Last update: March 6, 2022.
To be honest, until recently I never considered taking a cruise in Iceland. I’ve been to Iceland many times. I’ve stayed in Reykjavik for entire trips, and I’ve rented cars and driven all around. But I recently joined Iceland ProCruises for a 10 day, 9 night Iceland Circumnavigation Cruise, and I came away very impressed. Read on to learn all about what to expect, and why a cruise around Iceland could be the perfect option for your family! (Or why it might not be!)
- Overview of Iceland ProCruises and the Ocean Diamond
- Small ship cruises to Iceland
- What's life like onboard an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- How are the excursions on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- How is the excursions team on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- How's the food on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- How's the WiFi on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- Can you take kids on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
- How much does an Iceland ProCruise cruise cost?
- What are the downsides of a cruise around Iceland?
- What can Iceland ProCruises improve?
- Summary of Iceland ProCruises
- We can help you plan your Iceland Cruise!
Here are a couple of things to know before we jump in. First, this was my first cruise ever! So I will be comparing it to other options for visiting Iceland, and not necessarily to other cruises. I did talk to other people on the ship to get an idea of how they compared this to other cruises, though.
Second, I’ll be focusing on this as an option for families. But almost all of the information here can be helpful even if you’re visiting Iceland without kids. For information about cruises in Iceland, check out our brand new Facebook group about Iceland Cruises!
Overview of Iceland ProCruises and the Ocean Diamond
Our cruise was aboard the Ocean Diamond ship. Iceland ProCruises uses this ship for cruises to Iceland and Greenland in the summer. But the rest of the year, the ship goes to other places, including Antarctica! I guess the ship gets re-painted several times a year?
This is a small ship, at least as cruise ships go. The maximum number of passengers is just 210; the largest cruise ships in the Caribbean can hold almost 9,000 people! Those ships don’t come to Iceland, though.
Even compared to the “small” ships from Viking Ocean Cruises, our little Ocean Diamond looks very small. Here is a picture of our cruise ship (on the left) and the Viking Jupiter (on the right) both in port in Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland:
Viking claims on their website that the Jupiter holds “only 930 guests“!
Small ship cruises to Iceland
So is this very small ship a good thing or a bad thing? Well both, but I think it’s mostly good. Here’s the good stuff:
- You can go where other ships can’t. In the Westman Islands (off the southern coast of Iceland) our ship was able to dock at a port. The Viking ship was also in the Westman Islands that day, but they needed to park out at sea. Passengers on the Viking ship needed to take boats to get to shore, while we could just walk.
- You get to meet many of the other people on the ship. The cruise I was on in July 2021 was the first cruise post-Covid with Iceland ProCruises, and there were only 86 passengers. I got to know many of them, which I thought was great. It felt a little like being back in a freshman college dorm, at least for 10 days or so.
- You have smaller excursion options. For example, I went on a Superjeep tour starting from Djúpivogur in East Iceland. There were only 8 of us on the trip, in 2 superjeeps. Other cruise companies don’t offer that as an option, because the company wouldn’t be able to handle 50 people on the tour.
There are some downsides to the small ship, of course:
- Entertainment options are limited. There was usually one entertainment activity every night. This could be a concert from an opera singer, for example. (This opera singer was also one of the expedition leaders on the boat!) There’s no movie theater.
- Amenities are also limited. There was no pool. Well, there was a pool, but I think it hasn’t been running for a long time:
(You can see the empty pool above, as well as the zodiac boats in the background. More on those boats later!)
There is a Spa, but it was closed for Covid.
- While there is a small second restaurant, I think the food will be the same as everyone else is eating. You just get to eat it in a different location. (This small restaurant was closed on my cruise, which makes sense given the small number of passengers.)
The lack of amenities can be a good thing or a bad thing. People on the ship seemed to gather in one of the lounges, or the library / game room. One of the lounges usually had live piano music in the evenings. I interacted with many more of the other passengers than I would have on a larger ship.
What’s life like onboard an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
I was on a 10 day / 9 night cruise. The 10 days is technically correct, but you don’t really get 10 full days on the ship. The first day, you don’t need to be on the ship until 5:30 PM. And the last day, you’re off the ship by 9 AM. You can certainly spend those 2 days doing other things in Iceland, but they’re not part of the cruise. In reality, think of it as an 8 day / 9 night cruise.
