A cruise to the Norwegian Fjords is guaranteed to offer breathtaking scenery with the chance to visit picturesque ports of call. In this post I share my Norwegian Fjords cruise review, including things to do in port and advice to help you make the most of a Norway cruise.
Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review on Sky Princess
We took a 7-night cruise on Sky Princess from Southampton in April. It wasn’t our first cruise on this ship, having taken a 4-night ‘seacation’ the previous year. It was good to sail on her again and spend more time enjoying the ship’s restaurants, venues and public areas.
Many major cruise lines offer ocean cruises to Norway so it’s worth checking the cruise itineraries and onboard facilities:
Which type of cabin should you book for a Norwegian Fjords cruise?
We opted for a balcony stateroom for this cruise trip because we wanted to ensure that we could take in the Fjords of Norway in the mornings as we sailed into the destinations. This was a really good decision as on most port days, the ship travelled up the Fjords early in the morning. As the Fjords were the main reason we booked this cruise it made sense to choose a balcony cabin.
We used our balcony in the mornings and evenings to make the most of the scenic cruising along the coast of Norway.
It was a bit chilly at times but Princess Cruises offered guests warm blankets we could use on the balcony and the top deck.
It’s definitely worth spending a little more for a balcony. In an inside cabin you must go to the outside decks to check the weather and to see the incredible views. As we cruised in April, outside of peak season, the price difference between an inside and balcony was minimal. For the best deals, I’d recommend looking at Norwegian Fjord cruises at the start or end of the peak season (April or September).
For unobstructed views, the ultimate room option would be a Sky Suite on Sky Princess. We were fortunate to stay in one on our previous cruise and enjoy the biggest balcony at sea. I’d recommend taking a look at my video tour and review to see if it’s for you.
What’s the best month to take a Norwegian Fjords cruise?
The main season for Norwegian Fjords cruises from the U.K. is April to September when the weather is the warmest. During this time of year you can expect more daylight hours and spectacular waterfalls as the snow and ice melts.
During the summer months of June, July and August you can expect to experience long days and a midnight sun.
You can cruise to Norway during the winter months with cruise lines such as Hurtigruten, which have smaller ships. During the colder months from October to February, you have a chance to see the Northern Lights. The best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis is in September and March. The sun sets much earlier in the winter, so there are less daylight hours, especially if your cruise takes you to the Arctic Circle.
Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review – Itinerary
Our 7-night cruise itinerary included two sea days and four port days. This was a good balance and gave us time to relax and enjoy the ship as well as visit the ports of call.
Day 1: Embarkation in Southampton
Day 2: Sea day
Day 3: Bergen
Day 4: Skjolden
Day 5: Olden
Day 6: Stavanger
Day 7: Sea day
We were a bit nervous about the conditions in the North Sea but it was surprisingly calm. Before the cruise I’d heard it can be quite rough seas but we were very lucky. I always take Dramamine with me in case I feel seasick.
Our first port of call was Bergen. It’s a good idea to head up to the outside decks during the approach for the best views. We were woken in the morning by the ship’s fog horn but as we neared Bergen the skies cleared and we enjoyed good weather for the rest of the day.
Bergen is known as the capital of the Fjords and has a population of approximately 286,000. Despite this, it still has a small town feel and is easily walkable. It is said to rain in Bergen 300 days a year so we were particularly blessed with clear skies and sunshine.
In Bergen, we chose to take the Fløibanen funicular railway to the summit of Mount Fløyen so we could admire the view of the city. We booked our tickets in advance before the cruise via the Fløibanen website. This allowed us to skip the queue for tickets and get straight on the funicular.
Tickets were around £12 per person return and there was no need to arrive for a particular time slot. The funicular is a short walk of around 15 minutes from Bergen cruise port and is well signposted.
If you’re comfortable in booking trips and excursions independently, this is definitely the best way to do it. It’s easy to find and you’ll save so much money. Our friends booked a cruise excursion to the funicular that included a short coach tour, which came to $100 per person!
