With its spectacular fjords, never-ending imposing mountains, mesmerizing Northern Lights, and glowing midnight sun – not to mention the beautiful cities and historical fishing villages – Norway is a country that offers visitors a multitude of amazing places and experiences. There is no better way to experience it than taking a Norway cruise.
Other than all the interesting things to do and see, probably the most fascinating aspect of Northern Europe’s treasure is that it perfectly combines its breathtaking natural beauty with culture, tradition, and innovation.
There are many kinds of vacations you can enjoy in Norway, but adventuring on a Norway cruise is always a great idea and the perfect way to gain access to many many of the best cities and sights in the country. If you decide you want to explore its spectacular sites while traveling by boat, here is a guide that will help you plan your dream vacation.
Don’t leave home without your Lonely Planet Norway (Travel Guide)
Our Norway Cruise
The first thing I can say about our Norway cruise is that we loved that the cruise started way above the Arctic Circle in Tromsø. Our arrival really set the tone for our trip with classic weather and arctic scenery. As full time travelers we have learned to appreciate all landscapes, but I feel that for some people, starting in the south and then cruising north could be a let down.
You won’t see the staggering drama of the major fjords of the south when you get that far north and being able to start in the north, with the jagged peaks and fickle weather, really set a building tone for the ultimate crescendo when we hit the south. This alone really stood out to me as an important thing to consider for planning a Norway cruise.
Why we chose them – we were drawn to the G Adventures Norway cruise for two reasons; they have a small ship and run an expedition style itinerary. The G Expedition holds a maximum of 134 passengers providing a more intimate experience on the water. If given the choice between going city to city or having a flexible schedule with off the beaten path stops, we always choose the later.
When we went – we took our Norway cruise in late May, officially in the Spring timeframe. Why? Because we love to travel to destinations like Norway in the shoulder season. I love to photograph mountains that still have a little snow left on them against a foreground of landscape that is beginning to get vibrant right before summer. Plus, neither of us are fans of huge peak season crowds and we’ll pack a couple extra layers as a trade off to overcrowded places.
We had a really great time and found the Norway cruise offered by G Adventures to offer all the things we look for in a travel experience. Still on the fence or looking for a reason to consider the G Expedition? Have a look at 10 Reasons to Take a Norwegian Fjords Cruise with G Adventures.
Things to Consider when Planning a Cruise to Norway
Small Ship vs Mega Ship
Not all Norway cruises are created equal and you’ll find once you start researching that there is a full spectrum of ship sizes on offer. I don’t know about you, but I am always willing to pay more money for a more intimate experience when we travel.
Some considerations to look at when choosing your company and ship:
What is included? While the price of a smaller ship might be enough to put you off, take a step back and look at what is included for that price. I have found on many occasions that if I start looking at the cheaper, bigger ships that the price included only the bare essentials. Once you start to add on all of the excursions and extras, the price creeps up equal to or more than you would pay booking on small ship that includes everything already.
Itinerary – the size of the ship matters when it comes to your Norway cruise stops. Mega ships have a hard time or find themselves totally off limits to cruising smaller fjords and stopping in smaller villages. Most large ships dock only in cities or the most popular ports along the coast of Norway. With a smaller ship, the itinerary is more flexible meaning you have an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Sure, you’ll see highlights, but you’ll also explore Norway in a way that just isn’t possible on a mega ship.
Best Time To Go on a Norway Cruise
Norway is famous for its grandeur, but when it comes to the weather, there are things you need to be aware of. Before choosing the dates for your escapade, you should gather all the weather information possible. Although it should be said that no matter how much research you do ahead of time, the weather in Norway is notorious for being unpredictable and ever changing, even in the peak months.
Most assume that the best time for a cruise in Northern Europe is during the summer months; with peak cruise season being in June, July, August – and it does hold the title as peak season due to the chances of warmer, more consistent weather. A big downside to this is that both the prices and number of travelers will increase during these busy months.
The summer weather is pleasant but not overwhelming, and there is enough daylight for you to explore the sites your ship is docking at. Depending on which cruise line you join, you can visit Oslo, Bergen, admire the world-famous fjords, explore the Lofoten Islands, and many other incredible places.
This being said, we would argue that the best time to take a Norway cruise is in the Spring – mainly the month of May. You’ll not only beat the crowds but you’ll find that most of the mountains still have snow on them, as I mentioned before. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that accentuates the dramatic landscapes. You might even get lucky, like we did, and be treated to 11 days of perfect sunny weather.
