The Great Iceland Adventure Part 1: On Premiere Expedition with MS Seaventure
All SEAVENTURE shots can be found here under Views of Seaventure.
4.30am – my alarm clock rings. The first thing that comes to my mind from last night is the song by Roland Kaiser from the radio: „Ich glaub es geht schon wieder los – das darf doch wohl nicht wahr sein…“ (translated: I think it’s starting again – that can’t be true…“).
The time doesn’t feel quite as friendly as the song, but fortunately it really is starting again and it is „true“, so I get started.
This time, I’m embarking on an unusual route on a well-known expedition ship with a German cruise tradition. The former MS Bremen will be operating for Iceland Pro Cruises (IPC) under the name MS Seaventure from summer 2023 onwards, and my voyage is a real premiere: it is the Seaventure’s first complete circumnavigation of Iceland and also the ship’s first departure this season.
Come on board with SHIPS@SEA and experience this cruise with adventure character: dynamic routing, up close with the expedition leaders on discovery excursions, a very personal ship in top condition and a feeling of „permanent energy“ in your body due to the seemingly never-setting sun of the midsummer night! Let’s head for Iceland and get on board.
MS Seaventure the ship history
Built in 1990 in Japan for Frontier Cruises under the name Frontier Spirit, she sailed three years later for Hapag Lloyd Cruises under the familiar name „Bremen“. The Covid pandemic hastened her already decided end and the farewell season was cancelled. During her Hanseatic career, the small explorer ship was mostly underway in the remotest regions in the world – both in warm and cold regions. In the process, the ship performed its service reliably and always delighted the guests, who became a loyal fan community. To this day, the Seaventure is in top condition – there is no sign of age – even after 33 years of service on the high seas. I have rarely seen a ship in such good overall condition – thumbs up.
In 2020, the Swiss shipping company Scylla acquired the MS Bremen and renamed it MS Seaventure. However, plans to deploy the ship itself off the German coast could not be successfully implemented during the pandemic. From 2023, the Icelandic operator Iceland Pro Cruises will charter the ship and use it in its programme for an initial three years in the summer months.
MS Seaventure at a glance
The small, elegant ship has five passenger decks with 80 cabins in seven categories. In addition to two suites of 24 square metres, there are 16 balcony cabins on deck 6. The six cabins on the lowest deck are only equipped with portholes. The size of the cabins is surprising: as early as 1990, great importance was attached to space and comfort, and all cabins are 18 square metres in size. They have today’s standards – it is good to know that the beds can be arranged separately or together.
By the way, you won’t find any inside cabins on the Seaventure – so the best view is guaranteed.
The decks are numbered from bottom to top. On deck 3 is the small on-board hospital and the Citizen Science Lab. Here passengers can carry out scientific research, e.g. on plankton, under expert guidance during the Antarctic voyages in the winter season. Iceland Pro Cruises does not currently use the lab on their Iceland voyages.
The reception on deck 4, together with the „Oceanview Restaurant“, is the very heart of the ship and is rounded off by an office of the expedition leader with a small boutique.
The expedition leaders are approachable at almost any time and provide competent answers. The hand-picked team of Iceland Pro has a great deal of expertise and is happy to pass on their knowledge to the guests.
Deck 5 is a cosy place to be. The Seabreeze Lounge at the stern has a bar with an outdoor terrace. From here you can comfortably stroll along the outside promenade and enjoy the panorama. During my trip, the weather was usually so nice that I enjoyed sitting outside for a cup of tea. Those who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere will find a good book in the neighbouring library.
The Seaventure has its own fleet of 14 Zodiacs, which are stowed on deck 6 at the stern. The bridge is also located on this deck and can be easily visited as part of guided tours.
The highest deck is very versatile: here you will find the heated outdoor pool with numerous sun loungers, the small sauna and a fitness centre with a sea view. The expedition lounge above the bridge also guarantees the best view. Lectures, readings and „port talks“ are held here several times a day. Since the audience on board is international, the events are offered in both German and English.
What’s behind Iceland Pro Cruises
Iceland Pro Cruises Managing Director Ann-Cathrin Bröcker is also on board for the start of the Seaventure’s premiere voyage. The resourceful Luxembourger founded Iceland Pro Travel 20 years ago together with an Icelandic partner. Since then, the group has expanded with subsidiaries in Switzerland, Scandinavia and England. Eight years ago, the group added its own cruise brand, which has been very well appreciated by the market. The offered Greenland cruises are always in great demand – early booking is recommended. The Iceland circumnavigations are also developing very positively and are enjoying a high market response. MS Seaventure, a ship that is well known and popular in Germany, is now under contract for the first time in the summer. The guest mix is international: about 50 per cent come from Germany, the other 50 per cent mainly from the English-speaking countries.
