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Aurora Expeditions – Goldring Travel Checks It Out: Part III (Getting There, Reykjavik & Getting Onboard)

My journey on Aurora Expedition’s Sylvia Earle is one that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. The combination of the awesome beauty of Iceland, polar bears, and walrus in Svalbard, and an intimate “sexy” expedition ship filled with an experienced expedition team is just about perfect. 

Aurora Expedition's Sylvia Earle
Aurora Expedition’s Sylvia Earle

But – don’t you hate it when I say “but”?! – there have been few bumps in the road. Fortunately, not with the ship, the service, or the cuisine.  So let’s start at the beginning.

I had three flights to get to Iceland; which was kinda my fault…as I am working to retain my Premier 1K status with United, so I need a certain number of flights. All was going well until my last flight when United changed the aircraft three times in less than 24 hours, eventually providing a small, ancient, 757-200 plane, so my priority seating was gone and I was moved from the front of the plane to an emergency row aisle seat with no recline for my 6.5 hour flight. Making matters worse, the video monitor was broken (fortunately I had my iPad), the headrest was pushing my head into my chest, my special meal was not provided, and we spent an hour sitting on the plane waiting to depart.

And that is when the really bad thing happened. A very loud, large woman sat across the narrow aisle, so she constantly was bumping her butt into me while she FaceTime’d her husband for that entire hour…and then, with the same loud voice, shouted for the entire 6.5 hours. My Bose noise-canceling headphones with music playing were no match for her. Eventually, the flight crew told her she had to stop talking…but that didn’t happen.  As we disembarked, I heard her say to the people next to her, “I’ll see you on the ship!” No, it couldn’t be. Please No!  And then I heard NCL Prima and thought, “Thank God and No Wonder”.  End of flight ordeal!

Aurora arranged the transfer from the airport to the Hotel Reykjavik Grand. It wound up being a good bonding moment with the four guests on our expedition sharing the van because we all were sitting around that horrid woman, so we all vented and then had a laugh. (It is noteworthy that the hotel is fine, but not centrally located…however, you can walk into the center of Reykjavik in about 15-20 minutes.)

I arrived at the hotel at about 10:00 AM, and while my room was ready, the only way I could get into it before 3:00 PM was if I paid $35.00.  After no sleep and plans for the afternoon, that was an easy call.  I met with my wonderfully on-top-of-things Aurora’s Sales Director – West for a coffee, then I had a shower and a quick nap – needed with no real sleep for over 24 hours – before meeting with one of my favorite Iceland suppliers.

We drove into Reykjavik and, honestly, I am struck by how this town has transformed into a small city in just a few years. The city now has a population of about 250,000, and Iceland has 2,500,000 visitors a year; most of which spend some time here. 

We went to Monkey for lunch. It is a charming and a bit funky restaurant with excellent Icelandic sushi, sashimi, and ceviche.

Icelandic Sushi & Sashimi
Icelandic Sushi & Sashimi
Icelandic Ceviche
Icelandic Ceviche

Icelandic desert

Of course, in typical fashion, one beer turned into a few glasses of wine and all of a sudden a question was asked, “Hey Eric, since you were a marine biologist, I have a corporate tour about to go out on a RIB high-speed whale watching trip. Do you want to go as an expert?”  Well, I may not be an expert, but I know enough to sound like I am! So it I was off!

View of the boat tour

White-Beaked Dolphin
White-Beaked Dolphin

We did see two minke whales, one humpback whale, and quite a number of white-beaked dolphin. What a great start to my journey!

Due to my delicious lunch and whale watching, I canceled my dinner plans and stayed in. I met with the Aurora folks for – you guessed it – a couple of glasses of wine, and then was off to bed.

The next morning, after the included breakfast, it was off on the Golden Circle tour. I had done it once before driving myself with a self-guided GPS, so I was hesitant to do it again on a bus, but I figured it was better to be a “team player”…and I sort of regretted it. It is a good thing if you have never been to Iceland, but I should have stayed in bed and just made my way to the ship at 5:00 PM.

Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall

Beautiful waterfall site seeing with Goldring Travel

Waterfall view from the base with Goldring Travel

Regardless, I did take advantage of the tour revisiting places that I had seen in the winter and now in the summer. A quick visit to a geothermal plant and a hydroelectric facility led to a visit to the spectacular Gullfloss waterfall and Geysir.

Geysir photo
Geysir view 2

Geysir erupt

beautiful view of a Geysir

Interestingly, lunch was not provided. We were at a few locations where you could choose to buy lunch, but it signaled that Aurora Expeditions is a premium product when it comes to inclusiveness…but surely not when it comes to the expedition experience.

Beautiful views that have changed with the seasons.
It was interesting to see things in the summer that I had previously seen in the winter.

Beautiful flowers

Beautiful purple flowers

Image of beautiful purple flowers.

It was, after a long day in a bus, then time to board Aurora Expedition’s, Sylvia Earle. The staff was genuinely enthusiastic and helpful.  I immediately felt relief and a transformation from endurance to enthusiasm!

After I turned in my passport, I was whisked up to my beautiful junior suite and quickly unpacked. Before I left, I felt like I had just enough clothes, but with more storage cabinets than I have ever had on a ship,  plus nice sized walk-in closet, I feel like I am letting the designer’s down. 

Sylvia Earle's Two Room Junior Suite lounge
Sylvia Earle’s Two Room Junior Suite

Sylvia Earle's Two Room Junior Suite bed

The same can’t be said for the bathroom. It has very little vanity or storage space, but it works.  A few shelves would be a big help.

Sylvia Earle's Two Room Junior Suite bathroom

I had time for a quick tour around the ship. Each public area exudes quality and comfort. While I will detail them in another article, I do want to point out that my favorite public area is the Library; a loft sitting above the Science Center with warm furnishings and a fantastic view through a mosaic of glass that forms part of Sylvia Earle’s hi-tech X-Bow.

Sylvia Earle's Library
Sylvia Earle’s Library

Sylvia Earle's Lounge

It was time for a cocktail.  The offerings are limited, but well-curated. Note that you do need to sign for each drink, which can be a pain. I have opted to “instruct” the staff how to sign my name. LOL.  It really isn’t a bother to sign. I know it is for some. However, Aurora Expeditions is looking into either making your expedition “all-inclusive” or having an optional package available. Stay tuned!

Sylvia Earle's Bar

Time to head to the Lecture Hall (and lounge area) for an orientation and introduction talk, followed by the muster drill.  Due to the lateness of the hour and it being dinner time, the mandatory zodiac briefing was put off until after dinner.

Sylvia Earle's dining

Dinner was excellent. Nicely ironed table clothes and colorful napkins greeted me, along with lots of glass to see outside.

Sylvia Earle's dining seating

I had an Indian vegetable dish that had a very nice spice to it (definitely not dumbed down too much) and delicious lamb chops.

delicious lamb chops

The included wine with dinner was quite good too.

included wine with dinner

And then a “Blast from the Past”: An after-dinner spirit cart!  Yes, I’ll have a 20-year tawny port…and dessert of international cheeses – that were identified, not merely placed in front of me. Nice touches!

Having had no sleep on the plane, a big day in Reykjavik, a day-long bus tour, and the excitement of boarding Aurora Expedition’s Sylvia Earle, it was time to call it a night.

Next up: Let the Exploration of Iceland Begin!

Interested in a Luxury Journey by Cruise, Expedition, or Land?

Contact Goldring Travel For Truly Expert Advice!

Email: eric@goldringtravel.com 

US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY or (530) 562-9232

UK: 020 8133 3450

AUS: (07) 3102 4685

WhatsApp: +1 732-693-8797

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