Large numbers of cruise ships visit Flåm each year, often two a day in the peak summer season. While the souvenir shops, the Flåm Railway and other businesses together with the local community benefit from this not everyone is so happy. Environmentalists, in particular, are aghast at the (potential) pollution issues, both here in the upper reaches of Aurlandfjord and in the fjord system more generally.
From my perspective, and that of many other travellers, there are pluses and minuses.
On the plus side I cannot deny that these massive ships are a majestic sight, especially when moored right in the centre of the village where they dwarf the entire village centre and indeed take on the surrounding mountains! Additionally, perhaps many of the facilities that exist, for everyone, would not exist were it not for business generated from the cruise ships here.
On the other hand, when the ships discharge their thousands of passengers into the tiny village it makes for anything other than a restful time for everyone else.
Facilities are stretched to the limit – the Flåmsbana/Flåm Railway is packed and there are long queues to buy tickets (if any are available at all), shops and the tourist office are packed and inland day trips fill up fast as does the popular Ægir Brewery and Pub. There is less of an issue in regard to food outlets as the cruise passengers tend to eat aboard their ships.
I don’t want it to sound like I am selfish here or hate cruise ships. While not my preferred option for a holiday, they certainly have a role to play in the travel industry and indeed within a year of visiting Flam I was on a cruise ship in the South Pacific.
The purpose of this review is to warn you, or more alert you to the fact, that you will almost invariably encounter one of more of them in this beautiful area and to ask that you try and plan around them, in so far as you can. The Aurland Harbour people publish a list of planned arrivals on an annual basis – this can be seen on their website, with the 2018 listing located here – http://aurlandhavn.no/cruise-2/ship-arrivals-2018/. Very usefully, this list includes the number of passengers expected on each ship. This ranges from a few hundred to over four thousand.
While it may be impossible to plan your trip around the cruise ships, at least to be forewarned of what to expect is to be forearmed.
We were lucky on our first day there as there were no cruise ships in port. On the second day there were two – the MSC Orchestra and the Empress with a combined passenger compliment of 4550, making it one of the busiest days of 2015. Thankfully we had taken the Flåm Railway on day one.
Finally, when planning your visit to Flåm, I implore you to spend at least one night here such that you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful area without the hustle and bustle inevitably caused by thousands of day trippers be they from the cruise ships or the scores of buses that also arrive on a daily basis.