NORWAY CRUISES

COMPLETE GUIDE TO CRUISING THE NORWEGIAN FJORDS

The Norwegian Fjords are quite simply spectacular. Although we are biased, we can genuinely say that visiting the fjords is best done by ship as there is no other way to explore the unique inlets and bays in such detail. 

Because there is so much to see and so many itinerary options, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming when deciding on which cruise to choose. Don't worry, we're here to help you through the process. 

To help you get the most out of your Norwegian cruise, we have written this page to answer the many questions we get from readers regarding this region. If you're still in the planning stage then we recommend bookmarking this page to come back to it in the future.

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Norway Cruise: The Complete Guide

​Overview

norway cruise map

Because of their beauty, many of the Norwegian fjords have now been awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This really says it all. 

Carved by enormous glaciers over millions of years, the lacerated western coastline of Norway is best explored by boat. If we include bays, fjords and island shorelines, the 63,000 mile coastline could wrap around the world... twice. 

Meet anyone who has been on one of these cruises and they will yarn about the towering snow-capped peaks, the history-laden villages, the perfect waterfalls, and the picturesque inlets. 

For people who have not been it, this may all sound a little far fetched and fanciful. Yet we can categorically say its true. Fjord after fjord, inlet after inlet, mountain after mountain, all take your breath away.

For outdoor lovers, a Norway cruise will not disappoint. Kayaking and hiking are popular pursuits during fjord cruises. Depending on which itinerary you choose, you could take up to 70 shore visits. Take a hike up into the hills and look down upon the magnificent fjord or kayak around the shallow inlets where your ship can't reach.

Norway has an amazing maritime history and the city stops such as Oslo or Bergen offer many museums to explore the history of the nation in more depth. You can also try the local cuisine, but be warned, it's expensive! 

For people with a more adventurous appetite, there are plenty of Norwegian cruises that venture north past the Arctic Circle. During Summer you'll get 24 hours of daylight and can potentially see wildlife such as polar bears, Arctic foxes and numerous whale species. For the expedition lovers, we recommend taking an itinerary that includes Svalbard.  

With so many options, deciding on your perfect Norway cruise is difficult. Below we have listed everything you need to think about.

Best Time To Cruise The Fjords

The standard answer to this question is Summer. Particularly from June to August when temperatures are at their warmest. 

However, when you sail really depends on what you want to see and do. Unlike most other Arctic cruises, you can take a Norwegian cruise all year-round thanks to Hurtigruten's Winter itineraries. 

Below we discuss the pros and cons of both Summer and Winter. There is no right time, just the right time to suit you

​Summer

Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Norway. Temperatures are at their highest and you get more daylight hours.

If you journey to Northern Norway, past the Arctic Circle during the high Summer period (June - August), then you'll experience the famous 'Midnight Sun'. This is also the area to potentially see polar bears. 

In the southern fjords temperatures during Summer frequently top 20 degrees celsius (68°F). Keep in mind though that rain fall is still fairly high and weather conditions can change suddenly.

You also have a lot more itinerary and ship choices during Summer as only Hurtigruten offer Winter itineraries.  

​Winter

Winter is a great option for people wanting to witness the Northern Lights. 

With Hurtigruten offering cruises all through Winter, Norway is the best destination on earth to see the Northern Lights by ship! For a detailed page, click here

Winter is also far less crowded and there are many cruise deals available. However, temperatures are cold and you'll need to wrap up. 

The shoulder months around April/May and September/October are a great option for photographers looking to get nice sunsets and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Be warned though, the weather is by no means guaranteed. 


Types of Cruise Ships

Which ship you choose to sail on will greatly impact your Norwegian cruise experience. 

There are several types of ships that offer the same itineraries and knowing what type of ship will offer what is very important. 

For example, large ships offer more luxuries, but are unable to visit as many inlets due to their size. 

Below we have given a little more detail on what to look out for when deciding on your cruise ship. 

​Expedition Ships

Expedition-style ships are for the people with an adventurous spirit. 

Very few expedition ships solely visit Norway. Most of these style ships are offered on a combination stye itinerary such as Norway and Svalbard or Scotland and Norway. 

The MS Expedition offers several Norway based options in May, and Hurtigruten's MS Lofoten sails all year-round. But other than that, you'll need to book  a combination itinerary. 

