Sophie Austin shares her experience on a memorable and fun Icelandic cruise.

Thundering waterfalls add to the dramatic scenery

Thundering waterfalls add to the dramatic scenery

I’ve been fortunate to take at least one cruise every year for the past few years and been to some fantastic destinations, some of which are only possible to visit on smaller ships. 

Iceland is a place that has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so I was thrilled when I was able to join the Fred. Olsen 11-night ‘Puffins, Waterfalls & Geysers’ cruise in July 2014. The itinerary was fantastic, with highlights including two days in the capital city, Reykjavik, and a crossing of the Arctic Circle.

We set sail from Newcastle and our first stop was in Reykjavik. With an overnight stay here, we decided to book the ‘Golden Circle’ tour for our first day, which gave us the opportunity to visit some of the most outstanding scenery in the country. We visited what is known as the ‘Big Three’ – Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park.

Sophie pictured next to Geysir, the most attractive hot spring in Iceland.

Sophie pictured next to Geysir, the most attractive hot spring in Iceland.

I highly recommend

this tour to anyone visiting Iceland, as it is fascinating! My highlight was the Geysir, which is the most active in Iceland as it erupts every four to eight minutes, reaching heights of up to 40-metres! However, make sure you wear your rain jacket – I stood a little too close, eagerly awaiting the eruption and found myself to be rather damp!

Cold Valley

On day two, we decided to take a trip in one of Iceland’s ‘Super Trucks’. It was a bit of a challenge to get in and out of as I’m only five-foot-two, but our very helpful, and rather handsome, Icelandic tour guide, Edgar, was on hand to help. We took a ‘journey-of-a-lifetime’ along the Cold Valley into the ice cap, crossing snow and ice on Iceland’s second largest glacier. This was a spectacular tour; we stopped on the glacier for around 30 minutes, where, in some places, the solid sheet of ice is up to 900-metres thick. We took some very unique photographs here, which were lovely to share with our family and friends when we got home.

 Dramatic Scenery

Black Watch spent the following day leisurely cruising through the region’s dramatic scenery. The Tour Manager on board enriched the experience by conducting a commentary of the surrounding sights, so that we all understood what we were looking at.

At one point, the Captain slowed the ship down, so that we could all take photos of the hundreds of puffins that were on the cliffs – it was a very magical sight! Next, we cruised past Drangaskord, which is a unique landmark, which looks as though the pinnacles of a dragon’s tail are rising from the sea – impressive and rather eerie!

It was nice to have some time relaxing at sea as it gave us the chance to enjoy some of the awe-inspiring scenery from the comfort of the ship. I particularly enjoyed finding a peaceful spot in the Bookmark Café to watch the world go by.

Next, we arrived in Akureyri , but not before sailing along the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjördur. We passed mighty snow-capped mountains and thundering waterfalls.

Whale Watching

On our first morning in Akureyri, we joined the whale watching trip. It was a clear, fresh morning and the air felt so clean. We headed off into the fjord, where we were spoilt with various sightings of humpback whales; we even saw a whale lifting its tail alongside the boat! There was so much excitement among the guests and lots of people trying to capture the perfect photograph.

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We returned to the ship in the afternoon, excited about the ‘Formal Night’ that would take place that evening. We spent the afternoon playing board games and enjoying some time in the spa. Dressed up, we attended the Captain’s Cocktail Party – a highlight of any cruise. This is the chance to hear from the Captain and his Senior Officers and have your photographs taken. We enjoyed canapés and an array of soft and alcoholic drinks, including cocktails and wine.

We enjoyed an evening meal in the Glentanar Restaurant. On formal nights we were served the ‘Gala’ menu, which is a delicious five-course meal. Afterwards we headed for the evening show, which included a comedian, a violinist and the energetic Black Watch Show Company. The evening had something for everyone and it was a perfect end to a very special day in Iceland.

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Arctic Crossing

The next day we enjoyed a scenic cruise past the small and lesser-known Icelandic island of Grimsey. This is situated in the country’s northernmost territory, and it was in-between here and Eyjafjördur that we officially crossed the Arctic Circle. We took part in the ships traditional ‘Arctic Crossing Ceremony’ and each guest received a certificate to mark the unique occasion.

The penultimate port of call was Eskifjördur on the eastern side of Iceland. We spent a day exploring this traditional town on our own, visiting the market and quaint shops. In the afternoon we enjoyed the complimentary afternoon tea in the Garden Café on board, tucking into an array of sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes before spending a fun-filled evening at the quiz.

Our final port of call was in Runavik in the Faroe Islands, before Black Watch set sail for Newcastle. My trip to Iceland was a wonderful experience – the ports of call were beautiful and, the service and atmosphere on board was fantastic.

Sophie Austin is a Group and Specialist Sales Executive at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

 

 

Groups are welcome on all Fred. Olsen cruises and, depending on the size of the group, may be eligible for a choice of ‘added value’ benefits. Fred. Olsen’s bespoke groups service appeals to all types of groups, including family and friendship groups, corporate and incentive groups, and all kinds of clubs, associations and societies.  For group bookings and enquiries, contact Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ dedicated Group & Specialist Sales Department on 01473 746169 or e-mail group.sales@fredolsen.co.uk (Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm).