You Should Add This Cruise Through the Norwegian Fjords to Your Bucket List

Even the most cruise adverse travelers aren't immune to Havila's charms

June 15, 2024 6:29 am
Havila Castor in Trollfjorden
Havila Castor in Trollfjorden
Marius Beck Dahle

There’s a new travel trend on the rise called “coolcations,” which involves travelers flocking to destinations known for milder climates and nature-focused getaways. The trend leans into experiences that are typically pretty high on every traveler’s bucket list, like witnessing the Northern Lights, staying in ice hotels, dog sledding and cruising through the Norwegian fjords. When I heard there was a way to check all those items off in one trip, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

Enter Havila Voyages, Norway’s latest coastal cruise line and the world’s most environmentally-friendly coastal cruise ship fleet, with two new ships that debuted in 2023. Havila Voyages sailings stop at several charming destinations along the Norwegian coastline, including iconic ports like Bergen, Alesund, Tromsø and Kirkenes. Below, a handful of reasons why you’ll want to book this new cruise through the Norwegian fjords ASAP. 

Havila Kystruten and the Northern Lights
Havila Kystruten and the Northern Lights
Havila Voyages

First, How to Get There

To travel from the United States to Norway, you’ll almost always fly into one of Norway’s major international airports, like Oslo (OSL) or Bergen (BGO). Many U.S. airports, including JFK, LAX and Chicago O’Hare (ORD), offer direct flights to Oslo. From these airports, you can either catch a connecting flight to your final destination in Norway or embark directly onto the cruise ship. If you choose to travel by train domestically, you can take the Airport Express Train (Flytoget) from Oslo Airport to Oslo Central Station and then transfer to trains heading to other cities in Norway. 

Pro tip: Fly with Scandinavian Airlines, which offers the most nonstop flights from the United States to Scandinavia. The new inflight food and beverage program, coined “New Nordic by SAS,” calls on local, seasonal ingredients that capture classic Nordic flavors and techniques while adapting to the challenges of dining at 35,000 feet. The airline also partners with Scandinavian food and beverage companies, including Danish brewer Mikkeller and Swedish chocolatier Hedh-Escalante. The best part (that I took full advantage of) is the airline’s bidding feature, which allows you to easily place a bid to upgrade to business class at the price of your choice.

What you can expect from Havrand
What you can expect from dining on Havrand
Havila Voyages

Culinary Delights Await Onboard the Ship

As a foodie, I was initially a bit weary of the ship’s culinary program. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the food, where the chef only uses ingredients that prioritize local and sustainable suppliers.

“The dining onboard, and the culinary journeys provided as optional excursion experiences via the different ports, all work to highlight Norwegian ingredients and resources and how they vary by region,” says Lasse Vangstein, Chief Communications & Marketing Officer for Havila Voyages. 

Havila Voyages’s approach to dining is to provide menus (as opposed to buffets) that speak to local resources and seasonality, allowing them to reduce food waste and provide an authentic taste of Norwegian cuisine. For example, the main restaurant, Havrand, provides four different regional menus with a la carte dishes that change every few days to reflect the coastline direction you’re currently sailing. My personal favorite dining experience was the ship’s fine dining spot, Hildring, where you can indulge in a luxurious five-course tasting menu with paired wines. Think fresh cod from Lofoten, Norwegian farm duck in orange sauce, tartare of Norwegian beef tenderloin, reindeer from Finnmark and homemade chocolates and desserts. 

The Perfect Weekend in Oslo
From eye-catching architecture to world-class food and drink programs and more, Oslo has it all
There are tons of opportunities to get out (or off) and experience the communities
There are tons of opportunities to get out and experience the communities.
Marius Beck Dahle

Destination-Specific Experiences Abound

Beyond viewing the scenery from the comfort of the ship’s cozy decks while traveling from port to port, there are also ample opportunities to get out into the communities and experience the country’s traditions.

“A core value from the beginning for Havila Voyages has been to create a way for travelers to enjoy the variety of views, experiences, dining and more that Norway offers,” Vangstein says. “With that in mind, we have partnered with local tour operators, hotels and businesses to provide more than 70 different activities and dining features for our guests.”

For my part, I especially enjoyed an educational journey to learn about the Indigenous Sámi culture, reindeer sledding in Tromsø with Indigenous group guides, a culinary experience from a living medieval farm in the Lofoten Islands and a king crab safari and lunch on a frozen fjord in Kirkenes. Plus, because of Havila’s connection with the destination’s top hotels, a stay at Snow Hotel Kirkenes is part of the package, bringing travelers to the highly-coveted igloo hotel rooms. 

Geiranger Fjord under the Northern Lights
Geiranger Fjord under the Northern Lights
Getty Images

A (Strong) Chance to See the Northern Lights 

Onboard, the Havila team acts as a “Northern Lights concierge” of sorts. In combination with a wide range of outdoor adventures in areas where the Northern Lights are likely to be seen, the company provides a Northern Lights warning system that, once activated, will alert guests of the phenomenon to ensure no one misses out. 

Coincidentally, scientists have declared that, because of the sun hitting its peak, the next few years will offer the best chance to see the aurora borealis — especially in Norway. “The limited daylight in combination with the northern location lends way for Norway to be one of the best destinations to catch a glimpse of the ethereal aurora borealis,” Vangstein says.  

On a clear night, the Northern Lights can be seen on the entire voyage along the coast. The outdoor deck and jacuzzi and panoramic windows in all common spaces lend themselves to viewing the colorful display.

Pro tip:  Annually from October to March, Havila is so confident that guests traveling its 11-night roundtrip voyage will see the Northern Lights, they provide a Northern Lights Promise. As such, those who do not see the magical green light during their trip will be provided a complimentary five or six-night experience for the following season. 

Havila Kystruten
Havila Kystruten
Ronny M. Olsen

Supporting Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Travel 

It’s always nice to know you’re supporting eco-friendly brands when traveling, and it’s becoming a prominent aspect (minus the greenwashing) that influences traveler’s booking decisions. Havila Voyages’s ships are powered by natural gas and batteries, and they went above and beyond when designing their fleet. The ships have the largest battery packs to ever be installed on passenger vessels, allowing them to sail for four hours straight with zero emissions. These battery packs let the ships visit vulnerable fjords, such as Geirangerfjord (a UNESCO World Heritage site), without worrying about environmental issues. Additional eco-forward operations include a heat recovery system to power ship heating and hot water for showers, an energy-efficient hull design and water refill stations around the ship.

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