Norwegian Fjords Cruise Guide

by Ankit

Norwegian Fjords Cruise

You cannot come to Norway and not take a cruise down its spectacular fjords, some of which are included in world UNESCO heritage site rankings. The cruises take you on the dramatic sea and water inlets surrounded by towering mountains that are sure to awe you.

You pass amazing waterfalls, towns and villages where you can participate in various activities, encounter vast wildlife and can even experience the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. Cruise operators run a fleet of ships along the famous fjords with varying itineraries, offering different perspectives of Norway and its beauty.

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Cruise ship in a Norway fjord.

Before we go on to details of the cruises, let’s take a quick look at the various fjords in and around Norway's coastline.

Norway Fjords - what are they?

The fjords had been created by the glaciers in the Scandinavian Ice Age and date back to 2.5 million years. They dot the coastline of Norway in great numbers, making potential routes for beautiful cruises.

The fjords are the “U” shaped valleys left behind by receding glaciers that had been filled with sea water. You will find towering mountains and cliffs around the waterway, which rise up to 1,300 m both above and below the water level.

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Spectacular views on a Norwegian Cruise through the fjords.

The longest fjord in Norway, Sognefjorden is 4,000 feet deep just a few hundred yards off the shore.

The coastline including the fjords, island shores, bays is over 63,000 miles long and can circle the earth more than two times! While tourists throng the Western coast fjords of Norway more, the lesser known water inlets are as beautiful too. This makes it a popular destination for adventurists today.

The Western coast has two major fjords - Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005 for being of significant natural value. You will find the most gorgeous landscape surrounding the fjords, making Western Norway part of many fjord cruise itineraries.

waterfalls-along-norway-fjords

Waterfalls along Norway fjord. Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler

Some of the famous fjords are the 204 km long Sognefjord, and Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. You can visit famous cities like Oslo and Bergen along with charming ports on the way - including Geiranger, Flam and Svalbard in the Arctic. The cruises leave from various departure points in Norway.

The fjords of Norway have been voted as the best place to travel by National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Norway Fjord Cruise Ports of Call

Your Norwegian Fjord cruise will stop at various ports which can be bustling cities, busy fishing villages or quaint towns with their own history.

The specific ports will depend on the route and cruise operator you choose, but the popular ones include Bergen, Geiranger, Oslo, Skjolden, Florø and many more. Each port comes with its own distinct flavour, which makes the entire journey full of new sites and surprises. During port calls you get explore and undertake different activities in these places, from hiking to experiencing the Nordic culture and cuisine.

Here is a list of a few worthy ones you must visit!

Bergen

Bergen is a unique blend of history and modern, surrounded by seven beautiful mountains. Once the capital of Norway, the city's alleys and streets have their individual charm you will fall in love with. The historical architecture, lively fish market (check out the Bergen's Market Square), aquarium and bars and restaurants make it a must stopover.

The port has numerous attractions like the Hanseatic Museum, Bergenhus Fortress, Old Bergen Open-Air Museum where you can see spectacular exhibits and parts of Bergen’s history and culture. When you want to shop or fill your tummy with sumptuous dishes, visit the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. You can also see some cool traditional wooden houses.

A tram ride to the top of the 1,047 ft Fløyfjell peak will give you a memorable experience with amazing views of the city and neighbouring areas. You can also take a tour of the Bergen's Royal Residence Håkon's Hall built in 1261.

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Colorful old houses in Bergen Photo by

Alesund

This old town was reconstructed some 100 years ago, when it was devastated by a fire causing the destruction of some 800 old wooden houses. It is the entrance of the Geirangerfjord and made of a group of small islands with the towering Sunnmor Alps in the background.

You can visit large aquariums like the Atlantic-Sea Park and Ålesund Aquarium to get some in-depth idea of the local marine wildlife.

There are plenty of Art Nouveau architectures to admire and never a shortage of great food and coffee joints. The charm of the architecture and the port can only be enjoyed optimally by taking a tour on foot. Your cruise provider may provide some organized tours else you can book yourself one.

