Euromost European Cruise Guide:
Norway Cruise Guide – River & Sea Cruises In And Around Norway And The Norwegian Fjords
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Norwegian Fjords Cruises
Norway’s jagged coastline is interrupted by some of the longest, deepest, and most spectacular ice-cut fjords in the world, with a backdrop of scenic ports and towering mountains. There’s really only one way to see the fjords, and that’s to sail through them.
The four main ‘fjord counties’ are on the country’s west coast: Møre and Romsdal; Sogn and Fjordane; Hordaland; and Rogaland. The city of Bergen in Hordaland is generally considered to be the main gateway to the fjords, itself an attractive place of cobbled streets and Hanseatic architecture. From here it doesn’t matter whether you head north or south, the scenery is equally outstanding.
To the north of Bergen is the country’s largest and most famous fjord, Sognefjord, which is also the second longest in the world. Amongst the Sognefjord’s branch fjords is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Nærøyfjord, widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and photogenic in the world.
To the south of Bergen is the equally well-known Hardangerfjord, whose tourism potential was recognised as far back as 1875 when Thomas Cook launched weekly cruises there from the UK — capitalising on the area’s dramatic landscapes of mountains, glaciers and waterfalls.
Deciding On A Cruise
Some so-called ‘Norwegian Fjord’ cruises actually spend more time elsewhere than they do in the fjords, stopping off at as many ports in neighbouring countries as they do in Norway. Check out the itinerary in detail before you book to make sure you know what to expect from your trip.
Also, some cruises start out from your home country, and others from abroad – so you need to decide if you’re willing to travel abroad first in order to embark. For cruises starting elsewhere you can often book flights and cruises together as a package through companies such as Virgin Holiday Cruises (http://www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk/).
You also need to decide what type of cruise you’re looking for, as there are two extremes: one where the ship itself is the destination and land excursions are just an added bonus, and the other where the emphasis is on the ports of call (and the ship is likely to have fewer luxuries). The first tends to be the more expensive, with the emphasis on first class facilities, excellent service, gourmet dining experiences, and plenty of on-board entertainment.
If you’re going to invest in a long or expensive cruise, check out customer reviews first – you don’t want to be stuck on a vessel with ropey restaurants and shoddy service, and even some of the most expensive cruises get disappointing reviews. Cruise review sites include Cruise Critic (http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/ and Cruise Reviews (http://www.cruisereviews.com/) .The opposite end of the spectrum is generally the cheaper option: a cruise where the emphasis is on the ports of call rather than life on ship, and which often appeals to less traditional cruise customers.
If you’re on a really tight budget, a short mini-cruise may be your only option. These last just a few days and offer an affordable way to glimpse the fjords – whetting the appetite but leaving you wanting more. This can be a good thing, as there’s no time to get blasé about the scenery or get tired of the on-board company. It can also be frustrating, however, as you’ve barely relaxed into your surroundings before you’re rudely returned home.
The Transocean Tours 6-night ‘Springtime Fjordland’ mini-cruise on the Marco Polo costs from £549 and leaves from the UK. For those short on time this cruise is ideal because it packs in some of the most famous fjord scenery in just a few days, including Hardangerfjord, Eidfjord, Flam and Bergen. See Transocean Tours (http://www.transoceancruises.co.uk) for details.
Costa Cruise Lines offers a seven-night cruise of Northern Europe including Norway’s fjords on the Costa Mediterranea, which offers a range suitable for mid-range pockets. The ship can hold up to 2,114 guests and has plenty of on-board facilities: a show lounge/night club, health and fitness centre, spa, four swimming pools, bars, shops, restaurants, and even a wedding chapel, should you need one! It leaves from Copenhagen, and stops at Geiranger, Hellesylt, Stavanger and Oslo in Norway. Geiranger is a town at the head of the beautiful UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord, while the village of Hellesylt is nestled amongst mountains and waterfalls. The small city of Stavanger is home to the country’s oldest cathedral and is known for its well-kept 18th- and 19th century wooden buildings, while Oslo, the final port of call, is the country’s vibrant capital. see euromost Oslo City Guide.
We found deals for this cruise on CruiseCheap.com (http://www.cruisecheap.com)/ with prices ranging from a fairly ‘budget’ £823 (although prices rise to a more substantial £2625 for some cabins and cruise dates).
There are countless luxury cruise options out there for those prepared to splurge, but we’ve picked out two of the more interesting options. Hurtigruten’s specialist ‘Coastal Discovery & Geiranger’ ten-day cruise is marketed around its ‘simplicity’: a slow, peaceful pace; a relaxed and informal atmosphere (no formal dress codes); and an absence of any in-your-face entertainment. And Hurtigruten have won awards for it: in 2009, they were named ‘Best Specialist Cruise Line’ at the Travel Weekly 2009 Awards. They’re also environmentally-http://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/norway/
The cruise goes to Oslo, the remote town of Kirkenes, Ålesund and Bergen. There’s a full day to admire Ålesund and its Art Deco architecture, plus a full day in the famous Geirangerfjord region, and the trip also takes in the Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands, which are amongst the region’s most scenic areas. It costs from around £2130 up to £4770, including domestic flight, full board on ship, and B&B accommodation when staying overnight on land. International flights are extra. Visit Hurtigruten (www.hurtigruten.co.uk) for full prices and details of what is and is not included.
If you’re new to cruises and worried that it might take the edge off your spirit of adventure, you could join an ‘expedition ship’ such as Cruise Norway’s ‘Explore Svalbard’ 17-day cruise on the Prince Albert II. This takes just 132 guests on an exploration of the remote fjords on the rugged coast of Spitsbergen Island, which is part of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
This vessel is built for luxury but also to venture to places most cruise vessels can’t reach: it has an ice-strengthened hull and is equipped to navigate remote waters. This is no traditional cruise, however, so don’t pack formal dress for dinner. There are excellent on-board facilities, though, including internet access, a spa, a fitness suite, boutique shops, and a library — as well as gourmet dining.
The added excitement of this voyage is in its unpredictability: passengers get daily updates on the itinerary, which changes according to conditions. Regardless of where you end up, however, you’re likely to spot polar bears, wild reindeer, Arctic foxes, walrus, whales, seals and a wide array of birdlife. Great glaciers cover 60 percent of the landscape, and the fjords are backed by steep cliffs and mountains. Prices are from £5140 plus taxes for the cheapest cabins. For more information visit Cruise Norway (http://www.cruisenorway.com/spitsbergen5.html).
When To Go
Other useful links
http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/ – Great for cruise reviews and tips on cruise ‘culture’ such as dress codes