Woah. Hold on there.
So many things about that title just don’t add up! Norway? Fjords? Overnight cruise? On a budget? Are you telling me that it’s actually possible to save money in Norway? Even while seeing those magnificent fjords?
Yes, I really am.
Experiencing this really may not be as expensive as you think.
This past September, I spent 1 week in Norway. My trip included stops in Oslo, Bergen, and Ålesund along with a 1 night and 1 day cruise from Bergen to Ålesund. This cruise also featured a ride down the stunning Hjørundfjord.
Even though I had already been living in Sweden for three years, I had never set foot in the neighbouring country of Norway until this trip. I always thought that Sweden was pricy, but Swedes would often warn me that anything and everything in Norway would cost a whole lot more. Consequently, as a budget traveller, I kept putting off that trip to Norway. However, this past summer, the amount of time I’d continue spending in Sweden became a little uncertain. So I decided it was now or never. I was going to go to Norway, and I gave myself a mission: to do it as cheaply as possible.
Overall, the Swedes were right – Norway is more expensive than Sweden. Fortunately, I discovered a handful of travel hacks that enabled me to experience some of the best of Norway for less. Throughout my upcoming series of Norway posts, I’ll be sharing these Norway on a Budget tips with you!
Today, we’ll be starting with cutting down the cost of a 24-hour cruise. If you’ve got a good sense of adventure and strong willpower (when it comes to resisting oh so glorious food, that is), go ahead and take advantage of these travel hacks!
Read on to find out how to reduce the cost of your trip to Norway!
Hello, My Name is Hurtigruten
Hurtigruten is a 100+ year old company responsible for operating cruise, ferry, and cargo ships along most of Norway’s western coast. (On a fun note, the company also offers cruises in Greenland, Canada, South America, Antarctica, and more!) When in Norway, Hurtigruten’s ships typically depart from Bergen and make their way up to Kirkenes in the Arctic Circle before heading back to Bergen. Now, you don’t have to splurge on a pricey 12-day cruise package in order to travel on board a Hurtigruten ship. It’s entirely possible to book a trip from harbour to harbour and spend a whole day and night on a luxury cruise ship for less. If you’re in Bergen and after a fjord experience, simply book a trip with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Ålesund between the start of June and the end of October.
Hurtigruten’s MS Spitsbergen out in the distance.
Fjord time with Hurtigruten.
Cruising By Norwegian Fjords with Hurtigruten
When travelling Bergen-Ålesund from June to the end of October, Hurtigruten ships typically depart from Bergen in the evening and take the whole night to reach Ålesund. The ships dock in Ålesund for around 30-45 minutes in the morning before heading off to the day’s fjord. Please note that the ship will stop in Ålesund once again in the evening after visiting the fjord.
The Geirangerfjord vs. The Hjørundfjord
From June through to August, Hurtigruten ships visit the Geirangerfjord, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the start of September to the end of October, ships cruise down the Hjørundfjord and stop in the village of Urke for a handful of hours. Some individuals opt for the trip to Urke since not at as many tourists visit the Hjørundfjord and you get way more time on land. After spending an afternoon in Urke, I can definitely see the appeal of choosing a trip to the Hjørundfjord.
Welcome to Urke and the Sunnmøre Alps.
Views from Urke.
Please note: Hurtigruten does not visit either of these fjords from November to May.
So How Do 24 Hours with Huritgruten Compare to That Famous Norway in a Nutshell Tour?
If you’ve considered going to Norway to see fjords, it’s highly likely that you heard about Fjord Tours’ famous Norway in a Nutshell Tour. During this tour, you take a trip on the Bergen Railway, the Flåm Railway, and a boat cruise through the Nærøyfjord, (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site too). While getting the chance to admire Norway’s remarkable landscape, you also make your way from Bergen to Oslo or from Oslo to Bergen. (You can book a round trip, but it costs quite a bit more). So if you have to choose between Hurtigruten and Fjord Tours for your fjord experience, which company do you go with? Here are some factors to consider:
- Which fjord do you really want to see? Hurtigruten and Norway in a Nutshell do not visit the same ones.
