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I understand there used to be lots of ferry options to Iceland via the North Sea. The one I really wanted to try was from Lerwick. I'm not sure if this ferry went directly to Iceland or if it stopped at the Faroe Islands. You have no idea how badly I'd want to take this adventure, mainly so I can drive my car around Iceland, but let's not get too far from the point.

I've read a few comments online saying things like it was a 'hellish' journey, or just unpleasant and unpopular. However none of these people elaborated on why the service was poorly received. Could it be the distance? The cold? The price? The choppy seas in winter time? The lack of people on board?

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    The answer to the question in the title is probably just that the market for long passenger-carrying ferry crossings has declined severely after air travel has become increasingly affordable. Jun 21, 2018 at 18:28
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    – Henning Makholm I find that a bit sad (for me) because while airplanes are fast, they don't satisfy the same type of adventure you get from a ferry where you can bring back loads of souvenirs and all the freedom you get with your car... also I hate airports with a passion
    – Jalapeno
    Jun 21, 2018 at 18:30
  • While not an answer to your question - smyrilline.com operate a ferry from the faro islands to Iceland.
    – skifans
    Jun 21, 2018 at 19:32
  • @JonasBezzubovas If you hate air travel then perhaps you should look at cargo ships. Some/most(?) offer passenger accommodation. It's not fancy but it is different. And look what I just found: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/43840/…
    – Peter M
    Jun 21, 2018 at 19:54
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    smyrilline.com Am I missing something? This company claims to sail from Denmark, and vehicles are permitted. Or is this the company that suspended the route? Jun 21, 2018 at 21:53

2 Answers 2

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Just for clarification: As of 2024, the ferry between Hirtshals, Denmark and Seyðisfjörður, Iceland with a stopover at Tórshavn, Faroe Islands does indeed still operate, and it's the only realistic option for those who want to take their own car to Iceland.

However, since a few years ago, this ferry no longer makes voyages to Lerwick, UK and to Bergen, Norway. It goes without saying that the main reason behind all reductions of ferry services is a stiff competition from low-cost airlines.

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I suspect that low cost airlines are what killed the ferry. Nowadays you can buy a round trip ticket from mainland Europe to Iceland for as little as 100 euros, so the vast majority of people would rather save time and money by flying and renting a car. If you don't have a car taking the ferry is even less attractive. If you do have one, car rentals are very much ubiquitous these days in Iceland and unless you have a specialized 4x4 vehicle it would be cheaper to rent a car locally instead.

Cheap airlines (along with faster day trains) are also the reason why night trains have been disappearing in the late 2010s and routes such as the London to Istanbul train have long become a tourist attraction rather than a practical mode of travel (unless you're the guy from Seat61). And they're also why you no longer see boats full of immigrants landing in New York from Europe - nowadays you just take a relatively short flight :)

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    (-1) The bit about night trains is speculative and misinformed. There is a dozen or more new night trains routes that opened in Western Europe in the last 3-4 years (especially but not only ÖBB Nightjets) and they are often fully booked. There was a downward trend and night trains that disappeared (vs. “are disappearing”) in the 2010s but the reasons were more complex than that (and the success of the “new” night trains is ample evidence of that).
    – Relaxed
    Feb 23 at 10:08
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    @Relaxed true, but the answer was posted nearly six years ago, in the (late) 2010s.
    – phoog
    Feb 23 at 10:43
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    @Relaxed what’s the capacity of night trains in 2024 vs 2004? Vinyl records have also made a comeback but that doesn’t mean MP3/streaming players haven’t mostly killed off other formats of music.
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 23 at 16:07
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    I would desperately love to take a couple of long-distance trains during an EU trip. Unfortunately, the cost/time calculation makes it an extremely poor option in comparison to even a reasonable-leg-room flight. sad...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 23 at 17:34
  • @JonathanReez I suspect it's roughly comparable, night trains never provided huge capacity but that's not the only issue I was raising. Many night trains that did disappear compete(d) with day trains (that became faster and got more investment from rail operators) or busses and not typically on routes that low-cost flights made accessible to many people. Now if we are talking about really long routes like London-Istanbul, they disappeared much earlier and always were a luxury option so if anything it's premium flights, not low-costs flights that killed that type of train travel.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 25 at 17:05

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