Ocean cruising in Norway
Norway cruises have long been a favourite among cruisers. This beautiful country offers an incredibly diverse range of landscapes, from the beachy shores of Kristiansand in the south to icy Tromsø in the north. A major cruising highlight is the Norwegian fjords, winding waterways framed by steep-sided gorges, emerald meadows and the occasional red-roofed village. Cruises in Norway are operated by many cruise lines including P&O Cruises, Viking, Celebrity Cruises, Fred Olsen and Norway’s national line Hurtigruten offer this bucket-list sailing. However, it’s not just the country's landscapes that attract visitors to cool and beautiful Norway, with the capital of Oslo making for a great city day out with Viking museums, fortresses, a royal palace and cosy hygge cafés, while historical Bergen is packed with homages to the Hanseatic days.
Why choose Norway cruises
A sprawling country with various climates, Norway is easily accessible from Europe and certain British Isles cruises also make the journey north across the North Sea, with Dover Norway cruises carried out by many lines.
Perhaps Norway’s most famous landscape, the Norwegian fjords are pretty much made to be explored by cruise ship.
As for the best Norway cruises, many major lines such as P&O Cruises, NCL, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean sail the stunning country, with new line Ambassador Cruise Line also cruising Norway. Norway’s national cruise line Hurtigruten also offers fantastic expedition cruises around the Norwegian fjords, coast and the Arctic north. For luxurious Norway small ship cruises, you can opt for Seabourn, Viking, Ponant or Oceania, to name a few.
Find your dream Norway cruise
Norway cruises: Best places to visit on a Norway cruise
Surrounded by both mountains and sea, Oslo is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. The city was named European Green Capital for 2019, and anyone on a Norway cruise can experience this by breathing in the fresh air and renting a bicycle, the perfect way to explore the city and its parks. For history and heritage, there’s the Viking Ship Museum – housing three original Viking ships – and the Akershus Fortress, built to protect the royal residence. Said royal residence is also a must-visit, the lavish palace where the King and Queen of Norway live to this day. Oslo is also famed for its café culture, and the city is littered with cosy hygge cafés and trendy stores perfect for souvenirs and browsing. When it comes to culture, history, nightlife and clean credentials, Oslo has it all.
Known as the ‘The heart of the fjords', the second city of Bergen is a firm favourite on Norway cruise itineraries. Princess Cruises Norway sailings head here, for instance. The city is the gateway to the Norwegian fjords, surrounded by steep forested slopes that back right onto the majestic fjords. Bergen’s Vågen harbour is dominated by the Unesco World Heritage Site Bryggen (or the wharf), a series of colourful Hanseatic heritage buildings with triangle roofs. The city itself is packed with culture, with museums and art galleries lining its steep cobbled streets, some paying detailing the city’s illustrious history as a major Hanseatic trading post. For ultimate tranquilly ride the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen – offering panoramic views of the harbour.
There are few places in Norway that get as much sun as Kristiansand, the country’s southernmost port, and many cruises around Norway stop here, such as Celebrity Cruises Norway voyages. Kristiansand styles itself as ‘Norway's No. 1 Holiday Resort’, offering sandy white beaches, waterparks and even hosting Norway’s biggest beach party – the annual Palmesus festival. The city is all lovely leafy streets and blossom trees and one of its beaches – Bystranda – even has palm trees. Travellers can spend hours in the sun exploring the likes of Odderøya – a former naval base turned artsy recreational area with museums, music venues, galleries and indoor climbing facilities. Kristiansand is also home to one of Northern Europe’s biggest collections of old, white wooden houses – charming Posebyen old town.
The best Norway cruises generally feature the fjords without fail. The country is home to 1,000 of these, carved by glacial cycles over a period of 2.5 million years. The result is winding, u-shaped valleys and crystal-clear waterways that are breathtakingly beautiful. Cruise ships regularly visit 10 of these stunning fjords, most notably Geirangerfjord, Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord and Lysefjord, as well as Nordfjord, Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord. Nature lovers will be in their element here, as you can hike rolling hills, kayak in limpid waters and climb to the top of towering snow-capped peaks.
