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Experience the best of both worlds — rugged, untamed nature and some of the most innovative cities in the planet. On
Arctic Wonders: Reykjavík to Oslo,
the adventure is ready to take you to five nations across the North Atlantic, starting with the Golden Circle of Iceland and concluding in the thriving center of Oslo, Norway's capital. With visits to the Nordic-touched Shetland Islands in the U.K. and the chic Swedish city of Gothenburg in between, this is truly an adventure through the past, present, and future.
Besides four nights in deluxe downtown hotels, most of your adventure will take place on the 5-star Ocean Explorer, brimming with luxury amenities. This intimate expedition not only offers an infinity pool, gym facilities, and an onboard spa, but also boasts a small passenger-to-crew ratio to ensure optimum service. Don't miss the chance to take advantage of the complimentary onboard Concierge, who can assist in customizing your journey by planning additional excursions, securing Michelin-starred restaurant reservations, and offering expert insight into every port.
Altogether, you'll experience 22 included features and Cultural Discoveries on this unforgettable adventure. Add optional extensions to Reykjavík and Copenhagen — the perfect way to cap off an expedition through gorgeous natural landscapes and bustling city centers.
Fly overnight to Iceland
Today, you’ll board an overnight flight bound for Reykjavík, arriving on Day 2. Or, depart earlier and spend more time in Reykjavík with a pre-trip extension!
Welcome to Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and cultural epicenter
Just landing in Iceland’s airport gives you an astonishing aerial preview of what you’ll soon discover while cruising this country’s otherworldly landscapes. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, you’ll be met at the airport upon arrival and assisted with your hotel transfer. We’ve given you the afternoon free to rest or get a head start on your exploration with an orientation walk and free shuttle service into the Reykjavík city center. You’ll meet your fellow travelers tonight at a Welcome Reception and Dinner. Tomorrow holds a full day of Reykjavík discoveries.
Discover Iceland’s capital city
Look forward to a half-day Reykjavík city tour, kicking off after breakfast. Highlights include a visit to the Perlan viewpoint, an interactive natural history museum housed inside an immense glass dome that sits atop six hot water tanks, each carrying 4 million liters of geothermal hot water. Other highlights include the Hallgrímskirkja Church — Iceland’s tallest church — and the Reykjavík city center, to name a few tour stops.
Lunch is on your own to seek out some classic Icelandic dishes — including seafood and, believe it or not, hot dogs (known as pylsa)! You’ll have the afternoon to utilize the free shuttle bus into town for shopping, dining, and more exploring. Dinner is on your own.
Get a true taste of Iceland, from Bloody Marys to hot springs, and embark the Ocean Explorer
Venture out along the Golden Circle to discover some of Iceland’s most unforgettable natural attractions today. First, we’ll pay a visit to a tomato farm and greenhouse where you’ll see how Iceland’s geothermal activity helps produce some of the juiciest and most flavorful tomatoes in the world. Taste for yourself when you’re poured a fresh Bloody Mary — but this is no Sunday standard. This version has been called the “best Bloody Mary in the world” by The Guardian! Our explorations continue in UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park, which is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes and boasts a rich history that stretches back to the first settlers in Iceland. We’ll also stop to admire the spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall and the hot springs of the Geysir geothermal field during our Golden Circle discoveries.
Tonight, you’ll embark the Ocean Explorer — welcome aboard! Get settled in, familiarize yourself with the amenities, and enjoy your first dinner onboard as the ship departs.
Discover the Westman from Heimaey Island, Iceland
The Vestmannaeyjar, or Westman archipelago, is a collection of 15 volcanic islands and about 30 rock pinnacles and skerries off Iceland’s southern coast. Most of the islands have sheer cliffs overlooking the sea, which are fertile habitats for all of Iceland’s seabird species including guillemot, gannet, kittiwake, Iceland gulls, and the iconic puffin (which is the symbol of the Vestmannaeyjar). It is also a good place to spot whales, including orca or killer whales.
Today, we will pull into Heimaey, the largest of the Westman islands, and enjoy a full day of discovery.