If you have the energy to climb 418 steps, then you can enjoy panoramic views of the place from the top of Mount Aksla. The scenery around the Ålesund's harbour is also perfect for chilling out while soaking in the laid back life.

alesund-norway

Alesund, Norway. Photo by Matt Lammers

Geiranger

This picturesque village lies at the end of the Geirangerfjord in western Norway’s Romsdal County. Geiranger village has been included in the UNESCO world heritage site, and Lonely Planet deems it as the best travel attraction in Scandinavia.

You can see the vast stretches of abandoned farms and get to know the history from the local farmers who stayed there. You can visit the numerous popular and lesser known waterfalls that dot the area, such as the Bridal Veil, the Seven Sisters and the famous De syv søstrene.

Geiranger is dotted with amazing fjord landscape, which is the narrowest, deepest, longest and unique in Norway. Don’t miss out the Eagle’s Bend, where you can where you can get the spectacular view of the fjord from 620 m above sea level.

You can also get a bit closer to nature and spend some time around the waterfall that cuts through the small village near the Norwegian Fjord Centre. You can reach it by taking the Waterfall Path running along the side of the water.

When you feel the need to refuel yourself, grab a bite at Westeras Farm Hotel, which was established in 1603.

geiranger-norway

Geiranger, Norway.

Florø

The town of Florø is the perfect fit for adventurists with opportunities of exciting summit treks on charming islands. You can also undertake coastal hikes (try out Kinn Island) and enjoy some sea fishing. Lighthouse safaris are also a great way to pass time and you should definitely visit the Kvanhovden Lighthouse. Spectacular archipelagos surround the dreamy island where 11,000 residents carry out their fishing business. You could also visit the Coastal Museum expanding over Sogn og Fjordane county and spend your time idling around.

For animal lovers, a day trip to the Norwegian Deer Centre makes for a good plan. To get a glimpse of the ancient days, check out the Ausevika Rock carvings which can be reached by a 40 minute drive towards Stavang.

Gallery Frøya and Batalden Havbu Galleri og Museum are perfect options for art enthusiasts to witness some impressive creations.

Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy delicacies from the Knutholmen Restaurant which also offers an experience of the coastal culture.

Flam

Flam has been popular with tourists for the memorable ride on the Flåm Railway, which takes one through the most incredible spots in Norway between Sognefjord and Hardangervidda. The bounty of nature with steep mountains, valleys and waterfalls make Flam one of the top railway journeys in the world. You get to see the local wildlife, mountain firms and rivers in this 20 km long journey.

You can soak in the local beauty and culture with a bike tour around Aurlandsfjord and the old town centre. There is also an option of renting an electric car for you to drive around. Another choice is the 8 km round trip tour on the small road train Rallartoget.

There are many popular viewpoints to visit without which your trip to Flam is not complete. The Stegastein viewpoint is the most famous with its elevated path and is an architectural spectacle in itself.

Flam is the centre of the Norwegian Fjords and should be a part of your cruise!

flam-norway

Flam, Norway.

Måløy

The port of Måløy is home to the most delicious seafood in Norway. The small town has a huge fishing and processing industry which is the main livelihood of the 3,000 people living there.

You can enjoy many scenic bicycle rides in the port starting from various places like Raudeberg and even in the centre of the town. These are short distance rides many within 10 km so you get to explore according to your steam.

Apart from seafood, it is also famous for the mushroom shaped natural wonder Kannestenen rock carved by the sea for thousands of years. It rises from the sea resembling a whale’s tail.

The silver sand beach is Norway’s most incredible spots to laze on a summer afternoon. The 1.5 km long spectacular white sand beach Refviksanden is also a great place for wild sea swimming.

You can also be adventurous and visit national destinations like Jostedalsbreen National Park and others.

When you feel hungry, visit the Kraftstasjonen for some lip smacking quinoa salads, a wide choice of fish and tasty burgers. For some exquisite seafood, try the Snorre Sjømat.

