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BEFORE YOU CRUISE

Start Your Europe Cruise with Kayaking on Norwegian Fjords

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photo: NJORD

Norway’s deep and still fjords and sheer cliffs make it a kayaker’s favorite destination, and a cruise traveler’s too. Because fjords are carved by glacial activity, they are characteristically deeper than the surrounding waters, making them navigable by larger vessels such as cruise ships.

If you are just starting to plan a Europe cruise, you may want to put Norway on the top of your list.

Norway is famous for its haunting landscapes that stir the soul. Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen, a stone’s throw from the majestic fjords.

Norway’s glacial-carved landscapes are one of the world’s most recognized and postcard-worthy. A Scandinavian or Northern Europe cruise is the best possible way to cover a lot of ground in a limited timeframe. Norway alone has 34 ports of call, and any one of the requisite layovers would bring outdoor enthusiasts’ within an arm’s length to kayaking.

Kayaks were originally built so hunters could explore slivers of water and stalk their prey unnoticed. By extension, kayaks enable nature lovers to enjoy stunning views without the intrusive roar of engines, and really get up close to wildlife without giving away their presence. Fjord sightseeing is without doubt one of the most popular offshore activities – the typical set-up of boarding a party of passengers in a motorized boat is not conducive to a nature lover longing for quiet reflection. For cruise travelers whose natural element is water, kayaking is but a natural progression to get into that zone.

Norway is best suited to kayaking for travelers who are short of time because some of its ports of call are right on the fjords: Bergen and Lofoten are just some of the more popular.

Bergen, for example, is not only moments away from the fjord region, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site on land. At sea, the Geirangerfjord (another port of call) takes the title with its majestic hairpin bends and thousand-foot waterfalls right on the side of the cliffs. Lofoten is considered one of the oldest, as it was carved during the Ice Age. Kayak rentals and shops abound in the area, as well as quick tutorials for the uninitiated. Layovers of 8 hours allow kayaking novices to take a crash course and apply their newfound skills right away. Kayaks are generally easy to handle in predictable waters, and the placid fjords are ideal training grounds for beginners.

Travelers stopping over for a few hours in Bergen may want to explore the Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord, the two arms of the dramatic and UNESCO-protected Sognefjord.

To see what fjords were like before people settled in, find a Europe cruise itinerary that stops over at Lofoten. Many kayakers consider this part of Norway cut off from civilization and pristine, rugged, haunting and beautiful. Trollfjord, Risvær and Sandsoyan are ideal for 7-8 hour kayak trips, although travelers can arrange 4-hour trips if layovers are shorter.

Norwegian cruise season is brief. Ships start coming in May and leave in September before long winter nights blanket the region. This only gives cruise travelers a brief window of kayaking opportunity during the hottest months of July and August. But it is also during these months that they can schedule kayaking when the sun is at its brightest, and relegate other land-based activities until the sun sets, which in this latitude, is 10 o’clock at night.

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