Witness Norway’s Incredible Fjords on These 8 Scenic Cruises
From more eco-friendly sailings to immersive journeys that will get you deeper into the culture and nature of the region, these cruise itineraries will bring you along Norway’s beautiful coastline in comfort.
The country’s more than 1,000 scenic fjords, idyllic mountains, and imposing glaciers are among the many awe-inspiring landscapes you will see on a cruise in Norway. Add sightings of the aurora borealis in the dark winter months, cultural attractions in the cities and towns along the way, plus abundant adventure-filled outings, such as kayaking, mountain biking, dog-sledding, and cross-country skiing, and it’s clear why Norway is such a sought-after cruise destination.
Years ago, on a cruise in Norway, I met a fellow passenger who complained about the sheer number of fjords, saying that he would have preferred more variety of landscape. To me, as a frequent cruiser, these striking vistas are a must-see experience on the world map. Sailing into Trollfjord in the Lofoten Islands, you might even imagine that you see those elusive and fanciful trolls as your ship glides along shimmering water through the 328-foot opening of a passage flanked by towering cliffs.
Most Norway sailings operate between May and September, with the height of the season running from June through August. That said, you can cruise Norway year-round.
It’s worth noting that in 2018, the Norwegian Parliament adopted a resolution that will limit access to only those ships able to sail emissions-free in the UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in western Norway; it will go into effect by 2026. While it’s not yet totally clear how exactly the regulation will play out, this could potentially impact which ships sail to Geiranger and Flam in the near future.
What you’ll see on a Norway cruise
Nature and culture are the star attractions on cruises exploring the western coast of Norway. Passengers will have dramatic views as they glide into fjords dotted with scenic mountain-backed villages and colorful homes.
Note that most Norway cruises do not visit the capital city of Oslo, so if that’s on your wish list you’ll want to select your itinerary carefully.
As for other itinerary highlights, the historic Hanseatic city of Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, is a must for history lovers, home to the old wharf area of Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site with its dozens of 14th- to 16th-century wooden houses. Bergen also has a bustling fish market and some of the best arts attractions in the country, including the home of composer Edvard Grieg.
If your cruise goes above the Arctic Circle, you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights Cathedral in Tromso, which claims status as a Northern Lights capital based on its position on the so-called aurora oval, improving your chances of seeing the aurora borealis there. Less-visited Alta, also on the aurora oval, has such winter attractions as Northern Lights viewing while spending the night in a teepee at a Sami dogsledding camp—an experience offered by some cruise lines. In North Cape, you can stand at the northernmost edge of the European continent.
Geiranger, at the head of the UNESCO-recognized Geirangerfjord, stuns with waterfalls that include the 1,000-foot Seven Sisters. From Stavanger, visit Pulpit Rock for more cliff and waterfall drama or stay in town and visit the fascinating sardine canning museum, wood houses, and shops in the old town.
Flam has the star attraction of the UNESCO World Heritage Nærøyfjord, viewable on a one-hour steep ascent on the antique trains of the Flam Railway. Aesund is a pretty fishing village known for art nouveau architecture, while Olden boasts access to glaciers and glacial-fed waterfalls and lakes. Viking history is a draw in Trondheim, founded in 997 by Viking King Olav Tryggvason and known today for its culinary scene.
The best cruises in Norway
Best for comprehensive itinerary
The 684-passenger Azamara Onward will sail Norway in July 2024 on a 17-night itinerary from Oslo to Copenhagen. The ship will call at 13 ports along Norway’s western coast, including heading far north to Tromso, Alta, and Honingsvag, and will sail around the Lofoton Islands to Trollfjord. Less-visited places will include the small northern city of Bodo. The ship is designed as a floating boutique hotel at sea, with seven restaurants, including a well-regarded steakhouse.
To book: 17-night sailing embarking July 13, 2024, from $6,159 per person; azamara.com
Best for a classic ocean liner experience
Cunard’s 3,000-passenger Queen Anne debuts in May 2024, and during its first summer it will head to Norway on three seven-night cruises, round trip from Southampton, U.K. You can do two bucket list experiences at once—sailing on a real ocean liner (a vessel custom built for long voyages) and visiting the Norwegian fjords. The line’s classes of service will be in play, with suites guests gaining access to dine on exclusive menus in the Princess Grill or top-tier Queens Grill. There’s the Britannia dining room or upgraded Britannia Club for everyone else.
To book: 7-night cruises from $1,199; cunard.com
Disney Cruise Line
Best for families
Disney Cruise Line does select itineraries in Norway, inspired by the popular Nordic-themed Frozen franchise. The 2,500-passenger Disney Dream will sail to the Norwegian fjords in 2024, with Elsa and Anna likely to make appearances. Family-friendly shore excursions include boat making and seafood cooking classes, with reduced prices for passengers age three to nine. Onboard the ship, there’s a water coaster, Disney-centric Broadway shows, first-run movies, and the opportunity to send the kids to Disney’s Oceaneer Club so you can spend time in the adults-only Quiet Cove pool.
To book: 7-night round-trip sailing from Southampton, U.K., on August 5, 2024, fares from $2,772 per person (with reduced rates for children nine and under); disneycruise.disney.go.com
Best eco-friendly sailings
Norwegian-owned Havila Voyages operates four new environmentally friendlier coastal cruise ships that carry both people and cargo between Bergen and Kirkenes, year-round. The hybrid ships run on liquified natural gas (LNG) and, for up to four hours, on 86-ton battery packs, for emissions-free sailing (the packs can be charged in ports with clean electricity). Done up in decor inspired by Norwegian landscapes, they carry up to 468 overnighting cruise passengers, plus locals, to 34 ports. Shore excursions allow you to leave the ship and rejoin at a later port to get to key attractions.
To book: 12-day summertime sailings from $2,963 per person; 5-night sailings from $1,677 per person; havilavoyages.com
Most intimate Norwegian cruise
Chartering the nine-passenger HMS Gåssten is not for the faint of pocketbook, but it will be an experience to write home about. Built in 1973, the small blue and white wooden boat started life as a Swedish navy minesweeper. Today, the boat boasts four comfortable cabins and an oak-lined salon. Sailings are from the colorful fishing village of Henningsvær and explore the Lofoton archipelago, known for its dramatic scenery, including soaring mountains. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and kayaking are among the activities offered. (In March and April there are sailings featuring remote ski touring from mountain peaks down to shoreline.)
To book: A 6-night summertime charter (May through September), starts at $68,830, redsavannah.com
Best for local experience
Sailing with Hurtigruten is a classic Norwegian experience. The company has been operating regular service up and down the west coast of Norway year-round for 130 years. The Norwegian Coastal Express ships stop at 34 ports, delivering mail and cargo and serving as transport for locals while carrying international travelers in cruise ship accommodations. The sailings are between Bergen and Kirkenes, up near the Russia and Finland border. You can book 5- or 6-night one-way north or south sailings, or 11-night round-trip cruises that do the whole 2,500-mile circuit. Since some stops are for less than an hour, a key is to also book optional shore excursions, which leave the ship and reboard further down the line.
To book: 11-night fares from $2,309; 6-night from $1,600 per person, hurtigruten.com
Best upscale expedition experience
French cruise line Ponant has expedition ships exploring the Norwegian fjords in summer and winter. In July, the 184-passenger Le Champlain sails between Bergen and Oslo, bringing guests to nature attractions and tracing Viking history with port calls that include Arendal in the south, a popular water sports spot, and sailing up the coast as far as Alesund, and including Olden. There’s also a stop at the historic Swedish city of Goteborg. One sailing, sold by Smithsonian Journeys, adds experts on Scandinavia as lecturers. When you’re not out exploring by inflatable Zodiac, there’s the bonus of an underwater observatory/bar, known as Blue Eye.
To book: 7-night cruises from $7,550 per person; ponant.com
Best wintertime cruises
From January through March 2024, Viking Cruises is exploring the coast of Norway with the 930-passenger Viking Venus, done up in contemporary Scandinavian decor and with such locally inspired features as a Nordic spa with hot and cold treatments and a café serving heart-shaped Norwegian waffles with cheese. The 12-night “In Search of the Northern Lights” sailings are between London and Bergen, and feature overnights in Tromso, Alta, and Bergen, with quality time to explore day and night.
To book: 12-night cruises from $5,499 per person, vikingcruises.com