Cruising in the wake of vikings
Norway’s scenery makes it one of the most beautiful countries in the world to cruise – it is also perfect for photography, history and nature buffs. Experience the European summer during cruise season where snow-capped Alps reflect in mirror-smooth fiords. The stunning country-side has something for everyone.
It is roughly 2400 kilometres to cruise from Oslo to the top of Norway – about the same distance as Sydney to Townsville. However, unlike our Australian coast, the Norwegian coast is deeply inset with fjords. Thankfully these narrow inlets are deep enough to accommodate even the largest ships.
Standing on deck looking up the sheer sides of the fjord rising more than a kilometre above and almost close enough to touch is a magical experience. And watching a giant cruise ship turn in a fjord little wider than the ship’ length showcases impressive nautical skills.
First port of call
Bergen is often the first port during a cruise of Norway and is a World Heritage city. Picturesque Bryggen, the city’s historic district, deserves hours of exploration. Classical music buffs should also venture into the suburbs to Troldhaugen which was the home of composer Edvard Greig’s. If you are lucky you’ll see a recital of Peer Gynt here.
Venture down from Greig’s house to the waterfront to visit the simple hut where he wrote much of his famous music. It is a stunning setting and Greig’s compositions such as “In the Hall of the Mountain King” perfectly encapsulate the wonders of the dramatic Norwegian coast.
One dramatic point of entry into fiordland is sailing into Flam, which is deep in a narrow fjord and the terminus of the Flam Railway. This train climbs 865 metres over 20 km to Myrdal on an iconic journey justly rated as one of the most spectacular in the world. The rails begin mere metres from the dark, deep waters of the Aurlandsfjord.
Many cruises then move along Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord, at over 200 km. While many of the best sights of the magnificent Geirangerfjord can be seen from the decks of the ship, in Geiranger town it is worthwhile venturing inland to the popular Flydalsjuvet lookout. Photography buffs can capture some truly stunning images here.
On a voyage north a regular cruise stop is Alesund, an important fishing port that burned down in 1904 and was rebuilt over the next three years in Art Noveau style. Heading north, Molde offers a chance to visit the Trolls Road and the viewing platform at the top which is well worth the trip.
Next are the two T’s: Trondheim, on the very open Trondheimsfjord, was once the capital of Norway and is still the country’s third most populous city. It’s a big step to the north to Tromso that lies above the Arctic Circle and has an impressive collection of wooden buildings in the city centre and a cable car to provide a bird’s-eye view of the city.
The usual 12-hour visit to Honningsvag is barely enough time to appreciate North Cape. But if you are lucky, your ship will cruise around the cape and provide a perspective denied to land-based visitors.
The ultimate goal of a Norwegian cruise should be seeing the North Cape (or Nordkapp). At 71.1725°N this is as far north as you can go on the European continent - the next stop is the North Pole. Gathering at a giant clifftop and watching the midnight sun skirt above the horizon before rising again is an experience you’ll never forget.
How to travel: Flights operate regularly to Norway from Australia. There’s a very wide range of options to investigate for a Norwegian cruise as most cruise companies offer them throughout the European summer. The classic voyage is with Hurtigruten that began running mail boats to remote coastal communities in 1893 and offers an extensive selection today. Otherwise, just consult your favourite cruise company such as Silversea, Costa, MSC, Holland America, Saga, Fred Olsen, Seabourn, NCL, Ponant, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Oceania, P&O, Princess, Windstar, Lindblad, Sea Cloud and Viking.
For more information on Norway click here.
Is Norway on your bucket list?