​ICELAND CRUISE

COMPLETE GUIDE TO ​ICELAND EXPEDITION CRUISES

Because you are here you are most likely planning a cruise to Iceland. You may have already booked it. Iceland is an unforgettable country and we know you'll love your cruise as much as we did.

To help you get the most out of your trip we have written a short guide below with links to more detailed information.

If you have yet to decide upon your Iceland cruise then there is useful information to help you choose the perfect option.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

​​Iceland Cruise: The Complete Guide

​Overview

Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland has a population of 332,529, making it Europe's least populated country.

Because of this, there is an incredible feeling of freedom when travelling around Iceland. On top of this, your Iceland cruise will make shore landings in very remote regions where few humans ever visit.

Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland is both volcanically and geologically active. This makes the landscape very dramatic. One moment you can be among snow-covered mountains, the next you'll be walking over lava fields. It's this diversity of scenery that attracts people to Iceland, not to mention the friendly inhabitants that greet you!

The climate of Iceland is not as cold as one might imagine, however, this does vary depending on which area you visit. Generally, the south part of Iceland tends to be warmer, although its also windier and wetter than the north. The Central Highlands receive the coldest temperatures and snowfall is more predominant in the north.

Among the highlights of an Iceland cruise include the island's incredible coastal wildlife. You will literally see millions of seabirds nesting high on the cliffs, attempting to stay safe from predators such as the Arctic fox. Also look out for whales and dolphins as these creatures are common around Iceland.

With its extreme landscapes of raging blue rivers, thundering waterfalls, hot springs and vast open tundra, Iceland is truly one of the most unique places to visit on earth.

​Best Time To Cruise Iceland

Iceland is one of those rare destinations that won't let you down no matter the time of year you visit.

Because of its northerly location, weather fluctuates considerably, often in a single day! Obviously the winters are very cold, but this is also the best time to see the Northern Lights and photography pristine snowfall.

Like America and the UK, Iceland's warmest months come in June and July when there is almost 24 hours of daylight. This is also the driest time of the year, making it perfect for shore landings and long hikes. ​

​Summer

For wildlife lovers, May through to September is the best time to see whales on your Iceland cruise. However, some people like to cruise in February and March to witness the Orcas that patrol the shorelines in search of fish. You can still see the Northern Lights at this time also.

Autumn is a fantastic time for photographers as the sunsets are long and the Tundra vegetation is burnished yellow, orange and gold.

Spring is also a great time to visit as the Northern Lights are still strong and you can witness the millions of birds that arrive on the island, including everyone's favourite - the puffin!

​Winter

​Winter in Iceland is actually quite an interesting time to visit. Because the Summer is so popular, there are far less crowds in Winter and you'll have some of the hotspots to yourself!

​You will have to put up with the 'refreshing' temperatures however and expect shorter days.

Cruises are rare during this period but do operate occasionally. Land tours are more popular and there are some fantasic Northern Light tour options. 

These generally include horse riding and bathing in hot springs.

​Types of Expedition Ships

​​If you have taken some cruises previously, you'll know that the size of your ship will change your experience significantly.

The bigger Iceland cruise ships offer more luxuries and space to move around. However, you won't get as many shore landings and the queues to get off the boat will be longer.

Other elements to consider include​ on-board facilities, staff ratio, and ​extra activities.

​Research Vessels

Research ​style ships are often the cheapest option for expedition cruises.

These vessels are basic, but get the job done. In fact, the basic environment actualy makes the cruises feel far more epic!

There are actually very few research vessels that cruise to Iceland. A far more popular option are the expedition-style ships. ​

​Expedition Ships

​Expedition-style ships​ are very popular option for Icelandic cruising. 

Finding a nice balance between reesearch and luxury, expedition vessels offer great diversity in terms of extra activities and shore landings.

Because they are not too big, you'll make numerous landings throughout your Iceland cruise journey. 

​Luxury Cruises

​There is no beating sipping champagne aboard your luxury vessel as you sail past breathtaking landscapes.

Luxury ships offer this and much more. Expect all the comforts of home whilst sailing and excelent cabin sizes.

Luxury cruises are often quite large and this may restrict shore landings occassionally. 

​Iceland Cruise Cost

Because of high operating costs, Iceland cruises do not come cheap. For a basic cruise you should expect to pay at least US$1,500.

However, if you want a proper expedition cruise with shore landings, wildlife and landscape experts and activities, you should expect to pay at least US$4,000.

At the cheaper end you will be sharing a cabin and bathroom facilities. If you're willing to pay more then you can expect your own room with private ensuite.

