As a nature and photography enthusiast, Norway has always topped my travel bucket list. I fell in love with Scandinavian travel on my first trip to Iceland in 2015, and I’ve spent the past four years dreaming about -- and waiting to visit -- an equally beautiful Norway. Thankfully, that changed this year.
Viking Cruise invited me to participate in a Viking Homelands press trip this fall to get a taste of cruise-travel through Norway. This meant experiencing coastal towns like Stavanger, Eidfjord, and Bergen during the peak of fall foliage. At first, I was worried visiting by boat would limit my time exploring the country I’d dreamed about for so long. Would I have the freedom to enjoy Norway’s renowned nature and try local foods?
In short, absolutely yes! Not only did I have time to hike, to photograph, to eat and drink locally -- and explore with locals -- I was also able to gaze at the Norwegian coastline every day from the comfort of my room’s private deck (cushy Viking bathrobe included). Talk about a bucket-list experience!
If this Nordic country has lingered on your travel bucket list, here are nine reasons to consider visiting Norway via cruise.
1. You’ll Wake Up Daily To A New Surprise
I’ve never loved waking up as much as I did on our Viking Cruise in Norway. Some mornings I woke up to the sun rising over a colorful town in the distance. Other mornings, I opened my eyes to dramatic green mountains towering above our 465-stateroom ship. Scenery is one of the main reasons I was drawn to Norway in the first place; seeing it from the vantage point of my own balcony, or the numerous exterior viewing decks, was the perfect way to appreciate it.
2. You Can See A Lot of Norway In A Short Time
Norway is a massive country, and there’s still so much I have yet to explore! That said, navigating Norway via cruise ship was a great way to scratch the surface and see a variety of the country’s offerings -- harbors, mountains, fjords, colorful small towns, and one of the country’s biggest cities (Bergen) -- while spending transit time enjoying a glass of wine or two. If you tried to explore this much on your own, you’d need to hire a rental car or take multiple buses.
3. You Can Explore As Much As You’d Like
One of my biggest concerns with visiting Norway via cruise was that I’d be limited in terms of how much I could actually see of the small towns. Thankfully, this was hardly an issue. We had nearly full days in cities like Eidfjord -- enough time for kayaking, hiking, and lunch at a local restaurant, not to mention over 24 hours in Bergen. Plus, you can add days on to the end of your Norway cruise if you’d like to explore the country even further.
If I’d had extra time, I would’ve stayed a week in Bergen to take advantage of the area’s beautiful day-trip opportunities!
4. You Can Explore With Local Guides
Many cruise companies, including Viking, hire local experts to take guests around each town. This means you can get a local’s perspective on a destination and learn the locals-only knowledge, such as which museums are worth visiting and which restaurants have, say, the best Norwegian waffles. Guided opportunities range from walking tours to helicopter adventures and visits to the local market, with dozens of itineraries in between.
5. …Or You Can Go Off On Your Own
If tours aren’t for you, it’s easy to explore these cities on your own. I traversed Bergen by myself because it was the destination I was most excited about. This freedom allowed me to hike from Mount Ulriken to Mount Floyen on the Vidden Trail, shop at the local fish market, try craft beers at the quirky rock ’n’ roll bar Apollon, and photograph Bryggen Harbor during golden hour. This is exactly what I would have done in Bergen if I wasn’t on a cruise, so it was nice to get a variety of new-to-me experiences like guided rigid inflatable boating, along with my tried-and-true travel adventures, like hiking and craft-beer hunting.
6. You Don’t Have To Pack And Repack
Road trips are one of my favorite ways to travel, but I’m always tired of repacking (er, restuffing) my suitcase by stop two or three. If I was exploring Norway by car -- a necessity if I wanted to get to small towns like Eidfjord on land -- I’d be doing the sit-on-the-suitcase packing trick about every two days. Instead, getting around from Eifjord to Bergen by boat meant my poor suitcase could take a break while I still had the flexibility of experiencing numerous Norwegian destinations. This stress reduction in and of itself may be my new favorite thing about cruising!
7. Photography Opportunities Are Everywhere
Images always look better with a little water feature in the foreground, and aboard a cruise through Norway, that water’s everywhere! Most cruise ships are built with expansive windows in the common areas, meaning I could keep an eye on the status of the sunset or watch new scenery until I saw the perfect shot -- all while relaxing over dinner or having a pre-meal drink. I ended up with about as many photographs from the boat as I have from the land -- something I definitely didn’t expect when I first considered a cruise to Norway.
8. You Can Try Unlimited Local Food
Experimenting with local food is a necessity on my trips. With a family-owned Norwegian company like Viking, I had no idea just how easy fulfilling this tasty tradition would be. Viking makes Norwegian food available everywhere, with dishes like waffles from the onboard Mamsen’s Cafe (they use a signature recipe that’s actually from the owner’s Norwegian mother!). They also have shore excursions during which you can visit the local market with the ship’s chef to learn about ingredients and see the meals come together.
9. You Can Actually Relax
I rarely use “relaxation” and “travel” in the same sentence because my trips are chock-full of things to see, do, and eat, not to mention some often-challenging transit adventures to achieve my itineraries. Cruising through Norway was probably the first time I actually relaxed on a trip in 2019. Instead of trying to figure out how to navigate driving in a foreign language, I was watching the sunset from my balcony knowing I didn’t have to think at all. Instead of struggling to find open restaurants because I inevitably took a wrong turn that got us into town late, I was chowing down on Norwegian waffles while watching the scenic coastline pass by.
While finally seeing Norway was inevitably my biggest trip highlight, experiencing this bucket-list country in total relaxation was an unexpectedly close second.
Of course, like any trip, visiting Norway via cruise was not all rainbows and unicorns. I did have a few unexpected issues with seasickness that my trip could’ve done without. My advice? Ask your doctor for a pre-trip prescription for scopolamine patches. My fiance -- the one who usually suffers from motion sickness -- was A-okay the entire time thanks to these miracle workers.
Considering a trip to Norway? Add these eight amazing things to do in Oslo to your itinerary.