Cruise Iceland: The land of geysers and glaciers
Splashing around in the geo-thermal waters of Reykjavik’s Blue Lagoon, which ranges in colour from shades of chalky blue to turquoise is both heart-warming and uplifting.
Heart-warming because of the pleasing temperature on a coolish night and uplifting because of the rumour of youthful restoration, after the soak.
I may not be entirely convinced these waters and facemask will be beneficial, but I am prepared to see what happens and happily join the crowd who have been seduced by photos of the vibrant blue lagoon.
It is all a little surreal being shoulder-deep in the soothing mineral-rich waters surrounded by jagged lava fields, while the clock says 10pm and it is as bright as day.
The Blue Lagoon is fast becoming Iceland’s most popular attraction competing with the beautiful Gullfoss Golden Waterfall for first place.
“Everyone wants to feel the benefit of these geo-thermal waters and it helps many – you wait and see,” says our guide, Marika.
Being immersed in the warm lapping waters, rich in silica and sulphur and the night sunlight creates one of those “pinch me this is really happening” moments in travel.
I leave the lagoon feeling refreshed and invigorated with wild hair that conditioner soon tames and high hopes for that youthful transformation- fingers crossed.
If you decide to head to the lagoon, leave your modesty behind as you are asked to strip and scrub yourself with soap in a communal shower area – separate for women and men – before donning your swimsuit and plunging in. There are explicit drawings of where to scrub in the name of hygiene.
The Blue Lagoon visit is just one of the tours offered on Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam 14-day Northern Isles cruise.
Ports include Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh in the UK, Iceland’s Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri and Norway’s Alesund and Bergen.
Iceland: Must-visit destinations
Iceland with its dramatic landscape, there are 130 volcanoes – active and inactive, geysers and glacier-fed waterfalls, is on the hot travel destination list.
Last year more than two million visitors headed to discover the wonders of Iceland, a country with a population of 334,000.
“It’s the natural beauty people want to see and everyone is a little intrigued by Iceland,” says Maria.
“I would say there’s a certain magic about Iceland that people are rushing to see in case it changes and the stories of the Vikings have always captivated people.”
There’s a full house on the cruise that starts and finishes in Amsterdam with 2704 passengers, including 178 Australians plus 1000 crew.
Considered a mid-size ship, the Nieuw Statendam is the latest in Holland America Line’s stable which numbers 15. Television personality Oprah Winfrey is the ship’s godmother.
Passionate cruiser, Mary Anne Thomas from Sydney says she has wanted to visit Iceland for a long time and considered a cruise the best way.
“It’s fabulous to stop at different ports and see these places without having to think about packing and getting from one destination to the next – I have always had a fascination for Iceland and these other stops have been a bonus,” she says.
For an inspiring insight into Iceland, we spend some time at Reykjavik’s National Museum of Iceland with its historical exhibits spanning its early settlement to the present day.
Other highlights include the picturesque Pingvellir National Park and we watch in awe at the oldest geyser in the world called Geysir in the Haukadalur Valley.
The volcanic crater, Kerid in the Grimsnes area forms part of a group of volcanic hills thought to have been created 6000 years ago and is well worth a visit.
Birdwatching is also popular especially the cute North Atlantic puffins and the beautiful Icelandic horses which have extra gaits compared to other horses.
Our two days in Reykjavik are fabulous and entice us to return in the future.
After busy days of sightseeing, returning to the sleek ship is a pleasure.
Renowned designer Adam D. Tihany and cruise industry architect Bjorn Storbraaten, worked their magic to create a stylish ship where music and art features.
The decks are named after famous composers – we are on Gershwin deck in a cosy cabin with balcony and a compact ensuite with Elemis toiletries.
Our affable steward, Jaya from Indonesia ensures all is spick and span, but we spend little time in our cabin as there’s so much to do.
Dining is an exciting journey with plenty of options ranging from the elegant open-seating dining rooms to specialty restaurants that incur a fee. They include the Pinnacle Grill for steak and seafood, authentic Italian cuisine is served in Canaletto, southeast Asian dishes at Tamarind and Nami Sushi, and a contemporary twist on French seafood classics in Rudi’s Sel de Mer.
Food expert and cookbook author, Rudi Sodamin, who is the master chef of Holland America Line, oversees the cuisine fleet-wide and has a huge following.
For quick meals head to the Lido Market for buffet ballast while the New York Deli and Pizza features Italian salads and thin-crust pizzas.
Poolside there’s Dive In with grilled burgers, hot dogs and French fries and a gelato bar.
Inspired by blue and white Delftware, the Grand Dutch Cafe is the place for great coffee – for a small cost and complimentary sweet and savoury Dutch favourites.
Entertainment is excellent and there is something for all.
The innovative Music Walk showcases a variety of live musical experiences and genres, including the Rolling Stone Rock Room, Lincoln Centre Stage, Billboard Onboard and B B King’s Blues Club.
The Music Walk takes you from live rock and pop bands to classical recitals and rhythm and blues.
Watch out for the amazing 7.5-ton harp sculpture that fills the atrium, also the paintings imitating Dutch masters with a modern twist and a “melting” electric guitar near a lift.
Iceland: Something for everyone
When it comes to activities, there is everything from trivia to card games, basketball to bridge.
Fancy becoming a winemaker for a day? Sign up and a sommelier will have you blending your own drops for US$47.
Cocktail mixology is big, and passengers can learn the secrets with a skilled bartender showing the latest trends including Asian cocktail mixology for US $15.
Want to be pampered? Splash out on a facial or a massage and movie lovers will enjoy stretching out on a sun lounge for a poolside blockbuster.
This cruise, however, is all about the destinations with vivid experiences such as the fabulous Alnwick Gardens with dancing fountains and enchanting mazes, the lunar-like landscape of Reykjavik’s Peninsula and the birdlife of Vigur Island, home to puffins, eider ducks and Arctic terns.
In a small Reykjavik bar, we toast our trip with a glass of brennivin made from potatoes that tastes a little like unsweetened schnapps and dine on delicious Arctic Char.
Then locals try and get our heads around Iceland’s longest word which has 64 letters.
The meaning? Something about a lost key.
As for that Blue Lagoon makeover – no sign of change yet, just wonderful memories.
Holland America Line operates more than 500 cruises to more than 400 ports in 98 countries around the world. From shorter getaways to 128-day itineraries, the company’s cruises visit all seven continents. The 14-day Northern Isles sailing on Niuew Statendam departs on August 2, 2020. Visit hollandamerica.com
The October issue of MiNDFOOD is our cruise special. With so many cruises to choose from, why not explore some more:
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