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Top Tips for Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

14 October 2019

Norwegian Fjords

updated: January 2024

With waterfalls tumbling down cliffs, quaint villages home to fascinating history, and countless excursions to immerse you in the outdoors, a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords is a bucketlist-worthy holiday. We’ve put together the ultimate guide on voyaging this fantastic destination, covering the best time to go, where to visit and more..

Since there are a wide range of cruise lines and itineraries to choose from, it’s important to decide what you’d like to get out of your Norwegian Fjords cruise. Whether you’re looking to explore the untouched landscapes or would like to sample traditional Norwegian cuisine in luxury, there’s a cruise line that’s perfect for you. Passengers can also choose to embark on a no-fly cruise and depart from the UK, making Norwegian Fjord cruises an easy option for all travellers.

Read on for the best tips and information including:

Norwegian Fjords cruise holiday

Best time to cruise the Norwegian Fjords

While sailings to Norway typically range from May to September, June to August is the peak of the season due to its pleasant weather, making this the best time to cruise the Norwegian Fjords. The summer boasts long days without being stiflingly hot, making it perfect for outdoor activities. Winter, however, promises fewer crowds and although pretty cold, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had.

For seeing the Northern Lights

Throughout the summer, daylight hours extend dramatically in Norway. However, as darkness is essential to see the Northern Lights, this means you won’t have any luck seeing them this time of year.

If witnessing this stunning phenomenon is a must for you, we recommend sticking to the darker months of the year (November, December, January) and venturing as far North as possible, though this time of the year will be very, very cold. You can also visit in September and October where there are not as many hours of darkness, but there is still some polar light activity. As with all natural weather phenomena, they can be unpredictable. Check out our page on the Northern Lights for more information on this must-see sight.

For visiting the fjords

The fjords are home to fantastic waterfalls which will change throughout the year depending on the rainfall and snow melt. If you’re eager to get up close to the fjords in all their natural glory, spring to summer is the best time to visit. If you’re planning on taking a drive or a coach tour, during the winter months you may find roads are closed due to the weather, preventing access to some of these fjords.

Average weather guide

Month Average temperature (centigrade) Highlight
January -3 Nordlysfestivalen (Northern Lights Festival)
February -3 Skiing
March 2 Solfestuka Festival
April 5 Russefeiring Festival
May 12 National Day celebrations
June 16 Midsummer Festival
July 18 Riddu Riđđu Festivàla and foraging
August 16 Øya Festival
September 12 Torchlight walk by the Akerselva river
October 7 Northern Lights
November 2 Northern Lights
December -3 Santa Claus’s village (Drobak)

Norwegian Fjords cruise holiday Northern Lights

Norwegian Fjords cruise itineraries

There are a number of different itineraries you can embark upon thanks to all these fantastic ports. Norway cruises can depart from ports within Norway or from the UK, making them a great option for those who do not wish to fly to the embarkation port.

Cruisers can also combine the Norwegian Fjords with other countries in Northern Europe, such as Iceland, the British Isles and the Baltics, making it a fantastic journey to embark upon at any time of the year.

Top ports to visit in Norway

On many Norwegian Fjord itineraries you’ll be able to visit both bustling cities and quaint villages, giving you a great variety of excursions to enjoy. From dog sledding in the wilderness to souvenir shopping along historic high streets, the ports of Norway offer something for everyone.

Norwegian Fjords cruise ports map

1. Alesund

Destroyed by a fire in 1904, Alesund was rebuilt into the grand Art Nouveau town it is today. Nestled on a peninsula with numerous islands in the surrounding area, it’s a truly picturesque and historic town with fishing museums, an aquarium, a mini mountain and plenty of opportunities for hiking.

Highlight Overview
Alnes Lighthouse Just 30 minutes from the town, the Alnes Lighthouse was built in 1876 and is an iconic piece of Norwegian architecture.
Art Nouveau Centre Featuring interactive exhibits on the town’s fascinating architecture, this is a must-visit museum for discovering the history of Alesund.
Atlantic Sea-Park One of the largest saltwater aquariums in Europe, the Atlantic Sea-Park will delight and educate visitors of all ages.