Most days, you’ll spend the day at port in a town in Iceland. Then the ship will cruise overnight to a different port for the next day. This is really a nice way to do it; while you sleep, the ship (and its crew!) sail to somewhere new.
During dinner, a daily schedule is put on your door. This is the schedule for the next day, and it’s the most important piece of paper around. I took a picture of it on my phone immediately! I didn’t fully internalize this for the first day or two. But when you sign up for an excursion (which you normally do weeks before the cruise) you don’t know what time that excursion will be.
By the way, you can see all of the excursion options right here. I love that the prices are included! I don’t think most other companies show you those prices before you book. (Windstar does show excursion prices, and they look significantly more expensive than the prices on Iceland ProCruises. Close to double in some cases!)
But that piece of paper on your door tells you what the following day will be like. Maybe you’ll have to leave at 7:30, or maybe not until 10:00. Here’s a sample:
For this day, there are 3 excursions, that start at 8:30 AM, 8:30 AM, and 1:00 PM. Then there are optional and free zodiac boat tours, which you could only do if you didn’t sign up for the 1 PM tour. Of course, you didn’t know this when you signed up!
Just because you booked the 1 PM excursion, or no excursions at all, doesn’t mean you can sleep late. There’s going to be an announcement throughout the ship a half hour or so before the first excursion. And there’s a speaker in your room, so your wake up call that day is going to be 8 AM.
A couple of days, that wake up call was 6:50 or so. That sounds bad, but there’s a secret to it all. You really need to succumb to the rhythm of the ship. That’s the worst marketing slogan for a cruise huh? “Succumb to the rhythm of the ship!” But once you see tomorrow’s schedule, you’ll know your wake up call is coming at 6:50. So just go to bed earlier than you would otherwise, and it’s all good.
Once I internalized that this piece of paper controlled the day, I really liked how the days went. In Ísafjörður, let’s say you’re doing the Dynjandi Waterfall excursion. Which I highly recommend, by the way. It’s a stunning waterfall, and a brand new tunnel makes it easier to get there. Take a look (at the waterfall, not the tunnel):
That tour goes from 8:30 until 2:20; a lunch stop is included, and lunch is provided. That seems universally true: If a tour runs during lunch, Iceland ProCruises will provide lunch somehow. Either you’ll take a boxed lunch with you, or there will be a stop for lunch.
You’re back at 2:20, and you must be back on the ship by 4:30. You could head right back onto the second zodiac tour, and then go straight to the Port Talk. The Port Talk is a brief discussion of tomorrow’s port and the excursions.
Or you could wander around the town of Ísafjörður, which was about a 10 minute walk from where the ship docked. It’s a great town, but just make sure you’re back on time!
Once you’re back on the ship, you have some time to relax before the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail at 6:30, and dinner at 7:00. People would often hang out in the Club Lounge on Deck 4, the Observation Lounge on Deck 7, or the Library on Deck 5. The Library had books (of course!) and board games.
After dinner you can decide to go to the show at 9:15 (which I think was actually postponed to a later day.) Or hang out in one of the lounges again. Or visit the bridge, which I also highly recommend at least once. Maybe this is just me, but I thought it was mesmerizing to monitor another ship on the radar and also watch it out the window in real life.
But I was exhausted at the end of each day, and quite happy to go to bed fairly early. Remember that in the summer in Iceland, it never gets dark. So it doesn’t really matter when you go to bed and when you wake up! The curtains in my stateroom did an admirable job of keeping the room dark.
And by now I also had tomorrow’s schedule, which listed the first excursion at 8:15. So I knew that wake up call was coming around 7:45! Let me clarify my opinion here again. I don’t think this is a bad thing, once you figure out that this is how everything works. Iceland ProCruises is doing 2 pretty impressive things for you. First, they’re getting you to places that are a pain to get to if you drive in Iceland. Ísafjörður is a 5 1/2 hour drive from Reykjavik, and 4 of those hours are beyond Ring Road. (Ring Road is the main road that makes a loop around Iceland. But it skips the Westfjords, where Ísafjörður is.)
Second, they’re handling all of the logistics for you. There’s going to be a bus waiting for you right next to the cruise ship. It’s going to get you to Dynjandi waterfall, and then to a museum where lunch will be waiting for you. They’ll get you back to the ship; it’s all very stress free. Everything is handled for you; in exchange, you need to keep yourself on the “ship time” that’s dictated by the daily schedule. I think it’s a more than fair trade to have absolutely everything taken care of for you. No driving, no hotels, no worrying about food.
How are the excursions on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
In general the excursions are excellent. The small ship absolutely offers some opportunities you wouldn’t have on a larger ship: Whale Watching on smaller faster RIB boats, horseback riding, superjeeps, and more. There was even an option for sightseeing airplane flight, with a maximum of just 7 people!
We also had access to some locations that are very difficult to get to if you’re not on a cruise. For example, I loved seeing the puffins on Flatey Island. This place is sometimes called “The Other Flatey Island,” since there are 2 islands in Iceland with the same name. The more well-known Flatey is between the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords. This one is in North Iceland. To get here on your own, you’d have to drive up to Húsavík and either arrange for a private boat, or take this rather expensive tour. And that tour seems to only be running a handful of times in 2021?
But with Iceland ProCruises, it was easy, and it was free. The ship stopped and we were able to take zodiac boats over the nearly uninhabited island. (People did live here until 50 years ago or so, and some people do spend the summers here. So there are some buildings around!) But islands where few people visit are usually the best places to get up close with puffins:
Here are some other pictures from excursions offered on the cruise:
How is the excursions team on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
Exceptional. Here’s where Iceland ProCruises really shines. You’re getting local Icelandic guides. Which makes sense– one of the owners of Iceland ProCruises is Icelandic, and of course Iceland is in the name of the company! All other cruise companies offer dozens of cruises to many countries, with maybe a couple of options to see Iceland. Here, you’re getting the Icelandic specialists. They employ several native Icelanders on the team, including Arndis the opera singer who sang in some caves:
and the incomparable (in a good way!) Julia:
You can see the main expedition team members here. Many are native Icelanders, and many that aren’t have spent significant time in Iceland.
How’s the food on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
After my first dinner, I was worried that I would have to say “nothing special.” Dinner was served soon after we boarded that first evening, and it was a buffet. I tried some fish that I thought was too salty, some mediocre eggplant, and overall I wasn’t very impressed.
But that was the only buffet dinner; every dinner after that was a sit-down 3-course meal with 3 entree options on the menu. There was even what I’ll call a “visual menu” when you enter the dining room, so you could see what each of the options would look like:
There are appetizers down the left side, entrees in the middle, and desserts on the right. Entrees on this night were, from left to right:
Roast Rack Lamb “Dijonaise”
Pan Seared Fundi Bay Salmon
Marinated Grilled Tempeh Cutlet
The third entree was always a vegetarian option, though not always vegan I don’t think. In my opinion the food isn’t quite comparable to a high-end $40 or $50 meal that you would order in Iceland. But the food was always fresh and well prepared, and many people on the ship said it was at the top end of food you would find on cruises.
Breakfast and lunch were buffets, and I honestly thought they started off very good and got better and better as the cruise went on. Everything was much better after that first buffet dinner. I think there was also a new chef after the first couple of days, so maybe that also made a difference? Regardless, I thought all of the food was very good, or at least between good and very good. Breakfast options were plentiful, including a different egg option each day, meats, fruit, and much much more. Lunch always had 4 main course options. Here are some buffet pictures:
(Both of these tables, plus more, are available at every buffet meal. There’s bread and dessert at the far end of the second picture!)
How’s the WiFi on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
Sporadic. WiFi was free in the 3 main lounges. Some passengers would congregate in one of these lounges in the evening to use their laptops or phones. But some evenings we all just talked about how the WiFi wasn’t working! The general rule seemed to be that if I had a decent cell signal on my phone, the WiFi would be working. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ship was just taking a cellular signal and sharing it via WiFi. I guess I had 2 general rules for WiFi; the other is that if I could see land, I usually had WiFi. But if we were sailing, there were many times I didn’t have WiFi or cell service.
