Following on from our feature on Iceland we pick our top cruises to the Land of Fire and Ice.
Windstar: Around Iceland – Reykjavik to Reykjavik
Windstar, the niche provider of yacht-style ultra-luxurious cruises, takes the graceful Star Legend to Iceland on a circumnavigational tour of this magical place. With the cruise line’s ethos firmly rooted in traditional sailing Windstar offer a unique perspective on Iceland; finding secluded bays and rarely seen wildlife, able to stay longer in special places, giving guests an authentic experience and real sense of the true Iceland. Although the Star Legend is a motorised vessel, with no masts or sails, it still has the intimacy of the original Windstar brand, offering a small-scale private-yacht experience. Equalling any exploration cruise in terms of accessing remote places, the Star Legend also carries passengers in total style and comfort.
The trip, starting and finishing in Reykjavik, visits many geological wonders as well as the iconic Icelandic waterfalls, thermal waters and national parks. Highlights include Surtsey Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which rose from the sea in the 1960s making it one of the world’s youngest places and the Viking Sushi Experience where pristine seafood is caught and instantly prepared for guests onboard a small local fishing trawler as whales and sea-eagles glide and soar nearby. Departures in July and August 2017. www.windstarcruises.com
Lindblad Expeditions: A Circumnavigation of Iceland
This professional and well-rounded itinerary truly captures the drama, intrigue and history of Iceland as it takes guests on a ten-day voyage around the whole island. Visits to Reykjavik and the established (and busy) tourist sites on the famous Golden Circle tick obvious boxes but Lindblad, in keeping with their strong expedition focus, then seeks out the rugged western frontier and remote north-east coastline.
Sailing on either the National Geographic Orion or the National Geographic Explorer, the curious and adventurous traveller experiences world-class field geology, expert-led hiking and kayaking, Zodiac tours of hidden places and surreal scenery. Iceland is a first-rate photography destination after all. Of course itineraries can change, sometimes due to the weather, but with Lindblad this is more often to take advantage of rare wildlife sightings or to linger over exceptional light. Expeditions are scheduled for July 2017 and June/July 2018. www.expeditions.com
Azamara: Fjords and Iceland Voyage
Azamara Journey embarks on a summer voyage to Iceland with stops in Denmark, Norway, The Faroe Islands, Scotland and England – it’s common for an Iceland cruise to incorporate visits to other Northern European destinations. Three days are spent in Iceland, out of a total of twelve, with two of these docked in the lively and cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik. This vibrant city is an excellent base to explore the waterfalls, geysers, lava fields and thermal waters of The Golden Circle; Iceland’s famous tourist trail.
A further day is spent in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city, where the unexpected botanical gardens are located. Two thousand species of native and foreign plants grow here, surprisingly without greenhouse cover despite the Arctic location. Departure date is July 2017. www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk
Hurtigruten: The Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland
With a heritage dating back to 1893 and widely regarded as a leader in Arctic exploration cruises, Hurtigruten is a popular choice for an Icelandic cruise. The Grand Arctic Traverse is a stunning nineteen-day voyage starting in the picturesque Lofoten Islands then travelling to the isolated island of Jan Mayen, followed by Iceland and finishing in Greenland. However, with only three days spent in Iceland, the alternative Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland circumnavigates the island and is ideal for travellers seeking a comprehensive and exciting Icelandic experience.
MS Spitsbergen, a polar-class vessel, takes a full twelve days to sail around the coast. Itineraries are suggested only, with the final journey being determined en-route according to weather and opportunities – this is a true expedition cruise. As well as visits to the established thermal bathing sites and waterfalls, the captain usually stops at remote islands such as Siglufjörður and Grimsby, where guests can access wildlife and geological sites by Polarcirkel boats, and the Westman Islands which are famous for their volcanic activity and whale-spotting. Exploration cruises sail in June and July 2017. www.hurtigruten.co.uk
Images courtesy of Windstar, Lindblad, Azamara, Hurtigruten