Cruising the Norwegian Fjords Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas
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For those loyal to Royal and looking to check the Norwegian Fjords off their bucket list, a seven-day sailing with Royal Caribbean on Anthem of the Seas is the perfect option for experiencing the beauty of Norway while enjoying exciting cruise activities.
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Royal Caribbean has placed Anthem of the Seas on their Norwegian Fjord itinerary each summer out of Southampton for the past few years. Anthem is a Quantum-class ship, which is a Royal Caribbean ship class that is newer and a bit more geared towards adult guests (though still a great, family-friendly option despite having no water slides).
For those looking for tips and tricks regarding planning and Royal Caribbean cruising expectations in general, you can find my full guide to Royal Caribbean tips and tricks here.
What to know when cruising to Norway
Norway is one of the most stunning locations in the world, with an absolutely fascinating culture and history. Cash is almost completely obsolete, so there is no need to order Krone from the bank before your trip (unless you want to tip any tour guides in local currency, though they also accept American currency). Everywhere (truly everywhere, no matter how small) uses ApplePay, Samsung Pay, or credit/debit card tap features. Do prepare for a bit of sticker shock regarding prices depending on where your travel may originate, as Norway is considered fairly expensive. Royal Caribbean ships will have local government officials on board the last day in Norway who can process VAT refunds for those interested.
Be aware that rules in Norway are very strict and always followed, so keep that in mind in terms of any contraband items or local laws (i.e., illicit substances, speeding, drone usage, etc.). In return for such strict regulations and adherence, the landscapes and infrastructure are pristine and considered extremely safe.
When beginning the process of planning your shore excursions, take note of your arrival and departure times at each port. For example, some sailings may arrive pre-dawn into Geirangerfjord (by 7:00 am), while others may arrive around mid-day. These arrival and departure time changes might affect which excursions (and their order) are recommended below.
Day 1: Embark in Southampton
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Stavanger
Day 4: Olden
Day 5: Geiranger
Day 6: Haugesund
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Disembark in Southampton
For more information about cruising out of Southampton, please see my separate guide, a Pre-Cruise Guide to Southampton, UK.
The third largest city in Norway (and one of the oldest) is a lovely historical stop and a great starting point for Norway. The preserved wooden white cottages of the 18th and 19th century Gamle neighborhood are the first things you will see when the ship docks. The city is very pedestrian-friendly and has lovely shops along the waterfront and Kirkegata Road to wander along. Husfliden Stavanger can be found on this shopping street and is an authentic purveyor of Bunad (traditional Norwegian costumes - vaguely think Anna’s dress in Frozen). Consider making reservations for lunch at Fisketorget on the waterfront for an authentic Norwegian meal at one of Norway’s top fish restaurants.
For those looking for excursions, hiking to the top of Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) is an amazing, strenuous activity (but keep your fingers crossed for good weather). However, booking through the cruise line is recommended due to the length of the excursion.
A slightly less strenuous way to see the fjords and Pulpit Rock is to take a Lysefjord cruise (or RIB boat excursion). Lysefjord cruises depart just a few steps from where the cruise ship will dock, which makes booking this as an independent excursion quite easy and saves a few dollars (or if the excursion is already sold out on the ship).
Located within Norway’s Nordfjord, Olden is a gorgeous, quaint town with plenty to offer regarding excursions. Since Olden is so small, it is very easy to book and access independent excursions through Olden Adventure which saves money and allows for slightly smaller groups).
Hiking Briskdal Glacier is a great walk through and past waterfalls, toadstools, foliage, and the glacier itself. The earlier you are able to depart for the hike, the better in terms of avoiding crowds. While this is not a difficult hike, it has significant uphill portions, and sturdy shoes (as well as rain gear) are recommended.
Another option (or in addition to the hike) is the Loen Skylift, which can again be easily booked independently of the cruise line, again through Olden Adventure. The Loen Skylift has a beautiful, birdseye view of the entire fjord and surrounding area, with a full restaurant and shop at the top for a bite to eat or drink. This excursion does not require any physical activity other than catching the bus (included in your ticket price) to the base of the lift and riding one of the two gondolas to the top (which are aptly named Hugin and Munin after the god Odin’s ravens).
Ensure you are on deck (or your cabin balcony if facing the pier) for the sailaway sendoff from Olden. The few locals living in the tiny town will wave goodbye in a memorable sendoff.
The sail into and out of Geirangerfjord is the absolute pinnacle of the trip! Keep your ears peeled for the Captain’s announcement the day before, as they will tell you when the ship is expected to physically enter Geirangerfjord. Consider packing a travel blanket (and ordering pre-scheduled room service coffee) and walking up early in the morning to watch the ship sail into the fjord. If the ship arrives early in the morning, then upon departure, it will make a 360° spin in front of the Seven Sisters (and Suitor) waterfalls, which is not to be missed. If the ship arrives in Geiranger midday, the 360° spin will be done upon arrival in Geiranger (instead of departure).
Geiranger is another very small town that is easily walkable (and excursions are all within steps of disembarking the ship). If caffeine is needed to start your adventure, make your first stop at CaféOlé for an espresso and svele with all the fixings (svele are a Norwegian form of pancake that usually comes room temperature with cream cheese and/or jam and a sweet brown cheese).
Instead of taking the official cruise excursion via bus to Mt. Dalsnibba’s summit, book a two-seater electric vehicle through eMobility and drive yourself to the top. Then enjoy a leisurely route back down the mountain, stopping wherever may interest you. Make sure to purchase some kanelsnurrer (cinnamon buns) from the shop at the summit for the adventure downhill.
