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Day 1, Saturday June 3, 2017
The weather was lovely with sunny spells and no wind. This meant that passengers flocked to Norröna’s stern as we lifted anchor. It is an incredible sight, such a large ship gliding quietly and elegantly out of Hirtshals port. Well done Captain Petur av Vollanum!
It all went smoothly, we checked in quickly and easily and were issued with our boarding and cabin cards. It was a pleasure to move into the De Luxe Cabin with a double bed, a sofa arrangement and windows with ocean views, of course.
In the afternoon the cruise host offered us a welcome drink and a thorough introduction to the ferry and our cruise programme. This took place in Naust Bar. We were served an abundant and tasty dinner at Norröna Buffet. And throughout the journey the ferry staff treated us in the most lovely and professional manner.
At the end of the day the ferry was shrouded in darkness as it rocked gently in the flat, lazy waves. Not a breeze stirred. We leaned back and let our gaze follow the white wake trailing us into the distant horizon.
We thoroughly enjoyed it after a busy week at home. After all, we were sitting in the 40-degree warm saltwater hot tub on Deck 7. It was, of course, hot tub number 3, which offers an enchanting 180-degree view of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. What a wonderful way to round off the first day of our North Atlantic Cruise, where everything is arranged for us.
And there we sat quietly enjoying life and meditating lightly as we sailed the same route as the Vikings did 1000 years ago, albeit now driven by the engine power of Norröna. Four diesel motors with a total output of 30,000 horsepower!
But before we got that far, on board and on our way, we had to park the car for a week somewhere. And here is a little tip: Get there really early, because then you might be lucky and snag one of the few parking lots right outside the Fjord Line check-in area, which is also where Norröna boards. Read the fine print on the 2-hour parking signs. Go up and check in, show your travel document and get a free parking ticket for a week! Sorted! Then we only had to carry the luggage 25 metres!
Day 2, Sunday June 4, 2017
If only one’s stomach could keep up with the eyes’ appetite! We were full long before our eyes had their fill. The breakfast buffet was brimming with treats. We enjoyed our morning coffee and the view of the endless ocean, which the sun had cleared of most of its morning mist.
Suddenly there is a stir on the starboard side of the restaurant! An amazing, almost unreal display… a flock of 6 – 8 killer whales travel along with us for about fifteen minutes, at a little distance. You feel rich when you get to experience and enjoy such a sight. Our trips up to the uncovered top deck regaled us with lovely fresh ocean breezes, gannets and fulmars circling around the ship.
On a notice board by the reception on Deck 5 we found useful daily information for us as individual cruise travellers. So remember to check it every day!
The cruise host invited us to a beautiful film about the Faroe Islands in Naust Bar; it was followed by another amusing little film from and about the Faroe Islands and the quirks of the Faroese people. It was a humorous reencounter with Jan Gintberg’s visit to the Faroe Islands.
It was also very interesting to follow Norröna’s progress ‘live’ with integrated waypoints and ETA to Tórshavn on a big screen on Deck 5. We spent a long time following the journey there, and could see that the Captain had plotted a course South of the Shetland Islands. At 4 pm we were ready on Deck 8 to take in the view when we floated past the Shetland Islands, 32 imposing rustic islands that rose out of the horizon after 24 hours of sailing from Hirtshals. Rough, but beautiful to behold.
A table with an ocean view at Norröna’s Buffet contributed to a wonderfully tasty meal in a quiet relaxed atmosphere. It was a lovely evening.
We stood at the stern of Norröna as the sun’s last rays spread a fairy-tale-like light over the sea. And the little pod of large dolphin’s playing in front of the stern certainly did not break the spell.
Day 3, Monday June 5, 2017
Last night we set the alarm clock. Because there was breakfast at 6 am and arrival to Tórshavn at 7 am followed by a bus excursion at 9 am. We did not want to miss any of this! It was incredibly beautiful to see the Faroe Islands emerge in typically Faroese weather, chilly and drizzly with stunningly dramatic dark clouds gliding across the mountaintops. First we saw Nólsoy, then Streymoy and Tórshavn with the most scenic view of Tinganes. It was interesting in its own right to follow what seemed to us like a slightly challenging harbour manoeuvre with Norröna. Turn, swerve, back and slide into place in the diminutive harbour. Well done!
We were quickly on shore and had time for a little brisk walk on Skansin before the bus departed. Skansin was the town’s defence against countless pirate attacks. There is a renovated guardhouse and four metal canons from 1782, as well as two canons from World War 2. Today it is a great place to take in the view.
