As always, this review will try to focus on the little things that might be missed, along with the details that may be overlooked in a broader review. This is especially true for the independent travelers who may wander off and do things on their own in each location.
Rotterdam Pre -cruise/ Embarkation: We flew into Amsterdam and took the train to Rotterdam. Sine there were four of us, I took advantage of the group discount tickets available online at the Dutch Railways website. This came out to 8 Euros per person instead of 13 euros per person if booked separately. The train station is inside the Amsterdam Airport and very easy to find.
We stayed at the Hilton Rotterdam which is only a few blocks from the main Train station and centrally located for walking around Rotterdam.
We originally had an Ocean view but a screw up with our TA meant our original reservation for an ocean view canceled. Meanwhile the price went down on inside. This, together with my wife's concern of getting a good nights sleep due to the northern route (average sunset 11pm, average sunrise 3am) with light peeping in through the window, we switched to an inside and figured we would make up the difference in cost by additional amenities and making onboard purchases and even more souvenirs (as if we needed an incentive). We had Family we were traveling with who had a Neptune Suite so we knew we could always use their balcony.
The Room- There was a USB on each side of the bed, plus two US 115v and two European 220v plugs over the desk so we never needed our power converter except at the pre-cruise hotel.
We had Towel animals every night. I always give out extra credit anytime we get towel animals. Old school perhaps, but always exciting to see whats on the bed after returning from dinner.
The Shower was larger than average. There were Dispensers in the shower for shampoo, conditioner and body wash. In addition, there was a regular cake of hand soap plus a bottle of hand lotion and a shower cap on the sink.
32 inch HDTV on a swivel in the room. Lots of movies which you could pause and resume later for the duration of cruise. Also live TV channels MSNBC, FoxNews, BBC news, HGTV, Travel channel, Prime One, ESPN, and ESPN 2. No DVD.
There is a Basket where you could request fruit left in your room such as bananas, grapes, apples, or oranges. The Ice bucket was filled each morning and evening.
Closet space was average. There were also two drawers under the bed.
No self serve laundry but you can stuff a laundry bag for $30. The provided fabric Laundry bags were slightly larger than plastic grocery bags and could be very tightly stuffed. We left it outside the door before 9am, and we received it back the next day during the evening turn-down service.
The room had a small table, desk, chair, and a refrigerator (not the “cooler” we had on our recent RCL cruise but a real one that worked!)
We were bedeviled by fog while at sea the entire way from Lerwick to St. Pierre. The ship's fog horn, which sounded every two minutes when foggy, could be heard in our room throughout the night. Not enough to wake you up, but enough that you would know it was foggy out if you were awake.
Other than that, the room was extremely soundproof.
Tender port. We had to show our passports to Scottish Customs as we disembarked.
Tender arrived at Victoria pier which is downtown across from the Anderson Wool store and Captain Flints Pub.
We were scheduled to be there from 8-4, but the last tender back to ship was at 3. However, six hours was enough time to explore the town independently.
Most of the shops in town are close to the tender port, and easily walk-able from Victoria Pier.
There is a Tesco Supermarket a mile and a half away along the water side trail where you can stock up on snacks. The Broch of Clickimin is close to the Tesco. This same waterside trail in the opposite direction also runs out to “The Knab” which is a nice walk with some great views.
Docked at Skarfabakki port about 2.5 miles out of town. There is a oceanfront walk from the port to town. Both Enterprise and EuropCar are within walking distance of the dock. If you overnight and have a rental car, there is ample free parking in the dock area. There is a large Icewear souvenir store at the port with prices similar to what you will find in town. We checked prices here first before going downtown, then did some last minute purchases here before leaving port. We never needed Kroner. Credit cards were accepted everywhere, and there was no problem accepting most US credit cards.
There was a Port-provided shuttle to/from town for $20 round trip.
We opted to rent a car and drove the Golden Circle, plus we also did the town Vik and the black sand beaches there and also made it to the Bridge America-Europe on day one. On day two we drove into downtown Reykjavik for some shopping. There was no problem finding parking downtown. Parking meters took credit cards and were in English, as was the self serve gas stations. The cost of the car, fuel, added insurance (which seems to be a “thing” in Iceland), was about the same as the cost of a private tour plus the town shuttle. The difference was flexibility and the options for additional stops. Driving in Iceland was easy for those who normally drive on the right side of the road. Lots of traffic circles/ roundabouts for those who struggle with such things.
Docked downtown about a five minute walk from the Visitors Center. Just like in Reykjavik, there was another Icewear gift shop at the dock. If not doing a tour, most tourist shops are close by and it took us about 3 hours to browse most of the stores. We opted not to do the tours here as we had done the Golden Circle and Vik two days prior. (and have been to Yellowstone and Rotorua so this wasn’t our first volcanic area ). We found lots of spare time after doing the main shopping street so just wandered around the rest of the city until time to return. It was rainy, windy, and cold until about 2pm, then cleared up and became sunny.
Tender port, Very small town with some shops in the downtown. Tendered in at Njardarsund st., which is one block from the local microbrewery, Dokkan Brugghus. Like Akeruyi, it was cold and windy in the morning then was sunny in the afternoon. The shops were small and only one of these had “Islafjordur”-branded items. The whale bone Arch on the hill above town made for a nice picture and also provided an opportunity for a photo of Islafjordur with the ship and mountains in the background.
Docked at Pier 10. Most shops and pubs are within the first three blocks away from the ship. We walked to the Quidi Vidi Brewery. It was a long 45 minutes walk through the suburbs. Nice to have a beer made with water from an iceberg, but not sure it was worth the time to get there. Signal Hill was encased in low clouds all day so there was no point in climbing up for a view. One odd thing was pushing our clocks back 30 minutes to match the local time zone, instead of the usual hour.
Docked at Cruise Pavilion which had souvenir shops and a craft market. Nice waterside walkway that starts from dock with some shops and food trucks. There are several blocks of early 19th century houses across the street from the Cruise Pavilion. There are some small museums in several of these houses for only a few dollars admission. On Saturday there is the Cape Breton farmers market/ craft fair at the intersection of Esplanade and Falmouth streets.
Docked at Pier 20. Lots of shops inside the Cruise Terminal, plus a Farmers Market at the end of the Terminal building. There is a booth inside the Cruise Terminal as you walk in that sells HoHo bus tickets and various tours. There is also a visitors center booth as you walk in that can provide maps and suggestions for the day. They provided a walking tour map that we used to go though the high points of areas close by such as the Citadel, Maritime Museum, landmarks, and shopping areas. The boardwalk along the water was lined with shops, bars, food trucks and restaurants. We were here until 11pm, so there was ample opportunity to check out the local nightlife, but the Captain announced all passengers were onboard early, so we departed early as well.