Cruise to Iceland and Norwegian Fjords
We decided to go on a cruise on short notice meaning that between buying the tickets and starting the cruise we had less than one week!
We bought our cruise tickets with Celebrity Cruise Lines, to sail with Eclipse departing from Southampton on July 6th, 2013.
We flew Air Canada from Paradise….oops…. Vancouver on July 5th and arrived in London Heathrow Airport almost twenty hours later, after changing planes in Ottawa. It was a very good trip although it’s a long one.
When we got to Heathrow Airport (Terminal 3) at 10am we looked for National Express Bust Station as I had already bought our tickets from London to Southampton over the internet. We paid approximately 30 pounds pp for roundtrip.
From the arrival gate to the National Express bus station it’s a ten minute walk along an underground path. The bus station is poorly furnished, it is not clean and there were quite a few pigeons inside. Fortunately we were able to reschedule our tickets to a bus that had an early departure (we had to pay 5 pounds for rescheduling).
The journey from Heathrow to Southampton takes approximately 2.5 hours. It’s not a scenic landscape and we saw small towns that were poorly maintained. The only pretty village we saw on our way to Southampton was Winchester. This looks like an interesting place to visit.
From Southampton Central bus station we walked to the hotel. We had booked Novotel through their website. It’s relatively close to the bus station (10 – 15 minutes walking) but there aren’t sidewalks during the most part.
Novotel has the “regular hotel appearance” from the outside and the check-in process was fast and friendly. The lady at the reception desk provided us with a map and a tip when asked where we should eat like a local, as we were starving.
The room was good, comfortable and clean. We paid 82 pounds for one night without breakfast.
If you are going to Southampton for an overnight staying before cruising I recommend you stay at Hotel Ibis. It’s located exactly at the same place as Novotel (they are side-by-side neighbors); the external appearance is similar and it cost 50% less.
After dropping our luggage we went to visit Old Town in order to have lunch (although it was already 3pm) and to do a little sightseeing (we were really tired and jet legged).
Following the tip from the reception desk we went to “The Standing Order“, a very traditional Pub. We loved it there! Almost all local people enjoying good beers and excellent food!
After a good night of sleep we had breakfast and took a cab to the ship terminal. Novotel is very close to the ship terminal but I do recommend you take a cab because it’s not expensive (the fare was 4 pounds and we made it 5 to the cab driver) and, again, there are no sidewalks if you wish to go by foot.
Embarking was smooth: dropped our luggage and went to check in. In a few moments we were on board.
We had sailed Celebrity Equinox last year an Eclipse looks like a twin sister. Beautiful vessel!
We departed on July 6th (2013) at 5pm and had two sea days on our way to Iceland. The weather on the first day on board was still good and we had good moments under the sun.
On the second day it was cold to stay outside and we mainly stayed at the solarium where the pools protected from the wind. The clocks went back one hour before we arrived at Reykjavik.
We had a private tour arranged via Internet with IG Tours for the Golden Circle. This is a whole day tour that cost 8900 ISK pp, which is around 120.00 USD. We had a small bus for approximately 20 passengers. We saw fissures in the earth crust and it was very impressive. We visited Gullfoss waterfall, Stokkur geyser and Thingvellin where the earth’s tectonic plates are shifting apart.
Our guide was excellent and we also learned about Iceland’s health system, education, housing and horses. In Iceland all horses are purebred and if a horse goes out of the country it can not come back. The guide was so nice that by the end of the day he drove our group to the city center and showed us the main sites in town. I highly recommend IG Tours for sightseeing Reykjavik.
We stayed docked overnight.
Reykjavik, Iceland (2nd day)
We decided to go by ourselves for sightseeing along the city center. There’s a shuttle offered by the ship that cost USD 9.00 pp (round trip). It’s possible to go walking. It takes approximately 30 minutes, but there’s not much to see on the way, so we preferred to take the shuttle.
The city is interesting but I did not find it “super special”, comparing with many places we had visited in previous trips. The Cathedral is interesting because of its shape but… that’s it. Not a lot to see there.
The Convention Center (Harpa) is very weird from the outside. I really don’t like the architecture but the interior is very beautiful and I highly recommend you visit it.
We returned to the ship using the shuttle and went to the terrace to watch the departure.
We rounded the west coast of Iceland with light rain and fog. The ship had to use the horn several times as visibility was almost zero.
The sail in through the fjords started around 7am. It was another raining and foggy day. When we got there we went on a tour organized by the ship, called “Jewels of the North”.
We visited Godafoss, the “Waterfall of the Gods”, Lake Myvath (this is one of Iceland’s natural treasures). The guide told us that the name of the lake is due to the small mosquitoes that fly all the time and go irritate. This time we were lucky because with the light rain there were not mosquitoes at all! 🙂
We also went to Skutustadir and Dimmuborgir.
Dimmuborgir has a magnificent lava landscape with strange forma ions, columns and arches.
From there we had a 20 minutes stop for biscuit and coffee.
Our tour continued to the Geothermal field next to Namafjall Mountain with mud pots, steam vents, sulphur deposits, boiling springs and fumaroles.
All stops were very short in time and we had to “run” to take pictures, etc. If I go to visit Akureyri again I would go by car in order to fully appreciate the landscape in a slower pace.
After the excursion we opted to drop off from the bus at the “City Center” (round building on the picture below) and walk to the ship (it’s less than a 10 minutes walking).
We went to walk along the main street and found a bookstore with free wi-fi. This has very handy to check email as internet on the ship is very expensive. It’s always better to find free wi-fi at the local ports.
Akureyri City Center is “so so” (nothing “special”) and we took some pictures. There is a souvenir store with white bears and old witches by the door that is very popular among local children and tourists. We enjoyed seeing children’s curiosity there!
Continue reading about this trip going to part 2, where we will be telling about our experience in Faroe Islands and Norway! See you there!
You can also read about our customer experience with Celebrity Cruise Lines by clicking here