Bear in mind as you travel by coach across the lava fields of Heimaey that this wonderland is still being formed by volcanic action. You’ll see some of nature’s handiwork in the Herjólfsdalur valley, whose name means “Valley of Magic” — a moniker that is attested to by the amphitheater-like slopes, rocky cliffs and massive seascapes. Continuing on to the scenic western part of the island, keep your eyes wide open in case we spot some of the remaining puffins, more than 8 million of which seasonally come to roost here each summer.
Why is Heimaey known as the “Pompeii of the North”? You’ll find out at the Volcanic Center and Eldheimar Museum, which chronicles the effects of the 1973 Eldfell volcano whose massive lava flow destroyed half the town. The museum is built around the remains of one of the homes. You’ll also learn about the recent arrival of Surtsey Island, which emerged from the ocean during a volcanic eruption in 1963, and continued to form for four years thereafter.
Enjoy a day at Sea on the Ocean Explorer
Today is your day to fully relax on board your 5-star ship. Throughout the day, your expedition team will be conducting different presentations on topics relevant to your destinations, and you’ll also have a moment to take advantage of your ship’s other amenities to refresh and restore yourself, perhaps visiting the sauna or enjoying a soothing massage in the spa.
Explore Europe’s best kept secret: the Faroe Islands
If you’re an early riser, hit the deck as we approach the Faroe Islands, and perhaps you’ll spot some wildlife. The 18 Faroe Islands form an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands’ main industry is fishing and the 50,000 or so inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living. Your ship will dock on the island of Streymoy, in Tórshavn. Tórshavn was founded in the 10th century, and many historians believe it to be the oldest (albeit smallest) capital in Europe. The name means “Thor’s Harbor” and it’s fitting that the town be associated with the god of thunder, since the Faroes can be quite storm-tossed.
Your tour showcases the main attractions of Tórshavn, plus some of the surroundings. In Tinganes, the narrow neck of land that divides Tórshavn’s two harbors, you’ll see a cluster of modest, red wooden houses that was one of the oldest parliamentary gatherings in the world. Vikings would convene here for regular “Thing” meetings to resolve conflicts and establish laws. Contrast this with the contemporary Løgting or “Law Assembly” that serves as the Faroese Parliament. The office of the prime minister is also located here. At the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, you’ll see various displays celebrating the islands’ natural and cultural heritage. One of the most important is the Kikjubøstólarnirlso which are pew ends from the ancient St. Olav’s church. Dating from the 12th century, these national treasures feature elaborate carvings depicting the apostles and other biblical lore.
For the rest of the day, you may choose to explore more of the Faroe Islands with a tour set up by your onboard Concierge, or embark on an independent exploration. Perhaps you’ll stroll the side streets and admire the pastel-colored houses with their turf roofs. Or maybe you’ll amble down Tórshavn’s main shopping street, Niels Finsens gøta, in search of some stylish Faroese knitwear.
Enjoy a little post-dinner entertainment as a local Faroese folk troupe comes aboard to serenade us.
Peek into Faroese history at Kirkjubøur
Have a delightful breakfast aboard the Ocean Explorer before you depart on a morning tour that will highlight some interesting Faroese history. This excursion takes you to the southernmost village on the island of Streymoy, known as Kirkjubøur. Regarded as the most important historical site in the Faroe Islands, you will find the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral, Saint Olav’s Church, and the old 11th century log house called Roykstovan. While there, enjoy an afternoon tea with drinks and sweets as you admire the historic farmhouse.
Indulge in an afternoon at leisure, with a port talk and dinner later on board in the evening.
Have your choice of tours in the Shetland Islands: Explore Scalloway & Lerwick, or follow in the footsteps of the Vikings
Floating between the Atlantic and the North Sea, the Shetlands are as far north as you can go and still be in Scotland. But at the same time, centuries of Norse rule make these spectacular green jewels a unique cultural hybrid. If you are on deck, perhaps a flock of northern fulmars or gannets will herald our arrival as our ship makes its way towards Mainland, the largest of the archipelago’s 16 inhabited islands. Your ship will drop anchor in Lerwick, the capital, and from here you will have two choices for exploration: An exploration of Scalloway and Lerwick, or a tour that brings you to important Viking sites.
