In the last 5 years or so, lots of cruise companies have started offering Iceland circumnavigation cruises. These are cruises that start and end in Reykjavík, and stop in many ports around Iceland along the way. In 2022 and 2023, you have Iceland cruise options from Iceland ProCruises, Hurtigruten, Viking, Windstar, and Crystal Cruises. Norwegian Cruises offers an Iceland and Greenland cruise, and may offer an Iceland only cruise soon.
Should you take a cruise around Iceland? If so, which company is the best? Which excursions should you choose? We can help with everything you need to plan an amazing Iceland cruise vacation!
Also be sure to check out our new Facebook group all about Iceland Cruises!
Small ship cruising around Iceland
I’m a big fan of a single-country cruise. Of course, our web site is all about Iceland, so we’re biased. Still, you can’t help but find a deep appreciation for Icelandic culture when you spend a week there. You don’t get that if you wake up in a new country every other day.
Cruise ships that go around Iceland are small; you won’t find any of the typical enormous cruise ships stopping in these smaller Icelandic towns. Fewer passengers is one of the reasons these cruises are expensive; often significantly more expensive than planning a trip around Iceland yourself. But they take away almost all of the stress of planning your trip. Food, lodging, and transportation are all taken care of. And activities are too, since you’ll likely pay to add excursions!
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of the companies that offers Iceland cruises.
Iceland ProCruises in Iceland
In 2021, we took a trip with Iceland ProCruises (IcelandProCruises.com), and recommend it. One of the co-owners is Icelandic, and most of the excursion team is too. Their ship only holds a maximum of 210 passengers. This is definitely a unique way to see some more remote parts of Iceland!
Here’s a typical itinerary for an Iceland ProCruises cruise:
Pros of an Iceland ProCruises cruise
- Co-owned by a local Icelander. Most of the staff is Icelandic, and so you get to spend a lot of time hanging out with Icelanders
- The smallest ship option. Ocean Diamond holds a maximum of 210 passengers.
- The least expensive option by a good margin. The price for a group or family of 3 is absolutely unbeatable.
- Excursions are clearly shown on the web site, and premium excursion prices are reasonable.
Cons of an Iceland ProCruises cruise
- The small ship doesn’t have many amenities. There’s a small spa and one restaurant. The hot tub hasn’t worked on recent cruises
- Focuses on Iceland. All of their cruises visit only Iceland, or Iceland and Greenland
- No free excursion options. (But Iceland Step By Step can customize city walking yours for you, for free!)
- The ship doesn’t stop on the south coast, so you miss some parts of Iceland. You can cover this with a land tour before or after, though.
Hurtigruten cruises in Iceland
Hurtigruten is a UK based company that has been offering cruises since 1893. The tend to offer cruises to more remote areas: Iceland and Greenland, but also The Galápagos Islands and Antarctica. Hurtigruten offers scientific exploration as well as tourism. The circumnavigation map is similar to Iceland ProCrusies, though they stop at different ports in the Westfjords and in North and East Iceland.
There are 2 different ships doing Iceland circumnavigations in 2022: Fram and Nansen. Fram holds 250 passengers, and Nansen holds 528. Nansen is much bigger, but also much newer: It was built in 2020! Fram was built in 2007, but is expected to be refurbished in early 2022. So if you join Hurtigruten for an Iceland circumnavigation cruise in 2022, you’re getting a new ship. Nansen is the brand new ship that you’ll be on on the June 2022 Iceland cruises. it’s a beautiful ship:
Pros of a Hurtigruten Iceland cruise
- Brand new or refurbished ship
- Children as young as 6 welcome (but the cruise is wonderful for adults too!) 50% discount for kids,
- Opportunities for citizen science
- Many excisions are included for free (Mostly walking tours.)
Cons of a Hurtigruten Iceland cruise
- No Icelanders on the expedition team. (You won’t fund any outside of Iceland ProCruises, though!)
- Significantly more expensive than the cheapest options with Iceland ProCruises
- Only a few data choices for Iceland Circumnavigation per summer
Viking Cruises in Iceland
Viking is the big player in Iceland circumnavigation cruises. They have a cruise leaving Reykjavik every week throughout the summer. The Viking Star will spend its entire summer going round and round Iceland. While Viking claims this ships holds “only” 930 passengers, that’s the largest ship offered for a circumnavigation Iceland cruise!
But that larger ship gives you access to many more amenities. You’ll find 2 pools, a premium Nordic spa, a sports deck, and several lounges. The Star won’t match the amenities on larger ships; there’s no casino here. Still, you’ll find the most offerings on this ship for an Iceland circumnavigation cruise.
The itinerary is similar to the others, though with fewer port stops; the cruises are a day or 2 shorter, since the ship is back in Reykjavik every week.
Pros of a Viking Iceland cruise
- The most amenities of any ship here
- Frequent departures mean you can book a cruise that fits your schedule
- Inexpensive relative to most of the options here. Frequent promotions can make Viking about as cheap as Iceland ProCruises for double occupancy.
- Free walking tour excursions at all ports.
Cons of a Viking Iceland cruise
- The larger ship may not always be able to dock on land (at the Westman Islands, for example.) A zodiac boat will ferry you to shore.
