Cruise - Ocean Cruise
Greenland and Iceland on Boudicca
17 people found this review helpful
Having decided we wanted to cruise from the UK to Greenland and Iceland this summer we had the choice of Black Watch from nearby Dover or Boudicca from Rosyth. We know and love Black Watch, but Boudicca offered the added attraction of calling at Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. We also wanted to complete our collection of Fred's ships, so our holiday began with a long drive to Edinburgh where we stayed overnight.
I'll mention the hotel briefly for anyone else considering a stopover in Edinburgh before cruising from Rosyth. Salisbury Green Hotel looks great from the outside and is in a lovely quiet location, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who might find lugging their luggage up narrow staircases a problem. It's very much a DIY experience – collect a key card from another building to access the hotel and get on with it!
We were hungry after our drive followed by a stroll round nearby Holyrood Park so we went in search of somewhere to eat and ended up in a heavy metal pub. The veggie burgers and chips were excellent, but there's only so much thrash metal we can stand.
The next day we set off in the pouring rain for Dunfermline which is only a few minutes' drive from Rosyth. We still had a few hours to kill and the town looked well worth exploring but we spent most of our time trying to stay dry. We'd packed our coats because we'd expected it to be summer in Scotland!
The cruise terminal in Rosyth is easy to find but pretty basic. As Gold members, we were among the first to board, but I always find it a pointless palaver having to get on and off a bus for a 30 second drive to the ship.
Once on board we headed straight for our cabin where we oohed and aahed about how big it was and made a cup of coffee to drink on the balcony while watching our fellow passengers boarding below.
Finally we were underway, passing under the Forth bridges and out to sea.
A day at sea allowed us to properly explore Boudicca. I'd expected her to be almost identical to Black Watch, but although she felt familiar in many respects, Boudicca is very different, feeling bright and contemporary while Black Watch feels homely and a little more spacious. And of course the staff were exactly as we've come to expect with Fred Olsen – welcoming and very friendly.
As I write this I'm conscious that the Faroes have been relegated to a poor third in my memory because Greenland and Iceland were so brilliant. The day was rather overcast and it was cold. We did an excursion which involved a coach trip to the other side of the largest island from where we boarded a small boat to visit enormous rocky cliffs and the birds that nest there. It was a long trip and fun at first but we soon got extremely cold and in any case, sea birds all look the same to me. In fact, wearing the wrong clothes for the conditions became something of a feature of the cruise for us.
After lunch and a few more layers of clothing we wandered around Torshavn, a picturesque and quiet town set around the harbour.
The Faroe Islands reminded me of Orkney but with a bit more colour. We always enjoy learning about places – especially from the guides on coaches – although here it seemed that the preparation of food is by far the main topic of conversation. Apparently rotten mutton is very popular!
Three sea days followed and we had plenty of time to relax and imagine what awaited us in Greenland. Much of the crossing was rough and there was a strong wind from the north. Boudicca is a surprisingly stable ship although the strong side-wind meant we adopted a permanent lean to port – crossing the cabin was like walking uphill at times. We awoke one morning to find that everything that could fall over in the cabin did fall over, but after all, it's all part of the fun of cruising!
Greenland was absolutely amazing, brilliant, incredible. I really didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect temperatures hitting 20C while giant icebergs drifted past the ship. The air is clean, the land almost silent, and the people extremely friendly. There are places in the world that look remote on the map but feel familiar when you're there. Greenland isn't like that, it's like nowhere we've ever been. We wondered if we'd see icebergs. For three days we saw so many that the real excitement became seeing seals on the icebergs!
Our first stop was at Qaqortoq. Our map showed a huge lake behind the town so we set off to circumnavigate it. The little research we did beforehand suggested that insect repellent would be a sensible precaution and we were glad of our Jungle Formula – there are a lot of buzzing things near water in Greenland! Having said that, they tend to be big and irritating but they don't seem to bite – or perhaps that's down to the spray. The walk was wonderful, taking over four hours in all, and involving quite a lot of scrambling over rocks and trying to find the trail. The highlight was a view from the top of a hill from where we could see huge icebergs in the distance.
At one point we passed an 'organised excursion' going the other way – a walking tour that went a third of the distance for £50 per person. We liked saving £100!
