Record-Breaking Cruises to Northern Destination – And It’s Not Alaska

Norway has seen dramatic cruise growth in the past year, with even higher numbers predicted for 2024. But why such extreme change?

Cruise travel to Norway is skyrocketing as more travelers seek stunning scenery in northern regions, and the Scandinavian country is proving to be a very popular destination indeed.

Both cruise calls and overall passenger numbers have surpassed previous records and are increasing much faster than even the most optimistic projections, with another record-breaking year expected for Norway cruises in 2024.

Steady Increases in Cruise Travel to Norway

Cruise travel has been steadily rising in Norway, with a total of more than 6.1 million cruise guests visiting the Scandinavian nation bordering both the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea in 2023.

According to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, overall cruise traffic in 2023 doubled compared to 2016, and is significantly higher than in 2022. A total of 3,943 cruise port visits were recorded, with Alesund and Bergen the most visited destinations. Both are on the country’s southwestern coast.

Alesund saw 654,625 cruise guests visit during the year, up from 237,000 guests in 2022 – a mind-boggling 176% increase. Bergen welcomed 609,756 passengers, a 67% increase compared to visitors in 2022.

Growth has also been seen at other Norway ports of call. In 2016, only four total ports were visited by more than 200,000 cruise guests, while in 2023, ten ports surpassed that number.

Norway Cruise Stats
Norway Cruise Stats (Image Credit: Norwegian Coastal Administration)

The increase is credited not only to larger ships, but also to ensuring each port of call offers something unique for guests to explore, encouraging more diverse cruise itineraries and more frequent visits.

“The figures for 2023 reflect that cruise ships have become larger and can take more passengers on board compared to before the pandemic,” explained Harald Borgø, senior adviser at the Norwegian Coastal Administration. “In addition, Cruise Norway and the cruise ports have worked on further development of the destinations.”

One of the most surprising facets of cruise travel to Norway is that winter sailings are on the rise. Traditionally, Norway cruises from May through September – including the “shoulder seasons” in spring and fall – are most popular, but more cruise lines are offering winter itineraries to ensure port availability and unique experiences.

Despite the increased risk of winter sailings due to strong storms and ice, the season is popular for viewings of the famed Northern Lights, and cruise lines are encouraged to take extra precautions to ensure safe sailings.

Cruise Ships in Olden, Norway
Cruise Ships in Olden, Norway (Photo Credit: Drew Rawcliffe)

“We are concerned that the cruise industry understands and takes into account the increased risk and the operational challenges this can cause, and emphasizes a close and structured dialogue with the industry,” said Arve Dimmen, director of navigation technology and maritime services at the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

Read Also: Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise? – Full Guide

Also contributing to the higher number of visitors is that larger ships are now visiting Norway, particularly from Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises. These large vessels can bring 5,000 or more cruise guests to a port in a single day, depending on the ship’s overall capacity and how fully it may be booked for any individual sailing.

Even Higher Numbers Expected for 2024

Building on the momentum already established for more cruises to Norway, as well as continued increased interest in cruise travel to unique destinations, the Norwegian Coastal Administration is estimating further increases for 2024.

An additional 4% increase in overall cruise calls is expected, which would bring an additional 157 cruise ship visits to Norwegian ports of call. Similarly, a 6% increase in total cruise guests is predicted, which would mean a total of more than 6.46 million passengers visiting Norwegian ports of call throughout 2024.

In 2024, mainstream cruise lines, luxury lines, and expedition ships are all scheduled to visit Norway on a variety of itineraries and sailing lengths.

Ships from AIDA Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Hurtigruten Cruises, Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Silversea Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and more lines already have visits planned in the coming months.

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