The funicular in Bergen can get quite busy, especially because it’s a popular thing to do with cruise passengers. I’d recommend going there first to avoid large queues.
On a clear day, the views of Bergen from Mount Fløyen are pretty special and you can easily spend an hour or two at the summit, admiring the scenery. There are a couple of cafes and a gift shop as well as a resident herd of goats. If you want to walk down the mountain on foot there is a path that takes you through the woods.
In the afternoon, we decided to take a walk through Bryggen, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 3 minutes from the funicular railway.
Bryggen (the dock) is an area of wooden buildings originally built for Hanseatic League commercial purposes. It’s now used for shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Sadly, Bryggen has suffered many fires over the years and so the buildings are not original but some still date back to the 1700s. You can wander the warren of tiny streets and imagine what life was like when Bergen was a major trading port.
On the dock front, there are plenty of places to stop for lunch and a drink and that’s exactly what we decided to do. The sunshine allowed us to dine outside at Madamfelle, also a live music venue, and it was a pleasant place to do a spot of people watching.
I ordered a Bergen fish soup for 119kr (approximately £10) as I wanted to try the local food but the restaurant also offered a wide range of other dishes including burgers, tacos, chicken wings and steaks. A word of warning, food and drink in Norway can be expensive and the beer in particular is very pricey. A small beer was £10 and a pint was £12.30!
After some time in Bryggen, we took a leisurely stroll back to the cruise ship.
Overall, I thought Bergen was a great port of call and I’d happily return to spend more time there. It was a very friendly city and so easy to explore independently.
Songnefjord and Skjolden
The next morning I decided to get up early to witness the journey through Sognefjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. 5.00am seemed very early but it was the best time to view the sunrise over the fjord and I joined a small number of fellow passengers who had the same idea.
I decided the best place to see this scenic fjord was at the aft of the ship as I could see both port and starboard views on our approach. It was a magical time of day and definitely a bucket list moment.
I saw waterfalls, snow capped mountains and tiny wooden houses on the hillsides on our way to Skjolden. It was very cold at this time of day so I would definitely recommend grabbing a hot drink on your way to the top decks and wearing warm clothing.
If you don’t feel like getting up so early on your cruise, the good news is that you will do the same journey out of the fjord at the end of the day. The majority of passengers chose to do this as we left Skjolden.
Skjolden is a tiny village at the end of Songnefjord with a population of around 200 people. Most cruise passengers had shore excursions booked at this port and headed off on coach trips to see the mountains, glacier or take a walk with llamas. There were rib rides and standup paddle boards available to hire and we spotted these on our short walk to the village.
We had no plans in Skjolden as we’d attempted to pre-book some bikes in advance of the cruise but found most tourism businesses were closed until May. It’s worth knowing this if you are planning a Norwegian Fjords cruise in April.
We decided to take a short walk, which quickly turned into a long walk as we spotted a signpost to the Asafossen Waterfall. The walk was flat and took us past the Eidsvatnet Lake and through a footpath still thick with snow. The 180 metre waterfall is situated opposite a small campsite and ‘The Hand’.
The Hand is a wooden sculpture created in honour of a famous Austrian philosopher called Ludwig Wittgenstein, who chose to spend time in Skjolden for its peacefully environment whilst he took time to think and philosophise. He came from a rich family but decided to give away his inheritance and live a simple life to focus on philosophy.
He designed and built a small wooden cottage on a remote rock overlooking the Eidsvatnet Lake. After a wrong turn, we found ourselves at the foot of the path to his cottage so decided to go for a closer look. This walk is not for the faint-hearted and I was very glad of the ropes that were located toward the top of the climb. It was very steep and it took a few minutes to catch my breath when I reached the top.
I could definitely see why he’d chosen to build his cottage in this spot as the view over the lake was beautiful and the climb up ensured he was not bothered by visitors!