Our bus guide took us around to all the sights in Tórshavn, which is the world’s smallest capital with 20,500 inhabitants, and it describes itself as ‘Virkin og Vakin’ (active and awake). We had a chance to go for a longer walk on Tinganes, the little headland with the characteristic red buildings. In the year 900 a parliament was held at Tinganes and since then Tinganes has been the centre of Faroese government. The building Portugálið, built in 1693, was used as a guardhouse with a gaol in the basement. You can see Christian the Fifth’s monogram carved into the wall, along with the year 1693.
Our guide was very knowledgeable, keen to share his knowledge and happy to answer all our questions. On the way to Kirkjubøur on the southern tip of Streymoy we paused in the little village Velbastaður, simply because it has an excellent panorama of several other islands. We could, for example, see Koltur, where there are two inhabitants, and Hestur with 20 residents, and Sandoy, where 1,330 people live.
Kirkjubøur is the old bishop’s see in the Faroe Islands with the grand Magnus Cathedral, St. Olaf’s Church and King’s Farm. All three buildings are walking distance from each other and are historically and culturally very interesting to visit.
The Magnus Cathedral is usually referred to in Faroese as Múrurin, The Wall, today it is an empty room with 1.5m-thick walls that are 26.5m long, 10.8m wide and 9m high. A pretty impressive construction dating from around the year 1300.
The St. Olaf Church, which dates from around year 1250, is still in use today and it has an exquisite altarpiece painted by Faroese artist Sámal Joensen-Mikines. As our guide told us, you can tell by the number of hymns displayed whether the service is lead by a priest (6 hymns) or a deacon (4 hymns). The Faroe Islands have around 22 priests servicing 58 churches/parishes. At King’s Farm we were served coffee and cake in Roykstovan by the Pætursson family. They are the 17th generation of direct descendants to inhabit King’s Farm. The oldest section of the King’s Farm dates from the 10th century and is called Roykstovan. It is now a museum and café, and the family make a living from tourist visits, hosting events and sheep farming. King’s Farm is also considered to be one of the oldest wooden houses in the world to still be inhabited.
In Kirkjubøur the guide also points out restaurant Koks, which is housed in an entirely neutral white wooden building. Restaurant Koks just acquired the first Michelin star in the Faroe Islands, and it receives guests from all over the world. (You have to book a table several months in advance). We made do with aromatic Icelandic coffee, cake and an Icelandic movie at the Naust Bar in the afternoon on board Norröna. A wonderful appetizer for our upcoming excursions in Iceland.
We set out for Iceland overnight and will be arriving tomorrow at 10 am. Long lazy swells lull us to sleep.
Day 4, Tuesday June 6th, 2017
Oh what a stunning entry through the fiord to Seyðisfjörður. Tall snow-capped mountains draw closer and closer to Norröna, all the while the fjord grows narrower and narrower. The deck is packed with passengers taking in the panorama, in spite of the icy wind. (Tip: Don’t forget to bring a warm jacket, hat and gloves!)
The day offered us a breathtaking 9-10 hour-long bus ride to many unique nature sights, each with their special characteristics. Smyril Line had arranged an interesting excursion for us, and the cruise host guided us with great enthusiasm.
We drove up through the mountain pass at Fjarðarheiði heath at an altitude of 620m and here it was snowing! The day had snow, light rain and wind in store for us. We saw a multitude of beautiful waterfalls, sheep, lamb and horses on our way, and the trip continued through beautiful Jökuldalur and we, of course, had to stop at the enormous barren lava fields created when the volcano Askja erupted in 1875.
We now drove into an area bubbling with geothermal activity and the guide generously imparted his knowledge, and we learned a great deal about the Mid-Atlantic continental plates and magma that generate the geothermal activity. It seems that the Mid Atlantic continental plates are drifting
away from each other at a rate of 2cm per year, and a quarter of Iceland is said to be made up of active volcanoes.
At Myvatn Nature Baths we enjoyed the ultimate outdoors experience of the day! We chose to pay to enjoy the baths and bathed in in approximately 40-degree warm soft blue geothermal water filled with enriching minerals. And there we sat/walked/swam and our souls and bodies relaxed while snow gently fell. Above waters it was cold and many people needed hats on their heads! Boy did we enjoy that. And we naturally just had to try the luxurious ‘beer bracelet’ – prepaid at the entrance. Not that we really needed a beer, but the sensation of luxury… sitting in the warm water of Myvatn, raising an arm, the one with the beer bracelet, and a lifeguard dashed over with our request immediately! That is definitely a luxurious experience.
