In September last year, my sister and I went on a Norwegian fjords cruise on the mighty P&O Britannia with our granddad. I’ve always had mixed views on cruising and believed they were reserved for the older generation rather than for millennials. So when our granddad suggested booking a cruise around the Norwegian fjords we were a little apprehensive. But the more we looked into it, the more we realised that a cruise was an ideal way to explore the Norwegian fjords. We would have plenty of opportunities to get off the boat to explore and hike, whilst our granddad could enjoy the scenic views from the top deck and join us on some guided tours.
There are lots of cruise lines which offer fjord cruises but we decided to go with P&O Cruises as they offered the best rooms and prices for our chosen dates. Our granddad had already been on a few different cruises with P&O and had really enjoyed them so it was an easy choice.
Cruising the Norwegian fjords: Our route
One of P&O Cruises’ most popular routes is their one-week Norwegian fjords cruise which is the one we chose. Sailing directly from Southampton, we visited 4 ports: Stavanger, Flåm, Olden and Bergen. We also sailed through several beautiful fjords, including Sognefjord and Nordfjord. It’s a cruise full of spectacular scenery, breathtaking views and enchanting towns. I can’t recommend it enough as it’s the perfect balance for someone who enjoys learning about the local culture but also loves to be outdoors in nature.
Prices for this particular route start at £599 for inside cabins and £849 for balcony cabins.
DAY 1: AT SEA
We boarded the P&O Britannia just after lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship and checking out all the facilities onboard. There was plenty to keep us occupied as we started our Norwegian fjords cruise up the English Channel and into the North Sea. The ship has a high-tech gym with the latest equipment, a range of fitness classes and sports courts on the top deck. If you wanted to pamper yourself and relax, the Oasis spa offered a range of treatments from manicures to deep tissue massages, as well as access to The Retreat, a private open air terrace, and the Hydrotherapy Suite with steam rooms, saunas and aromatic showers. The ship even had hair and beauty salons to help guests get ready for the black tie evenings.
As the night set in, the entertainment started. We went to a theatre show and then to one of the many lounges where we listened to live music before heading to bed, excited to think we would be waking up the next morning in the fjords.
DAY 2: STAVANGER
We woke up bright and early and headed to the top deck to watch the sun rise as we sailed down Rottsfjorden and into the harbour of Stavanger. The sky was painted in pastel shades and you could just see the mountains through the morning haze which created a beautiful scene as we arrived in Stavanger.
Stavanger was originally a fishing port before becoming the centre of Norway’s oil and gas industry following the discovery of offshore oil deposits in the 1960s. Today, the city is a blend of old and new. Parts of the city feel like a living museum where you can step back in time, whereas other parts showcase the city’s modern architecture.
We got off the boat and headed to Old Stavanger, a historic area filled with pretty white wooden houses, quaint cobbled streets and old fashioned lampposts. The houses were built in the 18th and 19th century for seafarers and traders and have been very well preserved due to a large rehabilitation project. The residents take great pride in their houses and we saw so many beautiful flower displays as we wandered down the streets.
The Stavanger region is home to some of Norway’s most iconic sites such as Preikestolen, Kjerag and Trollpikken. We wanted to go to Preikestolen but the tour was already full and it would have been too tight to hike it and be back in time for the ship’s departure. If you’re planning on doing your own cruise then I would recommend booking onto the popular tours like this at least a week before you leave.
DAY 3: FLÅM, AURLANDSFJORD AND SOGNEFJORD
We got up early and headed up to the top deck to find we had already docked in Flåm. Situated at the head of the fjord, this small farming community is nestled between two mountain peaks. From the deck, we could see the little farms dotted on the green grassy slopes and red Norwegian cabins beautifully situated on the water’s edge.
We had booked onto a tour with our granddad in the afternoon so we left him to relax on the ship whilst we went off to explore this pretty town. We wandered past the famous Flåm Railway which is said to be one of the world’s most breathtaking journeys, offering panoramic views of the mountains and waterfalls that characterise the region. We continued along the road, following the river, until we found ourselves on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by grassy meadows and fields. Flåm is a very small town and it was so peaceful as we walked through the fields, admiring the cute cabins and listening to the flowing water. The fields were surrounded by steep mountainsides and there was a small waterfall which cascaded down the mountain.
We continued through the pretty valleys of Stonndalen and Aurland before arriving in Østerbø, a mountain farm region which has become a popular spot for hikers. We were served tea and coffee at the Mountain Lodge and tried vafler, a traditional Norwegian waffle served with sour cream and strawberry jam. Afterwards we had a walk around the fields before heading back to the bus to drive back to the ship.
That evening we sailed through the Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord and experienced the unsurpassable beauty of the Norwegian fjords. Cruising through the Norwegian fjords was a truly wonderful way to experience them and it was definitely one of the most magical evenings of my life.
Flåm is a small town and public transport is limited. There aren’t any taxis and the bus schedules aren’t suitable for day sightseeing. It was lovely to walk around the town and the fields but I would recommend booking onto one of the tours in Flåm as you’ll get to see a lot more of this pretty region.