For longer itineraries that venture into more remote areas, you could being paying upwards of $15,000 for a basic cabin. On average, we would suggest budgeting between $4,000-8,000 for a great two week cruise around Iceland.

​Other Cost Considerations

​Beside the main cruise cost, there are also a number of other cost factors to consider. 

​Solo Travelers

​Flights

​Gear

​Visa and other Misc. Expenses

​Choosing The Right Iceland Cruise

​There are plenty of Iceland cruises to choose from and this can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.

Don't worry though, just take your time, read the information provided and choose what you think will suit you best.

Deciding on what you want to get out of your Iceland cruise will narrow down your itinerary options significantly.

You may also want to cruise to another country as part of your Iceland adventure. Many Iceland cruises visit places such as Greenland, Canada and Svalbard as part of one itinerary.

  • ​When
  • ​How long
  • ​Where
  • ​activities
  • ​cabin type
  • ​book ahead

​Because Iceland offeres so much variety throughout the whole year, deciding when you cruise is crucial.

​Do you want to see orcas in February and March, whales in Summer or the Northern Lights in the dead of Winter? Deciding on this will narrow your seach considerably. 

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Iceland Cruise: Wildlife

Wildlife lovers will not be disappointed when cruising Iceland, particularly as the marine mammals are actually far more varied than the land mammals.

Bird lovers will be in paradise, especially during summer when millions of bird nest upon the green island. Seabirds nest in their thousands high on the steep cliffs and an Iceland cruise is the perfect place to spot these.

A thousand years ago the Arctic fox was the only mammal to walk upon Iceland. However, since the arrival of humans there  has been the introduction of the Icelandic sheep, dog, reindeer and horse.

​Types of Wildlife

​Polar Bear

iceland cruise -wildife

​​Although very rare, polar bears do make it across from Greenland on ice floats occasionally.

If you are just taking an Iceland cruise then do not expect to see one unless you are very lucky. These beautiful creatures are spotted frequently if you combine your cruise to visit Greenland or Svalbard.

​Arctic Fox

iceland cruise -wildife

​​​One of the most beautiful creatures in all of the Arctic! This lovely fox is best seen during winter when it looks sleek and white.

Winter is tougher to see one though and your best bet is in summer, particularly along the coast line where the fox is looking for seabird eggs.

​​Whales

iceland cruise -wildife

​​​Whales are a big draw card for Iceland cruises. May to September is the best time to spot many species of whale including humpback, minke and the enormous blue whale.

February and March are the best months to see orca prowling the shores for fish.

​Seabirds

iceland cruise -wildife

​​​Huge numbers of birds arrive to Iceland in spring where they settle down for the summer.

Seabirds are one of the main attractions for many wildlife lovers and the cruise boat will be able to visit many of the bird colonies that land tours cannot. Among people favourite include the puffin and Arctic tern.

​Seals

iceland cruise -wildife

​​​​There are two species of seal that live on Iceland’s shores permanently: the harbour and the grey seal.

Although the seals can be spotted along any part of Iceland's coast, the best places to see them is along the Westfjords, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the Vatnsnes Peninsular and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

​​Iceland Cruise: Things To Do

​​Iceland offers up some of the most diverse landscapes on earth.

On top of this, the bird and whale species are numerous and photograhers and nature lovers will be very much in their element. 

Although you won't be able to see and do everything on your Iceland expedition cruise, you'll hopefully tick a number of activities off your list.

Below we have given a little more information on each. 

​The Northern Lights

things to do on a Iceland cruise - Northern lights

The Aurora Borealis has always fascinated humans. Streaking a ross the sky, the bright lights have given rise to myths and legends that permeate throughout Iceland.

It is very hard to explain the feeling of awe that one experiences when looking up at these magnificent displays dancing across the night sky.

Iceland is without doubt one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights and many people travel to the country with this sole ambition.

During winter is of course the best time to see them, but you can still get excellent displays in the shoulder months. This is often a popular period for visitors who want to get some good daylight hours whilst also seeing the lights.

If you would like to know more about the Northern Lights, please see our detailed page here.

​Photography

Iceland-cruise-photography

Iceland is famed for its photography. The rugged mountains, deep valleys, epic glaciers and brooding volcanos make the landscape a photographer's dream. No matter when you visit, the Icelandic landscape will offer something completely fantastic and unique.

Many Iceland cruises are geared towards photography. You'll often have a photography expert onboard to answer all your questions and give you free tutorials as you make shore landings. You'll even get help win the post-editing process should you wish. Shooting the Northern Lights at night requires experience and trial, as does shooting in bright snow. Therefore, having an expert onboard often proves invaluable.

