Norway’s Port of OldenLoen: Gateway to the glaciers

Frequently included in Norwegian Fjords itineraries, OldenLoen supplies an impressive spectrum of offerings to cruise visitors. Rebecca Gibson hears from Sølve Oldeide, operating manager at Port of OldenLoen

Norway’s Port of OldenLoen: Gateway to the glaciers
Featured in Norwegian Fjords itineraries, OldenLoen supplies an impressive spectrum of offerings to cruise visitors

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.

Boasting a rugged coastline, towering mountains, turquoise lakes, lush valleys and several glaciers – including the biggest in mainland Europe (Jostedalsbreen) – it’s easy to see why Norway’s Port of OldenLoen has the tagline: “raw wilderness made accessible”. From kayaking, fishing, RIB boating, summer skiing, winter snowshoeing, guided glacier treks and mountain hikes, to cultural experiences and authentic Norwegian dining, – there’s an activity for everyone. All this within 30 minutes from the port locations in OldenLoen.  

“Visiting Olden and Loen allows people to get back to nature by immersing themselves in the spectacular beauty of our fjords and glaciers,” says Sølve Oldeide, operating manager at Nordfjord Havn port authority. “One attraction that’s growing in popularity is the SkyLift cable car that takes tourists from Loen to the peak of Mount Hoven. It’s fully accessible for wheelchairs users and there’s a restaurant, via ferrata, hiking trials and winter activities at the top. Since SkyLift opened in May 2017, it’s been popular with tourists and most luxury cruise operators have added it to their all-inclusive shore excursion packages.”

According to Oldeide, OldenLoen’s geographical location is a big draw for cruise operators – it’s close to many of the fjords and within easy sailing distance of homeports like Southampton, UK and Hamburg, Germany. It also has a friendly local community that fully supports the cruise industry. 

“I’ve never heard any locals complaining – in fact, they’ve embraced opportunities to provide services for tourists,” says Oldeide. “For example, Olden’s farmers transport cruise visitors to the Briksdal Glacier in ‘Troll Cars’. It’s a fantastic scheme – the farmers boost their income and tourists can learn about the region from locals.” 

Mindful of the need to ensure the community retains its enthusiasm for growing OldenLoen’s cruise industry, the port does everything it can to pre-empt and proactively prevent potential issues. 

“Olden and Loen have around 600 inhabitants each, but cruise ships often arrive at our ports carrying several hundred, or even several thousand passengers,” says Oldeide. “To prevent huge groups of passengers overwhelming the villages, we provide coaches for excursions in both the morning and afternoon.” 

When issues do arise, Oldeide and his team are fast to resolve them. “This summer, a farmer told us that one cruise tourist climbed over a fence into a private garden and soon others began to follow thinking it was a proper path,” says Oldeide. “We’ve never had an issue like this before, but it’s important that the cruise industry benefits, rather than inconveniences, our local community so we’re collaborating with the farmer to quickly find a solution.” 

Easing congestion in the immediate vicinity of OldenLoen’s cruise terminal to minimise disruption for locals and reduce waiting times for cruise passengers is another of the port’s priorities.

“The parking area behind the cruise terminal can get quite crowded with all the tour buses for the cruise passengers, particularly when they join the main road, which is already filled with [non-cruise-related] coaches from Europe taking tourists to Briksdal Glacier,” explains Oldeide. “It’s not been a big issue so far, but we’re anticipating rising cruise numbers, so we want to do something before it becomes a major problem. We’re currently awaiting a decision on our proposal for lowering the speed limit or introducing speed bumps.” 

The port has also invested in infrastructure improvements. It opened a tender jetty in Loen village in 2017 and, prompted by “very positive feedback” from cruise lines and passengers, inaugurated a second one in the centre of Olden village this June. This year, 22 of 101 scheduled cruise calls will be hosted at the tender piers. 

“Olden and Loen are quite similar in terms of size and facilities, so it doesn’t make much difference where the ships berth, but we can now divide tour bus traffic between the berths’ dedicated parking areas,” says Oldeide. “For example, when we hosted Costa Cruises’ Costa Mediterranea and MSC Cruises’ MSC Preziosa and around 7,000 cruise guests on 12 June, we were able to send 30 coaches to the cruise pier and 30 to the new Olden tender jetty, rather than 60 to the same place.”

The measures the port authority has taken to better manage traffic are already working. 

“Cruise lines have given positive feedback about our facilities, while their guests have been happy with their overall experience,” says Oldeide. “In 2018, we’ll welcome around 170,000 cruise visitors, but we predict numbers will rise further, so we hope to build a new fixed cruise pier in the next five years. Loen could be an alternative, but we’ll collaborate closely with the local community to decide the best location. The Port of OldenLoen’s cruise market has always been successful and we want this to continue long into the future.” 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
19 December 2018

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