Update: Strikes in Norway Force Fred. Olsen to Jumble Balmoral Itinerary

May 28, 2012

Updated May 30, 1:05 p.m. EDT -- In a statement, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has confirmed that the itinerary for Balmoral, which departed from Southampton May 30 on a "Norwegian Fjords" voyage, will be significantly altered due to the ongoing strikes in Norway. The line said it would "seek alternative berthing arrangements within other Northern European ports" for the ship, though it has not announced what they will be. Passengers will be advised as soon as the new ports are determined. The line's other ships are not affected by the strikes.

(9:30 a.m. EDT) -- A strike by state workers including Oslo Fjord port pilots is affecting cruise ships' calls to the Norwegian capital, with three ships forced to turn away over the weekend.

All visiting ships are required to have a pilot, who typically has years of experience of local conditions, onboard for the approach to port.

But with Oslo's 42 pilots on strike, Emerald Princess was forced to turn away from the port last Friday, while Star Clippers' Star Flyer cancelled a call on Saturday and Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas was diverted to Gothenburg on Sunday.

A statement from Royal Caribbean said: “Vision of the Seas was unable to dock in Oslo on Sunday, May 27, as originally planned. Because of this, it was necessary to modify Vision of the Seas' boarding and debarking process on Sunday. Vision of the Seas arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Sunday, and guests were transported to and from Oslo via motor coach.”

May is the beginning of the busy cruise season for Norway, but at present, there is no end in sight to the dispute, which is over wages. According to the Port of Oslo's Web site, talks are ongoing but meanwhile, several ships are due to call this week. Holland America Line's Rotterdam was scheduled to dock at Oslo, but is not showing on the port's live ship traffic map. Cruise Critic is awaiting a statement from the line concerning the vessel's diverted itinerary. Meanwhile, over the next few days, two ships from German line AIDA are due in Oslo, as well as Costa Fortuna, Vision of the Seas, MSC Poesia and Emerald Princess again.

And it could get worse; according to the Cruise Industry News Web site, if the dispute is not resolved, the pilot strike could go nationwide on May 30, which would have a devastating effect on cruises to the Norwegian fjords.

The only company immune to this strike action is Hurtigruten, which sails between Bergen and Kirkenes; because its captains sail the coastal waters every day, year-round, the ships are not required to carry a pilot.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor