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Cruising NorwayMarch 2, 2011 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
|Norway stands out among European destinations for its natural landscapes.|
For your seasoned cruise clients looking for something new, you may want to suggest Norway, an experience that is distinctly different from other European cruises. For one thing, the country has a fjord-lined coastline that’s perfect for nature-lovers. And few other cruises in Europe head north of the Arctic Circle.
“If you ask most people, they go for the fjords—the grand, magnificent landscape of Norway,” says Rolf Logan, sales director, Americas for Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line that offers trips along the country’s western and northern coasts. “The opportunity to get close to nature and see this area of the world is unique.”
Darius Mehta, vice president, air & land programs, at Silversea Cruises, echoes the sentiment: “A cruise to Norway offers cultural attractions, nightclubs, cafés and trendy boutiques, but it’s the vast expanses of parks, forests and fjords that outdoors enthusiasts seem to relish the most…What sets Norway apart from other European countries is not so much its cultural traditions or its internationally renowned museums as its natural beauty.”
Silversea and Seabourn operate luxury cruises along Norway’s coast in summer, while Hurtigruten sails year-round, stopping in 34 ports between the cities of Bergen and Kirkenes, which is well above the Arctic Circle. Many of those stops last for less than an hour, and about half take place at night. But for those who book both a northbound cruise (seven days) and a southbound cruise (six days), the day-and-night stops switch, so guests get to experience everything. The northbound route is most popular, says Logan, although many people complete the trip with the southbound cruise as well.
Operating both by day and night year-round, the cruises give rise to some unique experiences. For example, on clear nights, guests can go on a snowmobile from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. to see the northern lights or the polar lights (a 45-minute sunrise).
The unspoiled landscape would be reason enough to explore Norway’s coastline, but Logan says that unique wildlife, such as sea eagles, reindeer and even polar bears, also attracts visitors. At the Troll Fjord, he adds, visitors can go on an “eagle safari,” using bait to bring the giant birds up close for once-in-a-lifetime photo ops.
Cultural immersion has become a key factor in travel, and Norway is no different. “People want to mingle with locals,” says Logan, noting that Hurtigruten offers several stops in larger cities and towns. These stops generally last much longer than the brief pauses for nature excursions. “If you get off in Hammerfest, for example, you can meet the Polar Bear Society and go on city walks and see museums or historical sites,” he says. “In the summer, cruises go up to the Russian border where guests can meet with the indigenous Sami people and learn about their culture.”
A typical cruise of Norway would begin in Oslo, where visitors spend a few days before taking a train across the mountains to Bergen. For pre- and post-cruise overnight stays, Logan recommends the Neptune or Strand, both members of Scandic Hotels, in Bergen, and the Arctic Hotel in Kirkenes.
|Hurtigruten’s cruises call at several cities and towns in Norway.|