Iceland was quickly becoming a popular destination. I had heard raving reviews of it and was looking for an opportunity to visit for myself. A cruise to Iceland came up that sounded intriguing. It was a return cruise from Hamburg Germany that was supposed to stop in Scotland in both directions. That sounded like a good deal as I had never been to Scotland either.
I must say right away that visiting Iceland by cruise ship is not the best way. Iceland is best seen by road, to see the inside of the country, the mountains, the rivers, the scenery. In this case especially as we did not circle entire island and only stopped in three ports of call. To add insult to injury, the weather was bad when the time came to return to Europe so we had to skip the Scotland stop all together, which was a big disappointment. Having said that we did see some nice things and here is the story:
As I mentioned the cruise was starting in Hamburg, Germany. We arrived a few days early (partly because of a miscalculation) and what a great discovery this was! Hamburg is a lovely city with an interesting mix of old and very modern architecture. It is also a very large shipping port.
And then it was time to board the MSC Preziosa.
It is a large ship accomodating more than 3500 passengers. It has a number of venues, restaurants, bars, lounges, water slides (which no one used because of the weather) etc etc…several of them require extra $$ …The decor is slightly on the gaudy side.
After a day at sea we arrived in the port of Invergordon, in the Highlands of Scotland, United Kingdom. It is a lovely town, with an old cathedral and cemetery.
Our next stop was the Glenmorangie distillery, after a drive through bucolic sceneries.The visit was interesting but the tasting was even better!
We had another full day at sea before reaching Iceland, during which we saw several drilling platforms and crossed the arctic circle in grand fanfare!
And we arrived in Akureyri, Iceland, in northern Iceland. Quite a change in scenery from Scotland and Germany!
It is a busy port and lovely town. This was our first sighting of those cute traffic lights. We had a lovely meal of fresh salmon before heading out on a whale watching expedition. What a bad idea….
I spent the trip in fetal position at the bottom of the boat…seasick…so no pictures…
Afterwards we set out to see the Godafoss waterfalls (waterfalls of the gods)…in the rain. Impressive!
Nights are getting longer as the sun hardly sets…
The next stop is: Isafjördur, and from there we set off by smaller boat to Vigur island. Although the island is known for its sheep farming, we were there to do some bird watching. I was especially interested in seeing some Puffins, as the island is a favorite nesting place for them…we saw a variety of birds, among them, lots of Eiders but no Puffins. Still very interesting… It is easy to see the trace of glaciers on the landscape.
On the ride back we stopped in a small botanical park…
The scenery, especially on a rainy day, is a bit drab… but water appears at every turn: brooks, waterfalls, cascades…
The next stop was Reykjavik, the capital. We first set off on an excursion of the surrounding attractions. Stopping first at: Sprunga Opnast, a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The plates drift about 2 cm (0.79 in) farther apart every year, building up tension between the plates and the earth mass above. This tension is relieved through periodic major earthquakes at approximately ten year intervals, which have caused cracks and fissures. f
Next we went to see the geysers (periodically sprouting hot springs). The first ones were small but as we walked on we came across some spectacular ones…fascinating…
The following stop was at Gulfoss waterfalls.
Our tour ended with a soak in a hot water lagoon (not the blue lagoon but a smaller similar one). A lovely experience especially on such a cool day.
That night we had a lovely sunset between 11 and midnight…
As mentioned in the intro, the itinerary was changed and we got to spend an extra day in Reykjavik, which was interesting as we got to visit the city itself, despite a few hiccups with their bus service.
Our first stop, and by far the most spectacular building in the city, if not the country, was the Harpa concert hall. The building features a distinctive colored glass facade inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland.
The Sun Voyageur sculpture, described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the Sun is a landmark as is the old Perlan reservoir.
The Hallgrímskirkja cathedral is also a must see.
Another day at sea….
And this is how the cruise finished…with a throng of people elbowing to be the first on the bus…