Because the evenings are so light here, we arrived and anchored at Narsarsuaq before sunset although we couldn't disembark until morning. It's still hard to believe that it was warm enough for breakfast on the balcony while watching the icebergs!
There is very little at Narsarsuaq other than an airstrip and a few houses, but that really didn't matter. Like most people we did a boat excursion directly from the ship to see a glacier and to sail between vast icebergs.
During the afternoon we went ashore with the intention of walking as far as we could. The rule is to wear layers in Greenland but on a day when the temperature reached 20C we ended up carrying most of them. Unfortunately, we wore boots with thick socks and suffered boiled feet – and we'd forgotten to pack the sun cream.
As we sailed out of Narsarsuaq I joined dozens of people on deck to photograph the beautiful sunset.
Again we arrived at our destination before bedtime – our final stop in Greenland was Nanortalik, and like the others it was a tender port. Nanortalik is a relatively big town with a population of around 1300 and is very picturesque.
Unlike almost every port of call I can remember there were no excursions. Instead the townsfolk put on a variety of events such as dancing, singing, cafe-miks (where you enjoy a family's hospitality), and a free visit to the town's open-air museum. It seems that someone bought up part of the town and turned it into a tourist attraction!
All too soon we were leaving Greenland for Iceland, but it took much longer than expected. The fog looked great until we were in it…
…but then we were creeping along for hours with the captain trying to avoid icebergs – they were everywhere. At one point he literally slammed on the brakes and moments later we missed one by yards. It was great fun but it soon became clear that we wouldn't get to Isafjordur in Iceland in time. Instead we had an extra day in Reykjavik – making two-and-a-bit days there in all.
We loved Iceland as much as we did Greenland, but they were as different as two places can be. Reykjavik is a modern city full of stunning modern architecture. But enough about Reykjavik – it's a nice city, but it's a city all the same. The highlight of the stay was the excursion. To call it 'Glacier Adventure' is to describe just a few hours of a nine-hour day – there was so much to see and do.
We began by visiting the great gorge that lies along the join of the American and Eurasian plates, then drove for miles across lava fields towards Iceland's second largest glacier. The coach was a particularly rugged Mercedes, which was just as well – the road was little more than a trail of rolled rocks!
Eventually we reached the foot of the glacier and we were transferred to a snow truck – an amazing 8×8 vehicle that lurched slowly up the glacier for about 45 minutes to the very top where we got out and frolicked on the ice for another half-an-hour or so.
At 1400m this really was like being on top of the world! The glacier was slightly discoloured by the recent ash which also caused the surface to be pitted with small craters.
We returned down the glacier more quickly than we went up (!) and had an excellent lunch before setting off again in our trusty coach. Following another hour of violent shaking we eventually reached tarmac and soon arrived at a series of waterfalls (the name of which I've forgotten). Here, the water emerges from half way up the cliff side having flowed through the porous lava under the harder rock above – we'd never seen anything like it.
And then to our final stop (not including the interminable 'comfort'-stops of course). Here we saw hot springs that I discovered are almost impossible to photograph close up so I'll treat you to a rather nice photo of my wife standing near a hot spring!
Although we had a truly fantastic cruise, this wouldn't be a fair review if I didn't mention a couple of niggles. First, the cabin TV… a big, modern TV with ambi-light (or something) and almost nothing to watch except Sky News – argh! It wasn't even interactive. Second, the final three sea days… Why take three days to do two days of sailing? We went so slowly I'm sure we could have rowed home faster. Why not add a port such as Kirkwall? Or do a lap of St Kilda? Oh yes, and another thing… Fred Olsen saved an awful lot of fuel by missing out Isafjordur, so it seems a little naughty for them to pocket the savings – especially since we'd paid a fuel surcharge! Oh well, that's business I suppose. Oh, and another thing… there was no British Night!! Instead we had an 'International Night' in which hardly anyone participated leaving me a bit conspicuous in my Union Jack waistcoat and tie at dinner. Has Fred Olsen gone PC? Whatever next?
But I don't want to end on a negative note. We had an absolutely wonderful time and the staff were brilliant. Would we cruise on Boudicca again? Absolutely, but perhaps not from Rosyth – we're still recovering from a nine-hour drive and a nightmarish traffic jam on the M25.
17 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Fred Olsen Cruise Lines