What Norwegians Think Of Cruise Ship Tourism

If you’re arriving in Norway by cruise ships, odds are that you’re going to be greeted by anti-cruising posters that will say something along the lines of “Cruise ship tourists go home” (or something more graphic). These are pretty common in most big cruise ship ports all over Europe, and Norway is no different.

But does this reflect the sentiment of the Norwegian people, and what do regular Norwegians think of cruise ship tourism?

Cruise ship tourism is highly controversial in Norway, and many Norwegians dislike or even hate the industry. Many feel that it contributes little or nothing to the local economy, while also having a big negative impact on the local environment.

A cruise ship in Flåm
A cruise ship in Flåm. Photo published with permission.

Most don’t go as far as directly supporting the anti-cruise posters found at the ports, but rather think it’s an overall bad thing for the local towns and villages to get crowded with cruise ships all summer long.

We’re going to be taking a closer look at what most Norwegians feel about cruise ship tourism in this post, so keep on reading to learn all the details about why people feel this way!

This article obviously won’t speak on behalf of all Norwegian people. We are after all a country full of individuals with different opinions. But I have tried my best to capture the arguments and feeling that I’ve heard from people after discussion this issue countless times with different people.

A cruise ship at Port of Oslo
A cruise ship at Port of Oslo with Akershus Castle in the background. Photo published with permission.

Why many Norwegians vigorously oppose cruise ship tourism

There’s a number of different arguments being made by Norwegians who oppose the cruise ship tourism, but the main two bullet points is that the cruise ship tourists put a lot of strain on the local areas they visit, while leaving little to no money behind for local businesses and local taxes.

In other words, many people feel like they take more than they contribute to the local economy. However, there’s also a lot of different arguments used by anti-cruisers.

Some of the most common arguments I hear when Norwegians are discussing why they dislike cruise ship tourism are the following:

  • Cruise ships are terrible for the environment, contribution with both a very high local pollution, as well as being a big contributor to carbon emissions. The emission discussion will likely be very changed once the new ban to fossil fuel based cruise ships in Norwegian fjords begin.
  • Cruise ship tourist spend very little money at local businesses when docked. They do leave some money at local bars and restaurants, but spend on average much less than non-cruise tourists.
  • Cruise ship tourists often have a high impact on the local health services, reducing capacity for local residents. This has caused issues at certain ports like in Longyearbyen where medical services are limited.
  • Many people dislike seeing the huge cruise ships in the fjord, blocking the otherwise pristine view.
  • Cruise ship docks often own pristine ocean view real estate that people would prefer to be used on other things such as restaurants, parks, cafés, public swimming areas and so on.
  • Cruise ship pay very little or no taxes to the local municipalities, while at the same time putting a lot of extra strain on them. The local municipality often need to spend money on cleaning up, providing toilets, getting rid of waste, provide medical services, and do general maintenance.
  • Many cruise ships are known to treat their employees poorly, and offer nowhere close to a living wage by Norwegian standard. Many people feel that it’s putting Norwegian businesses at an disadvantage since the cruise ships can hire staff such as tour guides for much cheaper than regular Norwegian businesses.
  • The cruise ships themselves are owned by foreign companies in tax havens.
Cruise ships in Geiranger
Cruise ships in Geiranger. Photo published with permission.

But some Norwegians like it

Despite the fact that many Norwegians are opposed of the cruise ship tourism, there’s obviously a lot of people who don’t care or that like it.

The matter of fact is that while cruise ship tourists leave much less money behind compared to non-cruise tourists, they do still provide some businesses with a lot of extra revenue. Many businesses close to cruise ship ports are entirely reliant on cruise ship tourism, and fear going bankrupt if the local government decides to reduce the number of cruise ships in the region.

Don’t hate the player, hate the cruise ship game

Despite the fact that the majority of Norwegians are against the huge cruise ships that debark at small Norwegian villages, you’re not going to be treated badly as a cruise tourist because of this. Most people are polite towards cruise tourists, and don’t hold a grudge against the tourists personally, but rather towards the cruise ship lines themselves.

So don’t feel like you can’t tell people that you arrived by cruise ship if you’re coming to Norway, because people are still going to treat you the same way as they would to regular tourists.

Cruise ship at Drøbaksundet close to Oslo.
Cruise ship at Drøbaksundet close to Oslo.

Small idyllic Norwegian village, or a theme park?

If you’re coming to Norway on a cruise ship, it’s worth mentioning that many people feel like the destinations are almost like a “Disneyland experience”. The “authentic Norwegian villages” are not really real villages at all, but rather a tourist destination where every single shop, restaurant and attraction are aimed at making the most money off tourists.

For instance, Flåm has roughly 350 people living there, but over 1.5 million tourists stop by the small village yearly!

This means that pretty much over 99 % of the people you meet in Flåm are either tourists or seasonal workers, and the entire village is completely tailored towards a tourism journey, and is in no way an authentic Norwegian town.

This will be very clearly seen by the fact that signs are in English, and more rarely in Norwegian. The shops you will find there are all aimed at selling typical tourist souvenirs, and rarely sell things that you will actually see Norwegians buy for themselves.

While I would still argue that Flåm is a great place to visit, I also think it’s important to keep in mind that the huge number of both cruise ship tourists and regular tourists really make for a special atmosphere in these places, so it’s not going to get you anything close to an authentic Norwegian experience.

Flåm. Photo by Richard Mortel / CC BY 2.0.

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