- No one under 18 is allowed (though you may see this as a good thing!)
- Excursion options are all listed on the web site, but prices are not shown
Windstar Cruises in Iceland
Windstar’s cruise is similar to Viking; trips leaves most weeks from Reykjavik, which means it’s a slightly shorter trip with fewer stops. You’re onboard the Star Pride, which was renovated in 2021 to have all suite rooms.
The Star Pride holds 312 passengers, but you still get many of the amenities of the larger Viking ship: an infinity pool, a spa, several restaurants, and ample lounge space.
The Windstar cruise also only makes 5 stops, just like Viking. Hurtigruten makes 6, and Iceland ProCruises makes 8.
Pros of a Windstar Iceland cruise
- Brand new all suite layout. There are many different types of rooms, but all feature a separate living area.
- Includes a zodiac boat tour of Surtsey, a protected island that emerged from the ocean in the 1960s.
- A good amount of amenities for a smaller ship.
Cons of a Windstar Iceland cruise
- No free shore excursions.
- Many excursions seem very expensive (whale watching in Akureyri, for example.)
- (Optional) outside dining on Star Pride might not be enjoyable on cold Icelandic evenings
Crystal Cruises in Iceland (well, reborn in 2023!)
Crystal Cruises’ Expedition Iceland is the longest cruise you’ll find here: 10 nights. It’s also the most expensive, and far and away the most luxurious. You will have 24-hour access to a butler! The ship is the brand new Crystal Endeavor, and it only holds 200 passengers. But there’s a casino, a 2-story solarium, and so much more.
The long duration of the cruise lets you get to some places the other ships skip.
Many of those stops in North Iceland would take you hours of driving to see; no other cruise is going to get you to the stunning Látrabjarg bid cliffs. But this cruise doesn’t come cheap; the cheapest price is more than twice the cost of any other cruise. But what a cruise it is.
Pros of a Crystal Cruises Iceland cruise
- Free warm clothing. A good selection of free and paid excursions
- Luxury like no other Iceland cruise: A butler and Michelin-inspired dining
- The longest option with access to surprising area up north
Cons of a Crystal Cruises Iceland cruise
- Very expensive. Several times the price of cheaper options on other ships
- That’s really it. If you can afford it, this is an amazing cruise on an amazing ship.
Aurora Expeditions Iceland Cruises
Aurora gives you just one Iceland circumnavigation cruise per year, at least in 2022. You only choice is August 1-11. If that works for your schedule, this is an option worth considering. This is the smallest ship here, at least by length: The Greg Mortimer (yes, that’s the name of the ship!) holds just 126 passengers, and is just 343 feet long.
The small ship allows you to get to one port that no other ship here stops at: Höfn. Höfn is on the South coast of Iceland, and is very close to famous glacier lagoons in that part of the country. If you want to see those lagoons on other cruises, you may find yourself on a 2-hour bus journey from a very different port.
Pros of Aurora Expeditions Iceland Cruises
- A smaller ship gets you better access to the south coast of Iceland
- basic excursions are included in the price
Cons of Aurora Expeditions Iceland Cruises
- The smaller ship means higher prices, though not as high as Crystal Cruises
- Only one cruise per year around Iceland
National Geographic Iceland Cruises
National Geographic partners with Lindblad Expeditions to operate 3 cruises around Iceland every summer. You’ll be on either the National Geographic Explorer, which holds 148 passengers, or the National Geographic Resolution, which holds 126 passengers.
These cruises are all-inclusive. You can add on land days before or after the cruise, but on the cruise itself, everything is included. All excursions are induced in the price, including a clever land portion up North. You aren’t even expected to tip!
Note the red “Motor Route” on the map above. You get off the ship at Akureyri, and then explore the Diamond Circle and Mývatn areas up North. Then the ship meets you up in Húsavík to continue the cruise.
Pros of a National Geographic Iceland Cruise
- All inclusive. Everyone does the same thing at the same time.
- Small boats, with under 150 passengers
- Clever bus portion of the trip up North to see more interior areas without backtracking.
- A walking tour and meals are included on your arrival day in Reykjavik before boarding the ship.
Cons of a National Geographic Iceland Cruise
- Expensive. The only more expensive option in Crystal Cruises. The all-inclusiveness does make the cost less extreme, though.
- The National Geographic Explorer ship is older, and lacks some amenities like a pool. But you’re probably not in Iceland for the pool!
Which Iceland circumnavigation cruise to choose?
Every single one of these cruises will be an amazing Iceland experience. They all have well-thought out itineraries and will lead to an unforgettable adventure.
With that said, we’re partial to Iceland ProCruises. This is the least expensive option, for one of the longer trips. Many of the expedition members are Icelandic, which to me is a big perk. You won’t find many amenities on the ship, so look elsewhere if a pool and expansive spa are what you’re looking for.
Hurtigruten is another good choice, with the option of a brand new ship and some unique science-based opportunities.
Viking is another great choice, with weekly departures and larger ships with more amenities.
But seriously, these are all fantastic options. Contact us if you’d like help planning your trip! We often have discounts or bonuses we can provide you as a travel agent for your Iceland vacation. And we can create custom pre- and post- cruise touring options you won’t get anywhere else.
Just fill out the short form below and we’ll be in touch soon!