After that little adventure, we decided to head back towards the ship and grab a late lunch on the Lido Deck. Many cruisers were already back onboard enjoying the sunshine in the swimming pools and hot tubs. Some were even in their swimming costumes sunbathing!
For the sailaway we took position towards the aft and admired Songnefjord as we waved goodbye to the little village of Skjolden.
If we were to visit Skjolden again, I’d be inclined to book a shore excursion or hire a bike. Although it’s a nice place to explore on foot, there’s limited things to see and do beyond the walk we took.
Our third port of call was Olden, a small village with breathtaking scenery, even from the cruise port.
We had booked a morning excursion to the Briksdal Glacier, which involved a short coach journey to the starting point in the Jostedal Glacier National Park. We passed some stunningly glass-like lakes on the way and so I’d highly recommend sitting on the right side of the coach if you want to get the best views of them.
The Briksdal Glacier is the largest in mainland Europe and on this trip we were able to see one of the glacier arms.
I’d bought some walking boots in advance of this excursion but after listening to the onboard port talk, decided to wear my comfortable trainers as the walk seemed quite gentle. The steepest section of the walk was at the beginning but there were waterfalls we could stop and admire on the way.
Troll cars are available to hire for an extra charge for anyone who doesn’t want to walk. They didn’t seem to stop when going past the waterfalls. A ride in a troll car costs 250kr (£21.10) return or 150kr (12.66) one way and can be booked in advance or when you arrive depending on availability.
Along the trail to the glacier, there were information boards to show how environmental impacts have caused the glacier to retreat over time. Sadly, I fear that in years to come the glacier will continue to shrink. I’m just glad I was able to experience it now before it disappears out of sight.
I enjoyed this excursion as we were given free time. There was no guide we had to follow and we could simply go at our own pace without being herded. We had enough time at the glacier and once we’d returned to the starting point, coffee and cake had been arranged. We enjoyed a well-deserved rest before making our way back by coach to the cruise port.
Around the small cruise port in Olden there is little in the way of shops and cafes but it was a pleasant day to take a stroll. The natural scenery is Olden’s best asset and there is really no need for much more here.
Our sailaway from Olden was particularly memorable as the bar on the quay treated us to a musical send off with a playlist that included ‘Sailing’ by Rod Stewart, ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman and ‘Rocking All Over the World’ by Status Quo. Local people stood outside in their gardens and on their balconies waving goodbye. At this point we were treated to Princess Cruises’ iconic Love Boat horn, which made it even more special.
Our final port of call was Stavanger, a small city located in Southern Norway. It’s well-known for its Canning Factory Museum and Petroleum Museum but as none of these appealed to us we chose to explore the local area on foot. I’d stood on our balcony when we’d arrived and thought today was the day I didn’t need to wear a coat but unfortunately, after 15 minutes of being on land it started to rain!
We headed to Øvre Holmegate, a colourful street filled with bars and cafes, to get a hot drink and some shelter. This whole neighbourhood is very cheerful with its brightly decorated buildings and when the rain had passed it was a nice place to while away some time.
Unless you have booked an excursion in Stavanger or want to visit the museums, it’s difficult to spend a full day in port.
One thing that is interesting to look out for is the street art that is dotted around the city. You can also spend some time in the Old Town (Gamle Stavanger) that is right next to the cruise port. It’s an area of white wooden houses and cobbled streets dating back to the 18th Century that have been perfectly preserved.
What currency do you need for a Norwegian Fjords cruise?
Norway doesn’t accept Euros and so you should consider taking Norwegian Krone (plural Kroner) and a credit card that is suitable to use abroad. We use a Halifax Clarity credit card because it allows us to pay in foreign currency with no exchange fee and use ATMs with no additional fees.
Everywhere we visited accepted card payments so it’s one of the easiest ways to pay when in Norway.
Because Princess Cruises operates in U.S. Dollars we also took a small amount to tip staff.
Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review – Onboard Experience
Having cruised on Sky Princess previously, we were looking forward to spending more time onboard. We decided to pay for Princess Plus, which includes the drinks package, Wi-Fi and crew incentives (gratuities) so there was little else to worry about once we were onboard.
The introduction of the OceanMedallion and MedallionNet had the promise of being able to order food and drink via an app from anywhere on the ship and the ‘best Wi-Fi at sea’ but this seemed to become almost non-existent from our first sea day onwards.
On the first sea day, the weather meant that most cruise passengers were attempting to find places inside to sit and order drinks but this compounded the issue as the reduced crew tried to cope with the huge number of orders coming in.
After a 25-minute queue at the International Cafe and several failed attempts to order via the app we resided ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t be making much use of the drinks package that day. Even ordering from the stateroom TV didn’t help matters.
It’s also important to point out in this Norwegian Fjords cruise review that this was the first cruise with Princess where we’d experienced people queuing for everything.
The Medallion app continued to be unresponsive for the remainder of the cruise until the last day, when a crew member on Guest Services changed some of the settings on my iPhone. It was a disappointment as the technology worked so well the last time we were onboard.
After enquiring at the Internet Cafe and Guest Services it appeared to be an issue that Princess Cruises was fully aware of. We were told it was in communication with the software company to try to rectify the problems.
One loophole that we noticed during our cruise was when ordering drinks with the crew. The Medallion was not used at all and we were just asked for our cabin number. This meant that you could give any cabin number you liked when ordering a drink and there was no failsafe. On one occasion, we accidentally gave the wrong room number and were told it didn’t matter because that room had the drinks package too!
Regardless of the Medallion app issues you are unlikely to get good use of the MedallionNet Wi-Fi due to the geographical location of a Norwegian Fjords cruise. Coverage is lower in this region but if you know in advance not to expect much, anything you do get is a bonus.
The Wi-Fi on land is excellent so as soon as your ship docks you can access 4G if your phone contract allows. Three Mobile seems to provide the best coverage in its roaming package and therefore there are no additional charges.
I couldn’t write this Norwegian Fjords cruise review without mentioning the staff onboard our ship. The Princess Cruises’ staff members were, as always, so friendly and helpful despite greater work pressures during our cruise. They all worked so hard with the additional restrictions of KN95 face masks that they wore at all times, even in port in their own time.
It’s understandable that Princess Cruises is doing everything possible to minimise the spread of infections and we felt completely safe at all times throughout the cruise.
Our cabin stewards were so helpful and it was a shame that we didn’t get to see our first steward at the end of the cruise after he was sent on ‘training’. We did wonder if this was a code word for something else…
Food and Restaurants on Sky Princess
The food onboard was good quality and my new favourite place to grab lunch is the Salty Dog Grill on the Lido Deck. It offers, burgers, hot dogs, loaded fries and tacos all freshly cooked to order.
For breakfast, we ate in the buffet, the Main Dining Room and ordered room service. The breakfast in the Dining Room was particularly pleasant and such a nice way to start the day. You definitely had to pick your times in the buffet in the mornings as quite a few people headed there. Especially if they couldn’t get into the dining room.
Room service on Princess cruise ships is complimentary and it arrived during the time we’d requested, which was fantastic. You may wish to consider ordering breakfast to your cabin on mornings when you want to save time or enjoy the views from your balcony.
Dinner in the Main Dining Room was good and our favourite meal was enjoyed on the second formal night. We particularly enjoyed the lobster tails and one of Princess Cruises’ classics – creme brûlée.
Having eaten in all three specialty restaurants on our previous cruise we decided to go back to our favourite – Sabatini’s. This is the Italian restaurant onboard with a $25 cover charge. We managed to get a table next to a window to enjoy the sea views and couldn’t fault the food and service. It was the quietest specialty restaurant on our cruise, which surprised me as the meal was exceptional.
