Back after an enforced two-year hiatus, Norway Day provided UK-based cruise executives with a valuable opportunity to meet up with representatives from Cruise Norway’s 38 member ports in London, UK, on 15 March. As expected, they have been busy since we last met in 2019!
Flåm remains in limbo, waiting for the 2026 zero-emissions regulations to come into force that will regretfully see the port disappear from cruise itineraries. It’s a penal blow that will have significant consequences for the vibrant community that has flourished through cruise industry revenue.
While ships are still able to visit Flåm, passengers can take a tour to the Voss Gondol if they have already experienced the Flåm Railway and other nearby favourites. At 820 metres above sea level and accessible via a fast gondola ride, the mountain of Hangar provides spectacular 360-degree views (also accessible from Ulvik).
Shore power projects are numerous across the country and Nordfjordeid has now started its own with the help of Norwegian supplier Plug. The port is seeking cruise call growth in the coming years to help fund the project. The port is also contemplating joining the network of 18 Norwegian ports who have already signed up to the Environmental Port Index (EPI) to help inspire confidence in the community that the port is proactively battling emissions.
Ålesund’s cruise network, which comprises 40 companies, continues to engage cruise lines to build the case for cruising to overcome the likelihood of further government restrictions. Reducing emissions, shore power and local value creation are three topics central to their discussions.
With three Michelin-starred restaurants in the city it’s perhaps not surprising that Trondheim has been named as a European Region of Gastronomy for 2022. Cruise passengers will be able to participate in events and community activities throughout the year as the city celebrates the achievements of its resident culinary teams and produce farmers. Meanwhile, the port is keen to re-establish itself as a reliable turnaround partner following the expertise that it acquired working with Pullmantur.
2022 is set to be a record year for Kristiansund with over 40 calls scheduled. The annual opera festival, held every February, may have been a draw for cruise ships in the early years but now the town is winning calls throughout the year courtesy of the growing winter cruise season. The Atlantic Ocean Road, Grip Island and mountain walks are perennial favourites here within a rich shore excursion programme.
Cruise passengers have been improving the environment around Brønnøysund, paying to join organised litter picking expeditions and, in the process, winning the hearts of the local community. Seabourn, Mystic Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises are among the lines contributing to the town’s 37 calls in 2022. The Vega archipelago, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and heritage centre delivers an unmissable tour.
Mo i Rana joined Cruise Norway just before the pandemic and had its first calls booked for 2020 before restrictions struck. But the team is undeterred and currently seeking a first booking, again. Passengers on that inaugural visit will be rewarded with a trip to 66˚33' N – the line that marks the entrance into the Arctic Circle.
Bodø is currently preparing to be the European Capital of Culture in 2024 – an accolade that will doubtless see the city rewarded with record calls. The completion of the city’s airport development has been delayed again and is now due for completion in 2027. When finished, it will further enhance the port’s ability to offer effective turnarounds.
Improved sustainability is a common goal across the country’s ports and Lofoten remains an active player. Its current focus is to find a way to spread calls more evenly through the year and it is also engaging the community to help devise other substantive actions and activities.
Narvik may soon be seeking a very different kind of cruise call. The city is an official candidate for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship in 2027 and may need extra beds to accommodate competitors and spectators. In the meantime, the new city centre cruise pier is proving to be a popular upgrade and can accommodate ships up to 350 metres in length.
Vesteraalen, in ‘the Kingdom of the Whales,’ remains a relatively unknown cruise port eight years after entering the industry. The town has a dozen calls scheduled in 2022, many attracted by the offer of a whale safari (February to August) but there’s much more on offer here including the Andøya Space Centre, Inga Sami Siida and island-hopping boat trips.
Harstad’s city centre quay lengthening project will be completed in June, extending the facility to 276 metres. And the seabed has recently been cleared to provide an increased maximum depth of nine metres. Plans have also been completed for the quayside development that the port hopes will be operational in 2023.
With 182 scheduled calls in 2022, Tromso will be restored to its pre-pandemic position as a cruise leader in Northern Norway. Over 10 per cent of calls will be turnarounds but the most notable development is the spread of calls throughout the year. The old ‘shoulder’ periods either side of the summer season have now become peak times. Inevitably, winter cruising in Northern Norway will see further growth in the years to come.
Like Tromso, Alta has also become a year-round port of call. The port was instrumental in winning off-peak ship visits that developed into winter cruises and is now enjoying the fruits of its labour with at least one call in every month of 2022. Cruise business is incredibly important to small communities like Alta, especially in the winter months. Let’s hope that the country’s politicians will consider this carefully when voting on policies that will lead to reduced cruise visits.
A dredging operation to clean up the harbour has been completed in Hammerfest and works are continuing on two new quays, which are due for completion in 2024. The port is also starting to work on putting together a consortium to develop shoreside facilities including perhaps a passenger terminal.
Cruise traffic in Oslo has hit an all-time high with 175 calls planned for 2022, including seven turnarounds. The port and city continue to carefully manage sustainability issues, aided by a recent study that reported an average cruise passenger economic value of NK980 ($109.66). Nevertheless, the port will reduce the number of piers available to cruise ships from four to two in 2025. EPI has already been implemented in Oslo and shore power is expected to be available from 2025-2026. And all three of Edvard Munch’s Scream paintings are now back in Oslo (they all were out on tour during my last visit to the city), safely housed at the new Munch Museum.
The industrious team in North Cape used the pause in operations to reimagine a new collection of shore excursions. The four that look particularly unique are a behind-the-scenes tour of the seafood industry, an educational review of Arctic plant life, an opportunity to meet the locals in Skarsvåg, and a sumptuous ‘Bites and Booze’ tasting experience.
Haugesund started providing LNG for visiting ships in 2021 and this development may account for some of the growth in calls to this popular Viking homeland. The port has a record 122 visits in 2022 but continues to deliver a series of valuable service improvements including dredging works to increase the depth to 9.8 metres and shore power which is expected to come online in December 2022.
Kristiansand was the first port to offer shore power in Norway way back in 2018. It is innovating again with the introduction of a new crew lounge which opened two days ago, providing free wifi and refreshments. The port is already participating in the EPI and has furthered its sustainability aspirations by introducing a policy to limit calls to one per day. With 127 calls booked in 2022 it appears that cruise lines might have acknowledged the benefit of being an exclusive visitor to this pristine city.
And finally over to Egersund, the ‘colourful peal on the southwest coast.’ Egersund is a naturally weather-protected port accessible to ships of up to 210 metres without a pilot and perhaps 230 metres with a pilot onboard. Fourteen ships will offer passengers the chance to visit the moonlike landscapes of the Magma geopark in 2022, rising to 18 already booked for 2023.
While sustainability and the environment are important issues for Norwegian ports, they are working tirelessly to sustain and grow cruise traffic in the years ahead. But as Cruise Norway CEO Inge Tangerås, said in his opening comments at the event, “cooperation is more important than ever.”
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