Atlantic Voyage – Sailing from Iceland to the Faroe Islands

After our road trip around Iceland, the plan was to sail aboard a Faroese passenger and cargo ship to the Faroe Islands. After returning our hire car back to the dealer, we were to spend 2 more nights in Reykjavik and do a snorkel and dive at Silfra. The day after Silfra we were going to fly to a small town in Eastern Iceland and board the ship, MS Norröna. Unfortunately our plan wasn’t going to turn out like that.

Following a day of driving and seeing the sights in Northwest Iceland, we stopped for dinner and petrol on our final return to Reykjavik. By chance, my phone happened to detect a free Wifi network which some of the petrol stations have. I wasn’t expecting an e-mail but decided to check anyway. Before waiting to see if I had received any emails, we finished our hot dogs and left. Halfway back to Reykjavik, I pulled out my phone and had a look at some photos and decided to check my inbox. I noticed an e-mail from the shipping company, Smyril Line. A brief message stated that due to approaching bad weather our ship was to leave 1 hour early at 1800 instead of 1900. I read the e-mail out to my two travelling companions and we figured that our flight and bus to the port should still get us there in time. Only I hadn’t read the email properly.

I read the e-mail again and realised that not only was it now leaving at 1800 rather than 1900, but it was also leaving an entire day earlier, as in, TOMORROW. We were in shock. How can a massive passenger ship just decide to leave a day early? What about all the passengers driving and flying there who couldn’t arrive earlier? We had already booked and paid for our flights on the shceduled date, and our trip to Silfra the following day. We soon decided we were going to have to cancel the dive and desperately try and get a flight to the port in Seyðisfjörður. A week in the Faroe Islands was more important than a dive we thought. Our scenic drive turned into a race against time. As we were driving we spent 40 minutes on hold to Iceland Air, trying to change our flights. After being put through to an operator, I was told that I had called the wrong airline, I had called ‘Iceland Air’, the international airline. I was told that we would be flying with the domestic airline, ‘Air Iceland’. I gasped in anger, there are really two entirely different airlines called Air Iceland and Iceland Air!?

As we arrived back in Reykjavik we wondered if perhaps we wouldn’t be able to catch a flight, we imaged it would have already been booked out by other passengers trying to get to the ship early too. We considered keeping the rental car and driving through the night, 9 hours, to get to the ship. We decided against this and drove to the airport to try and speak to the airline. A friendly lady listened to our predicament and kindly changed our flights free of charge. We expressed our tremendous gratitude and drove back to Budget to return the rental car. The next morning we we woke up early and loaded our bags into a taxi bound for the airport. A tiny plane with only about 20 seats waited for us on the icy tarmac. The flight wasn’t even full. As we ascended high above the bright lights of Reykjavik, we reflected on the stressful rush of the previous day. We had missed our opportunity to visit Silfra, where we were to dive and snorkel between two tectonic plates, some of the clearest water in the world.

We boarded a small minibus at the airport in Egilsstaðir and commenced the journey to Seyðisfjörður. We felt more relaxed as we realised we were going to make the ship in time, 6 hours early in fact. The streets were nothing but white, we could tell it had been snowing heavily for the last day or so. As we approached Seyðisfjörður, we saw a massive white ship docked in the harbour, there she was, MS Norröna. The little harbour town was surrounded by massive snow covered mountains. It was truly beautiful. The bus dropped us at a small building, which looked like the place we would check-in. Up an internal set of stairs a gangway led into the side of the ship. We were the only ones around, so we left our bags in the check-in area and went to have a look at the ship, then set off to explore the town.

After getting some lunch at a petrol station, we saw a small waterfall in the distance. It was cascading over some rocks halfway up one of the mountains. We decided to try and hike up to it and get a good view of the surrounding area. We still had a few hours until boarding time at 1600. The weather couldn’t have been any better, blue skies and no wind.

As we made our way back, darkness began to descend upon us. We went back to the check-in building and found a few people sitting around tables with their luggage. There was a Smyril Line check-in desk like you would see at an airport. The e-mail we received told us that check-in started at 1600 and would finish at 1700. We noticed the large ramp at the back of the ship was down, and large trucks with shipping containers were driving in and out. 1600 came and went, and there was no staff member to be seen. We wondered what was going on, as it was nearing 1700. We thought maybe there was going to be another delay. A fellow passenger was using a computer to look at the weather forecasts, and said we would be experiencing rough seas on our journey. There was only about 5 others waiting, and no one seemed to know what was going on.