- I’d claim that when travelling from Bergen to Ålesund with Hurtigruten, you do get more value for your money. Hear me out: with Hurtigruten, you get to spend 24 hours on board a beautiful cruise ship for as little as $85 USD. According Fjord Tours’ website, Norway in a Nutshell tours go for as little as $166 USD (one-way). (Tours for upcoming dates are selling for $239 USD). As well, the fjord cruise with Norway in a Nutshell lasts only 2 hours.
- Nevertheless, it’s true: you don’t have the opportunity to go on the super scenic Flåm railway line with Hurtigruten. However, if you choose to travel back to Oslo by train from Ålesund, you will have to take a trip on the Rauma railway line. The ride is also magnificently mind-blowing and not as touristy.
- Fjord Tours works with Hurtigruten and offers a Norway in a Nutshell + Hurtigruten tour. (I won’t mention the crazy price). In fact, the company behind Norway in a Nutshell even states that a cruise along Norway’s western coast is one of the most beautiful boat trips in the world. (They say it plain and clear on their website).
My Hurtigruten Experience
Until the evening I boarded Hurtigruten’s MS Spitsbergen, I had never been on any kind of cruise ship. Even though the Spitsbergen is one of the company’s smaller ships, I was blown away by the facilities I would have access to for 24 hours (Remember: I am a budget traveller). The ship’s top level was basically an outdoor deck, and it quickly became the perfect place to catch unobstructed views of the Norwegian coast and fjords. I also had access to an outdoor hot tub, indoor gym, and sauna. I was way too excited to have a little taste of luxury on a budget. I’m pretty sure I had a dazed and ridiculous smile on my face for the whole 24 hours with Hurtigruten.
The sunset in Bergen just prior to departure.
After spending the night heading up to Ålesund, the MS Spitsbergen went over and down to the Hjørundford. Despite the wind, the sun was shining, and I spent a good hour and a half on the outdoor deck being mesmerized by the surreal Norwegian landscape.
The MS Spitsbergen’s top floor deck.
When we finally arrived by the tiny village of Urke, I made a beeline to the tender boat, which would be taking us to shore. I spent the next two hours roaming and jumping (see photo below) around Urke. I felt tears filling up my eyes. And no, it wasn’t due to the wind, and I definitely wasn’t upset. Maybe I was a tad sleep deprived, but there I was in this idyllic and remote little village surrounded by part of the Hjørundfjord and the Sunnmøre Alps. I was completely overwhelmed by the wildly beautiful landscape.
Have to love that hand-painted village sign.
When it comes to taking photos, I have no self control. The grass was also damp.
Strolling around Urke…
…and jumping around Urke.
After spending a couple of hours on dry land, I took the tender boat back to Hurtigruten’s ship. Before I knew it, I’d taken over 600 photos, and we were on our way back to Ålesund. It’s safe to say that my 24 hours on the MS Spitsbergen were probably the highlight of my Norway trip.
I Want Fjords For Less: Tips for Travelling with Hurtigruten on a Budget
1. Book in Advance (Especially If You Plan on Travelling During Peak Season)
Booking ahead of time can help ensure that you get the lowest price available. By securing your spot in advance, you will also know that there will be space for you aboard the ship on the day you want to travel on. I booked my ticket two months in advance since I was travelling around the start of the slightly busy shoulder season.
2. Consider Travelling During the Shoulder Season or Very Start of Off-Season
Hurtigruten tickets tend to be cheaper if you choose to travel during the shoulder season (September) or the very start of what could be considered “off-season” (October) for us non-winter sport fanatics. However, keep in mind that if you travel during these two months, you will be seeing the Hjørundfjord rather than the Geirangerfjord. Hurtigruten does not visit either of these fjords from November – May.
Exploring the Hjørundfjord.
3. Book in Norwegian on the Norwegian Website
If you run a currency conversion check, the ticket prices on Hurtigruten’s Norwegian website are actually cheaper than the ticket prices for the same journey on the company’s American website. Currently, a trip from Bergen to Ålesund without a cabin booked through the Norwegian site is roughly $25 USD less. So find a Norwegian-speaking buddy (though Swedish will also do), and book the trip through www.hurtigruten.no.
Alternatively, you can try using a browser translator or going through the booking steps on the US website (without completing the final transaction) before replicating them on the Norwegian site. However, try these strategies out at your own risk.
4. Don’t Book A Cabin (YOLO)
Since Hurtigruten ships are both cruise ships and ferries, you don’t actually have to book a cabin when travelling from Bergen to Ålesund. Without booking a cabin, you can save anything from $50 USD to a whole lot more (we’re talking over $100 USD). So you may be wondering, where do you sleep if you don’t have a cabin? What do you do with your luggage? Most ships have common areas and lounges with couches. During my Hurtigruten trip, only one other person was travelling without a cabin. We each had a whole couch to ourselves and there were many more to choose from. Any luggage and items I didn’t need were stored in the ship’s luggage room.
The lounge (a.k.a. my sleeping area) aboard the MS Spitsbergen
5. Choose Your Departure Date and Ship Wisely
Hurtigruten has a whole range of ships that come in different sizes and offer a variety of amenities. The company rotates through their fleet roughly every 12 days. Before booking your trip with Hurtigruten, I highly encourage you to check what ship leaves the harbour on your desired departure date and possibly adjust your departure date based on the ship. Some ships are larger than others, which may mean more lounge space, and some have super fancy facilities, like outdoor Jacuzzis, that you can use. One ship, the MS Lofoten, doesn’t have stabilizers. If you suffer from motion sickness, this 1960’s revival ship may not be the ship for you.
Couldn’t complain about the MS Spitsbergen’s top floor outdoor deck.
6. Pay Close Attention to the Route You Choose
If you’re travelling harbour to harbour up from Bergen to Ålesund from (June-October), remember that the ship should stop in Ålesund twice. It may briefly stop once before visiting a fjord and once again afterwards. When booking, make sure to double-check the route and select the trip with your itinerary of choice. The passenger ID card you will receive when checking in will have your ship “check out” time written down.
As a side note, it’s pretty amazing to know that a trip from Bergen to Ålesund does not go up in price if you opt in for the fjord tour.
7. Stock Up on Instant Food
To say that food on board Hurtigruten cruise ships is expensive would a bit of an understatement. With breakfast starting at $23 USD, eating full-on meals on the ship just wasn’t in my budget. My solution? I stocked up on quite a bit of snacks and instant food prior to boarding. Since I wouldn’t have access to a kitchen, instant oatmeal and noodles were my go-to hot meals for the next 24 hours. All I needed to kindly ask for was hot water. I also brought cookies and tea bags.
8. Consider Bringing Something to Tackle Sea Sickness
I swear I don’t get sea sick, but that didn’t mean that I was completely immune to the effects of the North Atlantic’s wild nighttime waves. After a couple of hours of rocking back and forth, I was really grateful to have some help getting the dizziness to go away. I also discovered that I get some pretty crazy bouts of vertigo post-cruise. Lesson: it’s good to be prepared for the unexpected.
Despite this case of dizziness, I would still go on board Hurtigruten’s coastal cruise time and time again. How could I miss any opportunity to experience those mind-blowing views?
Some final snaps from Urke.
I called to the sheep. They answered. The did not sound pleased.
Alright. Now that we’re approaching the end of this travel hack-filled post, it’s time for the credits. A dear friend and fellow traveller shared a handful of the money-saving strategies described in this post with me prior to my trip. So here’s a huge shout and THANK YOU to Electric Blue Food. She did her Hurtigruten trip all the way back in 2009 and suggested skipping the cabin and booking in Norwegian. I simply put her tips into practice to see if they still held true. And they did! Again, thank you!
Overall, Norway is an expensive country to travel in. However, it’s also a remarkable one to explore. If you have your heart set on visiting this Scandinavian country, I hope the budgeting tips will help you make that dream Norway trip a reality! Have further questions? Feel free to ask!
Have you been to Norway? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
Are you on a mission to travel for less?
Check out some of my other budget guides:
The information presented in this post was gathered immediately prior to October 12th, 2017. For current prices, timetables, and itineraries, please visit Hurtigruten’s website.