Tromsø

Aptly called Paris of the north, Tromsø is the entry point for Arctic cruises. The clear blue waters, majestic snow covered peaks, northern lights and endless summer nights make it an ideal port of call to spend your day. It is the largest city of Northern Norway, so there are many things to do in Tromsø!

tromso-night-norway

Tromso at night.

You can indulge in shopping local and international brands and have a great nightlife with amazing food and Ølhallen! The Arctic Cathedral built in 1960 is also a mentionable place. The Elverhøy Church near the town centre is a wonderful red wooden architecture to behold too!

The botanical gardens, University Museum of Tromsø are few places out of many you can visit during the day. Just take a walk around to experience the best of the city and don’t miss out the historic centre which has age old timber houses.

For a great view of the cliffs, the town and fjords, you can take the cable car to the top of the Fløyfjellet Mountain (1,400 feet). The place is perfect for kayaking and hiking in the summer while in the winters you can substitute it for skiing and dog sledging.

Remember to visit the Science Centre of Northern Norway for Norway’s largest planetarium which has a beautiful presentation on northern lights and the Arctic region itself. For a bigger dose of Arctic, visit the Polaria museum.

tromso-northern-lights-norway

Northern lights at Tromso, Norway.

Skjolden

Located at the head of Sognefjord (largest fjord in Norway), it is the best place to witness a glacier. The landscape, mountains and peaceful farms make it a spot for people who want to be away from the hustle and bustle of busy towns.

The white, red and brown houses of Skjolden are home to only 300 residents. You will find only one solitary hotel, three campsites and three camping grounds in the whole port. So don’t expect luxuries or thriving bars or restaurants.

Skjolden will give you the experience of real Norway with its unmatched landscape and snow crowned mountains that make you forget all the worry in the world! It is the place which opens the doors to explore the highest mountains and largest glaciers in Norway.

You can walk around the Skjolden City Centre to experience the hustle and bustle of a Norwegian city.

There are several other ports of call where your Norway fjord cruise may take you. Check the route and itinerary for more details on stopover ports. Some cruise operators also give a chance to customize your tour according to the choice of ports.

Norway Fjord Cruises - what choices are available?

Short Norway Cruises

The short fjord cruises have different departure points and range from 1 to 5 hours in duration. These cruises are a great way to explore Norwegian landscape, culture, cuisine and history for those who don’t have much time to spare or would like to make a quick work out of a Norway cruise.

Popular cruises take you for sightseeing in fjords around the cities of Bergen, Flam, Oslo, Undredal, Mostraumen, Geiranger, Hardangerfjord, and other places.

The shorter wildlife fjord safaris give you the opportunity to encounter wildlife like whales and eagles at close proximity. In summers you can catch the midnight sun and in winters you can go for a northern light cruise.

Some cruises also offer mouth watering Norwegian delicacies and seafood buffets on board!

Multiday Norway Fjord Cruises

In these cruises you get to embark on a long journey around magnificent fjords spanning multiple days. Stopovers in the ports of call enable you to immerse in Norwegian culture and to engage in various activities like hiking and touring, complete with meals and other necessities.

It is a great way to tour Norway outside the usual road trips and without having to book multiple hotels.

Bergen to Kirkenes is one of the best and most comprehensive multiday Norwegian Fjord cruises. The 12-day journey, which has been described by Lonely Planet "The world's most beautiful voyage" takes you over 2,500 nautical miles around the spectacular Norwegian coastline. The cruise offered by Hurtigruten lets you explore every part of the coastline covering 100 fjords, 1,000 mountains 34 ports of call.

Depending upon the season you are visiting (this cruise is perfect all year round), you can witness the northern lights or the midnight sun along with other popular attractions in and around places like Ålesund, Bergen, and others. Then, the cruise crosses the Arctic Circle making its way to Lofoten and Trollfjorden.

reine-lofoten-norway

Reine Lofoten, Norway.

It is a round trip and both ways you can take part in over 90 land based hikes and excursions according to your physical capacity and time at hand. You get a double sharing cabin on a luxurious ship, and you can also book your own cabin at a higher price.

