Norway’s 10 Most Popular Cruise Ports

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The Norwegian fjords are one of the world's top tourist destinations to see on a cruise. Here are the top cruise ship ports in Norway, updated based on the latest data from visits in 2023.

Have you ever taken a cruise to Norway? While not to everyone's tastes, they have proven to be an ever more popular, and affordable, way to see some of the natural and urban highlights of Norway and Scandinavia.

Cruise ship in the Geirangerfjord, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
Cruise ship in the Geirangerfjord, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

Despite fears that the health criss of 2020-2022 could cause major long-term disruption to the industry, cruising has bounced back with passenger records being broken all about the world.

That is a trend that's also very clear to see here in Norway, with new records set in 2023.

Record Cruise Visits in 2023

As reported in Forbes, six million cruise passengers visited Norwegian ports during 2023. That's not six million people, as a cruise passenger visit is counted each time a ship docks. Many Norway cruises call in to three or more ports on a typical itinerary.

But even with that caveat, the numbers are astonishing. It's more passenger visits than ever before, on more cruise ships than ever before. In 2023, cruise ships made a total of 3,943 calls at Norwegian ports.

But where exactly were those stops? Thanks to new figures from Cruise Norway and the Norwegian Coastal Administration, we can bring you the 10 most popular cruise ports in Norway for 2023, based on passenger visits.

One interesting trend is the rise of off-season cruises in Norway. The number of northern lights cruise itineraries have increased, as have the number of trips taken in the shoulder seasons.

MSC cruise ship in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
MSC cruise ship in Trondheim, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

Smaller ports also saw a rise in visits during 2023, as cruise operators seek alternative ports when their first choice destinations are fully booked.

If you're planning a Norwegian cruise this year, this list of popular cruise ports in Norway should give you a taster of what to expect. Enjoy!

10. Flåm

239,882 passenger visits, 112 cruise ship visits: One of three ports on this list that show off the ‘West Norwegian Fjords' UNESCO World Heritage site, Flåm is well known among international visitors to Norway.

Much of the reason for that is the famous Flåm Railway. This popular attraction takes passengers from Myrdal station on the Oslo to Bergen line down to Flåm on the shore of the Aurlandsfjord, through the outstanding scenery of the Flåm valley.

It's a pricey excursion, whether you take the cruise line option or book independently. If you choose not to do it, there's plenty of other things to do in Flåm. The port area offers fabulous fjord views, while personally I love taking a walk through the valley to the old church.

All-electric sightseeing ferry in Flåm, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
All-electric sightseeing ferry in Flåm, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

The Aurlandsfjord is one of Norway's most picturesque fjords. So, on the way in and out of Flåm, make sure to spend your time out on deck to take it all in. It's one of the best sail-ins and sailaways in all of Norway.

Even though the Aurlandsfjord is stunning, the nearby Nærøyfjord takes things up a notch. It's too narrow for most cruise ships, so the sightseeing ferry is a popular excursion. The all-electric vessels are completely silent.

9. Hellesylt

280,550 passenger visits, 75 cruise ship visits: Norway's Geirangerfjord is high on the list of priorities for cruise visitors, but the village of Geiranger is at capacity. Close by, Hellesylt has picked up the slack as an alternate port to Geiranger.

This picturesque village, though small in size, has its own unique charm. As passengers disembark, they are greeted by the sight of traditional Norwegian houses perched along the green hillsides, with the stunning backdrop of the mountains.

The village's focal point is the Hellesylt waterfall, which cascades right through the village centre, while the small village church is an attractive spot to aim for on a walk.

Of course, a highlight here is to cruise the Geirangerfjord. Some cruise ships incorporate a ‘scenic cruising' visit to the Geirangerfjord. Those that don't will offer sightseeing excursions.

8. Oslo

352,050 passenger visits, 160 cruise ship visits: Norway's capital city only makes number eight on the list. In some ways it's surprising to see Oslo so high, given how many cruises focus on the fjords or the northern lights.

Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo. Photo: David Nikel.
Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo. Photo: David Nikel.

Yet Oslo's good capacity for cruise ships is no doubt the main reason that the city ranks at number eight. It's often included not on Norway cruise itineraries, but on Baltic Sea itineraries, or ‘Scandinavian capital' itineraries from the U.K. and Germany.

Of course, there are so many things to do in Oslo for cruise visitors. The hard bit is selecting what to do, so sightseeing tours are popular.

Highlights include the ski jump at Holmenkollen Ski Arena, and the remarkable collection of Vigeland Sculpture Park. Others will enjoy some of the country's best museums including the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, Kon-Tiki Museum and Fram Museum.

7. Kristiansand

357,498 passenger visits, 134 cruise ship visits: Southern Norway's biggest city is the first port most cruise ships pass upon arriving at the Norwegian coastline so is unsurprisingly high on the list.

It's known as a sunny part of Norway in the summer, so cruise passengers often enjoy strolling around the city or even relaxing on the city centre beach. Other nearby attractions include the amusement park and zoo, Dyrehagen.

6. Olden

362,669 passenger visits, 132 cruise ship visits: Olden is the most popular destination on the Nordfjord. The small town has some interesting attractions including two charming churches, but the real gems are in the surrounding countryside.

Popular trips from Olden include the Briksdal glacier, and the Loen Skylift in the nearby village of Loen. The five-minute ride on the skylift is an expensive trip but the view from the top is absolutely wonderful.