Much like Spring, a fall Norway cruise can also be the perfect time to visit. Fall (September and October) is actually a perfect cruising season for people who love romantic walks, admiring the mesmerizing shades of gold, red, and orange. This time of the year might not be warm, but it offers visitors a delightful glimpse of nature falling asleep.
Snow aficionados won’t mind the winter cold, but this is not the primary reason why cruising during winter is enchanting. The surreal Aurora Borealis is what everybody wants to see when booking their December cruise. In addition, there are some ships that include husky sledding experiences, snow adventures, and the chance to see the captivating ice hotels.
Planning the Ultimate Norwegian Escape
When it came to planning our Norway cruise, we looked at itineraries and knew we wanted to spend as much time exploring on land as possible. We wanted to see the landscapes but we also wanted a chance to visit the fishing villages that Norway is famous for and learn about the culture. It was important to us that we have an itinerary that could show us the highlights but didn’t overlook the small stuff, and that is why we chose to cruise with G Adventures on their Cruise the Norwegian Fjords in Depth – From Tromso to Bergen itinerary.
That said, not all cruise itineraries cater to everyone, so it id very important that you do a little research ahead of time and decide what kind of experience that you want to have on your Norway cruise. We’ve outlined a number of considerations below, including some of our favorite stops from our trip as a great place to start.
Popular Itineraries and Stops
Of course, knowing what you want to see is the first step to finding the perfect itinerary for your Norway cruise. Whether you are interested in exploring natural wonders or you want to experience history and culture, there are cruises that will satisfy all desires. The North Cape, Lofoten Islands, the Atlantic Ocean Road, Bergen, and the Helgeland coast are just some of the places to include on your tour of Norway.
You have the chance to choose between a multitude of packages; all of them promise to expand your knowledge and amplify your joy. However, it appears that seeing the famous Norwegian fjords is what most travelers are after. Some say that visiting Norway – the country with more fjords than any other in the world – without seeing these imposing natural beauties, is like you’ve never been there.
I can’t speak for all cruise lines, but I can tell you about ours and truth be told, you’ll be hard pressed to find another cruise that offers such an intimate experience in Norway for the price. Our 11-day cruise from Tromso, the capital of Northern Norway, all the way to the south of the country ending in delightful Bergen, was the perfect way to enjoy both nature and culture . This is a cruise that will give you the chance to explore world-famous spots, get closer to the culture, and take in some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.
Here are some of our favorite stops from our Norway Cruise:
Nordkapp- The Place Where Europe Comes to an End
Advertised as the northernmost point of Europe, Nordkapp is now an extremely famous destination for travelers from all over the world, and a popular stop for many Norwegian cruises. Characterized by the fascinating scenery, this is one of those places that gives you goosebumps just by being there. The scenery is overwhelming with staggering cliff drops and endless ocean before you.
It’s also the place where you can learn about the indigenous Sami Reindeer herders, their traditions and have the chance to visit one of their stations. The people spend their spare time making souvenirs from reindeer hide and having the chance to browse the selection was a highlight of our stop.
Lofoten Islands- Discovering Unique Norwegian Traditions
Another of Norway’s treasures, known for their incredible beauty, are the Lofoten Islands. This group of islands above the Arctic circle is one of the most famous places in all of Norway. Our G Adventures cruise gave us an entire day off the ship here, starting first thing in the morning we explored 4 different areas including lunch in one of the villages.
I think it is safe to say that most cruises that head abocve the Arctic circle will stop here for at least a half day, but the more time you can get the better because there is a lot of places to see. You might have time to explore the enchanting town of Svolvaer and even drop into the quaint fishing village of Henningsvær.
If given the opportunity, don’t miss out on enjoying a traditional lunch in one of the many local restaurants spread throughout the Lofoten Islands. The fish is delicious at the charming village of Nusfjord.
Svartisen- A Close Encounter with Ice
A cruise that gives you the chance to admire and explore Norway’s second-largest glacier, which stretches across multiple municipalities, is going to be especially memorable. Not to keep tooting the horn of the G Expedition, but this was our favorite stop on our 11 day itinerary and we had the whole place to ourselves.
