I enjoy being a denizen of the sushi bars of New York City, and I particularly savor sitting within arm’s reach of the chefs to learn about the catches I’m about to eat. At the best places, the fish is as fresh as can be, accounting for the fact that it has to be flown in from far-flung places such as Tokyo.
I took a step closer to the sea-to-table chain while living a short spell in Tokyo. When visiting the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, I liked sitting at the tiny counters just off the bustling stalls, which boast nigiri straight “off the boat.” I remember thinking then: this is the freshest sushi you can ever have. But it turned out that I could close that sea-to-table gap even further. The freshest sushi I would come to eat was neither in New York, nor Japan. Rather, my most sublime sushi experience happened this summer in the unlikeliest of places – the far reaches of western Iceland, thanks to Windstar’s unique “Viking Sushi Adventure” shore excursion. I didn’t even have to wait to get to the sushi bar. On that journey, it was pulled fresh out of the water right before my eyes.
I wasn’t quite sure what “Viking sushi” was when Windstar’s Star Legend docked in Grundarfjordur that day this past July. I feared that it would include the notoriously rotten hakari, the stinky fermented shark that is known as Iceland’s national dish. After a quick drive through the scenic lava fields to Stykkisholmur, and a lovely sail from there on the Breidafjordur Bay, I would find out I was wrong. (Thankfully).
There was some sightseeing to be done to work up an appetite first. We boarded a small fishing trawler and circumnavigated the rocky outcroppings of the bay, getting close enough to admire the bird communities that populate the craggy boulders: plump, white-breasted puffins; snow-capped kittiwakes; white-tailed eagles; black-and-white eider ducks; rust-colored red knot sandpipers, and more. Gliding in the waters around the boat: whales, porpoises, and seals.
But it wasn’t until after this scenic spread that the real feast began, as the crew lowered a giant net into the chilly waters. After a few minutes of raking the ocean floor, the crew raised the net, bursting with scallops, sea urchin, small crabs, and other creatures. Dumping the haul onto a cleaning table, the crew tossed back the crabs, so as avoid endangering its population, and made quick work of shelling the scallops and cracking open the spiny sea urchin shells. With the addition of wasabi, soy sauce, and ginger, the cleaning table suddenly became a sushi bar at sea, as we dug into a banquet of plump, buttery scallops and sublimely sweet sea urchins, with all the appropriate fixings, including a glass of white wine.
At the end of the two-and-a-half hour trip, I learned the true meaning of “Viking sushi” – raw fish so fresh that there was nothing but a net between me and the most pristine seafood imaginable. The sushi bars of New York and Tokyo have nothing on it.
Award-winning journalist Kathleen Squires cruised as a guest of Windstar aboard the all-suite power yacht Star Legend on it’s inaugural season in Iceland, along with her husband/photographer Hernan F. Rodriguez who provided all photos above.
WHEN YOU GO:
Dramatic scenery and curious communities coalesce on this week-long circumnavigation of Iceland. Explore a country few people will ever visit, and go far beyond the tourist hotspots to remote fjords, raging waterfalls, and small fishing villages. Get to know the independent and creative Icelanders, and watch whales and seabirds play offshore. This is yachting at its most inventive. In 2017, choose from seven departures dates of the Around Iceland voyage, sailing 7-days round-trip from Reykjavik on sister yachts, the all-suite Star Pride and Star Legend pampering just 212 guests each voyage. In response to popular demand Windstar added a second ship to the popular 7-day Around Iceland itinerary. Book early for best selection.
Also departing from Iceland’s capital is Lands of the Midnight Sun, this 11-day sailing from Reykjavik to Dublin (or Edinburgh), or reverse, aboard Star Legend or Star Pride is offered four times in 2017, cruising under the Midnight Sun to sparkling Norwegian fjords, steaming Icelandic geysers, ancient Scottish standing stones, and the bucolic Faroe Islands.
Early Booking Savings on Europe 2017 cruises is available now with prices starting at US$3,999 for the Around Iceland voyage and US$3,179 for the Lands of the Midnight Sun cruise, both are priced per person, double-occupancy. For additional information, including daily itinerary highlights, special offers, and product information, contact a travel professional or Windstar Cruises by phone at 877-958-7718, or visit www.windstarcruises.com.
ICELAND PORTS OF CALL & MAP:
Iceland: Sail far beyond the tourist hotspots to remote fjords, raging waterfalls, and small fishing villages.