You don’t have to travel halfway round the world to find great cruise destinations. Some of them are right on our doorstep.
Take Iceland. It’s near enough to be pretty close, but distant enough to be kind of far away. Lately I’ve been reading up on this northerly isle with a view to cruising there, and the more I learn, the more it fascinates me.
Iceland has a tiny population of about 330,000 people, which is about the size of Leicester. No disrespect to that great English city, but Icelanders have made their presence felt in the world to a degree that the good folk of Leicester may struggle to match.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this Nordic land regularly punches above its weight.
Recently, in one important European league table, Iceland was placed a comfortable 20th, whereas the UK – a much larger country – could only manage a measly 25th.
But then nobody ever said it was easy to do well in the Eurovision Song Contest.
For such a small geographic area, this North Atlantic island, perched just below the Arctic circle, has had a big impact on the world at large.
Who could forget that brief period in 2010 when Iceland came close to persuading the entire UK travelling public to take up cruising. It was all thanks to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which blasted shedloads of volcanic ash into the skies of Europe.
As a result airlines and air passengers were driven into a state of high anxiety.
But that violent and scary episode is in stark contrast to the peaceful and stable nature of modern Icelandic society. Indeed, according to something called the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world.
This is due to its having no armed forces, a low level of crime and a social and political system that is regarded as being highly stable.
Any country that can make its presence felt on the global stage, as Iceland has done, without invading anyone in a long time, deserves a lot of credit. Not to mention a visit.
So what kind of opportunities are there for the northwardly inclined cruiser? Well here are two options that show what’s possible.
12 night cruise on Oriana
This package offers you no fewer than three Icelandic destinations plus a chance to set foot in Ireland and the Faroe Islands.
You leave from Southampton on 24 July 2013, calling in at Dublin a couple of days later. From there you’ll go onto Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, followed by Isafjordur in the north west and the northern town of Akureyri.
Now all that remains is for you to visit Torshavn. the capital of the Faroe Islands, before heading back to Southampton.
This 12 night Iceland cruise comes with a starting price of £1,389 per person.
12 nights on Jewel of the Seas
Can’t wait till next year? Then here’s another possibility. On 20 June 2012 you can join this Iceland cruise on Jewel of the Seas.
Setting off from Harwich, you’ll enjoy three stops in Norway – Bergen, Flam and Geiranger – before sailing to Shetland. From there you’ll go to Klaksvik in the Faroe Islands.
Then, on the ninth day of your holiday, you’ll reach Iceland, where you’ll enjoy one and half days in the capital, Reykjavik, before turning round for the voyage home to Harwich.
Per person prices start at £1,629. But for that money you’ll also get $100 per cabin spending cash and the benefit of Virgin’s legendary Rockstar Service.
I don’t know about you, but I feel no life can be considered complete without a visit to this fine country.
A country after which an entire British supermarket chain has been named.
A country that gave us Björk and cod wars, and then went on to survive a major banking collapse that might have destroyed lesser nations.
A country which I’m told has some amazing geysers, and I bet the women are really splendid as well.
And here’s another thing – it’s never been easier to get to. Right now you can take your pick from no fewer than 10 Iceland cruises.