Chris Hutchinson discovers Iceland’s "land of ice and fire" and marvels at majestic Greenland

AT school I was not particularly good at certain subjects, ‘must do better’ said my reports, however, I did well in history and geography. From those lessons I have been fascinated by the Arctic, as my teacher described it as ‘Islands at the top of the world’

I couldn’t wait to board Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ smaller scaled ship, Black Watch, visiting Iceland and Greenland with an exciting itinerary.

First morning at sea, a pod of dolphins came to say ‘hello’, was this an omen for things to come?

We soon got to know Black Watch on our journey to Iceland, where staff radiated the warmest of welcomes.

Listening to the port lecturer and the knowledgeable shore destination staff, I selected tours from an impressive programme.

We sailed into Reykjavik, Iceland; our first tour entitled ‘The Golden Circle’ took us to Geysir, an area of hot springs, nestling in a clearing in lush forest and rolling hills - the Stokkur Geyser erupts every few minutes. I gazed in wonder at its white spray rising around 25 metres towards a blue sky. We stood closer but didn’t anticipate the ‘big one’, upwards of 40 metres; it descended giving us a shower!

Time for lunch, wild mushroom soup followed by freshly caught salmon was delicious.

Then to Gullfoss and its mighty ‘Golden Waterfall’- the most famous in Iceland- two enormous cascades thunder down into a canyon below. The spray creates a rainbow over this spectacle - a sight to behold.

Next Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; walking in the footsteps of Vikings. We trekked through a rugged canyon to the first Viking settlement founded in 874 AD. The population grew from 311, and in 930 AD formed their own Parliament. From this original site you overlook the entire park; its picturesque valley has lakes, islands, forests and pastures which form carpets of wild flowers. The Vikings certainly knew where to build houses. This tour of three natural phenomenons is not to be missed.

Our next excursion promised ‘A Taste of Iceland’. A leisurely drive took us to Seltun, surrounded by Luna landscape, here is the geothermal area. We strolled among jets of steam escaping from numerous multicoloured mud pots, which bubble and burst continuously. I counted nine different colours from pink to golden brown - a fascinating area.

Passing pristine beaches we arrived in Stokkseyri, a fishing village where lunch was served at a local restaurant - large tureens of freshly caught lobster with vegetables, salads, freshly baked bread and Icelandic dips. This lunch became a scrumptious feast - we certainly had a ‘Taste of Iceland’. The day ended with a panoramic tour of Reykjavik, taking in highlights and contrasting architecture.

Sailing to Greenland, we entered the scenic passageway of Prins Christiansund. Eight hours of spectacular sights, where an azure coloured waterway met snow capped mountains under a clear blue sky. Black Watch glided past waterfalls, icebergs and imposing glaciers which glistened white and blue. At every twist and turn the dramatic landscapes were breathtaking. Black Watch lowered a rigid inflated boat (RIB) whose crew retrieved a floating piece of the iceberg, brought it on board, then chiselled into segments and served it to us in our drinks, a unique experience!

On board there is a daily events program, whilst in the evenings imaginative five-star cuisine is a delight, followed by great shows.

Our first port of call in Greenland was Qaqortoq, a quaint town with multicoloured houses. Hiking around the Great Lake you hear about the unusual sub- Arctic flora and fauna. During the walking tour you see stone sculptures called ‘Stone and Man’ by local artists depicting the culture of Greenland.

The evening sailing took us through fjords where Black Watch skilfully manoeuvred past icebergs - sights to savour.

Our next visit in Greenland, Narsarsuaq, is home to a world of green mountainsides, a kingfisher coloured fjord and ancient Norse ruins. The first Viking to land here in 982 AD was the infamous Erik the Red who had been banished from Iceland; on arriving he named the place Greenland.

Across the fjord is the small village of Qassiarsuk situated where the Viking leader founded his settlement. We walked through the original farmstead absorbing Viking history; we saw ruined stables, Viking houses and the first church. Erik sent his son Leif Eriksson on an educational trip to Norway. He returned a Christian and converted his mother; she then refused to sleep with Erik until he built a church, and he succumbed!

We were enjoying life on board indulging in Traditional Afternoon Tea, a Wine and Cheese Evening, and the Grill with its specialities. There was also an Oriental Tea Tasting, British Night and the Martini Experience, the latter, James Bond would appreciate!

Sailing into Nanortalik, our last day in Greenland, I was excited exploring this area by a RIB. Appropriately suited, we set off skimming fast across the fjord to a small town admiring its Colonial houses from 1840. We hugged the shore line passing islands, inlets and villages. Finally we circumnavigated icebergs shimmering in the sunlight a few feet away; I was able to feel its smoothness. It is one thing to see icebergs, another to have it in your drinks, but to touch this natural wonder is intoxicating.

Later we were captivated by a school of whales cruising by; as they passed the last one raised its tail, was this a fond farewell?

I marvelled at Iceland and Greenland, their individual majestic characteristics are nature’s gifts to treasure- we must protect.

Finally Belfast, our tour took us to the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where locals believe giants once lived!

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Black Watch certainly realised a school boy dream, creating indelible memories of ‘islands at the top of the world’.

Travel File

Black Watch will be returning to the ‘The Fjords of Greenland’ on a 14-night departure from Liverpool on 13th August 2020 (W2023). Prices currently start from £2,299 per person, based on an interior twin-bedded room, subject to availability, and includes all food and entertainment on board, and port taxes.

For further information, please visit: or call Reservations on 0800 0355242 (Monday - Friday, 8am -8pm; Saturday, 9am - 5pm; Sunday, 10am - 4pm).