We decided to walk across the harbour where we had seen a Smyril Line sign and see if we could find out what was happening. We approached a small warehouse that looked like it was still under construction. We decided to open an uninviting door to see if we could find someone, as we were starting to panic. In a room with no floor coverings or decorations, dimly lit by a lamp, sat 3 people at desks. We asked if they worked for Smyril Line, they nodded and we asked where we could check-in. They pointed to a lady in the corner who printed our boarding passes. We angrily told her that we, and several others, were waiting in the proper check-in building and asked her if someone was going to go over there. She said no, no one was. We were very confused and asked her how we were to board the ship. She told us to walk in from the back, and go up the ramp where trucks were driving. We told her that our friend was still waiting with our bags and that he needed a boarding pass too. She said “He better hurry”, and we ran to fetch him.

What kind of circus are these people running? We were only given half a day’s notice that our ship was to leave a day early, then we almost miss the ship because they don’t put a sign up telling people where to check-in! We ran back to the check-in building and gathered our bags and our friend. We told the other passengers that you have to check in at another building, across the harbour. Some were locals, and even they didn’t know what was going on. As we were almost out the door, a man looked up at us and said, in an Australian accent, “Check-in was at 1600!”. I’m not sure if he was telling us off for being late, and had already checked in. Or he was expressing his annoyance that no staff member had turned up. Either way, we were in too much of a hurry to explain further, and ran toward the ship. We later reflected, and realised we did not see him board the ship, nor did we see him on the ship or in the Faroe Islands. We wondered if he had missed it all together, stuck in that little town.

We raced to the back of the ship with our bags, as our friend went to get his boarding pass. A sailor standing at the ramp greeted us and checked our boarding passes. We asked him what time we would be leaving, “As soon as possible” he said. We decided to stand on the ramp with our bags to make sure they wouldn’t leave without our friend. He appeased in the distance and we finally made our way aboard. We were told the lifts were broken and that we would have to take the stairs up to deck 5 to the concierge.

We were welcomed aboard by a smartly dressed woman behind a desk. I informed her that we would be expecting a complimentary dinner and drinks, after all the trouble they had caused us. She went on to say that it was not their fault that they had to leave a day earlier, and that they had to avoid the rough seas, as safety is paramount. I then informed her that we were still going to be getting a complimentary dinner, which she then agreed to and handed us a voucher. I then asked how many passengers were aboard, she told us that we were 3 of only 24 passengers. We were amazed, only 24? On this massive ship? She advised us that in winter, its more of a cargo ship, and that no one really used the ship as transport like we were. The ship had an eerie calm about it, there was no one about, there was building materials and upturned furniture laying around. We found our way to our 4 berth, double bunk bed cabin. It was pleasant enough and had a small TV, which only had channels in German for some reason.

We began exploing the ship, and went above deck to watch on as we left the harbour, and said goodbye to Iceland. The white hills were barely visible in the night darkness, and only dim streetlights reminded us there was a town there. The ramp slowly raised and several police cars waited about as we slowly pulled away.

We decided to head to the mess for dinner, a buffet was on offer. We filled our plates and only noticed 1 other person present. We drank long into the night, talking about the amazing time we’d had. After dinner we went back above deck and were extremely fortunate to see the northern lights again. A long green streak across the sky above the pitch black ocean with the snowy mountains of Iceland in the distance. What an amazing sight it was. The wind was fierce, and we decided to turn in for the night and get a decent sleep for our first day in the Faroe Islands.

At 0800 a voice over the loud speaker woke us up. A lady advised us that we were to arrive in Tórshavn 3 hours earlier than expected. Yet another unexpected surprise from Smyril Line. We were supposed to be arriving at 1200, and had planned to be above deck, admiring the amazing scenery and taking photos. We rushed to get breakfast and then made our way outside. A light rain fell as we saw rows and rows of green mountains in the distance. Our massive ship slowly made its way into the harbour. We were given an amazing view of Tórshavn unavailable to those on land. We hoped the rain wasn’t going to hang around for long and headed back below deck to collect our bags. After an eventful few days, at least we had arrived safely.

Read about our time in the Faore Islands here.



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