Take a look at my useful guide to specialty dining on Sky Princess.
You should not miss a meal in Alfredo’s, the complimentary pizza restaurant that also offers salads, soup and pasta. It’s a popular choice for lunch but quieter during the evenings when most people eat in the Main Dining Rooms. The pizza is made to order in an open kitchen complete with pizza oven and the food was excellent.
On this cruise we finally decided to make the effort to go to Afternoon Tea in the Estrella Dining Room. This is complimentary and includes small sandwiches, cake, scones and tea. In all honesty is was OK and we’d probably not rush back but at least we gave it a try.
Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review – Entertainment
On our cruise, there was plenty of entertainment in the main venues of Sky Princess throughout the day and evening. We particularly enjoyed a violin duo who played in various places including the Piazza.
Generally, we prefer a bit of background music so we can sit and chat but we did enjoy a couple of different bands that played in the Piazza and Vista Lounge.
A new venue we spent some time in was Take Five, which is a jazz-themed lounge that replaced Crooners. Crooners was a favourite venue amongst Princess cruisers but to honest we much preferred this venue. Seating was limited so it was rare that we found a spot but it was a nice place to spend some time when we could.
Being a colder cruise, Movies Under the Stars still screened films but we didn’t brave the evening temperatures. The Bridge Cam was shown on the big screen so people could sit on their sunbeds and watch the sailaway (although we much preferred to see it ourselves on Deck 17 and 18).
Although we never spent any time in Princess Live! we noticed that there was always something going on there and seemed to be a vary versatile venue. There was ballroom dancing, quizzes, games, beauty demonstrations and art auctions. We preferred the Crown Grill bar that had comfy seats and a nice drinks menu.
The Princess Theater hosted nightly shows and I can highly recommend Rock Opera, which is my favourite show on Princess Cruises. There was a comedian who we’d enjoyed on our previous cruise and he certainly made the audience laugh. 5 Skies is the other big show currently on Sky Princess.
What to wear on a Norwegian Fjords cruise
Choosing what to wear for this type of cruise can be tricky as you need to pack for all weathers. During the day we wore jeans, t-shirts, jumpers and coats. In the evenings, we wore smart casual outfits and two formal outfits.
The level of formal wear was quite diverse on this cruise. People wore dinner jackets and sequinned long dresses to colourful dresses, smart trousers and a shirt. You can find the formal dress code for Princess Cruises here.
Some people chose not to dress up on formal night, which is totally fine to dine in the casual restaurants. It’s your cruise holiday and you can dress up as much or as little as you feel comfortable.
Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review – Final Thoughts
This was our first cruise to Norway and after hearing so much about the Norwegian Fjords, the destinations still surpassed my expectations.
Getting up early to experience the Fjords at sunrise was very special and I’d urge you to do it if you can.
I’ve tried to be as honest as possible in this Norwegian Fjords cruise review in order to share a true reflection of our cruise. The cruise was by no means perfect but we still enjoyed our time away and the stunning scenery we were treated to.
Having taken a river cruise a few years ago, this fjords cruise does have some similarities. If you enjoy the scenic cruising and smaller destinations a Norwegian Fjords cruise offers, I’d suggest considering river cruises.
Our favourite things from this cruise were:
- Being able to walk off the ship into the villages, towns and cities (another similarity to river cruises)
- Waking up to see the fjords from our balcony
- The warm welcome from local people in Norway
- The stunning scenery in the cruise ports
- The weather in April was surprisingly good
- The variety of entertainment venues on the cruise ship
- The friendly and helpful crew on Sky Princess
- Our meal at Sabatini’s specialty restaurant
- Breakfast in the Main Dining Room
- The Princess Cruises cocktail menu offered so much choice
- The Salty Dog Grill for quick lunches
I hope you’ve found my Norwegian Fjords cruise review useful. If you have any questions about the cruise, destinations or ship, feel free to pop them in the comments section.