Norwegian Fjords with Costa Cruises
Whenever I have been interested in knowing people's dream cruise destinations, there is a frequent answer: the Norwegian Fjords. And it is understandable since this itinerary offers something magical between natural landscapes and picturesque villages.
Cruising through Northern Europe usually raises many questions, especially due to the weather, flights, and the best excursions in each destination. In this post, I'll tell you some tips and my experience aboard Costa Diadema in June 2022.
Itineraries and flights
Although some very specific cruises may depart from further ports and go to Norway, the most common thing is to find itineraries of one or two weeks visiting several Norwegian ports, as well as some other cities in close countries. And this implies you'll probably fly to the port of departure, which you must take into account for luggage (there are no restrictions on the ship, but there are on flights).
In my case, this was the cruise itinerary:
DAY 1: Copenhagen, Denmark
DAY 2: Sea day
DAY 3: Hellesylt - Geiranger, Norway
DAY 4: Haugesund, Norway
DAY 5: Stavanger, Norway
DAY 6: Sea day
DAY 7: Kiel, Germany
DAY 8: Copenhagen, Denmark
Embarking options were Copenhagen or Kiel. My recommendation is that you choose either a city that you don't want to visit or one you want to get to know in-depth so you consider spending a couple of nights before or after your cruise. I wanted to see Copenhagen, so I chose to leave from there and stay two nights at the end of the trip.
TIP: Compare flight prices with the cruise company and on your own. In general, taking them with the cruise company has the advantage that they transfer you to the ship and ensure that you do not miss the ship if the flight is delayed. In my case, I prefer to look on my own. Many times you pay up to 3 or 4 times less and can use that money to spend the night before the cruise, so you make sure you arrive on time and also see another city with extra time.
The ship: Costa Diadema
During the summer season of 2022, Costa Diadema was the ship that made this itinerary. If you are going to do it in 2023 with Costa, your ship will be the Costa Firenze, of which I already told you my experience. You also have a complete tour on YouTube.
Costa Diadema is one of Costa's most beloved ships. She was inaugurated in 2014 and is the last vessel of the company with that ornate fantasy style that characterizes its most classic cruise ships of the moment. I like it because it is a ship that feels spacious without being huge enough to get lost, and it also has something that I value: an infinity of outdoor spaces to admire the sea, especially thanks to its half-height promenade that goes around completely. It also has a bar at the stern and several terraces at the bow. Living the navigation from there through an itinerary like this is a spectacular experience. Costa Firenze is very similar in this regard.
The ship has the classic spaces of a cruise ship, such as the atrium, a large theatre, the casino, and several bars and restaurants, both included in the price and other paid specialities like the Teppanyaki, the cooking show; or the delicious Italian pizzeria.
The Costa experience
In general, the journey followed the line of others that I have already made with the company. The most desperate point on board was the management of the excursions, especially due to the long queues that formed at all hours at the information desks. That is why I undoubtedly advise you to travel with the excursions or visits on your own already contracted or planned. You will save a lot of time on board.
The food was the same Italian gastronomic offer that we found in the entire fleet. I have to say that the buffet was the weakest point (little variety, especially in the afternoon snacks), as well as the complex schedules of some excursions that were programmed at noon with no time to eat, neither on the excursion nor on the ship. Even so, I loved the food in the complimentary main restaurants as always, as well as the sushi, pizza and ice cream, all of them for a fee but at a fairly reasonable price and with good quality products.
The entertainment proposal was quite complete, although it coincided that they were exactly the same shows as those I saw at the Costa Diadema in 2019 around the Mediterranean. If you have never seen them, you will enjoy them, since they are varied with nights of stunts, other musicals and even comedy.
I think the best point of Costa is the hospitality of his crew. Also, even though Costa is an Italian company, you will find all crew speaking English and other languages like Spanish and German.
Ports of call and excursions
Once we have the ideal ship and your date and itinerary, it is time to consider what you want to see in each port. There are many destinations and itineraries, so you will probably visit different places than I have. Whatever your ports of call are, I consider it essential to go down and visit each of them, especially those in Norway.
The excursion options are very varied, and you will find more extreme adventures such as helicopter tours, mountain climbing or kayaking to easier plans like walk-tours or coach trips to discover natural corners in the depths of Norway. Unless you only want to walk around the surroundings of each port, I suggest you either get the excursions with the cruise company, find an external agency or plan very well what you want to do in each place. Consider each possible weather condition and control timing to get back on board on time.
