My favorite thing to do at a cruise ship port is simple: get off the ship and explore by foot, checking out the port's museums, cafes, and other attractions. That strategy wasn't going to work in Geiranger. The village's population is about 250 people, and the main attractions are gift shops and restaurants crammed with fellow cruise ship passengers. The best thing to do on your port stop is to get out of town and explore the surrounding mountains, fjords, and waterfalls—the Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the region is considered to be one of the most scenic areas of Norway.
Getting off the ship: Since Geiranger is a popular port, there will likely be more than one ship in port. One ship can use the sea pier (basically a very long floating walkway), while the others will need to rely on tenders to transport passengers to shore. Either way, you will disembark right in the center of town by the tourist information office (TI).
What to do:
Instead of relying on overpriced cruise ship-sponsored excursions, book your own: Geiranger Fjordservice offers a variety of options at reasonable prices. If you book two activities, you get 10% off the second activity, so be sure to book the cheaper activity first. Give yourself 30 minutes between activities so that you have enough time to get from one to the other (since Geiranger is so small, that should be more than enough time).
We started with the mountain highlight bus trip to Mt. Dalsnibba, which took about two hours. While I'm not a fan of tour buses in general, the drive to the top of the mountain was incredible, with views of the harbor, waterfalls gently tumbling down the mountainside, and sod-roofed farmsteads. Recorded English narration provided some information about the sights along the route.
The view from the top of Mt. Dalsnibba was underwhelming to say the least—since the peak was completely enshrouded in clouds, about the only thing to see was a crowded parking lot of tour buses and a very long line for the bathroom (I eventually gave up). However, the trip was more than worth it for scenery en route, and thanks to the harrowing switchback turns you could not have paid me enough to do the drive myself.
After a quick lunch (I grabbed a skoleboller from the bakery and then went shopping while Mike went back to the ship to eat at the buffet), we took our second Geiranger Fjordservice excursion, the 60-minute Signa Tour Cruise (our specific tour is no longer available; the 48-passenger boat we took has been replaced with a larger catamaran). Although we had already seen the iconic Seven Sisters, Suitor, and Bridal Veil waterfalls on our way into port, seeing them from a more intimate perspective was truly transcendent.
Our port stop in Geiranger was brief (only 6 1/2 hours) but if you had more time, you could visit the Norwegian Fjord Center, which features exhibits explaining how the fjords were created, the area's biological diversity, and the local culture.
If the boat cruise and bus trip above look interesting, Geiranger Fjordservice also offers a 90-minute Fjordsightseeing cruise on the 165-passenger M/S Geirangerfjord and a panoramic bus tour to the Eagle Bend viewpoint. Other Geiranger Fjordservice excursions include RIB tours, electric car tours, and guided kayak tours.
The takeaway: Make sure to book some excursions outside of Geiranger to see the incredible scenery. While there's no need to rely on cruise ship excursions, you do need to make your plans early—our bus trip and boat cruise were nearly sold out for our port date in August when I booked in May.
As our bus trip to the top of Mt. Dalsnibba proves, sometimes it really is about the journey. And most importantly? I love fjords.
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