Iceland’s Majestic Landscapes, August 13, 2019, Viking Ocean
We chose this ship for chance to see Iceland up close. It made four stops in Iceland with two days in Reykjavik at the beginning. Most cruise lines stop at the capitol ... Read More
Iceland’s Majestic Landscapes, August 13, 2019, Viking Ocean
We chose this ship for chance to see Iceland up close. It made four stops in Iceland with two days in Reykjavik at the beginning. Most cruise lines stop at the capitol for a day as they transit between the US and Europe.
This was our first Viking Ocean cruise. If you are tired of the glitz, the constant sales pitches and wandering to find a quiet spot to read, this cruise line is for you. The ship had no casino and only two shops. Decks 1 and 2 which surround the 3 story atrium are open concept with contemporary Scandinavian décor in neutral tones– sofas, easy chairs & coffee tables with low bookcases to make them feel more intimate. Instead of a single room dedicated as the library, books are shelved at one end of Deck 1 with more books in other areas. Bars/snack areas are also spread throughout the open public areas.
There were only two sea days. We found that our only choices for spare time were the port talks, lectures (excellent) and evening performance by the four ship’s singers. There are no dance/show productions. Trivia was held only on the sea days. Obviously the sports deck was not used with the cold and cloudy weather although the pool deck with its glass ceiling had wonderful nooks for reading, relaxing and looking at the ocean and also offered grilled food at lunch and sometimes at dinner.
We used the buffet and pool grill for lunch each day and dinner varied between the dining room, Manressa’s Italian café and The World Café. The World Café offered one dedicated ethnic cuisine menu with paired wine included which changed every four days. We found that to be as much of a “show” as a dinner and portions were a bit small. The dining room and buffet food was well prepared and presented. It tended to have emphasis at times on Asian/Indian dishes which were interesting to taste made us wish to see a nice clam chowder, something less pretentious, ie. “down home food” by the last days of the cruise. As my husband put it, after traveling over three weeks, we had “hit the wall” as far as eating was concerned.
The staff without exception was helpful and cheerful.
Ports: Iceland is a small country with a population of less than 400,000. More than half live in Reykjavik. When our ship of 900 visited a port, Viking worked hard to gather good excursions and transportation. We were often delighted to find ourselves in a small group of less than 20. Viking offered one or more free excursions in each port. The majority were not just a short bus tour around the town. Some days we took both an included tour and a paid tour.
Reykjavik We were exhausted when we boarded the ship. Many flights from the US are red-eye and our Icelandair business class seats did not recline more than a few degrees. I would recommend coming in a day early to acclimate. The most popular tour the day after boarding is The Golden Circle, an 8 ½ hour tour staring at 7 AM. We saw Iceland’s most famous waterfall,, Gullfoss, a geothermal area, lava fields and more.
Isafjordur: A small group tour to Litlibaer, a tiny home from the early 1900s with stone walls and a turf roof. You will see many turf roofs throughout the country. We were served waffles and jam and our guide made butter in a churn. We were also served homemade chocolates at a photo stop and told about the home-grown enterprises to earn money in this sparsely populated country.
Akureyki: We chose a private tour through Tripadvisor/Saga Travel to the Lake Mvatn area to see lava formations, bubbling geothermal areas, Godafoss, the “Waterfall of the Gods”, and learn a lot of local lore. We won the grand prize in our guide, Thor, who truly looked like his name. He had grown up in the area, entertained us with stories from his childhood and was also an extra in Game of Thrones. This was hands-down our best excursion.
Seydisfjordur: The Wilderness Center is a unique hotel/tourist attraction far off the beaten path. The owner has created a museum of unique walk-through dioramas showing the life of early settlers and local lore plus a bed-and-breakfast hotel with some of the beds in a single room arranged in cubbies along two walls much like ancient Vikings built their homes, plus two outdoor geothermally heated soaking tubs, all of which the owner proudly showed us. We were served waffles and jam and given taste of lamb smoked on the premises.
Thorshavn, Faroe Islands: The 22 small islands which comprise the Faroe Islands stand midway between Iceland and Norway. We visited a turf church, the remains of a 10th century Viking home, and saw fish ladders for salmon while driving through the scenic countryside.
Geiranger, Norway: Easily the most scenic stop on the trip, the tiny narrow fjord ends at a tiny town where we chose to take a free tour up a road with 11 switchbacks to a viewpoint looking over the town to the mountains and reverse course and go up the other way to a viewpoint looking down over the town and fjord. This was nothing more than viewpoints and we ended a hotel for a “rest break” which was far too long with nothing to do.
Alesund, Norway: Sunnmore Open Air Museum is a collection of homes, barns and other buildings from the past two centuries. Most are open so you can visit inside and the guide gave commentary as we walked along. The buildings are set on rolling land with gravel paths so this may not be suitable for anyone with difficulty walking.
Flam, Norway: The small town of Flam set at the end of a fjord hosts up to six cruise ships a day. We were lucky to find only one other. The #1 tour is a 12-mile ride on the Flam railroad up the hillside and through the mountains with waterfalls in abundance. There is a 10 minute stop at a waterfall where the mythical witch appears singing her siren song. At the midway point, there is an hour stop to enjoy waffles and coffee in the hotel and spend a little time enjoying the view back down the valley before catching the next train back down. Viking reserves seats for its passengers. Check out the1-minute zip line ride from the viewpoint halfway down the valley to a farm you can barely see in the distance if a seat on the train back down is too tame!
Bergen, Norway: Bergen is the 2nd largest town in Norway and iconic for its gathering of quaint historic merchant homes/warehouses from the days when the town was a trading powerhouse in the Baltic region. Our tour included visiting an old merchant building, a town tour and a funicular ride up Mt. Floien to enjoy the views, a gift shop, a child’s playground, some goats which keep the vegetation trimmed, and restaurant. It was possible to then wander the old wharf and Fish Market on our own afterward since the ship could be seen from the wharf and gauge if it was within a distance you could walk. Read Less