Here are some suggestions if you visit any of the ports I've been to:
This fjord is considered one of the most beautiful and has been declared a World Heritage Site. The true magic of Geiranger is in the journey through the interior of the fjord until reaching the town. It is essential to experience it from the outer decks of the ship, especially if you have the opportunity to be in the bow.
On your way to Geiranger, you will find the Seven Sisters Waterfall, a 250m cascade. Legend has it that seven sisters are dancing, in front of another waterfall known as the Suitor, which flirts happily with the sisters.
Once in Geiranger, one of the most popular plans is to go up to Dalsnibba, a viewpoint almost 1,500m above the sea, from which you can see the entire valley, and you can play with snow, especially in May-June, as it is still abundant. Going up there requires a journey of about 40 minutes by coach, with strong curves but with lovely views, in which the green meadows contrast with the frozen peaks. In addition, you will have an aerial view of the ship docked in the port.
This is a port located on the Norwegian coast, but from which excursions to other fjords are offered. We chose to take a 2,5h coach trip to Åkrafjorden. It is a somewhat long trip but it is certainly worth it since once there we travelled part of the fjord in a small boat that makes you feel very close to the water. The best feeling was approaching one of the waterfalls known as The Bride's Veil, being almost below it.
On the way back, we stopped to taste a typical Norwegian meal, with all kinds of fruits, local sausages, cheeses and, of course, authentic Norwegian salmon. It is great to make a stop of this kind in one of the ports since on board the food you will try will be the cruise company's own, in my case, Italian food. Some nights there were dishes inspired by destinations, but on the ship, for example, for safety reasons, the fish is always frozen.
One of the most beautiful ports of the trip, which offers many visiting options. Perhaps the biggest attraction in the area is the Preikestolen rock, also known as the pulpit. It is an area that protrudes from the mountains at more than 600m above the Lysefjord, and there are excursions that take you to it to admire the views from the top.
We decided to see it from a boat trip through that same fjord, just below. It is a fairly pleasant 2-hour trip that leaves from the same port of Stavanger, so you can easily get it on your own since it does not require transfers, you go directly on foot.
Once on land again, we take advantage of the free time before lunch to visit the city of Stavanger itself. It is quite touristy and easy to get around by walking. The essential stop is Øvre Holmegate, a picturesque street with lots of colors and charming places to have a drink before returning to the ship. It is one of the most typical photos of Stavanger, postcard worth.
Our last stop is located in a German fjord, and it is the capital of the region of Schleswig-Holstein. It is a very different city from those visited in Norway, since due to its war history it has been practically completely rebuilt, and the constructions are much more contemporary and similar to those we would see in any city in central Europe.
However, the charm of Kiel is not so much in what you see but in the stories it keeps. I highly recommend having a local guide tell you about the history of Kiel and the role it played as a major shipyard in the wars, long before the world wars. It is curious since, in the guide's own words, "Germans do not study history itself, but how to confront yourself against your history." Throughout our walking tour, we visited some monuments that portray and pay homage to war episodes without glorifying them, as well as some facades that preserve the impacts of bullets as a memory of time.
We ended our visit to Kiel at the port, where we tasted one of the most typical sandwiches in the region, the fish bun, made of smoked salmon. It's great and I strongly recommend you try it if you have the chance.
Other ports of call
Your cruise will surely include some different ports because each corner of Norway offers unique things. For example, cities like Tromsø to the north are known for whale sightings. Others like Flåm offer the beauty of the landscapes, in this case through its famous train.
TIP: My recommendation is that during your cruise you include at least one boat trip to live the experience of crossing a fjord close to the water and a visit on foot at one of the Norwegian villages to get to know the local life up close.
My cruise thoughts
In general, I think this cruise is a wonderful way to get close to Norway and to remote places that are practically only accessible by ship. If what you are looking for is a vacation in a chill place in summer, with landscapes, nature and far from the big cities, this cruise is undoubtedly for you.
Do not miss the complete series (Spanish) where I show you the day-to-day of my cruise on YouTube, and remember that you can also follow me on Instagram to live my adventures with me and to discover the greatest tips to dream of your next vacation.