The tiny village of Flåm lies at the southern end of Aurlandsfjord, a 29km-long branch of the Sognefjord. Visitors on cruises around Norway come to Flåm for a handful of reasons, to explore, hike and marvel at the picturesque fjord, to cycle Rallarvegen, to explore the charming village and also to ride the famous Flåm Railway. Voted the world’s most incredible train journey by Lonely Planet in 2014, the railway takes you from Flåm on a 20km adventure alongside the fjord. You’ll see waterfalls, snowy peaks, hillside farms and deep ravines. Flåm itself is also worth exploring, home to just 350 residents living in traditional chocolate-box houses.
The Jostedalsbreen Glacier is the largest glacier in continental Europe, lying between the Sognefjord and the Nordfjord near the village of Olden. The area is a dedicated national park with over half of the park covered by the glacier and is packed with amazing flora, fauna and geology. Those cruising in Norway can hike its snowy peaks, the highest being Lodalskåpa at a height of 2,083 metres, and marvel at snow depths of up to 12 metres. Sadly, the glacier has dramatically reduced in size in the last 50 years, so it’s worth visiting sooner rather than later.
Lying 400km north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of the most northerly places you can take a Norway cruise to. Fred. Olsen Norway cruises sail here, among other lines. Located on the islands of the northern coast, the city is framed by icy plains, fjords and perennial snow-capped peaks – connected to the mainland by a long bridge. Tromsø is considered the gateway to the Arctic but still remains a relatively bustling city with lots of shops and a great dining scene. Top sights include the triangular Tromsø Cathedral and the Storsteinen, which climbs to the top of Mount Storsteinen and offers incredible views of the city and surroundings. Take an Arctic cruise in winter for dark skies and the chance to spot the magical aurora borealis, or visit in summer for the famous midnight sun.
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago between the mainland and the North Pole and is a firm fixture with northern expedition cruises in Norway. Svalbard is the Arctic exactly as you imagine it, vast snowy plains, glaciers, remote wildernesses and the occasional tiny settlement. Anyone keen on Norway cruises for wildlife watching opportunities shouldn't miss this stop. The islands are home to polar bears, Arctic foxes, walruses, seabirds and blue whales – in fact, polar bears outnumber humans. The biggest island in Svalbard is Spitsbergen, where most tourists visit to see the beautiful northern lights (in winter) and eternal daylight of the midnight sun (in summer).
Norway cruises: Best experiences to do on a Norway cruise
See the Northern Lights
Norway is the perfect destination to tick the northern lights off your bucket list. The lights are most visible in winter when the skies are at their darkest and are visible from popular Norway cruise destinations Tromsø and Svalbard.
…Or Midnight Sun
Cruising around Norway in summer? Never fear, as while you won’t see the northern lights you can experience the equally famous midnight sun. The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs north of the Arctic Circle (head to Svalbard and Tromsø) where the sun never sets and the skies remain bright for 24 hours a day. Remember to pack your sleeping mask.
Eat like a local
Norwegians have some pretty delicious food – salty smoked salmon, hot cinnamon buns, Atlantic ‘skrei’ cod, wild berries. Make sure to head to a local café or grab lunch in a traditional restaurant. Those feeling adventurous on cruises around Norway should try reindeer – trust us, it’s delicious.
Norwegians were declared the happiest people in the world in 2017 and we have a feeling it’s because of the outstanding natural beauty on their doorsteps. On your Norway cruise be sure to step shore - embrace the local life and take a hike, swim in a cool lake or hike ride through mountains. Even Oslo has the surrounding Oslofjords, where residents head for swimming, skiing and boating.
Explore Viking heritage
The Vikings and seafaring Norse people were originally found in Norway, and paying homage to its illustrious history the country has some amazing Viking museums. In Oslo there’s the Viking Ship Museum, Njardarheimr has the Viking Village and Trondheim has a ‘Hike Like a Viking’ experience.
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Alesund port town on the west coast of Norway, at the entrance to the Geirangerfjord
The famous Preikestolen (Preacher’s Pulpit or Pulpit Rock) above the Lysefjord in Norway