. The “Johnny Rockets” is a Diner in 50s style. Tasty burgers and hearty American fast food are cooked fresh to order here. Entertainment: From piano music to shows in Broadway style to the huge disco, all souls on board can find their favorite place…/Sports and Wellness: The Spa is one of the largest at sea./ Our Recommendation: The Independence of the Seas is the ultimate of the seven seas. You can surf on board in a special surf simulator, bathe in two whirlpools that hang 30 meters above the sea, romp about in the “Aqua Park” or climb the huge climbing wall – the ship becomes the destination.

I suppose my favorite line of all is “there are even cabins with a view on the shopping promenade of the ship.”

For just a moment the other day I was feeling kindly toward cruise ships, not like I wanted ever to set foot on one, but the people roaming about the dock area did seem nice and normal enough. The area didn’t seem raucous or more commercial than one would expect.  However, the last view from my window has put me back in cruise ship-loathing-land. My god…it’s like taking the Mall of America or better yet, the Mall of the Emirates which includes Ski Dubai, and your favorite four/five star hotel chain, say the Four Seasons, throwing in some Vegas entertainment, a music-blasting gym, and super-sizing a new Hard Rock Café … and setting it all on water. A holiday on Plastic Island starts looking good. Just me and the trash. Whoops. Forgot. Consigned the invading Sleazy T.s to the island.

9:30am:  Time to make the bed, brush the teeth and go adventuring. Mostly to see where the second cruise ship is resting and also where they may have tucked a third. And then for that oil-souvenir I so desperately seek.

5pm: Super nice day. Has. Rained. The. Entire. Day. I walked and got wet. I got wet because it was too hard to open the suitcase where all the Svalbard clothes and souvenirs are packed to find my rain jacket. I walked because rain is good and soul-cleansing and so so rare in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Before taking you to the excellent Petroleum Museum, here’s the cruise ship update for which you’ve been breathlessly waiting. Independence of the Seas has left the port. Here’s a description I just thought of for the way it feels when these giant edifices move in across the street while you’re sleeping. Like waking up in your normal house and an eighteen story apartment building has sprung up across the street.

To be fair I must mention the Costa Mediterranea, registered In Genoa, capacity of 2,680, with twelve decks, is in port as well. And finally, back in that corner, there’s the Zenith/Pallmantur, one of those registered first in Liberia, then Bahamas, now Malta ships, capacity 1,828, and I didn’t even see any balconies or water slides. A poor cousin of the big kids I guess.

Those are the last words I’ll ever speak or write about cruise ships and here are the last pictures of those funhouses of the non-traveling middle classes I’ll ever post. My 48 hours of cruise-ship fascination have left the building.

But Leviathan towers over all.

Norsk Oljemuseum / Norwegian Petroleum Museum: Stavanger is Norway’s Oil City—sister city of Houston, tiny in population comparison but not at all insignificant in wealth creation and transfer.

There are many stories about Norway’s oil history and about Stavanger’s role in it; I’ve heard a few just in the time I’ve been here and I’m hoping to find a good history of it all (that’s been translated). The Museum is simply excellent, well laid out, with the basic realities of oil production as developed in Norway taking front and center, but as well thoughtfully presenting all of the inherent conflicts in funding the best social structure in the world with oil revenues. A good deal of space is given to the environmental issues raised by the very resource that’s making this country the world’s best in which to live. It is complicated indeed. The museum made me pay attention and think seriously while giving me information about an industry to which I’ve paid little attention other than to bemoan its bad political intentions.

Who knew drill bits were beautiful?

I have no idea what the following fascinating things are, except for the last one which holds up the platforms. They are the most interesting pieces of machinery or tools or equipment I’ve ever seen.

I viewed and thought and had a nice lunch, and walked home in the rain. No t-shirts though. Just a head band with a drill bit design!

Tomorrow it’s the train to Kristiansand. My grandparents’ original stomping grounds.


  1. who knew an oil museum could be entertaining? You always have some bit of knowledge to share. The knowledge about the cruise ships is something I can do without. I knew i did not like them…now for sure. Rain…It has been raining here for 24 hours…really heavy…remnants of a dead hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico….more to come

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