You can pay $100 to have WiFi in your room, but this doesn’t really seem worthwhile. You could turn off cellular service on your cell phone and just use the WiFi if you wanted, but just know it won’t always work. (We have a detailed post about getting your cell phone working in Iceland if you’d like to learn more.)
Can you take kids on an Iceland ProCruise cruise?
Yes! Only a few groups on my cruise had children under 18, and only 1 had a child under 12. (That family was from Iceland, and the girl was about to turn 12!) Iceland ProCruises allows children as young as 8. There are other options for small ship cruises around Iceland, but many have higher minimum ages.
Windstar Cruises offers one Iceland itinerary, and they also allow children as young as 8. Other options have higher minimum ages. In particular, the Viking cruises that were on roughly the same schedule as us? They don’t allow children; all guests must be 18 or older. Same with Ambassador.
Only 1 cruise company that I know of offers cruises to younger children, and that’s Hurtigruten. They have a kid’s club for ages 6-12, though not surprisingly it’s been stopped temporarily. Hurtigruten is a Norwegian company now owned by a British private equity firm; they can’t match the Icelandic expedition team on Iceland ProCruises!
Back to Iceland ProCrusies. They offer family rates for the cruises, which must be the cheapest you’ll find anywhere for a small ship cruise around Iceland. You also get a 25% discount off of all excursions for children 12 and under. In other words, children are welcome!
Just remember that this is an “excursion ship” and not a cruise ship. There will be evenings where there isn’t much to entertain the kids! If you’re happy to relax in a lounge, or play a board game, or just watch the world go by outside, I think you’ll be very happy on the cruise. But if the kids are going to be bored, and annoyed when they lose WiFi, this may not be the best option for your family!
The teenagers on the cruise did seem to become fast friends, and they were often together in the library / game room, or in other gathering areas of the ship.
How much does an Iceland ProCruise cruise cost?
You can see cruises and prices for 2022 cruises here. But be sure to look at the special offers page as well; right now there is a family special. A family of 4 would pay $3,490 per person if both children are 12 or younger. For that price you would get 2 connecting rooms with 2 beds each; that way the adults could have at least some privacy in their own room.
That price includes meals and some basic excursions. You would still have to pay for airfare, transfer to and from the airport, and for most of the excursions. Children 12 and under save 25% on excursions.
A family of 3 could get a significantly less expensive rate with a triple room. There are no connecting triple rooms, so you wouldn’t be able to have more than 3 people here unless you booked a second, non-connecting room. But 3 people in a triple room can cost as little as $2,320 per person, and I think a child 12 or under would get a 25% discount. That’s 2 adults and 1 child for $6,380 total.
You can definitely book a less expensive Iceland vacation if you decide you don’t want to be on a cruise. (And we’ll help you plan that Iceland trip too!) But taking a cruise means you do almost no planning. No rental car, no lodging, and no food. It’s all taken care of. Just sign up for the cruise, sign up for transfers from the airport, sign up for excursions, and you’re done.
The price for the triple is also very compelling, even when comparing it to a land-based Iceland vacation. Sure, the cruise is still more expensive. But 9 nights of lodging could easily cost $2,000 or so with peak summer prices. A rental car could be $1,200, or more if you add extra insurance. Food could be another $1,200 if you have nice dinners. Add in some of the additional free benefits that come with the cruise (a free rain jacket and water bottle, zodiac boat tours) and you’re well over $5,000.
But the cruise is almost never going to come out ahead, except maybe in the summer of 2021 when rental car prices soared. You’re paying for convenience, access to some smart and interesting Icelandic excursion people, and a nearly worry-free vacation. And you’re paying for a smaller ship, with a maximum of just 210 passengers.
What are the downsides of a cruise around Iceland?
The biggest issue I see with any of the circumnavigation cruises around Iceland is that they skip the South Coast and the Golden Circle. The ships simply don’t dock at Vik, or Höfn, or other ports on the South Coast. I don’t really know why they don’t stop at Höfn? Here’s the map of our cruise, which seems like the typical Iceland ProCruises circumnavigation itinerary:
As you head counter-clockwise, notice the huge gap in the southeast, between Djúpivogur and Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands.) You cruise right by the famous southern coastal sites of Reynisfjara and Dyrhólaey, and also past the wonderful waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
Iceland ProCruises told me that Cruise ships used to be able to stop at the port in Höfn, which is further west of Djúpivogur. But several years ago a huge sand reef formed at the harbor entrance which makes it impossible for large ships to go there.
