7 Amazing Iceland Cruises for Seeing the Remote Wonders of the Country
What better way to see this Nordic island nation than to sail all the way—or partly—around it. These captivating Iceland cruises will bring you to areas that are difficult (or impossible) to reach by land.
With its active volcanoes, glacier-topped mountains, rugged coastline, and more than 100 fjords, Iceland is best explored by sea, experiencing the “land of fire and ice” in the same way that the Vikings and other explorers did hundreds of years ago. Fortunately, cruise lines have caught on to Iceland’s seafaring allure and have developed enticing itineraries that allow travelers to see and experience colorful, picture-postcard villages, powerful waterfalls, and otherworldly rock formations. Here’s what to know about cruises that sail Iceland and our top picks for Iceland cruises.
Where Iceland cruises sail
Cruising from Reykjavík, most of our choices circumnavigate the main island, with a stop on Heimaey island off Iceland’s southwest coast to see the effects of the 1973 volcanic eruption, sailing past Surtsey island, which rose out of the sea in the 1960s and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Popular port calls include Akureyri, a major fishing port and university town, with access to inland attractions such as the legendary Godafoss, known as the “waterfall of the gods,” and steaming geothermal fields with impressive lava formations.
Another fun port is Seydisfjordur, an artsy village in the Eastfjords, with pretty chalet-style wooden homes at the end of an 11-mile fjord—a breathtaking scene backed by snow-packed peaks and a waterfall. From the quaint port of Djupivogur, you can do an excursion to the Fjallsarlon ice lagoon, where Zodiac tours will have you dodging icebergs to see the face of a glacial ice wall.
Isafjordur, in the Westfjords, is known for its music scene and the nearby attraction of Vigur Island, a privately owned bird sanctuary inhabited by eider ducks and puffins. Also in the west, the fishing village of Grundarfjordur has an impressive and much-photographed cone-shaped mountain, Kirkjufell, and affords access to glacier sights in Snaefellsjokull National Park, where adventurous travelers can hike an underground lava cave.
The Iceland cruise season runs roughly from May to September, with most sailings in June, July, and August. While there may be some limited space still available on 2023 cruises, the cruises listed below are predominantly for the 2024 spring/summer season.
The best Iceland cruises
Viking Cruises’ Iceland’s Natural Beauty
Best for value
Price: 7-night sailings in July and August from $4,299
Viking Cruises’ well-planned circumnavigation of Iceland is a perfect one-week sampling that bring passengers to pristine shores and friendly towns and villages at the head of fjords and offers access to such attractions as cascading waterfalls, glaciers, puffin colonies, and moonlike volcanic landscapes. Passengers start with an overnight in Reykjavík, which allows quality time to visit the surprisingly hip city’s waterfront and art museums or head off on a whale-watching tour. The 930-passenger Viking Mars, which will sail this itinerary in 2024, is, like all the similar ships in the Viking Ocean fleet, an absolute delight, done up in modern Scandinavian decor and with an impressive assortment of complimentary specialty dining venues, including a Norwegian café. One shore excursion each day is included in the fare.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Golden Circle Expedition
Best for families
Price: 10-night cruises in July, including a side trip to Torshavn in the Faroe Islands, from $10,299 per adult; from $1,299 per child under age 18
If you are traveling with kids and willing to spring for a truly luxurious sailing, the 750-passenger all-suite, all-inclusive Seven Seas Splendor, one of the world’s most high-end ships, is done up with yards of marble floors, more than 500 crystal chandeliers, an expensive art collection, and fancy top suites. So how does this fit in with kids? For one, they can come onboard two Iceland cruises next year at highly reduced fares. And perhaps more importantly, during those cruises, families will have access to the Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Club Mariner Youth Program for ages 5 to 17, with a range of activities such as movie nights, mini-putt tournaments, and dance lessons, overseen by professional youth counselors.