With an early enough start, it is possible to fit both the drive to Mt. Dalsnibba and a RIB excursion through Geirangerfjord (again booked independently through Fjord Guiding as you will end up on the same boats as the official excursion-goers). Since the RIB boats go quite fast, plus the addition of wind, book for midday when the sun is likely on the water and temperatures are warmest.
When hunger strikes, grab a delicious fried fish cake on flatbread at Fiskekaka.
Haugesund, a main shipping hub for Norway, is a little less pedestrian-accessible (and a bit more industrial) than the other stops. Due to the length of the excursion, consider booking the Akrafjord and Langfoss Waterfall excursion through the cruise line. While it entails an hour-plus bus ride in each direction, the guides explain more about Norwegian culture, government, and everyday life than any other port stops. Half the group will start with a boat ride on Akrafjord, going right up to Langfoss Waterfall (and even allowing guests to drink water from the waterfall). The other half of the tour group will have a leisurely lunch, including some Norwegian specialties (including svele, as I mentioned above) before the groups swap and head back to Haugesund.
Weather in Norway can be quite fickle, so it is highly recommended to pack for every eventuality (as space allows). Spring and fall temperatures are generally colder and necessitate winter coats, hats, gloves, and layers. Bringing coats, hats, gloves, and layers in summer is still recommended, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Regardless of whether you are sailing in spring, summer, or fall, plan for rain by bringing a rain jacket, boots, umbrella, and waterproof backpack. Similarly to an Alaska cruise, the weather changes on a dime in Norway, so plan for all weather types when you set out each morning.
Despite the season and temperatures, do not forget to bring a bathing suit and flip-flops, as Anthem of the Seas has an indoor pool and hot tubs, and the weather may just surprise you! Our sailing in early September had temperatures in the mid to high 70s° F in Southampton, the North Sea, and even in Norway itself.
On a Norwegian cruise, Anthem of the Seas attire is very casual, even more so than the usual Royal Caribbean cruise. There are no formal evenings on the schedule and few theme nights, so do not feel the need to bring anything fancy along for evenings on the ship, as most will be dressed warmly and casually.
iFly Skydiving Simulator - Skydiving on a cruise ship, who would have thought that would be possible? Recommended to book ahead on the cruise planner prior to departure, as the reservations tend to sell out weeks in advance.
SeaPlex - The SeaPlex is a great multi-use space on Quantum-class ships that includes an indoor sports court, bumper cards, video games area, and even roller skating! Activities can be reserved onboard the ship via the Royal Caribbean app.
North Star - Free reservations open via the app at 8 p.m. the evening before each port day. The best time to enjoy the experience is when the ship is docked in either Olden or Geiranger, as the views are stunning. For the paid full, extended experience, pre-booking North Star reservations via the Cruise Planner is necessary weeks before the cruise, as they always sell out before embarking.
Music Hall - A great venue for music, live band karaoke, trivia, and more.
Casino Royale - Perhaps not the most updated slot machines in the fleet, but the casino is not open as much as Caribbean cruises due to the time it takes to get into international waters when navigating the fjords of Norway.
Two70 - This large venue at the aft of the ship has 270° of floor-to-ceiling windows and is the site of Spectra’s Cabaret. Note that Spectra’s Cabaret is the only entertainment that can be (and should be) booked in advance of the cruise via the Cruise Planner website.
Royal Theatre - Anthem of the Seas hosts the West End hit We Will Rock You, which is a funny rock musical perfect for a post-dinner evening out on the ship.
Royal Caribbean standbys also on Anthem of the Seas - Vitality Spa, FlowRider, Rock Climbing Wall
Dining on the Ship
Cafe 270° - Similar to Park Cafe on Oasis-class ships, Cafe 270° is a convenient option for a quick breakfast or lunch, including sandwiches, salads, drinks, etc.
SeaPlex Doghouse - Included in the cruise fare and has various choices of hot dogs and sausages for grab-and-go dining.
Johnny Rockets - On Anthem, Johnny Rockets is more of a fast food/grab-and-go setup, though at an extra cost.
Specialty Dining - Consider paying extra on an evening or two for a lovely dinner at one of the fabulous specialty dining locations onboard: Chops Grille, Chef’s Table, Izumi, Wonderland, Jamie’s Italian.
Coastal Kitchen* - A lovely, upscale dining for those booked in Junior Suites and above.
Windjammer - Included in your cruise fare and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Note that it also has nightly themes at dinner.
Main Dining Room (The Grande, Chic, Silk, or American Icon) - All four have the same menu and are included in your cruise fare.
Solarium Bistro - Included in the cruise fare, an easy alternate option to the Windjammer for those who already find themselves forward on the upper ship decks near the Solarium.
Bars on Anthem of the Seas
Boleros - This location is perfect for festive music, specialty cocktails trending toward rum-based, and a great vibe.
Brass & Bock - The staple English pub on all Royal Caribbean ships. However, on Anthem, food is served at certain times of the day, and pub trivia is hosted nightly.
Schooner Bar - Another staple of Royal Caribbean ships, with the largest bar selection. Nightly piano bar performances, daily trivia, and many other activities will be held at this happening location.
Vintages - A lovely, laidback vibe makes the wine bar Vintages a great place to have a pre-dinner drink or catch up on the day with friends and family.
Other mainstay Royal Caribbean bars on Anthem of the Seas - Music Hall, Casino Royale, Bionic Bar, Suite Lounge* (for Grand Suite and above guests only), Crown Lounge* (for Crown and Anchor Diamond status guests and above only), Solarium, Pool Bar, Sky Bar, North Star Bar.
Need to Know
This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Norway. In need of further inspiration? Check out Alexander Avigdor’s guide, Oh for Fjords Sake – The Best Summer Itinerary for 14 days in Norway.
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