As a small island country in close proximity to both Europe and North America, Iceland has become a cruising destination hot spot. In fact, in recent years, many of the large cruise lines have included Iceland stops in their Northern European and trans-Atlantic itineraries. However, from my experience, I found that the most authentic way to discover Iceland was on a small ship led by local guides.
This summer I was privileged to cruise on the expedition ship MS Seaventure with Iceland ProCruises, a company that is Icelandic-owned and operated. The MS Seaventure was designed for polar explorations and can easily handle the rough ice environment in Antarctica. But, when it is not Antarctica sailing season, Iceland ProCruises charters the ship for “warmer” weather exploration around Iceland and Greenland.
The MS Seaventure has only 82 cabins, all of which come with a view through a large porthole, a picture window, or a balcony. At 194 square feet, I found my cabin to be very roomy and inviting. It was set up for two twin beds which could just as easily have been converted into a queen-sized bed. The closet and the cabinets had more than enough storage, more than I have ever had on larger ships.
I was also quite surprised at the large and bright public spaces on board the Seaventure. The main gathering spot was the Seabreeze Lounge where we enjoyed afternoon tea, cocktails, and evening entertainment. The nearby library was a more intimate space that offered a good selection of books and games.
With its theater-style seating, the Expedition Lounge on the uppermost deck was where we gathered for informative lectures and presentations. This was also a great spot to see the scenery unfold through the expansive forward-facing picture windows. When the weather was nice, I could also lounge on a deck chair on the sun deck and swim in the small, heated pool, or look at sunset views from the aft Seabreeze deck space.
The spacious dining room was also much more elegant than I expected on an expedition ship. For these cruises, Iceland ProCruises brought in a dedicated Icelandic chef, so we always had some local flavors at each meal. Breakfast and lunch were a buffet with a wide array of hot and cold dishes for all tastes. Dinner was a four-course a la carte menu that always included one freshly caught local fish entre along with other choices for guests that didn’t want seafood. I was very impressed that the menu was designed to satisfy all dietary needs and allergies.
My cruise was a 9-day complete circumnavigation tour around all of Iceland that started and ended in Reykjavik. Each morning we dropped anchor in a new locale where we had the opportunity to explore via a diverse selection of excursions. Since the cost of the excursions was not included in the base fare, I could decide to do as many or as few as I wanted.
What I really liked about the Iceland ProCruises excursions was that they had options for a variety of interests and activity levels. There were bus tours to historic and scenic sights and there were also more active tours like hiking, kayaking, and horseback riding for the more adventurous souls.
I felt that each tour included a signature element that was unique to Iceland ProCruises and that helped me connect to the Icelandic culture in a way that would not have been possible on my own. In the Westfjords, we stopped to have traditional fish soup at a villager’s home in the small hamlet of Pingeyri. In Siglufjordur, modern-day “Herring Girls” showed us what life was like for women during the herring rush years when fishing accounted for 40% of Iceland’s total exports. And in the town of Seydisfjordur, my tour included a stop at a thermal bath where I soaked in the hot waters with the locals.
My favorite stops though were Gurnsey Island and Flatey Island. Gurnsey Island sits on the Arctic Circle and has a large photogenic marker that proved I was at 66.5 degrees north latitude. Flatey Island was my most memorable stop though. This small private island is used just for summer holiday homes and only Iceland ProCruises was allowed to bring tours here. The big attraction on this little island was the many puffins that we could observe up close. I happily spent a couple of hours taking puffin photos to my heart’s content.
But what made my Iceland ProCruises trip really special were the multi-talented Icelandic guides. The expedition team shared first-hand stories about their culture, their traditions, and their folklore. Besides getting destination information, we also had cultural experiences like trying fermented shark, tasting Icelandic beers, and listening to Icelandic folk songs.
For me, this cruise with Iceland ProCruises was an ideal way to experience all the best that the land of fire and ice has to offer in complete comfort with experts that really know Iceland.