Around Iceland with Windstar Cruises
Best for cultural immersion
Price: 7-night Around Iceland cruise, June through August, from $3,799
What we love best about the Windstar Cruises weeklong Iceland circumnavigation itinerary is that the 312-passenger, all-suite Star Pride spends full days in the ports and an overnight in Seydisfjordur, with its lively arts scene. You get to hang out with locals, enjoy a craft beer, sample seafood and other Icelandic cuisine, hear a concert, or otherwise immerse yourself in Icelandic culture. A good conversation starter is to ask locals if they have written a book, since a fun fact is that one in 10 people in Iceland have published a book (those Icelandic winters are long). Onboard the ship, enjoy impressive cuisine such as fresh fish bought locally (including Arctic char, halibut, cod, and haddock), local cheeses and charcuterie, and Icelandic beers, schnapps, and vodka on the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation.
Lindblad Expeditions’ Wild Iceland Escape
Best short cruise
Price: 4-night cruise embarking July 5, 2024, from $7,206 per person, $500 discount for kids
While Lindblad Expeditions does impressively in-depth circumnavigation itineraries, the soft-adventure line also offers this four-night gem, focusing on western Iceland and perfect for those who also want to drive the Ring Road. Passengers sail to remote fjords, complete with hikes and Zodiac rides that will bring you to scenes such as the spectacular Dynjandi Waterfall, the largest waterfall in the Westfjords at 328 feet tall. Keep your eyes open along the coastline for nesting terns. A NatGeo-trained photographer onboard will help you get the perfect shot to prove you saw nesting puffins off Heimaey and elsewhere en route. The ship is the 138-passenger, polar-class National Geographic Resolution—with the fun option of catching views while camping in the lush bed of a glass igloo on deck.
Silversea’s Reykjavík to Reykjavík
Best for luxury
Price: 9- and 10-night sailings in July and August, fares from $4,650 per person
For travelers who like their nature and cultural exploration with a distinctive touch of class—including staying in a suite with a tuxedo-clad butler bringing you complimentary champagne and caviar, the 608-passenger Silver Spirit presents Iceland in high style. Done up in elegant Italian decor, it’s a floating oasis of good taste, including with top-class specialty dining experiences such as a sushi restaurant and a supper club with live jazz. Enjoy sea views and dine alfresco at the Grill, where you have your choice of protein cooked on lava rocks, after spending a day viewing lava rocks. The itinerary does an impressive seven stops in Iceland, plus a sail over to Torshavn, the Faroe Islands’ capital city, with its colorful grass-roofed buildings in the quaint Old Town and nature-filled sights nearby, including stunning fjord views and seabirds.
Ponant’s Iceland Mosaic
Best for underwater views
Price: 7-night cruises, June to August, from $6,920 per person. Note: June 15 is a Smithsonian Journeys Cruise with special lecturers onboard, from $7,910 per person
French line Ponant’s 184-passenger Le Bellot offers a unique perspective on Iceland, with an underwater Blue Eye lounge equipped with whale-eye shaped portals, large screens showing live images, and hydrophones capturing underwater sounds—all viewable as you relax in a “body listening” sofa, which vibrates in sync with the maritime acoustics and sip a perfectly made martini. Another bonus of this small ship is that the western-focused itineraries include a stop in the tiny village of Grimseyjarhreppur, the one inhabited place on Grimsey island, Iceland’s northernmost inhabited island, bisected by the Arctic Circle. Grimsey is a key destination in Iceland for spotting nesting puffins as well as auks.
Hurtigruten’s Circumnavigating Iceland: The Land of Elves, Sagas, and Volcanoes
Best for eco-friendly, off-the-beaten-path exploration
Price: 8-night sailings in May and June, from $4,016 per person (with a 50 percent discount for kids)
Norwegian expedition line Hurtigruten’s electric hybrid, 530-passenger MS Fridtjof Nansen can run on sustainable battery power for short periods of time. On an eight-night Iceland circumnavigation, the ship stops in popular places such as Akureyri but also goes deeper, stopping on Grimsey island as well as in remote Bakkagerdi in the west, known for its natural beauty and, according to folklore, as the land of the huldufólk, meaning “hidden people.” Bird-spotting opportunities include Latrabjarg, one of Europe’s biggest seabird cliffs, populated by puffins, northern gannets, guillemots, and razorbills. Excursions by kayaks, inflatable RIBs, and on foot are led by the knowledgeable expedition team.