The round trip costs about $1501 per person and is much better than taking a shorter and one-way trip which costs $1,114. Prices are capacity controlled and may vary greatly at the time of booking.

Multiday Fjord Cruises Starting outside Norway

Norwegian Fjords and North Cape Explorer - The trip takes you from Southampton to Southampton on ship Queen Elizabeth on a no-fly cruise. The journey of 14 nights is best to explore the fjords and the adventures of Arctic Circle.

The trip offered by Cuncard costs $3,700 and up.

Nautical Norway - Managed by Crystal Cruises, the cruise is 11 nights long and costs around $3,800. Your vessel Crystal Symphony travels from Reykjavik to Southampton. The Emerging Artists theme is an added bonus you're sure to love!

Viking Vistas - You ride abroad the Seven Seas Voyager covering Reykjavik to Copenhagen on an exciting journey of 12 nights. Fares start from $7,000 including all flight tickets and transfers. You also get 40 shore excursions as part of your package.

Isles & Fjords - Oceania Cruises brings this no-fly cruise travelling from Southampton to Southampton. You set on the Marina for 12 nights that lets you explore some of the most magnificent beauties of Norway. The cost is around $3,700 including all pre-paid gratuities.

Majestic Fjords and North Cape - Provided by Seabourn Cruises, you ride the Seabourn Sojourn for 14 nights travelling to and fro from Copenhagen. The trip costs approximately $7,000.

Northern Norway Whale Safari Cruise - This comprehensive cruise of North Norway starts from Tromsø and takes you towards Langsundet and Vengsøyfjorden and Kaldfjorden. The seven-night long tour gives you chances to witness the northern lights and wildlife like humpback whales, killer whales, and white tailed eagles.

orca-whales-seen-on-cruise-lofoten-norway

Orca whales seen on a cruise in Lofoten, Norway.

You can take part in day hikes which give you awesome views of the fjords and the surrounding cliffs. After seven days of fun and excitement, you are brought back to Tromsø where the cruise ends. A 100-year-old ship adds to the charm of the trip, and you get small cabins on twin sharing basis.

You have to pay $2,220 for sharing your berth, and a single cabin costs $3,774 in the cruise offered by Oceanwide Expeditions.

Arctic Cruise in Svalbard - This mega cruise of 15 nights starts and ends in Longyearbyen making a full circle around Spitsbergen. On the second day, the tour takes you to Trygghamna heading on to Sorgfjord or Murchison Bay. From day four onwards you start witnessing ice caps all around you coupled with rare glaciers. You will be able to explore Bartensburg, Hornsund, Palanderbukta and other unusual places.

northern-lights-svalbard

Observing the northern lights in Svalbard.

Wildlife such as Arctic fox, polar bears, walrus and Svalbard reindeer are likely to be seen. Various offshore hiking, excursions and visits to interesting places makes the cruise very memorable for adventure lovers!

You ride on the historic yet modern s/v Noorderlicht, which can sail smoothly through the small islands. A sharing berth in a cabin costs you $6250 while a complete cabin comes for $12,500. All meals, fees and taxes are included in the price. 

What Arctic Wildlife can You Expect?

Expect Arctic animals and birds such as whales, Arctic fox, polar bears, reindeer and more. They can be seen on land during your excursions or from the deck of your ship on your cruise. In certain cruises you may also be taken on zodiac excursions to remote uninhabited islands for a wildlife safari in the fjords or between icebergs in the Arctic zone.

Polar bears can be seen in Arctic cruises around the Svalbard and Spitsbergen region. The white giants can be seen roaming alone in the ice looking for food. You may also be lucky enough to witness the encounter of two bears and experience their playful nature. The polar bears are not generally dangerous to humans, and you can see them up and close on land or water. Who knows, you may also see some polar bear cubs on your expedition!

polar-bear-svalbard

Polar bear in Svalbard

The Arctic fox is another common animal which you can spot in Arctic Norway. They live on a diet of small animals, fish, insects and berries. Their coats are known to change colour which gives them excellent camouflage ability to hunt better. The brown fur turns to white during winter - they can walk effortlessly on the ice without slipping because of the presence of fur below the paws!

arctic-fox-svalbard

Arctic fox in Svalbard

The lazing walruses are found in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding areas. They are literally huge mass with long tusks and whiskers. They appear in herds and can be seen on the shores basking in the warmth of the sun.