Flåm Railway is the main attraction and there were a few tours which took you on the train. If you want to do this then pre-book your ticket before you arrive as it often sells out very quickly. There was also a tour to Tvinde Waterfall and Gudvangen where you could go kayaking.
DAY 4: OLDEN, INNVIKFJORDEN AND NORDFJORDEN
Olden was the next stop on our Nordic cruise. We’d been looking forward to exploring this town for weeks, ever since we saw photos of its rugged wilderness. Set at the top of the innermost arm of the Nordfjord, Olden is situated in a valley beneath magnificent mountains.
We hadn’t booked any excursions as we had read that it was cheaper to book tours through the local tour centre, Olden Adventure, which is located a few steps from where the ship docks. We got off the boat early and headed straight to the tour office. They offer a range of tours but they also provide transfers to Briksdal glacier and Loen Skylift – two of the places we wanted to see. We both like to have the freedom to explore places at our own pace so this was perfect for us and also much cheaper than doing a tour.
We decided to visit the Briksdal glacier first. We bought our tickets for the Glacier Express Shuttle Bus which was parked just outside the tour office. The 45 minute drive to the glacier was beautiful. We drove along the river passing several lakes, including Floen and Oldevatnet. The low-lying mist over the water was a stunning sight and as we got closer to Jostedalsbreen National Park we started to see more and more small waterfalls cascading down the lush green mountainside.
The bus dropped us at Briksdal Inn and the driver told us he would be back in 2 hours to pick us up. It takes about 45 minutes to walk to the Glacier so we set off quickly. If you don’t want to walk all the way, you can take a ‘troll car’ some of the way and then walk the rest. The walk itself was quite flat at the start but there is a slight incline and steps up in some places further along the trail.
We passed Kleivafossen waterfall which was spectacular. It was so powerful that the spray came right over the bridge and onto our path. Luckily we had our waterproof coats on but make sure you go prepared!
We carried on along the path and finally reached the glacier. Words really can’t describe the natural beauty of this place. The ice had tints of blue and the fresh water was a lovely shade of turquoise.
After taking a few photos of the glacier we headed back to the bus and back to Olden. We still had 4 hours before we had to be back on the ship so we bought tickets from the tour office to Loen Skylift, which is only a 10 minute drive from the port . It’s one of the steepest cable cars in the world. We ascended 1,100 meters up Mount Hoven in 5 minutes and were rewarded with unforgettable views of Lake Lovatnet, Mt. Skåla, Olden, and the beautiful Innvikfjorden.
There are lots of hikes around Mount Hoven and you could easily spend the whole day up here exploring the different trails and enjoying 360 degree views of the Norwegian landscape. We reluctantly headed back down and got the shuttle bus back to the ship. We set sail just after 5pm and cruised through the Innvikfjorden onto the Nordfjord, passing pretty villages built into the hills. The skies darkened and it started to rain so everyone headed inside to get ready for dinner, except for me and a few other photographers. We pulled up our hoods and watched the magical scene unfold in front of us.
Olden is a small town and there is very little near the port where you dock. To make the most of your time in this pretty region, book a tour or transfer from Olden Adventure. You can book on the day or if you prefer you can book your tickets online.
DAY 5: BERGEN
The final port of call on our Norwegian fjords cruise was Bergen. Surrounded by seven mountains, Bergen is known as the gateway to the Western fjords and is Norway’s second largest city. We didn’t have a full day in Bergen and the tours on offer were just walking tours around the city or tickets up the funicular, so we decided to explore the city on our own.
It’s a vibrant city with a rich history. We avoided the shopping district which was packed with tourists from other cruise ships and headed into the residential area where we wandered down the quaint cobbled streets, admiring the pretty wooden houses. We carried on walking up the back streets, climbing higher to get a better view of the city and eventually came across the old fire station, a small white wooden building overlooking Bergen. We sat and ate our lunch here taking in the lovely city views.
You can carry on walking up the path to Mount Fløien, one of the seven hills that surround Bergen. It’s quite a climb so many people opt to take the funicular to the top instead. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to hike it and the queues for the funicular were too long. Instead we headed back down to the town and walked along the quayside. Bryggen is lined with brightly-coloured wooden warehouses and is one of the most photographed places in Bergen. These tall and narrow buildings now house restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops.
After a few hours walking around the city, we made our way back to the ship, wishing we had another week to explore this beautiful part of the world.
The funicular is one of Bergen’s most popular tourist attractions and offers spectacular views over the city. If you want to do this make sure you book your tickets in advance and get off the ship early, otherwise you will miss out!
DAY 6: SAILING BACK TO SOUTHAMPTON
Our final day was spent relaxing onboard as we sailed back through the North Sea and down into the English Channel. We had a lovely time exploring the Norwegian fjords with our granddad on the P&O Britannia. Cruising through the fjords was an unforgettable experience and it was a great way for our granddad to see places that he wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise. Cruising isn’t for everyone and there are a lot of things to consider but sailing through the fjords was a great way to see this incredibly wild and beautiful region and is something I’ll always treasure.
Have you ever done a cruise? If so, where did you go? Let me know in the comments below.
Love from Steph
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