Whilst your guides onboard your Iceland cruise will be able to guide you through the process, you'll still need to bring your own gear. ​

For more information, please see our page on Arctic photography here. We provide all the tips and equipment you'll need.

​​Wildlife Watching

things to do on a Iceland cruise - wildlife watching

​​​Whales are frequently seen alongside ships and you should have your binoculars at the ready at all times!

Millions of seabirds flock the cliffs during the Summer and you'll be able to see the beautiful puffin among them.

If you're lucky you'll spot an Arctic fox hunting along the shore or, if your super lucky, a polar bear!

​​Kayaking and Zodiacs

things to do on a Iceland cruise - kayak

During your Iceland cruise you'll take daily zodiac trips to search out wildlife and to make shore landings. 

​Kayaking will also be an option on many Iceland cruise itineraries.

This is a great way to explore the inlets, icebergs and wildlife without disturbing them. If you're lucky you may get a very close whale encounter!

​​Scuba Diving and Swimming

things to do on a Iceland cruise - scuba

Although cold, scuba diving is certainly an option on select Iceland cruise itineraries. 

​You'll need to be qualified and have expereince in cold water. Gear will be provided.

Swimming is also an option. However, a more popular option is swimming in the hot volcanic baths!

​​Camping, Skiing and Hiking

things to do on a Icelandcruise - camping

A number of additional activities like camping, dog sledding and skiing may also be available depending on your itinerary. 

These activities will come at an additional cost and you will need to book well ahead to gaurantee yourself a place.

We highly recommend doing at least one extra activity as you will not be forgetting it anytime soon!

​Iceland Cruise Packing List

Because Iceland is in the far north, temperatures can get very cold, especially during winter. Expect night to be below freezing, even in summer. Iceland has a wide open landscape and the wind can get very strong, bringing the temperature even further down.

To combat the cold weather, you'll need to bring the right gear. Without this, your journey will be compromised and you won't enjoy yourself nearly as much.

For people who live in cold conditions already then you will no doubt own the correct clothing. People from warmer climates may have to invest in some cold-weather gear. For a detailed packing list, please click here.

Items you'll need to consider before sailing are as follows:

​Items To Consider

Clothing: ​Because of the low temperatures you'll want to wear layers. This will include a base layer, shirt, fleece and jacket.

Footwear: ​Because you'll be making daily 'wet' shore landings, you'll need the right boots.

Headgear: ​You lose most of your body heat through your head. therefore taking a good beanie is paramount.

Gloves: ​Your hands will be the first part of your body to freeze. Choosing the right pair of gloves for your Iceland cruise is vitally important.

​Bags and Daypacks: ​During your shore excursions you'll want to bring some essentials with you, plus all your camera gear!

Important Accessories: ​From water bottles and zip-locks to spare batteries and ear plugs, we provide all the items you'll need in your Iceland cruise.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

​Iceland Cruise Highlights

​West Fjords

​One of the most remote landscapes in Iceland, the West Fjords are a beautiful amalgamation of islands, tundra and dramatic peaks. Of particular beauty is the Dynjandi Waterfall. One of the best places to see seal colonies.

​Hofn

hofn-harbour

​Known as the gateway to Vatnajökull National Park, the Vatnajökull glacier and the Jökulsarlon glacier lagoon. An extremely pretty region of Iceland where fishing has supported the locals for over a century.

​Reykjavic

REYKJAVÍK

​Most Iceland cruises depart and finish in Reykjavik, making it the ideal place to explore. The capital is bustling with shops, cafes and museums. In the surrounding area you can also visit Gullfoss waterfall and the geyser rich Haukadalur.

​Snaefellsnes

SNAEFELLSNES-PENINSULA

Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a 90km-long peninsula with an incredibly diverse range of landscapes and wildlife. High cliffs teaming with seabirds and the beautiful Snaefellsjokull National Park
make this one unmissable destination for nature lovers.

​Vestmannaeyjar

VESTMANNAEYJAR

​This volcanic archipelago is both stunning and dramatic. Many of the islands were formed thousands of years ago, however, they are still being formed with the most recent in 1963! Perfect area for photography, whale watching and seeing puffins.

​East Fjords

East-Fjords

​A very popular stop for Iceland cruises is Seydisfjördur. This coastal region offers stunning scenery and plenty of activities such as horse riding, hiking and kayaking. Look out for the beautiful waterfalls that dot the coast.

Cruise Insurance

​In our article – Arctic Travel Insurance – we have provide all the information you need to find your perfect insurance policy. Alternatively, you can get a quote straight away with our rcommended specialist below. ​

​Iceland Cruise Video

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