IPC can fully exploit its local advantage – advantages and unique selling points that are also important for the guests. For example, there are up to 14 tour guides in the expedition team on board who have great knowledge of the destination. In terms of cuisine, at least one Icelandic dish is offered at every meal and the Icelandic fish is always freshly caught and not frozen. In addition, there are even two types of Icelandic beer on tap: „You will hardly find this on any other ship in these waters,“ enthuses the businesswoman. Ms Böcker explains that with IPC she shows the guests the real „Icelandic way“ and designs the itinerary „as Icelandic as possible“. This includes that the Seaventure always docks at the best places – made possible by the fact that IPC is its own port agent.
With regard to the „post-Covid period“, Böcker is pleased: „Iceland is in extremely high demand again in 2023 – hotels on land are completely booked in many cases and never before have so many cruise ships come to Iceland as this year“. She is also enthusiastic about the fact that the Seaventure has been so well received by the market: „Several voyages this season are already heavily booked or even fully booked.“
Asked about the most beautiful destination on the route, her answer is clear: „The impressive harbour entrance of Heimaey, with its steep basalt formations, is the most beautiful for me“.
Iceland Summer Boarding
I board the expedition ship in Reykjavik in bright sunshine and a mild breeze. „Welcome to the Icelandic summer,“ I hear cheerfully. Peter, the expedition leader, who is barely two metres tall, greets us at the gangway with his lively voice.
Before we set sail for the big circumnavigation of Iceland, the crew thoroughly prepares their guests: The briefing on the use of the Zodiacs is just as detailed as the emergency drill, including the going out under the lifeboats. In the evening sunshine, we sail out into the open sea in front of the shimmering Harpa concert hall – my great Icelandic adventure begins.
On shore excursions: exploring Iceland with MS Seaventure
Shortly after setting sail, the words of Managing Director Bröcker come to mind: the weather in Iceland changes every 15 minutes. Today is no exception: as soon as we are at sea, the swell increases significantly, the sky changes from blue to grey and the expedition leader announces that our first stop will have to be cancelled without substitution. The planned excursion to the „centre of the earth“ in Arnastapi has to be dropped due to the high swell.
Some of our fellow travellers also fall into this victim role and have to sacrifice themselves to Neptune after dinner. After a slightly turbulent night, the new day begins more peacefully: with calmer seas, we reach Isafjördur in the Westfjords. The weather is now typically Icelandic: 8 degrees, low clouds, light rain showers with gusts of wind. Pure Iceland, as it can be in summer.
Things get exciting when we celebrate our Zodiac premiere at the gates of the Westfjord region’s metropolis of 2,500 inhabitants. Despite liquid sunshine, it was fun for everyone and makes us want to do more.
An excursion to the Dynjandi waterfall, which is over 60 metres wide and 100 metres high, rounds off the stay. The Westfjords are a very sparsely populated region, with its rugged landscape and lofty mountain peaks defining the branching fjord landscape.
Refreshingly dynamic: the expedition schedule
The expedition character of Iceland Pro is „soft“, Peter explains to me during the trip on the Zodiac in Isafjördur. By this he means that the ship usually docks in the harbour and the trips with the manoeuvrable inflatable boats are usually done without „wet landings“. Both are in contrast to the classic „expedition cruise“, he explains.
Our schedule remains full of dynamics for the time being: Petrus does not seem to agree and for a long time an exceedingly strong wind of force „9“ to „10“ prevents us from leaving the Westfjords. The delay of more than 14 hours is finally so great and the swell on the north coast also too high that Siglufjördur and the island of Grimsey can no longer be approached. Alternatives are sought and found.
Expedition leader Hermann and his team explain the new daily schedule to the interested crowd of guests: „What I am about to present to you is version number 11 of our route, which we have planned with the captain since we left Reykjavik.“ An astonished whisper goes through the Seabreeze Lounge. By his own admission, Hermann has already completed almost 100 circumnavigations of Iceland and today is also a first for him: „We are calling at the private island of Drangey with its huge population of puffins.“ When asked by a guest why it is going there of all places, Hermann is disarmingly honest: „It is the only place within reach that is sheltered enough and has very favourable wind and wave conditions in the forecast.“ With that, everything is said and everyone is looking forward to the planned Zodiac tour, despite the cancelled excursions. That’s just the way the weather is in Iceland and sets the pace, especially in regions like this – an expedition trip just follows its own laws.
The advertised timetable must therefore be understood as a guideline rather than an exact schedule. In order to spare oneself any disappointments, one should definitely make this clear to oneself before the journey begins.
Finally, the puffin colony awaits us in the evening in calm seas and soon the Seaventure is circled by the cute little birds screeching and chirping. I am reminded of Hitchcock’s „The Birds“ – only here it is beautiful instead of thrilling.
In Part 2 you will learn more about the destinations, the ship with its regional cuisine and who on board is in the speech about the weather thing. And the best comes at the end: the SHIPS@SEA résumé.BACK