Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway

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Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway

No tourism industry is growing faster than the cruise industry. The local population in Skjolden, in the heart of Norway’s longest fjord, numbers only around 300 inhabitants. And Skjolden has become a romantic and popular port for giant cruise ships in Norway.

When “MS Braemar” and “Saga Rose” opened Skjolden as a cruise destination in 2007, there was no pier there. However, it should be the beginning of the future.

The charming village of Skjolden is called the “Gateway to the national parks” due to the short distance to no less than three of the most iconic national parks in Norway – Jotunheimen, Breheimen and Jostedalsbreen. The village is a 30-minute drive from Northern Europe’s highest mountain pass, the Sognefjellet Mountain Road (1434 m.a.s.l.). From there, you can enjoy stunning views of Breheimen and Jotunheimen – including the 20 highest peaks in Scandinavia.

Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway
Urnes Stave Church, a Viking Age church dating back to 1130 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site,

Visitors can admire the rolling farms and the greenery. Evidently, it’s no surprise this was a popular destination with Norwegian artists, who came here for inspiration in the 19th century. Visit the old Urnes Stave Church, a Viking Age church dating back to 1130 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 30 kilometers to the south. The narrow road there passes through idyllic villages — its picturesque vistas are called the Romantic Route.

In 2009, the Norwegian investor Oddvar Røysi invested in a new cruise dock and 200 new berths along the entire shoreline at the bottom of the world’s longest navigable fjord. It was his gesture to the municipality from where he had his roots. The price tag is said to be around NOK 150 million.

The pier is buit by the picturesque Lustrafjord, the innermost branch of Norway’s longest and deepest fjord – the Sognefjord. The fjord has a distinct emerald-green color owing to melting water from the glaciers. Along the shoreline, you will see beautiful villages and lush cultural landscapes.

Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway
The Sognefjellet mountain road. Photo: Western Norwegian Fjords.

In 2006, National Geographic named the Norwegian fjords on the West coast the best unspoiled destination in the world. The Nærøy fjord and the Geiranger fjord had just entered Unesco’s world heritage list. The same year, the four western counties accounted for 88 per cent of the overall growth in the tourism industry.

However, the increasing cruise traffic has made the area less pristine, and many are critical of the large tourist flows that invade the fjord landscapes. “We have the world’s most beautiful country, we don’t have to follow the cruise operators’ terms,” ​​say critical voices. But many people want to experience this beautiful western nature.

And cruise operators state that “breathtaking nature-based experiences and proximity to some of Norway’s most iconic attractions are our biggest strengths as a cruise destination. This makes Skjolden suitable for those who visit Norway to experience the amazing fjord scenery and enjoy nature-based attractions.

Our main cruise ship pier (127.5 m) can take medium to large cruise ships, while small vessels can easily anchor and use the tender pier closer to the town center.”

The main attractions are the Sognefjellet Mountain Road, Jostedal Glacier and Urnes Stave Church, part of Unesco’s World Heritage List. The church was built around 1130 A.D., but the distinctive carvings on the north portal are from an even older church. The so-called stave churches are among Norway’s most significant contributions to world architecture.

Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway
Skjolden Cruise Port. Photo: Ole Gudnmund Bjørk/Fjord Norway.

In the small factory Safthuset, the Juice House museum, between Skjolden and Urnes, you can enjoy some delicious local berry juice. It opened its doors in 1909 and is today Norway’s leading jam- and juice-producing company, Lerum. Most of the original equipment is still in use. Groups can visit by arrangement.

Only one hour’s drive from Skjolden, you can marvel at the Nigardsbreen glacier’s ice, one of the most accessible glaciers in Norway. You can either walk along the turquoise lake up to the glacier itself or take the boat across the lake.

A report from Western Norway Research Institute stated that both “Flåm and Geiranger are approaching a capacity limit. It can be an alternative (…) and rather appear as a ‘quiet’, exclusive and somewhat less mass tourism-influenced cruise destination.”

Romantic Port for Giant Cruise Ships in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Skjolden, Port-No Fly Cruises

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