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Cruise Norway??

When I’m on land in various European towns, I relish the time between the cruise ships porting. So this is odd for me to ask; but assuming a cruise will be the best means of travel as I consider bringing my (late 70s, low vision, moderately physically impaired) Mom to her parents birthplace. Neither of us have been.

Just starting to plan for July 2024 & open to advice.
If you suggest a cruise line, would prefer something under 400 people (100-200 people
Is ideal). Those big hotels on the water freak me out 😅

Posted by
6755 posts

The Hurtigruten and Havila ships on the Coastal Express route are a very good choice and compromise. They are "cruise style" but without all the fripperies of most cruise ships, and go into many ports which the cruise ships never will.
They are far removed from the notion and style of floating hotel in all respects.

The modern Hurtigruten ships carry between 600 and 800 people. The Norwegian Government lays down that the minimum size of Hurtigruten ships is 320 pax.

But I have been doing Hurtigruten for long enough to be able to remember their old, small ships, which were wonderful vessels- very basic and workaday, yet also almost a private yacht type of experience. I would rather (and have been) on one of them in a winter Norwegian storm than the modern vessels.

Only one survives in Hurtigruten hands- the Nordstjernen. She conveys just 104 passengers and now does trips to Spitsbergen, rather than work in the fjords.

Personally I like cruise ships around 1000 to a maximum 1500 passengers- which gives me the facilities I need without being too busy, and feel that I am at sea on that size- not in a mall or a fun park. My favourite cruise ship by far was the Astoria- originally the MS Stockholm of the Swedish America Line - when built the largest passenger ship on the Swedish shipping Register- 390 passengers. Most famous for her collision with the Andrea Doria.

If this is a birthplace visit for your family you could combine the port to port facility of Hurtigruten (as opposed to the round trips) with local ferries, or flights or other local transportation.

Posted by
27441 posts

I have never cruised anywhere, but I spent about 2-1/2 weeks in Norway last summer.

It has been suggested that cruising is a comparatively economical way to see (coastal cities in) Scandinavia. I can well believe that, but I think that economic argument is based on the costs of low- and mid-range, large-ship cruises. I am not sure how the sort of small ship you're looking for will compare to land costs, so do some checking on that early on if you have any budgetary concerns

I took a couple of segments (both overnight) on one of the Hurtigtuten ships. The cost wasn't particularly low. The full trip Bergen to Kirkenes probably comes at a lower per-night cost, and the food (included for cruisers but not for segment travelers) is reported to be very good. There's now a second company running ships up the coast, Havila. I don't know the capacity of the ships used by either company. They aren't small, but neither are they mass-market monsters. If you're interested in this option, be sure to check out info on the specific ships. Pre-pandemic I read there was some variation in the comfort level of the Hurtigruten ships.

Also be aware that the Hurtigruten and Havila cruises typically spend very little time in port. That's why I did two separate segments rather than traveling straight through--I wanted time in Alesund in addition to multiple days in Bergen before embarkation and multiple days in Trondheim afterward. If you're looking for an unpack-once situation with a nearly full day in a variety of ports, Hurtigruten and Havila are not for you.

I'm concerned about your mother's low vision. I'm not 20/20, but I don't have issues in day-to-day life except some struggles with museum labels, and I'm not aware of problems when I'm looking at scenery. A major reason for taking a cruise in Norway is to see the beautiful coastline as you travel from port to port. Will your mother be able to appreciate those views, or will she only be able to see land when the ship is pulling into the dock? If the latter, I'd think touring by land might be a better option. The possibly-higher per-night cost would be balanced by more actual sightseeing time for your mom and possibly even fewer total nights required, which would help keep costs down.

There may be less of an issue on ships traveling through fjords. The most beautiful of those are quite narrow, which means the ship will be closer to land. Two of the best fjords are the Naeroyfjord between Flam and Gudvangen and the Geirangerfjord. Some of the Hurtigruten ships (probably also Havila ships) travel through the Geirangerfjord as a detour from Alesund. The Naeroyfjord is part of the classic Norway-in-a-Nutshell route. That trip has a lot of moving parts, but there's very little walking involved, so I think it would be totally manageable by your mother.

You may need to use some taxis. From what I've read, Norwegian taxis are eye-wateringly expensive. Again, if you want to keep to a moderate budget on this trip, you should check the taxi situation out ahead of time. While most of the popular sights in Oslo and Bergen are very near the water where the land is pretty much flat, you'll quickly encounter non-level terrain if you walk away from the waterfront. There's good public transportation in both cities, but there's nothing as fast as a taxi.

Another concern is the large number of bikes and electric scooters on the streets in Oslo and Bergen. At least you hope they stay on the street--though Norwegians seem the law-abiding sort.

Should you need airport transportation, the cheapest path into Oslo is the regular train; in Bergen it's the light rail system. Those are two of Norways's few bargains. Edited to add: Actually, I guess there might be a cheaper bus option for one or both cities, but that would almost certainly be slower.

