Faroes turn out for their queen of the oceans as ship makes maiden voyage
Whenever she sees the Faroe Islands come into view, rising out of the empty seascape, a warm feeling of pride rises in Inger Klein Olsen's chest.
Last week her excitement reached fever pitch as she captained the Cunard ship Queen Victoria across the North Atlantic from Iceland and through the fjords into port, on the vessel's maiden visit to the archipelago.
Warm welcome: Queen Victoria docked in the narrow harbour at Klaksvik on the northern island of Bordoy
Next day, Captain Olsen was at the helm again, sailing the 90,000-ton vessel into Torshavn, the Faroe Islands' colourful capital, for the official first visit.
Well wishers, including the captain's brother and extended family, thronged the quayside and the islands' prime minister boarded the ship for a ceremonial exchange of plaques.
It is a matter of great national pride that not only is the captain of such a prestigious ship Faroese (born and bred in the small, remote, self-governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark), but that Inger is just one of a tiny handful of female cruise ship captains and the first in Cunard's 173-year history.
Part of Inger's mission is to show her passengers the beauty of the 18 Faroe Islands and introduce them to its culture. It was her idea to add Klaksvik as an extra port of call into the original itinerary.
Proud: Captain Olsen onboard the Queen Victoria
'By sailing in the afternoon before, everyone could be up on deck having the fantastic experience of witnessing such overwhelming scenery.
'Often when I speak to British passengers, the only time they have heard of the Faroes is in the shipping forecast on the radio.
'Staying here for a day and a half means visitors have plenty of time to see Viking remains and old Faroese houses with grass roofs, and to watch the wildlife - birds nesting high in the cliffs and seals lying on natural shelves just above the water. There is also the opportunity to buy original handknitted sweaters like the one made famous by Sarah Lund in The Killing.
'I hope we've also shown that the Faroes are as advanced as any country in Europe, despite their physical isolation.' The Faroes are closer to Scotland than to Iceland or Norway and, Captain Olsen observes, thanks partly to the legacy of the friendly occupation by British forces during the Second World War, there's a very close connection to Britain.
'Lots of people eat Marmite and everyone drinks tea rather than coffee as in Denmark,' she laughs. 'Sweets in the shops are made by Cadbury and everything stops for football.
'Sometimes I'll phone my mother from a cruise to China to say hello, and she'll reply, "I can't talk now - Manchester United are playing!"' When she is not at sea, Captain Olsen lives in Denmark with her Danish husband.
'Picking up the pilot and sailing through the islands in command of Queen Victoria was very exciting and a bit daunting,' says Captain Olsen. 'Denmark is very flat. Being surrounded by the mountains rising out of the water is a special feeling for me. Some people find it claustrophobic because they are so steep and overwhelming. For me it is the safe and sound feeling I was brought up with.'