Keep in mind that hiking to this glacier will by no means be easy, but will be incredibly rewarding. If you want to have this kind of adventure, you should research and purchase the correct equipment and supplies to bring along on your cruise.
Vega- A Fairy-Tale Village that will Conquer Your Heart
Located just south of the Arctic Circle, the idyllic fishing village known as Vega can make any cruiser fall in love. Stroll the beautiful streets of this charming UNESCO World Heritage site, indulge in its laid-back vibe and get closer to its past. There are some cruises that offer optional guided tours for those who don’t want to explore the village on their own.
If you do nothing else while here, be sure to pay a visit to the Eider Down museum. One of the most expensive thermal fills on the planet comes from this special little duck that has decided to call the Vega Islands home. The looking after of these ducks and harvesting of Eider Down is a long standing tradition among the people.
Don’t forget to pack your Lonely Planet Norway (Travel Guide)
Geirangerfjord- The Most Beautiful Fjord in Norway
As mentioned, many travelers are eager to see the fjords. The most beautiful Norwegian Fjord is definitely Geirangerfjord. This world-famous site attracts millions of curious visitors who are eager to admire the grandeur of nature while adventuring into the area on foot. Hiking and taking in spectacular views is something you must do if you choose a Norway cruise that stops at this paradisiacal place.
Highlights include a journey to the highest point of the fjord at Dalsnibba, which is amazing in the spring with that snow and a visit to the famous Eagle’s Bend lookout. When the waterfalls are flowing against a blue sky, you’ll really struggle to thing of anything more spectacular.
Things to Consider Before Your Norway Cruise
Norway is Expensive – One of the first things you should know about Norway is that it is a very expensive country. You must be prepared for this when you stop to visit one of its charming cities. Even eating at a fast food restaurant is more expensive than in many other European destinations. But if you ask people who have already visited the country, most of them will say that the experience was well worth the price.
Where to Embark – There are many cruise ships that depart for Norway from inside the country, or from different European ports. So, depending on your wishes and the company you choose, you can either fly directly to one of the Norwegian cities and begin your cruise there or start in another European port. However, when you book your flight or arrange other transportation, make sure you take into consideration the time restrictions for joining, as well as departing the group.
What to Take With You – Once you decide on the season, type of cruise, and how to get to your starting point, you are ready to make your packing list. Though packing for a Norway cruise is not very different from packing for other cruise holidays, there are some things you should consider when deciding what to bring on board.
A camera and binoculars are just as important as money and credit cards when visiting this spectacular country.
If you plan to visit Norway during winter or either of the shoulder seasons, don’t forget your thermal clothes. Waterproof clothes and a windbreaker must also be on your list, no matter what time of year you go; you never know when there might be sudden rain or windy days.
It might sound funny to bring these items to a notoriously cold place but you will find opportunity to use a bathing suit and sunblock in all seasons. Though the weather might not be helpful, many ships have covered pools.
Just to make sure the weather doesn’t surprise you, try to pack clothes that can be layered. Also, depending on the ship you choose, you might need something fancy for dinners.
For a complete list of the things you need to do before your trip, and what to bring on board, you should thoroughly read the information provided by the company you choose.
You Cannot Go Wrong with Norway
Of course, we are partial to the experience that we had but no matter how you choose to experience Norway, you’ll be treated with some pretty spectacular scenery, interesting history and friendly culture. The landscapes of Norway precede themselves and certainly do not disappoint and if you can manage, extending your time on both side of your cruise to explore more of the country will be well worth your time.
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Looking for more on Norway?
Norway Travel Guide | 10 Reasons to take a Norway Fjords Cruise with G Adventures
Visiting Nordkapp Norway | Epic Guide of Things to Do in Tromsø, Norway
A Guide to Norway’s Lofoten Islands | | Hiking in Norway – A Introduction Guide | Ultimate Guide to Trondheim, Norway
Resources For Planning Your Norway Adventure:
Recommended Guide Books For Norway: Lonely Planet Norway (Travel Guide)
Travel Insurance: We Allianz for travel insurance and have since our first trip to Mexico in 2003. They’ve been there for us on our adventures – and many friends and readers – multiple times over! If you want to book with Allianz Travel Insurance, simply use this link to get their travel insurance!
Disclosure: Disclosure: Our cruise on the G Expedition was in partnership with G Adventures. However, all opinions, stories and experiences are 100% mine. As always. This post contains affiliate links, meaning we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.