Red church in Olden. Photo: David Nikel.
One of two attractive churches in Olden. Photo: David Nikel.

As with all fjord ports of call, it's well worth getting up early to enjoy the approach if you are due to arrive in the early morning. On a clear day, the inner parts of the Nordfjord are a spectacular sight.

5. Haugesund

372,334 passenger visits, 125 cruise ship visits: A slightly surprising entry is Haugesund, although its status as a relatively large port on the west coast makes it an obvious alternative to Bergen or Stavanger for cruise operators.

Its place on the list is helped by Haugesund's inclusion on the regular Norway itinerary offered by one of P&O Cruises‘ biggest ships, Iona, throughout much of 2023.

The town itself is fairly ordinary, but once again the surrounding area offers attractions of interest. Popular trips include the Viking Village at Avaldsnes, the Langfoss waterfall, and the Folgefonna glacier.

4. Geiranger

374,951 passenger visits, 162 cruise ship visits: Another port within the UNESCO World Heritage area, Geiranger and the Geirangerfjord has long been a cruise favourite with travellers from across the world.

While the port does feel cramped when there is more than one ship in port, the village is usually a charming place to spend a few hours exploring the local shops, attractive shoreline and hiking trails.

The Norway tourism hotspot Geiranger
A cruise ship in Geiranger, with the Geirangerfjord in view.

If you're offered a bus trip up to the viewpoint at Dalsnibba (known as the Geiranger Skywalk), I highly recommend it. Just make sure there are not too many clouds. If there is, you won't see a thing!

The perspective you get on Geiranger and the fjord and mountain surroundings is simply spectacular. Other viewpoints closer to the village are reachable on foot, by bus tour, or by using one of the small electric-powered buggies available for rent.

3. Stavanger

570,587 passenger visits, 203 cruise ship visits: Norway's oil and gas capital is known to international cruise visitors for its lovely old wooden town Gamle Stavanger. Cruise ships dock right by this neighbourhood of white, wooden houses, so it's impossible to miss.

Stavanger is the starting point for many trips offered by cruise operators. The nearby Lysefjord may be included on a cruise or offered as a separate boat trip. Depending on the length of the port call, keen hikers should look out for the possibility to join a hike to Preikestolen.

For those passengers staying in the city, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum is a surprisingly interesting stop that tells the story of Norway's oil and gas industry. Also keep your eyes out for Stavanger's fantastic and diverse street art.

2. Bergen

609,756 passenger visits, 358 cruise ship visits: Norway's second biggest city is almost always the country's most popular cruise port in terms of number of ships visiting.

Bergen in the autumn light. Photo: David Nikel.
Bergen in the autumn light. Photo: David Nikel.

That's because of the port's size. It's capable of hosting three, and sometimes even four, large cruise ships. For example, on 16 July this year, the cruise ships Viking Sky, Star Legend, Jewel of the Seas, and AIDAdiva are all expected in Bergen.

Known as the ‘gateway to the fjords', Bergen is a common stop with cruise lines setting out for the fjords or travelling the coastline.

While many cruise passengers join excursions out into the fjords and surrounding countryside, those who stay in Bergen are not short of things to see and do.

The city has a picturesque location, which can best be appreciated by the short ride on the Fløibanen funicular railway. Exploring Bryggen, the vast Bergen Art Museum, and checking out the rebuilt Fantoft stave church are other good options.

1. Ålesund

654,625 passenger visits, 283 cruise ship visits: No-one who has been to Ålesund will be surprised that so many cruise companies want their passengers to experience this delightful coastal city.

Almost completely surrounded by water, Ålesund's central area has a spectacular setting. Yet it's full of beauty itself in the form of its architecture, which is totally unique in Norway.

Simply taking a walk around the central area is enjoyable enough, but I highly recommend a visit to the Jugendstilsenter (Art Nouveau Museum) to dig deeper into the story about the devastating fire and the city's reconstruction.

A ferry trip to the Hjørundfjord is a popular excursion offered by cruise lines. If you aren't visiting one of Norway's famous fjords on your cruise itinerary, this is a great option for you.

Central Ålesund in the snow.
Central Ålesund in the snow. Photo: David Nikel.

Kayaking in the waters around the town, visiting the town's aquarium, or climbing the steps up to Mount Aksla to enjoy the iconic view across Ålesund and its surroundings are all popular activities.

Other Popular Cruise Ports in Norway

I mentioned earlier that smaller cruise ports have seen an increase in visitor numbers too. That includes the likes of Nordfjordeid, Tromsø, Honningsvåg, Trondheim, and Eidfjord.

Nordfjordeid and Eidfjord are two examples of alternative cruise ports in the fjords region that have seen more traffic as other more famous destinations get full up. Also, I've seen Skjolden, Ulvik, and Åndalsnes feature on more itineraries lately.

Tromsø and Honningsvåg are two ports in the north of Norway, popular for northern lights itineraries and midnight sun visits to the North Cape, respectively. I've seen other northern ports including Sortland, Narvik, and Alta feature on more itineraries in the last few years too.

Things look set to continue to grow in 2024, too. According to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, cruising in Norway will set yet more new records.

The authority estimates an increase of 4% in the number of cruise calls over 2023, and an increase of 6% in the number of cruise passenger visits.

Are you planning a cruise to Norway this year? If you've been before, what are your favourite ports of call? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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