If you do, expect an epic experience, with guided lectures, daily zodiac trips, wildlife tours and optional activities such as dog sledding, hiking, kayaking and camping.

Do not expect pools, cinemas onboard these vessels. These cruises take around 150 passengers. This is small compared to the more popular 2-5,000 passenger cruises.

These cruises are often more expensive than the larger cruises due to their excursions and guidance. 

​Luxury Cruises

Far more popular throughout Norway is what we would call Luxury or Main-line cruise ships. 

These ships tend to be far larger than expedition-style ships and offer far more in the way of comfort and on-board entertainment.

Expect pools, cinemas, restaurants, shopping and more onboard. If you're lucky, you'll have a good-sized balcony to sip your drinks whilst witnessing the majesty of the fjords. 

However, you won't get dedicated guides and experts. You'll also experience longer queues and won't be able to reach the really small inlets and bays.

Companies that offer these ships are Hurtigruten, Cunard Line, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises Princess Cruises, etc. 

Please note that most of these cruise lines will not sail to Northern Norway. 

Norway Cruise Cost

Unlike much of the Arctic, many Norway cruise itineraries won't break the bank. 

Most of the main line cruise operators start at around $900 and go upwards from there. Base line prices often do not include wifi, food vouchers, shore activities etc. With these included on a standard 7 night cruise then expect to pay upwards of $1,500. 

Booking early will save you a few hundred dollars, as will settling for an inside cabin. For a room with a balcony then expect to pay at least $900 more. 

12 night itineraries start at around $1,500 and go up to around $5,000 for a top suite. 

For expedition-style cruises expect to pay at least $3,500 for a 12 day itinerary. Hurtigruten offer a slightly cheaper itinerary on the MS Lofoten occasionally. For itineraries that combine Svalbard, Iceland or Greenland then you should expect a price tag of at least $6,000.

These prices are for a shared cabin with no extra activity added. 

​Other Cost Considerations

​Beside the main cruise cost, there are also a number of other cost factors to consider. 

​Solo Travelers

​Flights

​Gear

​Visa and other Misc. Expenses

Choosing The Right Itinerary

Because of its popularity, there are numerous itineraries through the Norwegian fjords.

Luckily, when you get to know them more, you'll realise that many of them are identical but with different names depending on the cruise line offering them. 

Deciding on your perfect itinerary means you need to be very clear on what you want to see and do. 

As mentioned above, many of the main cruise line operators only sail to the southern fjords. If you want to experience the Arctic Circle you'll need to pick your itinerary carefully. 

Below we have outline the important things to consider when deciding. 

  • ​How long
  • ​Where
  • ​activities
  • ​cabin type
  • ​book ahead

Although this does not affect itinerary, by booking early you will avoid any disappointment if your chosen itinerary is fully booked. The best prices always come from booking well in advance also.  

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Norway Cruise: Wildlife

Although Norway cruises are not focused on wildlife (excluding Svalbard itineraries of course), there is still a wide range of species that you may encounter during your cruise. 

The less populated northern fjords offer the best chance at seeing wildlife, however, the southern fjords are still excellent.

Always keep an eye out for white-tailed sea eagles and Norwegian moose/elk.

Below is a list of the potential wildlife on offer during your cruise. For wildlife found in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, please click here

​Types of Wildlife

Moose/Elk

Norway cruise wildlife - elk

Although you won't spot the from your ship, you should keep an eye out during any of your shore excursions. 

The Norwegian moose can be found in anywhere, although is more common in central and southern Norway.

White-Tailed Sea Eagle

Norway cruise wildlife - eagle

One of the most impressive birds on the planet, the white-tailed sea eagle's wingspan can reach 8 feet!

You can see these magnificent birds anywhere along the Norwegian coast line - so keep a watch out. 

Lynx and Brown Bears

Norway cruise wildlife - lynx

The Eurasian lynx can found in certain forests in the north of Norway such as Reisa National Park. However, these are incredible rare to see and cruise goers don't stand a chance. 

Brown bears can only be found in Øvre Dividal National Park - a thin sliver of forest on the northern border of Norway. 

​Arctic Fox

Norway arctic cruise wildlife fox

Although more commonly seen in Svalbard, there is a breeding population in both Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park and the more southerly Borgefjell National Park.

