One of the most difficult parts of planning a cruise is figuring out what to do in port — especially if you don’t want to take the ship’s tours or organize a group to book an independently arranged tour in advance. Sometimes it’s hard to strike a balance between spontaneity and not missing out on the best a destination can offer.
On a recent cruise on Celebrity Infinity in Norway, I was surprised to find many options for independent travel without advance booking. Here’s a rundown of what I found — and I encourage readers to check the Cruise Critic message boards for more information from recent cruisers about what to do in cruise ports the world over.
Oslo: I’m not always fans of bus tours, but the Hop On Hop Off bus in Oslo was an easy way to get to most of the city’s key attractions without walking or figuring out public transit. And it conveniently picks up right at the main cruise pier. In addition to being comprehensive — with 17 stops in downtown and at outlying museums — your ticket gets you discounts at many of the attractions. You can also walk to many downtown attractions, or take a ferry across to some of the farther-out museums.
Kristiansand: The small town is eminently walkable with a pretty waterfront and pedestrian shopping area. But you can also take the bus to the nearby zoo or mineral park. Just ask at the tourist office kiosk located right by the ship.
Stavanger: If museums are your thing, you can walk to several (Canning, Maritime and Petroleum Museums), as well as Old Stavanger, or choose the Hop On Hop Off bus, public transit or your own two feet to get to others not right on the harbor. You can book a Lysefjord and Pulpit Rock cruise at the tourist office, but remaining space sells out quickly and is not guaranteed. If your heart is set, I’d recommend advance booking independently or through your ship.
Alesund: A shuttle leaves from the pier to the Atlantic Sea Park — no ship’s tour needed. The Hop On Hop Off bus also heads to the aquarium, as well as the Aksla viewpoint, the Sunnmore museum and a few city center locations. Or for a city tour, the Sightseeing Train (one of those tourist trams that looks like a steam train) also stops by the cruise port to take visitors on an hour-long ride around town. All the in-town attractions, like the Art Nouveau Center, are walkable, and you can climb the 400-plus steps to the Aksla viewpoint if you’re in reasonable shape.
Geiranger: The tourist office sells a variety of same-day tours: kayaking, fishing, helicopter rides and fjord cruises. As tour space is limited, you will want to get off your ship early and book first thing — especially on days with several ships in port. They do sell out. The Hop On Hop Off bus is actually a 90-minute tour to two of the major viewpoints, with several departures throughout the day. A hiking map is available for self-guided trekking.
Flam: You can buy tickets for the famous Flam Railway day of, but you’ll need to get to the train station early and be prepared for lines. By mid-morning, tickets are typically sold out. Depending on how busy the port is, you may also be able to purchase same-day tickets for fjord cruises and kayak tours, but they sell out as well. It’s easy to rent bikes or strap on your walking shoes and explore the various paths around the waterfront and into the valley.
Bergen: Yet another destination with a Hop On Hop Off bus and plentiful public transit, Bergen is also easily walkable from your ship’s shuttle drop-off point. You can take the funicular up to views and hiking trails, catch a bus from the tourist office to composer Edvard Grieg’s former home for a tour and concert, or join a history-focused walking tour offered by the Bergen Museum (tickets include same-day access to a few local museums). Several museums and the downtown fish market are easily accessed on foot.
Connect with other Norway-bound passengers in our member forums.
Don’t miss a thing: Get your own Lido Deck subscription.