Posted by
8651 posts

I took a 2 week cruise last July that left from Southampton and cruised up the coast of Norway to the North Cape and back. It was on Princess Cruises and was called “Land of the Midnight Sun”. The ship was the Island Princess and carried around 2,500 passengers. I was able to book the cruise at a very reasonable rate. For me, Hurtigruten would have cost 4 times as much. Princess also offers a 1 week Fjord intensive itinerary.

I loved the scenery and beauty of Norway. I will mention that a cruise is like a “sampler.” You get just a taste of the locations you are visiting. I did note that the cruise line provided assistance and was very supportive of individuals who had health conditions that might have made traveling by other means far more challenging.

There are small boat cruises to Norway, but expect to pay a higher cost.

Posted by
9898 posts

Should you need airport transportation, the cheapest path into Oslo is the regular train; in Bergen it's the light rail system. Those are two of Norways's few bargains. Edited to add: Actually, I guess there might be a cheaper bus option for one or both cities, but that would almost certainly be slower.

In Bergen, at least, there is a bus option (Flybuss) in from the airport, but it is more expensive. It served my needs well on my most recent trip, but just that it is more expensive

Posted by
682 posts

Where in Norway were your ancestors from? We just did a Norway road trip and really found it meaningful to visit the towns where our ancestors were born.

We saw so many cruise ships.

Posted by
2147 posts

Hi swen, we’ve done three cruises to Norway on Viking. It’s a very beautiful country! The ocean ships have a maximum of 930 passengers, they never feel crowded. No kids, no casinos, the line is a good fit for us. We did Into the Midnight Sun in July, and Iceland and Noway Explorer in August. Both were good itineraries. We also did In Search of the Northern Lights in February. Check them out!

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks everyone. You’ve given me a lot of good information to get started with.
Much appreciated 😌

Posted by
486 posts

For mid Aug 2024 I have booked a Holland American one week fiord cruise round trip out of Rotterdam. It was very reasonable. We have sailed with Viking and love it also. HAL ship is larger than Viking and other ship lines mentioned….but not the floating hotel feel that larger ships can have. At this time of year kids are less likely, balconies nice and we have found the Rotterdam a fine ship.

Posted by
2685 posts

I made a similar trip with my 81 yr old mum this year - mixed car and ship round trip.

I recommend Hurtigruten or Havila on coastal route because they sail closer to the coast and reach more ports. You can also disembark at a port, stay there some days and just take the next ship back or forward on anonther day. This mode is called port-to-port. Pre-booking needed.

The MS Vesteralen from Hurtigriten has a passenger capacity of under 500 pax. If you travel in summer the ships are normally fully booked out. The other Huertigruten ships offer enough space for their capacity that it does not feel like a chicken box.

Posted by
776 posts

I don't know if Windstar has your itinerary but if they do, it could be just what you're looking for. It will cost you though. You might look at Azamara. They carry about 700 passengers, but never feel crowded at all. They can get into ports much smaller than the ships operating in the area for lines like Celebrity, Princess, and Norwegian. And they never tender, which would be important considering mom's limited mobility. Azamara has enough choices for dining, but no casinos or other hoopla associated with larger ships. Entertainment is mostly limited to small ensembles. Their mid-July Norwegian Intensive looks very nice. It is 17 nights. Keep in mind that port calls are generally 8 hours, although Azamara does overnights as well. If mom's family comes from further inland, a cruise wouldn't work well.

Posted by
7906 posts

I researched taking a cruise up the coast of Norway to the North Cape a few years ago.

I read about Hurtigruten on this forum and included it in my decision.

First, in taking a main line cruise ship, I found three top companies that offered cruises all the way to the North Cape. Those were Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Princess. Celebrity was our favorite, but it didn't have a cruise all the way to the North Cape. Not sure if this is still the case today.
We had cruised on NCL and Royal Caribbean before, so I compared similar cruises. NCL departed from Hamburg and Royal from Copenhagen. Also, Royal was a little cheaper.

Hurtigruten visited many more ports, but only 3 or 4 for more than a very short time.

Key ports like Geiranger (06/01 to 08/31): 02:25 p.m. - 02:45 p.m. and Ålesund (06/01 to 08/31): 07:00 p.m. - 08:00 p.m. the ship spend very little time there. NO time to explore. Those were our favorite ports as well as Flam.

Also, Hurtigruten didn't offer a large variety of excursions like Royal. These were a negative for H. More, H was more expensive and the cabins were not balcony cabins that we always prefer..

We took the Royal cruise in June of 2019 and it was fantastic.

Not sure why you don't like cruise ships with 2300 passengers, but we have never found it to be a problem. In addition to great dining there is great entertainment.

Posted by
486 posts

I would think a fiord cruise a great way to experience the awesome views from the water. I believe most cruise lines would do a great job in Norway. Many people who have not cruised feel they will be crowded and herded around the ship. We have cruised 6 different lines. Some small…some with up to 2900 people. Nothing larger than that….there are larger ships. One can usually find quiet places on a ship. We cruise for the itinerary. Not really interested in the entertainment, the casino or much socializing at night. Do appreciate lectures when offered. Enjoy eating in main dining rooms. We go to bed early to get rest for next day and excursion….not wanting to miss one minute of sightseeing! I have always thought the fiords look stunningly beautiful…looking forward to seeing them on our HAL cruise.