Northern Exposure 9-24-2004

Radisson Seven Seas’ Navigator explores Iceland and Greenland in style

By: Karen Goodwin

Your upscale cruise clients won’t have to give up the good life to take the adventure of a lifetime the remote outposts of Iceland and Greenland.

I recently took the unusual cruise on Radisson Seven Seas Cruises’ Navigator, which will offer a similar cruise next summer between New York and Reykjavik, Iceland, via Greenland. RSSC is the only luxury line that calls in Greenland, the huge, ice-capped island misleadingly named by Viking explorer Erik the Red in 985 A.D.

My 11-night cruise got off to an exciting start departing Reykjavik in Iceland, another Nordic island mostly undiscovered by Americans.

Iceland is a destination in itself, and absolutely worth a pre-cruise tour. RSSC books tour participants at the Radisson SAS Saga Hotel in Reykjavik, which did not receive rave reviews from passengers I spoke with. A better bet: Reykjavik’s Hotel Borg, a renovated 1930s hotel on the town square.

For clients seeking adventurous outings, The Activity Group (, a major Iceland operator, offers such popular excursions as dog sledding, snowmobiling (on glaciers, year-round) and riding on Icelandic horses (a pure breed that remains as they were in the late 9th century). Icelandair ( sells classic day tours of the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon hot springs, as well as some more adventurous offerings.

Iceland is a rewarding but expensive destination. Pre-booking may help ease the shock of sky-high prices. One uniquely Icelandic experience that’s inexpensive: a skim milk mixture called skyr, most aptly described as a cross between yogurt and cream cheese. It’s delicious. After leaving Reykjavik, it’s time to really get away from it all. The ship sails to Heimaey Island, a new RSSC port of call off Iceland’s southern coast. This is a remote, romantic spot, which like most of Iceland is a product of volcanic eruption. Puffins abound, as do lava fields with lunar-like landscapes. The starkly beautiful island is walkable. Shore excursions won’t be announced until closer to sailing, but in remote outposts such as Iceland and Greenland, options are limited to about one to four excursions per town.

From Heimaey it’s on to Ammassalik Island, a new stop in Greenland. The port town of Tasiilaq is the largest in East Greenland, with a population of about 3,000. Located in a fjord and surrounded by mountains, the region was first populated by Europeans about 100 years ago and is still influenced by traditional Inuit culture.

The ship then sails for two other ports in southwestern Greenland. Qaqortoq is a tiny town with cheerful, brightly painted homes. It has a church ruin nearby from the Viking era, as well as a museum and walking trails. Visitors also can sample shark and whale meat. Nearby is the town of Narsarsuaq, which means “the great plain.” Home to South Greenland’s international airport, the Narsarsuaq area is an expanse of green fields and what is called the Flower Valley. A hike in the Flower Valley, one of the shore excursions offered, is gorgeous with Arctic flora. In addition, the Greenland ice cap is reachable from here by foot or boat. Upon leaving Narsarsuaq, the ship gently sails past magnificent icebergs, one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

In keeping with the Viking theme, the ship calls at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, settled by Viking explorers from Greenland in 1000 A.D. and abandoned shortly thereafter. The L’Anse aux Meadows site has excavated 2,400 Viking objects and today contains reconstructed buildings of the original Norse settlement.

Then it’s back to civilization. Halifax is the largest city in Nova Scotia, and a wide range of shore excursions is available. The sea kayaking was particularly enjoyable. Next stop is Boston and its historic American sites. Ending the trip by sailing into New York harbor is spectacular. The Navigator is an attractive ship with Internet access, a library, comfortable lounges, a spa operated by the Parisian salon Carita and a small, usually overcrowded fitness center. The spacious all-suite cabins have balconies.

Portofino Grill is the alternative restaurant serving Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The food both there and in the Compass Rose main dining room is very good to excellent, particularly when one considers that the ship’s fresh produce is not replenished until docking in Halifax. All dining is open seating, and room service is available 24 hours a day. Passengers on this cruise are affluent, well-traveled and mostly over 60. Days aboard the ship are low-key, with people reading, attending lectures, playing bingo and participating in trivia quizzes.

The ship’s crew the waitstaff in particular is made up of polished professionals, very attentive, helpful and amiable.

Other wonderful RSSC features are the no-tipping policy and the lack of feeling nickeled and dimed over extras. Bottled water, soft drinks, juices, cappuccinos and wine with dinner are all included. The cabin minibar is stocked with complimentary liquor upon embarkation.

The cruise experience plus the uncommon itinerary will keep your clients returning to RSSC.


Ship: Seven Seas Navigator

Size: 33,000 tons

Capacity: 490 passengers

Year Built: 1999

Plugging In: 120- and 220-volt current in all cabins. Hair dryers are supplied.

Hits: Likeable staff, great food, complimentary self-service washers and dryers.

Misses: Ship vibrates more than most.

Itinerary: Reykjavik and Heimaey Island, Iceland; Ammassalik Island, Qaqortoq and Narsarsuaq, Greenland; L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Boston and New York.

Departure Date for 2005: July 30. (Ten-night sailing from New York to Reykjavik on June 15 includes all ports except those in Greenland, plus Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Cost: Starting at $4,946 per person.