It is possible to get close to them as they are not known to harm humans. Did you know they need to eat 70 kg of mussels or 282 Mars bars to keep up their metabolism!

The graceful Svalbard reindeer is another amazing animal which you can spot in large numbers. They are curious and can approach you to determine if you are harmful or harmless. The reindeer run fast - gaining speeds of up to 80 km per hour. The Svalbard reindeer is the only species of the animal in the region.

Whales are the biggest wonders you can experience on your Arctic cruise. The 100-tonne mammoth creatures make quite a sight when they swim swiftly through the waters. You can encounter killer whales, bowhead whales, beluga whales and other species in the Arctic region.

If you are lucky, you can also spot the magnificent Arctic eagles like the White-tailed eagle, Golden eagle, Booted eagle and others on your Arctic trip. They can be seen flying high around the ship or land in search of food. Among them, the white tailed eagle is the common.

Cruise clothes - what to pack

If you travel from outside the Arctic into the Arctic on your cruises, your clothing needs will also change from summer wear to winter dresses. You won’t need many woollens other than warm jacket and clothes that you can use as layers if the temperature drops during the evenings. Unless your cruise has a formal dressing code, you can wear anything casual from jeans to t-shirts during dinner or gatherings.

Also, carry something to keep you warm in windy conditions. It’s also better to take a rain poncho and walking shoes for hiking and other excursions on the land. Depending on the temperatures and levels of formality, your sandals and flip flops should be okay for walking around the deck of the ship.

When crossing the Arctic Circle, the conditions will be much colder. You should carry a warm sweater, woollen socks and hat, windproof jackets and trousers and mittens. Heavy boots and waterproof shoes should be worn if you are planning to walk in the snow or stay on the deck during the evening. Also, keep a windproof and warm jacket to keep you comfortable in the chilly temperatures.

Don’t forget your sunglasses and sunscreen lotion because the sun can be quite intense during the day. You should consider carrying some formal dress or dinner attire for dining or other formal events on board your ship. Here is post dedicated to what to take on a cruise .

Fjord Tours and Excursions

Many cruise companies offer various offshore and land-based programs which enable you to experience of the beauty, culture and history of the Nordic towns and villages.

The most popular form of activity is the hiking tours that can be done on almost all the ports of call. You can take a walk around the city and visit various museums and architectural highlights.

If you are up for it, the hikes on trails up the mountains give you some of the most spectacular views of the region. You can explore the mountain landscapes, watch fishing villages at work or take a leisurely offshore walk. Various ports like Sognefjord area, Aurlandsdalen valley, Romsdalseggen and others have well-marked trails with varying difficulties of the trek.

hiking-norway

Hiking in Norway.

The coastline, islands and fjords of Norway can also be enjoyed on a bike. The city in Bergen is quite bike friendly offering long and short riding opportunities. The town of Rosenda in Sunnhordland also offers a great landscape suitable for cycling.

Another popular form of activity during your cruise is going for zodiac excursions. Zodiacs are special small boats meant to offer better navigation and allow you to reach uninhabited islands or explore wildlife up close. These are also used to take you to the shore in the Arctic regions where you can embark on a hike in the snow.

This is the way you get close to animals like the polar bear, and perhaps get to witness it hunting its prey. It is a lifetime experience, but you must be lucky enough to see it!

With our detailed information, you will be able to book a Norway cruise and make the most of it. Be it a short cruise or one spanning multiple days, it is most certainly a terrific way to explore Norway and its fjord carved coastline.

You may also be interested in our guide of cruises from Fort Lauderdale going towards the sunnier Caribbean.

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