I opened the door and was greeted by beautiful snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls and surprisingly, warm air temperatures. I couldn’t wait to get ashore. Saga Sapphire began her stay here at anchor, so I boarded the tender boat and headed for land to do some exploring on my own. It’s not a very big place, you can easily see the best bits in under 2 hours, but I managed to explore every nook and cranny and 5 hours would go by before I made my way back to the ship. I walked right around the town and then made my way towards the beautiful waterfall that I’d seen from the aft deck of Saga Sapphire. What a sight it was! I was completely in awe, I just stood looking at it for 20-minutes. The sound was incredible and the water jumped down the mountain as if it were flowing to freedom. Eventually, I left the waterfall behind and walked for a short time through the little valley beside the local supermarket. I didn’t manage to get far before I had to turn back because the greenery was a little too thick for me to trek through with exposed ankles!
As I previously mentioned, Saga Sapphire began the day at anchor, but once the local ferry left the only berth in the town, our ship would come alongside. I’d timed my arrival back at the port perfectly! I managed to get a prime spot to watch the ship lift her anchor and then make her way across to the berth. It’s not very often you get to see the ship you’re sailing on, sailing – unless you’ve missed it, of course – but there she was, turning almost full circle and making her way into the heart of town. It was fascinating to watch and I was just feet away from the action of guide lines being thrown and then ropes being lowered. I was in my element. Saga Sapphire sailed from Seydisfjordur at around 18:00 and we had wonderful views of the fjord. It was stunning and I couldn’t wait for our next port, Akureyri.
We would be berthed overnight in Akureyri and when I awoke on day one it was pouring with rain. I’d been praying that it would be dry, as my excursion here today was whale watching, but thankfully I had my waterproof Trespass
coat to keep me dry and a Trespass backpack to keep my camera equipment safely out of harm’s way. I’d opted for the Albus 30 backpack
simply because it was big enough to fit my laptop, but small enough to not feel like an empty, saggy sack hanging off my back when I wasn’t carrying much. I loved it, it was the ideal choice – as I’d later come to realise when it got drenched with water in Reykjavik! Made up of 3 zipped sections, a total capacity of 30 litres means there is ample room for all your essentials and the sturdy zip fastenings keep everything safely inside. Internal pockets can also be found and they are great for keeping your phone or keys in, as well as side mesh pockets that can be used to house your water bottle or maps. It also features several reflective strips, so it’s an ideal choice at night so you can be seen.
The material is hard-wearing and very durable and as I found out, to a degree, the bag is even waterproof. I was drenched with water during one excursion (keep reading to find out more) and I’d had my camera lens, money, tissues, external battery charger etc in the backpack at the time. I checked my camera was still operational (that had been in my hand at the time of the soaking) and I then turned my thoughts to the contents of the back pack. The outside of the bag was dripping wet, but inside, everything was warm and dry – I was SO relieved! I’d recommend the bag as an option if you’re planning some cruises with outdoor excursions.
I already had a heavy waterproof coat, but for this trip I wanted something a little lighter, so I chose the ladies Qikpac jacket. In hindsight, I probably should have also taken my heavier coat as Iceland was much colder in some places than I’d expected, but overall, the Qikpac jacket provided what I needed. It was quite youthful in design, which was an instant hit with me, crafted using Trespass’ Tres-Tex fabric, and it could also be folded away in a pouch and carried in the back pack when I didn’t need it.
Fitted with a ventilated back yoke, a breathability rating of 5,000mvp promotes ventilation to reduce overheating and it works! I sometimes overheat when everyone else is comfortable or cold, but even when sitting on the coach between points of interest, I never felt the need to remove the coat. The 2 zip pockets are also spacious enough to keep your gloves, phone and cruise card and the zip closures mean everything is kept safely inside.
So, back to day one in Akureyri. It would be spent whale watching, but not until the afternoon, so I had a leisurely morning and then left the ship to embark on what would turn out to be a very cold and wet boat ride through the bay, but one that would ultimately offer us the greatest reward in the end.
We walked from the ship to the boat and it was pretty miserable to say the least. The rain was thrashing the right side of my face and the wind was piercing. Once onboard, most people made their way inside, but a few of us braved the elements on the open decks. After all, we were there to spot whales and how can you do that unless you’re outside looking for them?! The crew onboard offered us warm, waterproof suits to wear and I’m so glad that they did because without it, I’d not have been able to stay outside, right at the front of the boat. I just hadn’t worn enough layers.
It wasn’t long before we came across a Humpback Whale and everyone was excited. We were almost level with this majestic creature and it felt incredibly surreal. As the time ticked away, the trip got so much better and several times we had whales so close to the boat that we could almost reach out and touch them. I’ve been on several Dolphin watching excursions over the years and they were such a thrill, but this really was something else. The sound of them blowing air was incredible. In fact, everything about the day was incredible: the fin waving, the rolling and the spyhopping (when a whale sticks its head straight up out of the water).
Shortly before our tour ended we were given the gift of all gifts. A large Humpback breached not once, but three times. I have never, ever seen anything like it and at that moment I felt like one of the luckiest people in the world. I had a tear in my eye. It was putting on a show for us and it was loving every moment of it. There was so much activity that the tour did overrun by a few minutes. How could we just turn around and leave when we were being entertained by these gorgeous creatures from the deep. I had booked the tour through Saga and they used a company called Elding. The crew onboard were fantastic and they explained everything we were seeing. The tour was expensive, but it was worth it. You can book independently or through your cruise line, but the tour with the cruise line seemed to offer a slightly longer experience, so in that case I’d say go with your cruise line. We all returned to the ship cold and wet, but that didn’t matter, we’d just had the most amazing four hours of the entire cruise thus far.
That evening I joined Captain Greybeard and his wife in Cooper’s, again. It was our evening haunt and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t stay up too late, however, as I had a long excursion the following day, but I did stay up late enough to appreciate daylight at a time of night that should have given way to stars and not the sun. It was such an odd experience because it was so late at night, but it was daylight! I felt tired, but then I’d see the bright sky and feel like it was only 2 or 3 P.M. and that going to sleep would be criminal. That night we only had 39 minutes of darkness!
I retired to bed, ready for day two of exploring in Akureyri…