Norwegian highlights and the country’s booming cruise business

Norway’s ports headed to London in 2018 to meet with cruise line executives. Jon Ingleton joined them to hear how the cruise product is evolving

Norwegian highlights and the country’s booming cruise business
The Atlantic Road connects the Island of Averøy with the mainland via a series of small islands and islets

This article was first published in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Once a year Norwegian ports travel to London, England to spend a day sharing their news with cruise line executives, and according to all reports at the 2018 meeting, there’s plenty to celebrate.

“There’s been a steady increase in calls and passengers,” said Inge Tangerås, managing director of Cruise Norway. “The reason for visiting Norway remains unchanged: spectacular natural beauty. Recent efforts to extend the season have led to a 21% increase in winter calls.” 

It’s an outstanding result, particularly because Norway has four clearly defined seasons and now cruise lines are beginning to recognise that each delivers a uniquely compelling landscape for visiting cruise passengers. However, Norwegians are not inclined to idly bask, so the nation’s ports and destinations continue to invest heavily in developments for ships (piers and services) and passengers (shore excursions and reception facilities) as they seek to drive further growth.

A new tender site in Loen has been a strategic addition to the Port of Olden’s facilities. Operational from 12 June 2018, OldenLoen will significantly ease congestion and help ease the flow of passengers as they head off on shore excursions from the two bays at the end of Nordfjord (head to page 36 for the full story). 

Infrastructure developments are also taking place at Trondheim, which is installing a new bollard and building a roundabout to improve access for coaches, as well as Kristiansand. The latter now has greywater facilities and a seawalk pier at Norfjordeid for the 2018 cruise season.

The Port of Narvik also has good news. “We’re getting a new cruise pier in the town centre,” said Grethe Parker, the port’s cruise coordinator. The pier is just one of three big investments for the port in Northern Norway – a new train and a cable car will also significantly enhance the shore excursion offer. 

Shore excursion offerings are also being updated. Lofoten, for example, has added tours to Skrova Island and Hov Horse Farm this season. Elsewhere, renovation works have been completed so North Cape can reintroduce one of its original tours from 1893 – shuttling passengers by sea to Hornvika so they can climb up to North Cape Hall. 

Promoted as a trio of destinations, Molde, Åndalsnes and Eresfjord have worked tirelessly to build up their portfolio of shore excursions in recent years – an effort that is now reaping rewards as they have a total of 114 calls scheduled in 2018. The Marble Caves and the Atlantic Ocean Road are two renowned tours, but there are now significantly more available options and varied experiences on offer. Neighbour Kristiansund, the closest port to the Atlantic Road, has also been busy opening two new attractions – Tingvoll Eco park and a climbing park named Høyt & Lavt. Similarly, Hardanger has invested big bucks in three attractions that show off the natural environment – a viewing platform and bridge over Vøringfossen, a cable car (for 2019) and a nature centre.

Bodø, Brønnøysund, Ålesund and Telemark are also debuting new excursions for the 2018 season and continuing to welcome collaboration with cruise lines and tour operators to build exclusive tours. Likewise for Alta, where a swim in the freezing ocean (survival suit provided) is proving frighteningly popular! Arendal is stepping up its efforts to be crowned the most hospitable port in Norway by providing a mini market and singing and dance performances when it welcomes each of its 12 calls this year. 

Business in Stavanger is also booming and will increase by over 25% in 2019 with more than 250 calls already scheduled – the only issue there is the reported high number of people taking selfies in the middle of the road! Traffic has dipped a little for Oslo, but this classic port city will bounce back quickly, in part because Oslo Cruise Partners have been actively strengthening the programme of activities available for crew. In Svalbard, the cruise network is starting to get some traction for its Isfjorden Slow Cruise concept, with momentum gathering for a multi-stop visit to the Arctic archipelago. Fuel savings will heighten the appeal of this innovative approach to destination immersion and sea days will fit more naturally either side of a three-day visit. We’re looking forward to reviewing the shore excursion programme on a familiarisation trip to Svalbard later this year and will cover this story in more detail in our next issue.

Norway’s environmental stewardship is very apparent across the country’s cruise industry, but particularly in Flåm, Tromsø and Gerainger. Cruise visits to Flåm are set to end in 2026 when access will be restricted to electric vessels, unless the port can find a happy compromise with local authorities. Tromsø, which will open a new passenger terminal this winter, is busy working with Innovation Norway to attain formal recognition as a sustainable destination. Meanwhile, Gerainger (and the two lesser known ports of Hellesylt and Stranda) are seeking smarter solutions across the board to help them ‘create greater values in fragile environments.’

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
Wednesday, January 16, 2019