2. Oslo

Norway’s vibrant and exciting capital, Oslo is home to over 50 different museums, numerous galleries and an artistic sculpture park. Cruise ships dock near to the centre of the city giving you plenty of opportunity to sightsee as much as possible, and there are plenty more opportunities to explore in the area nearby. In addition, ferry tours are highly recommended to explore the hidden gems of Oslo.

Highlight Overview
Vigeland Sculpture Park Where the famous artist worked, the Vigeland Museum provides insight into his process through plaster models, sketches and casts.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower Home to ski competitions since 1892, within the ski jump/museum you’ll find over 4,000 years of skiing history.
Oslo Opera House With the appearance of a glacier, the Oslo Opera House showcases classic performances and concerts.

3. Olden

Renowned for its fantastic outdoor pursuits, Olden is the perfect place for the adventurous. With bright green lakes for boating and fishing, impressive mountains for hiking and an Old Church to explore, this quaint village is a gateway to many exciting excursions.

Highlight Overview
Loen Skylift cable car Ascending 1,011 metres up to Mount Hoven, the skylift is a great way to enjoy panoramic views of the valley.
Mount Hoven On the mountain itself you’ll find a range of hiking trails to suit all abilities, as well as zip-lining and paragliding.
Briksdal Glacier This glacier has retreated a lot over the last 15 years and is well worth exploring before it shrinks even further.

4. Bergen

The second largest city in Norway, Bergen boasts much milder winters with little snow. Many of the buildings here hold centuries of history such as the churches and shops. The dock here is situated close to the centre, while dining, attractions and shopping opportunities are easily accessible on foot.

Highlight Overview
Bryggen This iconic wharf was rebuilt in 1702 after a fire and have been recognised as an integral part of Bergen’s cultural heritage.
Fløibanen This train will take you to the top of Fløyen mountain in less than eight minutes for stunning views of Bergen.
KODE Art Gallery This huge collection of Nordic art, design and music will give you a fantastic insight into the history and culture of the region.

5. Flam

With a picture-perfect setting of snow-capped mountains, lush meadows and quaint farms, Flam is gorgeous no matter what time of year you visit. It is especially popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and boating, while you can also visit the UNESCO heritage site of Næroyfjord, or take the Flåmsbana train through the valley.

Highlight Overview
Flåmsbana Railway Often said to be one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world, this 2-hour trip takes you through breath-taking mountain scenery.
Nærøyfjord cruise Boasting countless waterfalls and impressive mountains, this UNESCO heritage site is one of the most stunning fjords in Norway.
Viking Valley in Gudvangen This authentic Viking village is where you can meet real Vikings to learn about their history and lifestyle.

6. Geiranger

The village close by to the UNESCO heritage site of Geirangerfjord, Geiranger is a truly breath-taking port to visit. Sailing in and sailing out is a treat in itself as you pass by the iconic Seven Sisters and Suitor waterfalls, while in the village you can climb to scenic viewpoints for panoramic views all around.

Highlight Overview
Kayaking on the fjord Kayaking is one of the best ways to get up close to the imposing mountains in blissful peace and quiet.
Herdal Farm This working farm has over 300 years of history and invites you to try its own goat cheese and caramels.
Flydalsjuvet Viewpoint Recreate the iconic photo that you’ll have seen in many brochures as you gaze down into the fjord from this vantage point.

7. Kristiansand

Popular for its milder climate and laidback, small-town feel, Kristiansand is the perfect place to relax with a delicious coffee, enjoy boutique shopping and visit an open-air museum. Visitors will also love the scenic hiking trails through untouched nature.

Highlight Overview
Kristiansand Zoo & Amusement Park With over 100 species of animal to marvel at, this humane zoo also boasts a theme park and other attractions such as a haunted house.
Kristiansand Museum This open-air museum showcases over 34 historic houses, with some dating as far back to 1580.
Setesdalsbanen Railway Line The carriages of this train are over 100 years old, and will take you to numerous stunning views.

