Oslo cruises to new record year

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The global financial crisis hasn’t cut into the number of cruise calls expected by Oslo port officials this season, at least not yet. Large, luxury vessels are tying up almost every day and port officials report the number is up more than 10 percent over last year.

“We’ll have a new record again,” Margrethe Austad of Oslo Havn KF told newspaper Aften recently. A total of 152 cruiseship berthings are expected in the capital this season, up from 138 last year, which was a record of its own.

All told, that’s expected to bring around 260,000 cruise passengers into town. They don’t generate as much tourism revenue as other visitors who stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants, but tourism officials welcome them just the same.

“For one thing, they can be good ambassadors because they take their experiences home with them and share them,” said Tor Sannerud of the local Oslo tourism office. “They also mean a lot for local museums, boosting the total number of museum visits by as much as a half-million.”

Bergen and Geiranger are also major cruise destinations in Norway and they’re reporting strong seasons as well. Oslo, however, can claim more cruise passengers because the capital can accommodate the largest ships like the Emerald Princess , which is due to visit Oslo five times by the end of June.

Norway’s own coastal voyage passenger line Hurtigruten, however, is struggling with a decline in bookings during the important summer cruise season. The line, which cruises along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes, reported a 10 percent fall in bookings from May to August. The biggest declines came from the American, German and French passenger markets.

Hurtigruten, with departures from Bergen every day, hopes to boost bookings by cutting fares and attracting more Norwegian passengers. The company lost NOK 132.5 million in the first quarter and has cut staff and outsourced its reservations division to Tallinn in an effort to pare costs.