My first cruise on Windstar was such a great introduction to the company that it left me with a desire to do it all again. So here we are, 4 excited travellers boarding the Star Legend for an 18 day journey from Dublin to Iceland circumnavigating Iceland before our time draws to an end.
Our first day is one spent at sea which enables us to scout the ship for all the great things on offer. As more mature travellers we were not looking for the dazzling shows or the slippery slides and as with all small ships it is more about the feeling of homeliness that we seek. Our suite is large as all are on the vessel, a large sitting room and a sizeable bathroom. The Juliet balcony was a nice touch but with temperatures not terribly high the sliding doors are not a necessity. As I always espouse, you are on deck more than in your cabin. As it will turn out to be I am proved right yet again when it comes to the higher you go on decks the rougher it becomes in a huge sea.
I think I need not mention the meals in great detail as everyone knows it is sumptuous food and far too much of it. Eat your way to your next destination. How to describe this journey is best done on a day by day basis so let’s see where we end up.
Our first day has us docking at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands at the northern most tip of Scotland. Someone forgot to tell them it is summer. Coats scarves and hats in hand we are on a bus which transports us back to a time when Neolithic man walked the earth. Skara Brae – the 5000 year old village was only revealed 150 years ago during a sand storm. Beneath the earth stone houses were revealed giving an in depth view of how man dwelt and existed. The wind is blowing right off the Atlantic and right under my coat. On the grounds of Skara Brae we find Skaill House built in 1620 by the Bishop of Orkney. With low ceilings and small rooms it is still a pleasure to come in out of the cold. An original dinner set belonging to Captain Cook adorns the main dining room. Queen Elizabeth the first visited in her younger days and this has been captured in photos lining the coffee table in the centre of the main sitting room. Canopy beds on the upper levels show the décor of the 1950’s period with the pink and grey (flamingo colours) bathroom centre position. Fascinating and a must see. Our next attraction is the Ring of Brodgar a ceremonial circle of stones dating back almost 5000 years. The monolithic stones have been buried deep in the ground and protrude upwards marking the site. It is not known exactly their purpose but the site at Stenness is 3 times that of site in the UK.
Into the city and we find the 12th century St Magnus Cathedral built by the Vikings during their 700 year rule. The ruins of the Bishops Palace across the road diming in the clouded light complete our first land excursion.
Day 3 and we are back at sea on our way to Norway. So far the sea has been kind.
Day 4 and here we are in sunny and quite warm Bergen Norway. How lovely it is to see the sun after a week and a half of grey skies – oh yes did I say this is summer.
Bergen was established as far back as 1070AD- yes it really is that old. The surrounding fjords of Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord are famous in the region. The old part of the wharf district known as Bryggen is where the Hanseatic traders lived. The resulting houses on the main street are referred to as the Hanseatic District. We now board the Funicular for the mountain climb to Mt Floyen 320 metres above sea level. Here we play with the mountain goats and listen to their ‘purring’ as we stroke behind their ears. A better view of Bergen cannot be found, just superb. Short sleeves no doubt will be short lived.
Day 5 and still in Norway we now find ourselves in Alesund pronounced Olesund. We have decided that the Hop on Hop bus will suit our needs for this destination. We are heading along the coast to Mt Aksla where there are remnants of the WWII bunkers set into the rock. As predicted the weather has turned to rain and wind, the 3 days of summer are over. Having viewed the city from on high it is back on the bus and on to our last – and warm – spot, the Atlantic Sea Park, the largest saltwater aquarium in northern Europe. I really like Alesund and would love it even better if we had a lovely sunny day like Bergen. This Art Nouveau town has been voted the most beautiful in Norway and I can see why.
Day 6 and we awaken to an exquisite site, what we expected from Norway as we enter the Geiranger Fjord in style. Cruising slowly to enable photos of the majestic snow capped mountains – we pass the 7 Sisters waterfall and catch a glimpse of the Troll road with 11 hairpin bends. The weather is in the gloomy side yet nothing can dampen our awe at this spectacle. We must dock this morning as the small harbour is not quite deep enough even for our small sailing yacht. The wharf I suspect is also not big enough even for a small ship. We are a group of 6 today with Sheryl and Bob from Florida joining us in the hire of a taxi. It is of course Sunday so nothing is really open as in Hop on Hop off buses. We head up and the further we travel the more majestic the scenery. The UNESCO site has inspired many royals from many nations to make the journey here. The Ornesvingen or Eagles Road is full of twists and turns that reveal a truly spectacular crystal lake – Djupvatn. The summit Mount Dalsnibba sits at 5000 feet above sea level providing the most exquisite view with enough time for a play in the snow. We can see our yacht from Flydalsjuvet view point. Time for a little bit of shopping and wi fi before our return to the ship.
Next stop Molde Norway . The Romsdals Alps create the backdrop to this moderate size city. Sadly it is raining yet again so we opt for another taxi to show us the sites. It is considerable cheaper than the ships shore tours. Nicknamed the town of roses, Molde has a fjord full of salmon, sea trout, cod, mackerel pollock and sea char. It is also popular for rock and ice climbing – not for us today. We visit the little fishing village of Bud (built in 1717) after an invigorating walk along the Atlantic Way. In 1989 a Norwegian engineer constructed a road linking all of the islets. A beautiful scenic drive is completed with the drive to Mount Varden but as the rains increases we are content to return to the town for a little bit of shopping before we head back to the ship. A short interview with a local paper and photos of each of us completes are Molde visit.
Wednesday and day 8 is again at sea – not so smooth sailing but manageable.
TORSHAVN FAROE ISLANDS – oh how I have waited for this. Torshavn is known worldwide for the grass roofs that adorn the homes in and around the city. The 17th century buildings are in some ways considered quite young. Yet again we are hiring a taxi with a lovely lady named Fare (pronounced fear). Vestmanna village, Streymoy Island, Vagar, the tunnel to Gasadalur – Vagars remotest village are all within easy reach so provide brilliant photo opportunities. Back in the town we have enough time for more wi fi and a walk around the streets. This city was always going to be a highlight to me as it was a bucket list item that I have very gratefully ticked off the list.
Day 10 – the start of a not so pleasant sea crossing on our way to Iceland. Up to 4 metre swells made our day not so great. No more could be done than staying in our cabin on the bed to cushion the impact of the rolling and pitching, please bring this to an end quickly.
Day 11 has finally arrived and we have docked In Reykjavik Iceland. There are many things that are quite a drive from the city so after arranging a car through the tourist centre, we set off to find the Secret Lagoon for a swim in the hot springs. The Lagoon is the oldest swimming hole in Iceland. Gullfoss waterfall is our priority at this point. The ‘Golden Falls’ as part of the Hvita River are simply magnificent and make up part of the Golden Triangle. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. We come across by luck rather than by design the Geysir Park, a not so spectacular spouter that goes off every 20 minutes. Running late for the ship we scuttle back on board for our next instalment 7 days circumnavigating Iceland.