The Best Options For A Norwegian Fjords Cruise In 2023
Historic coastal cities, seemingly endless coastline and the world-famous heritage fjords are just a few of the reasons why a Norway cruise is favored by so many travelers planning a trip to Scandinavia.
While a road trip gives you access to fantastic viewpoints, nothing beats seeing the fjords from the water. Only then can you truly appreciate the sheer size and scale of these natural waterways.
Why do a Norwegian fjords cruise in 2023?
Still not widely known among regular cruisers, Norway’s government have introduced a ban on many cruise ships visiting the UNESCO World Heritage listed fjords.
The ban, which will mean only zero-emission vessels can use the fjords, will essentially ban most cruise ships from some of Norway’s most popular fjords from as early as 2025.
Travelers should also be aware of the anti-cruise sentiment that has been building in Norway this year. Protestors have put up notices telling cruise visitors to “go home” in popular destinations across the country in what has been a record year for cruise calls.
How to pick the right fjord cruise for you
While a cruise of the Norwegian fjords is a popular bucket list item for many, there are many varieties of cruise in terms of length, location and concept that make for wildly different experiences.
For example, most people decide on a cruise based on its ports of call. But when deciding on a Norwegian fjords cruise, it’s important to look at the route plan. How many fjords will you see, and when?
Some major cruise lines advertise a fjords cruise that visits major cities and just one fjord, whereas others spend far more time cruising different waterways.
Some ships stay in port all day and sail down the actual fjords very early in the morning or late at night. While Norway’s long summer days will help you see the scenery, this may not be what you want from the experience.
Classic Norwegian coastal route
Since 1893, combined cargo and passenger vessels have served the Norwegian coastline providing a vital transport link to small communities. To this day, such vessels still operate but they are best-known internationally for the cruise-like roundtrip package deals.
While not cruise ships, the vessels of Hurtigruten and Havila Voyages are well fitted out with several relaxing lounges and excellent dining. They don’t offer the entertainment options you’ll find on more typical cruise lines, rather letting you focus on the ever-changing scenery.
Another key difference is the amount of port calls. The ships call at many of the 34 port calls for just a few minutes, enough time to unload and load cargo and passengers. Passengers do get a few hours to wander around bigger ports like Ålesund, Trondheim and Tromsø.
While you’ll see spectacular scenery throughout the voyage, the number of fjords visited by the ship is actually very small. Sailing into Northern Norway’s narrow Trollfjord is a wonderful experience and during the summer the ships also sail along the Geirangerfjord, but otherwise these are not fjord-focused voyages.
Cruises to the Norwegian fjords from the U.K.
Some of the most commonly seen ships in the Norwegian fjords are British-focused lines sailing from Southampton or Newcastle.
Fred Olsen offers five-night to eight-night cruises from Southampton and Newcastle in the spring, summer and early fall. During the winter, the line’s focus switches to northern lights cruises to the north of Norway.
Three of the ships from P&O Cruises regularly sail to the Norwegian fjords including two adult-only ships and the LNG-powered Iona. The line offers 35 sailings from Southampton between April and September, the majority lasting seven days with a handful of longer 12-day voyages available.
Other cruise lines offering regular trips to the fjords from a variety of destinations in the U.K. and elsewhere include Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America and AIDA.
Other cruises featuring the fjords
Many other cruise lines include a Norwegian fjord on a longer itinerary, which also features one or more of the British Isles, the north of Norway, Iceland or southern Scandinavia and the Baltic region.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line visits the Geirangerfjord or Nordfjord on many of its itineraries billed as ‘Iceland & Norway’ or ‘Northern Europe’. MSC offers cruises to at least one fjord in many of its Northern Europe itineraries from Kiel, Germany.
Viking Ocean Cruises also incorporates at least one fjord into several of its Northern Europe itineraries, such as the 8-day ‘Viking shores & fjords’ sailing from Amsterdam to Bergen via the Geirangerfjord.
The DIY approach
If the thought of spending a week or two on a cruise ship fills you with dread, there is another option that may be perfect for you. Many smaller vessels offer sailings down a specific fjord marketed as short sightseeing cruises to foot passengers or drivers on a longer road trip around Norway.
If seeing the fjords from a ship intrigues you, consider adding in one or more of these trips into a road trip itinerary.
You don’t even need a car for some of the trips, such as the Lysefjord sightseeing cruise from Stavanger or the regular Flåm to Gudvangen electric passenger ferry that sails in silence along the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.