The extremely hot water is pumped 250m up from the underground and has to be cooled to 40-41 degrees Celsius in order to achieve a bearable bathing temperature. It does not come cheap, but is worth every penny! The price depends on the season. During the 2017 high season an adult entry cost 4,300 Icelandic kroner, for pensioners the price was 2,300 Icelandic kroner.
Feeling great we continued the bus excursion and experiences. Dimmiborgir – ‘the dark town’ is a big lava area with many striking and unique lava formations. We could walk along designated paths and, wouldn’t you know it, we found the Secret Cave of the Christmas Elves. It was as if it beckoned you to spend the night. There were certainly many facilities ready for us to use.
After that we visited the Námafjall area with boiling clay and sludge, stinking sulphur fumes and colourful mountains. What a stench and what a exceptional experience. The final great moment of the day, in addition to the scenic drive ‘home’ to Norröna, was a stop at one of at least 10,000 unnamed waterfalls in Iceland.
Brimming with pleasant and fascinating impressions gathered in wonderful Icelandic fresh air we ‘beep in’ at Norröna with our cabin key card, and soon enough we sit down for yet another tasty evening buffet. And enriched with experiences we make it an early night… because we have another Icelandic excursion tomorrow.
Day 5, Wednesday June 7th, 2017
From our cabin window we have a view over Seyðisfjörður and the many beautiful waterfalls in the mountains behind the town.
One in particular draws our attention and curiosity. We trot, crawl and climb up to, and almost under, one of the big falls. It was a challenging and beautiful trip, which made us break a sweat. It felt great to reach our destination, admire the great masses of water and the stunning vista of the town and harbour.
The bus excursion of the day offered more picturesque nature experiences at below cero temperatures, spiced up with the guide’s narration. The summit of Bjöllfur mountain had a rather odd shape. It turns out that the top was deliberately blown off with dynamite to minimize the risk of avalanches. At the foot of the mountain is a memorial. In 1998 an avalanche hit a factory hall and several workers died. The memorial, a white monument in twisted steel, is made out of some of the factory hall’s crippled columns.
High up at Fjarðarheiði we enjoyed panoramic views of the enormous lake Lögurinn, also known as Lagarfljót. It is 30km long and 2.5km wide and has a maximum depth of 112m. And as we continue the drive down to and through Iceland’s only forested area, Hallormsstaðirskógur, which spans across 740 square kilometres along the lake, we are told the exciting legend of the scary Lagarfljótsormurinn, the Lagarfjót sea serpent! There are several tales of the sea serpent dating all the way back to the year 1345.
Skriðuklaustur is a former cloister, church and home to prominent people, most recently to renowned Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson from 1938 to 1948. It is now a fascinating culture centre. With the help of a German architect Gunnar Gunnarson built a very special homestead –today’s Gunnarshus. Here we were culturally enriched with a captivating talk about Skriðuklaustur’s history and Gunnar Gunnarsson’s life and the cloister ruins.
Down in the small cellar rooms both our eyes and stomachs had their fill of yummy Icelandic specialities. On the way home we made a short stop at the Hengifoss waterfall and, wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a flock of reindeer. At Egilsstaðir we had a chance to shop for a few souvenirs, and we concluded the lovely excursion with a trot on our own around Seyðisfjörður, where we were quite taken by the fine church.
Back at Norröna we let ourselves be spoiled at restaurant Simmer Dim by a very competent waiter, who served a very delicate and tasty 3-course menu accompanied by wines, and followed by coffee and cognac, while Norröna lifted anchor and slowly floated away from the dock and out through the fiord. An impressive experience.
Day 6, Thursday June 8, 2017
The sun is shining, the weather is clear and the sea almost like a mirror. This leant us the first dazzling view of the day. The approach to Tórshavn between Kalsoy and Eysturoy islands with steep and towering emerald mountains. So grandiose and beautiful against the blue, blue sky.
The destination of today’s bus excursion was the little village Gjógv. The drive was along narrow winding roads, up and down mountainsides, and with constant, breathtaking views. A pause high over the tiny town Funningur, which is at the bottom of a long narrow fiord, regaled us with a stunning view, while we were told the story about the Norwegian Grímur Kamban. He settled in Funningur in the 9th century and is said to be one of the forefather’s of the Faroese. Funningur is one of the oldest villages in the Faroes.