Your first tour choice introduces Shetland’s past and present capitals on a Scalloway & Lerwick tour. The name Scalloway derives from an Old Norse phrase that means “bay with the large huts” and in this case, the huts were the ancient shelters built here for delegates to Tingwall, the parliament for Orkney and Shetland. In 1608, those huts were overshadowed by Scalloway Castle, the ruins of which still stand. You’ll visit the site, and also peek into the Scalloway Museum that chronicles important events, most notably the WWII era when Scalloway was the “depot” of the Shetland Bus. This clandestine operation ferried Norwegian refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation to safety in the Shetlands, and returned the boats to Norway with arms and munitions for the Resistance. You’ll also visit Clickimin Broch, a defensive Bronze Age round tower. Before returning to ship, enjoy a guided walk around Lerwick and stop at a local farm that breeds the island’s iconic, stout Shetland ponies.
Your second and more active tour choice invites you to explore “In Viking Footsteps.” You’ll start with a motorcoach ride across the stunning countryside to Old Scatness on the southern tip of the island. It was here in the 1970s that an airport expansion project revealed the heretofore unknown presence of an ancient mound that was inhabited for nearly 2,000 years since the Iron Age. It includes a broch (round tower) and a village that was occupied by Iron Age, Pictish, and Viking people. Many of the Pictish houses were reused by the Vikings, who left many soapstone artifacts behind. From here you’ll head to Sumburgh and visit Jarlshof, which was occupied from about 2500 BC to AD 1500. It features rectangular Viking longhouses, and a 16th-century, fortified manor house.
Back on board, enjoy the afternoon’s presentations by your expedition team and some leisure time. If conditions permit, perhaps this evening one of our expedition team members will host a stargazing session.
Delve into the World War II heritage of Kirkwall in the Orkneys
Rise and shine in beautiful Kirkwall, the capital of Scotland’s northern Orkney Islands. Kirkwall was mentioned in a Norse saga from 1046, but the islands were inhabited long before that, as is evident in the island’s various Neolithic sites.
Your touring today reveals what is one of the best-preserved ancient Norse towns in Scotland. Kirkwall sits on a calm harbor and is laced with mysterious wynds (lanes) that lead to the main edifice, the imposing St. Magnus Cathedral. It is named for a local noble son who refused to participate in the Viking’s violent raids, and was martyred for it. St. Magnus stands in sharp contrast to the charmingly quaint Italian Chapel at Lamb Holm. This fanciful white stucco church was built during WWII by Italian POWs, who wanted a place to worship. They had been sent to the Orkneys to help construct the causeways (called the Churchill Barriers) that served as defensive links between the islands. Today, they are still vital roads. You’ll see both of these landmarks during your tour.
After lunch on board, enjoy leisure time on the ship or continue to explore Kirkwall at your leisure. Perhaps tour one of the local gin or whisky distilleries, or visit the town’s many craft galleries and boutiques to find a handmade souvenir. After dinner on board this evening, head to the lounge for some local entertainment we've invited on the ship.
The Neolithic village of Skara Brae dates back to 3000 BC. Discovered in 1850 by William Graham Watt, a Scottish lord and the landowner of the property, it was partly revealed after a storm. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site gives viewers a look into the past about what life was like five millennia ago — including stone furniture like cupboards, storage, and a sophisticated drainage system including plumbing. Then, walk over to Skaill House, overlooking the stunning Bay of Skaill. It is the finest 17th-century mansion in Orkney and was the ancestral home of William Graham Watt. You can explore the elegant living quarters which have been maintained as they were in the 1950s, and which are filled with art, antiques, and Neolithic and Iron Age artifacts.
Relax on board with a day at sea
Enjoy a day at sea as the Ocean Explorer makes its way toward Norway. Visit the spa, get in a workout at the gym, lounge in the swimming pool, relax on the sun deck catching up with a great book, and enjoy the fabulous cuisine our chefs are offering.
View Stavanger and its famed museums
We arrive in Norway today, one of the most breathtaking countries in the world. It's time to embrace the beauty of this rugged, culture-rich land. In the morning, you'll begin with a tour by motorcoach to see major attractions in Stavanger with your local guide. Admire the monument Sverd i fjell (Swords in the Rock), which commemorates the battle in Hafrsfjord where the Viking King Harald Fairhair had gathered Norway into one kingdom in 872 AD. Continue to the center of Stavanger for a scenic walking tour, including one of Europe’s best-preserved wooden house city.
