Cruising towards another record

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Oslo has emerged as a popular cruise port in recent years and the number of vessels calling on the Norwegian capital this summer will set another record. Harbour authorities are expecting 178 ships by the end of the season in September.

Costa is among the cruise operators returning to Oslo this summer, with large vessels that promise more busy days at the cruise terminal below the Akershus Fortress and Castle. PHOTO: Views and News

That compares to a high of 156 ships in the record year of 2006, and means a potential tourist influx in Oslo of 320,000.

They’re in turn expected to spend as much as NOK 450 million in Oslo, although the real economic impact of cruise visitors remains a matter of debate. Since they stay and mostly eat on board their ships, few spend significant amounts in local hotels or restaurants, and Norway’s high prices often mean their souvenir shopping is limited as well.

In western Norway, the local hotel industry has been at odds with the cruise industry, with some hotel owners worrying that tourists are opting to see Norway from the deck of a ship instead of actually staying (and spending) on land. A cruise holiday on foreign-registered ships can be much cheaper than spending the same amount of days on holiday ashore in Norway.

Paal Waage, maritime director for the Oslo harbour authority (Oslo Havn) nonetheless told newspaper Aften recently that he thinks the cruise visitors “mean a lot” for the city’s tourism industry.

“This year we’ll have well over 300,000 of them in the city, and most will use money on souvenirs, food and drink,” Waage said. Oslo Havn estimates that the average cruise visitor will spend NOK 1,500 (nearly USD 300) during their day in town, on sightseeing tours, shopping or sustenance.

“The interest for cruising in Northern Europe has grown,” Waage told Aften. “Many people choose the Caribbean in the winter but come to Northern Europe in the summer. And Oslo has many attractions.” The city’s waterfront Opera House has become a major tourist destination along with the Frogner Park, the new ski jump at Holmenkollen and the Viking Ship museum.

Waage noted that Oslo is also a unique cruise destination since ships can berth in or quite close to the heart of town, allowing their passengers to simply walk off the ship and start wandering on their own.

The future also looks promising, reports Aften. Oslo Havn has already recorded more berth bookings for next year, meaning the capital can expect yet another record in 2012.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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