8. Skjolden

Situated at the head of the largest fjord in Norway, Skjolden is a rural village with little to offer in the way of shopping, but everything to offer in its scenery. You’ll be enchanted by the vast mountain ranges that loom in every direction, as well as the vibrant green waters of the fjord. This village is a must-visit for any outdoorsman, or those simply looking to relax in peace and quiet.

Highlight Overview
Skjolden Viewpoint Take the moderate hike up to the viewing point for a gorgeous view of the village.
Skjolden Llamas This quaint llama farm is a hit with families. Get up close to the herd and join them for a walk by the river.
Bicycle rental Hopping on a bike is a great way to get closer to Skjolden’s nature. Rent a bike from the facility in town (also suitable for children).

Top cruise lines and ships for visiting the Norwegian Fjords

With so many stunning ports to visit, cruise lines have carefully created a range of itineraries with ships to suit every traveller. Below are our recommendations:

Cruise line Best ship Best for...
Hurtigruten MS Maud Destination focused expedition cruises, visiting smaller ports.
P&O Cruises Iona Large-ship cruising with plenty to do for the whole family.
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Apex Innovative, luxury cruising featuring the renowned Magic Carpet.
MSC Cruises MSC Meraviglia Stylish, comfortable cruises offering cluster cabins perfect for families.
Fred. Olsen Cruises Balmoral Classic British cruises that feel like a home away from home.
Cunard Queen Victoria Elegant, luxurious and traditional cruising with formal dances and dining.

Norwegian Fjords cruise holiday ships

Top tips for the best Norwegian Fjords cruise holiday

Even if you’re a seasoned cruiser, there are some key tips to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your cruise holiday.

1. Plan your budget

Norway is very expensive! There’s no way around this other than to budget carefully. Saving your large meals for onboard the ship will prevent you from having to splash out in port. You can also bring a refillable water bottle and pack some snacks in your bag. Still, with this in mind, we recommend to get the full Norwegian cruise experience, you should try some of the local delicacies. Budget for a small meal or drink in each port.

2. Pack sensible clothing

Even if you’re embarking on a summer cruise, the weather is prone to change at any time in the Norwegian Fjords. Make sure to pack a light waterproof jacket as well as waterproof trousers if you’re planning on doing lots of hiking. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are also essential.

3. Opt for an inside cabin in the summer

This is perhaps one of the few occasions where an inside cabin may be more beneficial! The perk of exploring Norway in summer means you’ll experience the Midnight Sun, allowing you endless hours of activities. However, at night this could be an issue. To prevent being kept awake by the light, opt for an inside cabin. You’ll still get to take in the views at leisure in the public lounges and terraces.

4. Find a front-row seat for the sail-in

For many, the sail-ins are the real highlight of a Norwegian Fjords cruise. There’s something to do in every port but the route to each one is often filled with breath-taking scenery that you won’t want to miss. Find out with the crew when you’ll be arriving each day and grab a seat, either on your balcony or on the top deck, and enjoy the views of the impressive cascading glaciers, spraying waterfalls, sheer cliffs and mountains beyond.

5. Book your excursions in advance

If you’re travelling during the peak of the summer season, excursions can and will book up fast. Don’t risk missing out on a bucket-list activity. To make sure you don’t miss out, book your excursions with us before rather than once onboard. You can also turn your cruise into a Cruise & Stay, allowing you extra time at the start or end of your cruise to explore.

6. Let the kids join in

The Norwegian Fjords make a fantastic, adventurous cruise holiday for the whole family – kids included! With so much unspoiled nature to explore, interactive museums to enjoy and magical sights to see, children of all ages will remember Norway for a lifetime.

Norwegian Fjords cruise holiday

With such a wide range of itineraries on offer, you’ll be able to choose the perfect Norway cruise for you. Eager adventurers can even continue along the coastline to the Arctic to immerse themselves in expeditions that few will get to experience. Whether you’re looking for classic no-fuss cruising or a luxury cruise to the Norway Fjords, a cruise is the best way to visit this stunning region so be sure to check out the latest Norwegian Fjord deals.

We've also got other blogs about Norwegian cruises, including - Top 5 Accessible Norwegian Cruise Ports, Top Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights and Top 10 Destinations Best Accessed On A Cruise.

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