ABOARD THE OCEAN DIAMOND – It felt like one of those episodes of “American Idol” where someone is standing on stage, then starts singing. And you can hardly believe your ears.
Well, that’s what happened on our first night aboard the Ocean Diamond. It was an evening gathering to meet the ship’s expedition team and learn about life onboard and our interesting itinerary.
Then expedition leader Örvar Már Kristinsson opened his mouth and started to sing. The guy really has a powerful voice. I couldn’t understand a word he was singing because it was in Icelandic but it was easy to understand that he can really sing. I think he said it was a welcoming song. Sure hope we hear more of this unexpected talent during our cruise.
Each evening we will be meeting with the expedition team in the theater to review what we have done that day and learn what we will be doing the next day. We also receive a daily program in our cabin every evening at turn down.
We will be in a different port every day and have a choice of several shore excursions. Also there will be afternoons when the Zodiacs on board will be used for bird watching or to go ashore on small islands.
The Ocean Diamond can carry 224 passengers and 105 crew members. On our cruise about 60 percent of the passengers are German. The rest are mostly American, British, Scandinavian and Canadian. All announcements are made in German and English, as are shore tours. Whenever possible, the shore excursions are arranged with one bus for Germans and one for English so the guide doesn’t have to give the same spiel in two different languages.
Only one child is on our cruise with his parents and grandfather, who owns a tour company. I don’t know his age but Iceland ProCruises requires that children must be at least eight years old to be on a cruise. He is a very well behaved and charming young man.
Multiple gathering rooms
For first night dinner, I ate in the smaller Deck 4 dining room rather than the Deck 3 main restaurant. Both are lovely. The only difference is that the Deck 4 dining room has real windows, big ones, and I like being able to see the scenery as we cruise. The main dining room has large portholes which are nice but the view isn’t quite as spectacular.
Although the Ocean Diamond is smaller than most cruise ships, it still has plenty of large gathering rooms and smaller spots. The reception area on Deck 4 is where passengers arrange port excursions and ask questions. Deck 4 also has a big-enough gift shop and an expansive club lounge.
The club lounge has a fully-stocked bar with a bartender on duty. This is the main gathering place for relaxing and listening to the pianist. Early riser breakfast is served in here, as well as afternoon tea and a late night snack. The whole club lounge is paneled down both sides with big windows and sliding doors at the front to exit to the outside deck. A spiral staircase leads upstairs to a library with books and games.
The theater on Deck 5 is for meetings, programs and entertainment. Laid out in stadium seating with comfortable chairs and small side tables, the theater has large windows with heavy coverings. In fact, almost every window on the Ocean Diamond has heavy coverings to block out the 24-hour daylight.
Deck 6 has a small fitness center with a masseuse for spa appointments. A large pilot’s room on Deck 6 is open for passengers who want to step in and marvel at the technology. Our ship’s captain is Knut Hanssen.
Deck 7 has a nice observation lounge with a bar and a huge atlas to trace our journey. The Ocean Diamond has two elevators which I don’t plan to use. The ship is small and easy to navigate but it is nice to have an elevator option.
Breakfast is usually served from 7:30 to 9. Cooked-to-order eggs are available as is a huge buffet with plenty of fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese, hash brown potatoes, pancakes, bacon, sausage, beans, oats, pastries (the pastry chef is a wizard), smoked salmon and much more. My morning caffeine comes in the form of cola – Pepsi at home but canned Coke is served on this ship. I’m happy to learn that complimentary unlimited soft drinks are available at all times. It irks me when large cruise ships charge $2 for a cola.
Lunch is usually from 12:30 to 2, always a buffet with chef specialties and familiar dishes. Dinner is usually 7 to 8:30 and the food is much better than I thought it would be on a small ship. Chef Crisant Knapp Belleza does an excellent job in creating such a great menu that it’s hard to choose. The menu is in German and English. My dinner choice was lobster bisque, grilled Icelandic haddock with lump fish caviar, baby leeks, and potatoes with cherries jubilee for dessert.
At embarkation we received a personal cruise card to be used as a cabin key, credit card and identity card. When we leave the ship, we slip the card into a kiosk to let officials know we are off the ship. When we return, we slide the card into the kiosk again to signal that we are back. A crew member is always standing by the kiosk to ensure that the correct person is identified with the correct card.
Iceland is star of cruise
Evening entertainment is not a strong part of the cruise but I knew that before booking. Iceland is the star of this cruise. Activities and shore excursions are numerous every day and passengers seem quite happy to go to bed before midnight. Piano music is offered in the lounge and crew members will be taking turns singing in the theater several nights, I am told.
Each cabin has a flat screen TV with VCR. WiFi is available but it is expensive, $20 for 10 MB. Some of the shore stops will have free WiFi where the ship docks and, of course, almost every stop will have coffee shops with complimentary WiFi.
The currency in Iceland is the krone and one American dollar equals about 115 krone. So that price tag for a sweater that costs 230,000 krone isn’t really as expensive as it looks. But almost everything in Iceland is costly because Iceland is an island and many of its products must be imported. The two sisters on my pre tour told me that lunch in Reykjavík cost almost twice what it would in the States.
About the size of Kentucky, Iceland has a population of 325,700 with most people living on the coasts. Reykjavík is by far the largest city with a population of 121,230. In comparison, Kentucky has a population of 4.43 million. But, of course, the Land of Fire and Ice has many uninhabitable areas such as glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs and geysers.
The weather forecast is great – highs in the mid-50s, lows in the 40s. Scattered showers are expected a couple of days. But this is ideal weather in Iceland, plus we have that around-the-clock daylight.
So now that we have the basic information, it’s time to cruise. My next entry should be about our first stop in Stykkisolmur to walk on a glacier. As I said, incredible Iceland is the main attraction on this cruise.
Photos and videos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
Video of the expedition leader singing:
Video looking around the main lounge: