How Norway's ports are improving the cruise experience

Norway’s ports and destinations are busy enhancing their facilities and shore excursion offerings for visiting ships and passengers. Jon Ingleton reports from a hectic Norway Day in London

How Norway's ports are improving the cruise experience
The view from the Loen Skylift, which will benefit from extra capacity in 2020

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Kicking off proceedings in Kings Cross in London, Cruise Norway’s managing director Inge Tangerås announced that “to make the industry more sustainable in Norway we have to work together.” Calls and visitors are up again, he said, but the Norwegian delegation continues to drive growth through collaboration, sustainability projects and facilities improvements.

Starting from the northernmost port and heading south, Cruise Norway members took turns to share their progress highlights. First up was Svalbard, which continues to augment its port and tourism offering as the island enjoys continued steady growth. There’s a new tourist information office on the pier, and plans are underway to add a new 135-metre pier to take the total space to over 300 metres.

The Seawalk pier that was inaugurated two years ago in Lakselv has given the local Sami population a valuable new revenue stream and a trip to the Sami parliament is the primary tourist attraction. Bookings can be made through the Port of North Cape.

While it’s been a long time since polar bears roamed around Hammerfest, only visitors to the city are eligible for membership of the Polar Bear Society. Ursus maritimus may be seen wandering the streets again during the new annual Polar Bear March from the pier to the town centre.

‘Where your arctic adventure begins’ is the popular tagline for Tromso’s recent marketing and it seems to be resonating among all demographics, yielding good recognition and helping to sell itineraries. Representatives of the port are also eager to emphasise that despite apparent reluctance in other parts of Norway, cruise ships will “always be welcome in Tromso!”

The port of Harstad has recently launched a clever new tool that allows cruise lines to take a virtual tour of the port’s facilities online. The tool also provides views of tours and location details. Meanwhile, Lofoten has a very impressive new attraction; the Seafood Centre comprises an exhibition, stockfish house, a salmon farm, restaurant and shop.

Then there’s Bodø, which has plans underway for a new airport (expected to open in 2025) and a number of new hotels. This will be of particular interest to cruise lines for turnarounds and crew changes as the airport will be just a 25-minute walk from the city centre.

Next up is Mo i Rana. Unknown to the cruise industry until very recently, it has won bookings for 2020 and 2021. The Man from the Sea provides the foreground for perhaps the city’s most photographed vista, but the caves, glacier and Marmorslottet are all worth a visit.

The UNESCO World Heritage listed Vega Islands have become a popular draw for Brønnøysund, with 15 calls scheduled this year and more expected in 2020. A hike to Torghatten with its characteristic hole will be a rewarding activity for passengers. And the port of Kristiansund is stepping up efforts to encourage calls to nearby Hitra and Smøla which are ideal island gems for smaller ships.

The port of Molde has opened a new crew room on the cruise pier and a variety of renovations have been completed in the town centre to enhance its appeal for visiting tourists. And Vesterålen, just north of Lofoten, continues to woo visitors with whales and is one of the few places in the world happy to offer a 100% sighting guarantee.

The port of Narvik will celebrate the opening of its new pier later this year. Situated just a short stroll from the town centre, the pier will be an instant hit with passengers and visiting cruise lines. The port of Ålesund, meanwhile, is set for a bumper 2020 with an increase of over 50 calls to 230 already booked. The port is also hoping to have shore power available to visiting cruise ships from 2021.

The cruising future of Geiranger and Flåm is still uncertain following the Norwegian parliament’s decision that its UNESCO-protected fjords must be free from cruise and ferry emissions by 2026. The port authority is currently assessing what opportunities exist. Nordfjordeid has been busy building its portfolio of shore excursions and its cruise manual now boasts thirty different tours with good variety. The port of Olden has been building too – creating a new cruise park in the port grounds. It also has plans to build a new pier in 2023.

Skjolden, at the end of Norway’s longest fjord, will receive 12 calls in 2019. The mountainous Jotunheimen National Park is arguably the premier tour opportunity with more than 200 peaks rising over 2,000 metres high.

The Ulriken cable car capacity will be increased from 15 to 50 next year and so queuing times for this popular Bergen attraction will reduce dramatically.

Eidfjord will receive 89 calls in 2019, peaking in August with 19 calls in the month. Viking and AIDA visits dominate their schedule for the year, and both encourage passengers to explore local mountains, canyons and waterfalls in their shore excursion options.

There have been two berth upgrades at the port of Stavanger recently and the city has just approved the development of a new longer berth. Plans are also underway to offer LNG bunkering and shore power.

Kristiansand’s new cruise pier, quay 10, opened in 2017 and in September last year the port opened Europe’s largest shore power facility for cruise ships. And it’s business as usual in Arendal, with the local community still putting on a dance show for every visiting cruise ship.

The county of Telemark is served by the ports of Kragero, Langesund and Brevik. The 150-year-old Telemark Canal remains the undisputed tourism highlight but the city continues to refresh and improve its shore excursion product delivery.

Fredrikstad now offers LNG, through a ship-to-ship service. It will be interesting to follow what impact this has on calls in the coming years, particularly as a case study for a town that has such a rich shore excursion product.

The industry is thriving in Norway and the ports and destinations are responding to sustain these boom times. Cruise Norway plays a vital role in the collaboration between stakeholders, which will be particularly important as we get closer to the 2026 emissions deadline.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
15 October 2019

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