You'll need to be lucky to spot these creatures. Always keep an eye out near bird colonies. 

​​Whales

Norway cruise wildlife - whales

During Summer and early Winter, the North Atlantic is incredibly rich in plankton. This fact draws thousands of whales to Norway each year. 

The Vesterålen group of islands in Northern Norway is your best bet. You'll have the chance to spot Minke, humpback, pilot, sperm and orca.

Puffins

Norway cruise wildlife puffin

Puffins or 'sea parrots' as they're sometimes called are a favourite of most bird watchers. 

These charismatic little creatures can be found in their thousands on Bleik, a tiny village south of Andenes in Vesterålen.

.

Harbour Seal

Norway cruise wildlife - seal

Harbour Seals are quite common sightings and can be seen along the entire coast of Norway.

Often seen in groups of 10-20 strong, especially around beaches and intertidal areas. 

Musk Ox

Norway cruise wildlife - musk ox

One of the oldest mammals to walk our planet, musk ox are an incredible sight. 

Although you won't see them on your cruise, if you travel to Dovrefjell National Park and take a safe you are almost guaranteed to see them. 

Norway Cruise: Things To Do

Although many people take a Norwegian fjords cruise to relax, unwind and take in the spectacular landscape, there are actually numerous activities and things to do during your cruise!

For people wanting to simply relax, we suggest taking one of the larger ships operated by P&O, Royal Caribbean or someone similar. 

For people wanting a more active cruise, we suggest taking an expedition cruise or a semi-expedition cruise with Hurtigruten. 

Read below to get a little more information. 

​The Northern Lights

things to do on a Norway cruise - Northern lights

As mentioned above, Norway is actually one of the few places on earth to take a Northern Lights cruise. 

The Arctic ice makes most cruises impossible during Winter. However Hurtigruten offer year-round cruises up Norway's northern coastline. 

This means you can stand on deck and witness some of the best Aurora Borealis displays in the world. 

For more information, please see our Northern Lights cruise page

​Photography

Norway-cruise-photography

Anyone who regularly visits Instagram can tell you how many epic landscape photos come out of Norway! 

It really is ridiculous the amount of incredible photography opportunities there along the Norwegian fjords. 

Take photos from your ship or, even better, hike up to a view point during your shore excursions. Always remember a polariser.

Expedition cruises will often have a dedicated photography guide onboard. For more photography tips, please see our page on shooting in the Arctic

​​Wildlife Watching

things to do on a Norway cruise - wildlife watching

Whilst most diehard wildlife watchers would take a cruise to Svalbard, mainland Norway still offers up plenty of wildlife watching opportunities as discussed above. 

The northern fjords and islands are better for this. Keep an eye out for harbour seals, sea eagles, moose and Arctic foxes. 

In early Winter you'll have the best chance of spotting numerous whale species such as orca. You can also take sea eagle and king crab safaris.  

​​Kayaking and Zodiacs

things to do on a Norway cruise - kayak

Kayaking is an optional activity offered by many cruise companies, including the big ones like P&O.

Kayaking gives you a great chance to see landscapes from a different perspective. It also allows you to explore the fjords in greater depth.

Zodiac trips are offered on expedition cruises. Your guide will take you out and explore the landscape in hard-to-reach places and search for wildlife.  

Snowshoeing and Skiing

things to do on a Norway cruise - snowshoe

Not as common as kayaking, snowshoe and skiing trips are offered on expedition cruise and itineraries operated by Hurtigruten.

Not many people can say they have done this and it's a great way to explore the region's forests and hills. 

A certain amount of fitness will be required for this activity as it will not all be downhill! 

Hiking

things to do on a Norway cruise - hiking

Hiking is included on most Norway cruise itineraries. 

When ashore, take a hike up the hill to get the best views in the fjord! Sometimes these hikes will be guided, other times your guides will let you go explore the area for yourself. 

Remember to take some snacks and a water bottle!

Fishing

things to do on a Norway cruise -fishing

A very fun activity offered by Hurtigruten.  Every year, large cod head down from the Barents Sea and breed along the North Norwegian coastline.

Hop aboard a fishing boat and try your luck at reeling in one of these large fish!

If you catch one (or more), you can take it ashore and cook it for your dinner. This activity is often combined with a sea eagle safari. 