Afterwards, you'll have a choice of two museums: either the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, or the Norwegian Canning Museum. The Norwegian Petroleum Museum is one of the major attractions in Stavanger, which gives you an insight to Norway’s oil history that began in the mid-1960s. The museum provides a modern interactive setting for experiencing how oil and gas were created millions of years ago, how petroleum is found and how it is used. Or, the Norwegian Canning Museum offers a look at an authentic cannery factory, which was in operation from 1916 to 1958. You can hear how canned sprats and fish balls were produced and get an impression of what the working environment is like at the factory.
Head to Kristiansand for a tour and private concert
After breakfast onboard, you'll reach the gateway to Norway's southern villages when you arrive in Kristiansand, known as "Norway's Floral Town." Discover this beautiful town on a leisurely guided walking tour. During your walk, you will visit Posebyen, one of Northern Europe’s largest collections of charming, old, white wooden houses. Later, you'll have the pleasure of attending a private organ concert at the Gothic-style Kristiansand Cathedral, built in 1884.
Enjoy a lovely afternoon at leisure, either exploring more of Kristiansand or lounging back on the ship, with dinner onboard later in the evening.
Explore the city of Gothenburg
Dive into Swedish tradition and fun with a morning city tour of Gothenburg. Your experience will include a visit to the popular indoor fish market, Feskekôrka, as well as the main indoor market called Store Saluhall. You'll have the opportunity to try some savory and sweet samples at some of the stalls in the markets.
In addition to the market visit, you'll enjoy a guided sightseeing tour that takes you on a combined motorcoach and walking tour. Begin with a panoramic tour through some distinct neighborhoods, then past major attractions such as Maritiman, Gothenburg Opera, Feskekôrka, Liseberg Amusement Park, and many more. We'll take a closer look at the neighborhoods of Haga, full of wooden homes, and Vasastan, boasting neo-renaissance stone houses, on the walking portion.
In the afternoon after lunch back on the ship, you'll have a choice of two tours: either a visit to the massive vehicle collection housed at the Volvo Museum, or the Botanical Garden, full of more than 16,000 species of local and exotic plants.
A delicious dinner will be offered in the evening on board the Ocean Explorer.
Take a city tour of Oslo and disembark the Ocean Explorer
You'll say goodbye to the Ocean Explorer this morning after breakfast on board and to official disembark.
The rest of the day is reserved for one of Europe’s most eco-friendly and innovative cities. You'll have the chance to truly immerse in local life with a day of sightseeing. Begin with a panoramic tour, passing by major attractions such as the stunning Oslo Opera House, where you can see its famed, sloped roof that visitors can walk along. Next is Aker Brygge along the water, the Nobel Peace Center, and Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle dating back to 1300AD. You'll then visit Vigeland Sculpture Park, with more than 200 works of art depicting humans in many unusual forms. You'll conclude your tour with a walk through the historical center of Oslo, called Kvadraturen, and a visit to Oslo City Hall, where they hold the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
After some free time on your own, you'll be transferred to your hotel for the evening, located in the center of the lively capital. You can indulge in an afternoon at leisure with dinner on your own this evening.
Enjoy scenic Bygdøy and its museums
You'll have one more Norwegian adventure today during a half-day tour of the Bygdøy peninsula, a charming residential area of Oslo with pretty views and lovely museums. Speaking of, your tour will include a visit to two favorites. You can learn about lore and legend of mastering the Nordic seas at The Viking Ship Museum, and examine what makes the people and traditions of Norway so special at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, including a large outdoor exhibit of replica period homes.
Have the afternoon to yourself for some relaxation before joining in on a Farewell Drink at the hotel and dinner, to toast to a wonderful adventure.
Depart Oslo and fly back to the U.S.
We bid you farewell as you depart back home on an overnight flight to the U.S. Or, join in an extension of your adventure with an additional three nights in Copenhagen.
Please note: Ocean cruising is not the same experience as river cruising; as such, you may experience fluctuating tides and weather patterns that may involve some rocking of your vessel. Itineraries will include all activities as planned except in extreme cases that can’t be controlled by your shipboard crew.
Important: Day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Cruise Director or regional expert.