On the one hand, this is fine– you can’t see everything in Iceland, and there are plenty of other breathtaking places you’ll see on the cruise. On the other hand, it’s sad to miss these! One cruise excursion does head from Djúpivogur to the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, one of the most famous South Coast sites. But this is a more than 2-hour bus ride each way.
The tradeoff is you get to many more difficult to reach places with a minimum of effort. You miss Seljalandsfoss waterfall, but you get to see Dynjandi waterfall, which is much more difficult to get to. And you can always add on a South Coast bus tour and / or a Golden Circle bus tour before or after your cruise. (Iceland ProCruises offers add-on land packages that let you see these sites after your cruise.)
What can Iceland ProCruises improve?
I enjoyed the cruise with Iceland ProCruises, and recommend it as an option to consider when you are visiting Iceland. Of course, it isn’t perfect. Here are a few ways I think Iceland ProCruises can improve:
- I think some of the excursions can be better. For example, I heard lukewarm reviews of the “Viking Thing” excursion from Ísafjörður. Given that this excursion is in the town of Þingeyri, I think it could be combined with the Dynjandi waterfall excursion. Þingeyri is only about a 10 minute detour from the route the bus takes to Dynjandi, and this would make for an incredible tour of the Westfjords.
Most other excursions were great, but people also seemed underwhelmed by the birdwatching hike on Hrísey Island; there wasn’t much of an effort to find birds. Everyone was allowed to head to Hrísey on the zodiac boats for free. It would have been nice if the hikes were also free as well. Or, passengers should know that hiking on the island by yourself for free is also an option!
- Related to the Hrísey birdwatching tour above, I would like to see a free excursion option at every port. Other companies offer this, including Viking. Most of those free excursions are city tours, which is totally fine. I spoke to some people on the cruise who had trouble finding the town centers, since the ship sometimes docks in the industrial fishing areas. Even a map showing where the ship docked and where some town highlights are would be great. There were many sites just a few minutes from the ship that many people missed, and could have visited without paying for an excursion.
3. This is mostly a pet peeve of mine. But on arrival day, dinner was served at 7:30 and there was a mandatory safety meeting at 9 PM. I had flown in overnight the night before, which meant I had gotten about 2 hours of sleep. Normally on that first night I’d try to eat around 5:30 and be in bed by 7! I know the safety briefing is important, but it would be nice for the people flying from North America to have the option to go to bead earlier. You may want to fly in a day early to adjust to the time change before you get on the ship.
But I don’t want to be too picky here. The excursions were generally excellent, with just a few exceptions. And the excursion prices were quite reasonable; I don’t think there’s much of a markup in what you pay on the cruise compared to what you would pay on your own.
Summary of Iceland ProCruises
Even though I have been to Iceland many times, I truly enjoyed seeing it from the cruise ship. It’s a great way to see Iceland without spending time planning. It won’t be the right option for every family, but every family should take a look and compare the cruise to seeing Iceland on your own.
This is a truly unique way to see Iceland, and to see areas that would require dozens of hours of driving if you did it yourself. The cruise is well-thought out, and the staff is universally excellent; they definitely want to make sure you have a good time, and go home having learned all about Iceland.
We can help you plan your Iceland Cruise!
Iceland With Kids is now officially a travel agent, as of December 2021. Just fill out the form below (or send us an e-mail) and we’ll help you plan your trip! We’ll interview your family to pick the excursions that are right for you. Or, if you don’t want an excursion on a given day, we’ll give you a custom itinerary to explore whatever town you’re in! That’s all included for free! Yes, we also plan cruises for people without kids too!
Iceland ProCruises extended their early-bird pricing through the end of May 2022. Or, you can book for summer 2023 crusies at the early bird rates until December 31, 2022. This is without a doubt one of the best deals in Iceland excursion cruises!
If you decide a cruise isn’t the right choice for you, or you want help planning an itinerary before or after your cruise, take a look at our custom Iceland itinerary planning options!
And if you’ve been on an Iceland cruise, let us know in the comments what you thought!