Local Culture

things to do on a Norway cruise - culture

One of the greatest parts of a Norwegian cruise is meeting the locals and exploring the tiny hamlets and villages that dot the fjords.

Explore the local ports, taste the seafood, visit the small museums and do some shopping. Wool products are well-regarded here, as are some intriguing flavour combinations....  

Packing List For The Fjords

Your packing list will largely depend on when and where you travel in Norway. 

During the summer temperatures can reach above 25 degrees in the southern fjords, whilst a Northern Lights cruise in Winter is going to be freezing. 

Whilst we can assume most people have the necessary clothing for a Summer cruise, below we have given some details on what to bring for a Winter cruise. 

Items you'll need to consider before sailing are as follows:

​Items To Consider

Clothing: The cold, long nights means you'll want to be rugged up. This especially true as you'll no doubt be on deck frequency to observe the lights. The key is layers - a parks, fleece, shell jacket and base layer. 

Gloves: You hands will feel the cold first. Make sure they are wrapped up with a good pair of gloves. Photographers may want to bring a thin, liner pair of gloves for dexterity. 

Headgear: Much of your body heat will escape through your head. Make sure to wear a beanie and buy a jacket with a hood. 

Footwear: Having the right footwear is key, particularly if you are taking an expedition cruise. You'll need calf length waterproof boots for your  zodiac shore landings. 

Bags and Daypacks: For people wanting to do a lot of shore excursions, a good day pack will be invaluable for storing water bottles, cameras, phones etc. 

Important Accessories: There are a number of accessories you should think about. These include ear plugs, electricity hubs, kindles etc. See our detailed packing list. 

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Norway Cruise Highlights

Bergen

Norway cruise highlights - bergen

Once the capital of Norway, Bergen is a major port of call on most southern Norway itineraries. The fish market is legendary and there are a number of fascinating museums such as the Hanseatic Museum, and Old Bergen Open-Air Museum

Alesund

Norway cruise highlights - Alesund

Set within a small cluster of islands, Alesund is simply magical. The Alps make for the perfect backdrop to this town and bright red and yellow buildings are ideal for lovely photos. The Art Nouveau architecture and modern feel make Alesund a delight to visit. 

Tromsø

Norway cruise highlights - tromso

The gateway to the Arctic, Tromso is often referred to as the “Paris of the North”. Take the cable car to the top of the Fløyfjellet Mountain (1,400 feet) for epic views of the city and fjord below. Also try and visit the Arctic Cathedral built in 1960. 

Flåm

Norway cruise highlights - flam

Nestled deep within the heart of the Fjords, Flåm has been a popular destination of cruise goers for years. Most notable is the Flåm railway trip that runs from the port and takes you through stunning landscapes. Often regarded as one of the greatest railway journeys on the planet. 

Lofoten Islands

Norway cruise highlights - lofoten

The Lofoten islands lie just off the coast or North Norway. An untamed wilderness for nature and photography lovers. Witness some of the finest scenery in the world, take wildlife safaris and kayak between islands as you take in the majesty of this region.

Geiranger

Norway cruise highlights - Geiranger

Situated at the end of the Geirangerfjord in western Norway’s Romsdal County, Geiranger village is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The longest, deepest and most narrow fjord in Norway, Geiranger is considered to be one of the ultimate destinations in Scandinavia.  

Florø

Norway cruise highlights - floro

Lighthouse safaris, fishing trips, hikes and spectacular islands await you in the area of Florø. Visit the Coastal Museum or take a 40 minute drive to see the incredibly ancient Ausevika Rock carvings. Look out for the carvings of bear and elk.

Måløy 

Norway cruise highlights - Malloy

Måløy has one of the most celebrated fishing commutes in Norway with over 3,000 people making their sole living from fishing. Because of this, the seafood is simply to die for! If you have one meal away from your ship, make sure its here.  

Skjolden

Norway cruise highlights - skjolden

Located at the head of Sognefjord, Skjolden is the best spot to see a glacier during a Norway cruise. Sognefjord is also the largest fjord in the country and gives visitors the chance to explore an untamed landscape away from the bustling cities.  

Arctic Cruise Insurance

​In our article – Arctic Travel Insurance – we have provide all the information you need to find your perfect insurance policy. Alternatively, you can get a quote straight away with our rcommended specialist below. ​

Norway Cruise Video

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