The road continued to wind and grow narrower and finally brought us to the little village Gjógv, which is nestled above the ravine called Gjógvin. It is an impressive natural harbour between steep mountainsides. The sun shone, the jackets had to come off, and we wandered up along the northern slope and were rewarded with dazzling views, partly down across Gjógv and Gjógvin, and partly over the Atlantic. We have to just sit for a little while here on the slope and let the impressions sink in. After that we trotted all the way down into the ravine to imagine being fishermen having to draw our fishing boat all the way up to the village in order to avoid the crashing waves of the Atlantic in a storm. Luckily for us the Atlantic is calm, sunny and inviting today.
We drive around the tallest mountain in the Faroes, Slættaratindur, with its 882m. The summit is quite frequently shrouded in clouds and mist, but in today’s bright sunshine Slættaratindur is cut clearly in all its grandeur, even the imposing summit.
Risin og Kellingin, The Giant and the Hag, are two sea stacks measuring 75m and 73m, and there is an amusing legend about them. They wanted to steal the Faroe Islands home to Iceland under the cover of darkness. However, they forgot to be mindful of the sunlight when they got into a quarrel about the task. When the sun rose they turned to stone!
Who wouldn’t want to ‘walk across the Atlantic’?
When we got the offer we jumped at the opportunity! A brisk stroll across the bridge connecting Eysturoy and Streymoy. Below us the mighty swelling Atlantic. We took the old mountain road across the summits back to Tórshavn with wonderful vistas of, for example, the island Koltur (meaning foal) and finally an unparalleled view of Tórshavn.
Yet another lovely day of excursions with terrific nature experiences.
Day 7, Friday June 9, 2017
We wake to the sound of Norröna’s fog horn, and we are shrouded in dense white fog.
We might as well do a little power shopping at the duty free store on board then. Hey! That improved the weather. Towards noon the sun was shining and that gave us several lovely hours of sun in a deckchair on Deck 8 while we intermittently updated the diary.
We had our binoculars with us on deck… and wasn’t that a whale? It was indeed, two, in fact, minke whales that surfaced again and again and disappeared in the distance. It pays to sit in a deckchair, enjoy the view and keep watch!
In the afternoon we got lucky at bingo in Naust Bar. A DKK 100 gift card, time for a little more shopping!
The sun shone and shone, even after dinner, so we want back for a little more sun on the deck by Sky Bar. There was a wonderful atmosphere; everyone was enjoying the great weather.
The culmination of the trip was marked with the Great Viking Buffet, which is an absolutely incredible experience. An abundance of divine shellfish, langoustine, crayfish, crab claws, shrimps, mussels, cod and salmon and an abundant selection of meat, sheep’s head, oxtail, deer, wild boar, wild goose, turkey, lamb, chicken and all the things we can’t recall! Accompanied by salads, wild berries, skyr, smoked cheese, etc. Exquisitely arranged, well prepared and in abundant quantities. This is not an experience you want to miss out on.
We round off our North Atlantic Cruise and the day with a trip to the saltwater hot tub on Deck 7. Number 3 again, of course, with the 180-degree panoramic view of the Atlantic and the sinking sun. And the next morning at 10 am sharp we arrive safe and sound in Hirtshals – a highly recommendable cruise with relaxation, wonderful nature and delicious food on board has come to an end.
There are no limits to adventures and enjoying life – all tourists who enjoy life and all hardy Vikings can go on another cruise, and another and another! Or perhaps a trip to the Faroe Islands and Iceland with your own car on board Norröna?
Our forefathers, the Vikings, set sail to discover the North Atlantic and explored both the Faroe Islands and Iceland. They were often away from home for months or years. A little under 1000 years later we, ”The Bon Vivants” also set out in the wake of the Vikings across the North Atlantic on a well organised North Atlantic Cruise lasting one week.
We enjoyed life on board Norröna with all that it entailed, and on the well planned bus excursions we enjoyed morsels of the spectacular landscapes of both the Faroes and Iceland. A wonderful, luxurious experience in the perilous footsteps of the Vikings.
The bon vivants are Mogens anno 1947 and Rita anno 1949. We have travelled all the corners of the world, hiking, sailing, exploring adventures, often off the beaten track, and pushed our own boundaries in our quest for experiences, preferably not among great throngs of tourists. And this trip was our third time enjoying the great experience of travelling with Smyril Line in collaboration with the Smyril Line sales office in Hirtshals.