Day 5 of our Norwegian Fjords cruise aboard the Disney Magic was supposed to be our port day in Geiranger, Norway. However, as you might’ve read at the end of our Day 4 cruise report, we were unable to dock there due to high winds. Due to Geiranger’s small size, a floating “Sea Walk” dock is used there, and the captain deemed it too windy to dock.
This was pretty controversial among guests aboard our cruise. We heard a lot of second-guessing of this decision, particularly after we cruised past the port area, and a Holland America ship was there. That was exacerbated by the fact that a couple of the excursion outfitters initially indicated to some other guests they might deny refunds on the technicality that we were not “unable” to dock, but rather, our captain “chose” not to dock. Supposedly, it was a judgment call of the captain, and authorities in Geiranger would’ve been willing to use the Sea Walk.
At this point, I probably should make a disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a cruise ship captain. I know, you might find this unfathomable. Surely in my free time between blog posts, I could’ve taken up the hobby. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet…
I know the internet is the place where everyone is an expert about everything, and baseless opinions should be offered without restraint (and I certainly do plenty of that!). However, it takes me a mnemonic device just to remember which side is port and starboard, so I’m really out of my element here.
Part of the frustration among guests probably stems from the fact that the announcement we wouldn’t be stopping in Geiranger was made at ~10 p.m. the night before, and on the basis of wind. Now, I’m no meteorologist (you’re learning so much about me today), but I’d assume wind forecasts are just like any other weather: subject to uncertainty and change. It did turn out to be very windy the following morning, but still.
It stinks that we were unable to stop in Geiranger, but I have a difficult time getting upset at the captain (or anyone else) for the judgment call not to stop. The Holland America ship (supposedly) brought its own tender boats, which we did not have.
The officials in Geiranger are likely going to be less risk-averse when it comes to allowing use of the Sea Walk–their city is highly dependent upon tourism. Moreover, if the worst were to happen, the media is not going to make it a story about negligence of some port authority in Norway–it’s going to be about Disney‘s mistake.
I also don’t think there are any nefarious motives on the part of Disney Cruise Line. Guest satisfaction likely dropped by virtue of failing to stop in Geiranger–irrespective of the reason–and I suspect Disney does not have any profit motivations for keeping guests on the boat. If anything, it seems like they’d lose out on Port Adventure markup, going through more food, and impromptu entertainment.
There are some scenarios in which I think Disney pays face to the importance of its “Four Keys” philosophy (Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency), but in this situation, I’m inclined to believe the captain was erring on the side of safety in making the decision.
Perhaps I’m giving Disney Cruise Line too much deference, but sometimes, a bad situation is just a bad situation, and there’s no one to “blame” for it.
Before we get into the anecdotal portion of the day’s report, I’ll share some planning info for Geiranger. Based upon our research, the main thing to do in Geiranger was get back out on the water to get up close to waterfalls and go into narrower areas of the fjord.
The two main options, from what we saw, were kayak tours/rentals or RIB tours. We planned upon doing a kayak rental because that looked like the cheapest option, but had not booked this in advance for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of the reviews indicated the rental companies would just cancel on you if they were able to fill their slots with official excursions booked through the cruise companies. Second, our top (morning) priority was hiking, and we weren’t sure when we’d be done with that.
The hike we planned on doing was the Storsæterfossen waterfall hike, which takes you past the “backside of water.” If you’re thinking of doing the hike, here’s a detailed report on it. Some other reports indicate this takes you past a cool farm and (potentially) goats, making it a must-do as far as I’m concerned.
There were a handful of museums and other options in Geiranger, but nothing else that really piqued our interest. From our research, the highlight of Geiranger was the fjord, not the quaint village/town. To be perfectly honest, this was probably the port I was least enthused about before the trip.
I was really looking forward to the hike, and also eating some Norwegian waffles, but the most exciting aspect of this day was the cruise through Geirangerfjord. Pretty much everything I read about Geiranger highlighted the fjord, not the port.
The good news was that in lieu of stopping in Geiranger, we were going to due an extended cruise through Geirangerfjord, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, that morning. The cruise director had informed us that we’d start passing Geirangerfjord’s famed waterfalls at around 8:30 a.m.
Based on previous reports I had read, Geiranger day is normally when everyone gets up early to watch the ship navigate through the narrow fjord before arriving into port.
These seemed to indicate 5 a.m. was a good time to get up to start watching, and that it would be crowded even then.
So, I was up on the deck at 5 a.m…along with maybe 5 other guests?
I suspect the captain’s announcement of the highlights occurring much later, coupled with the general disappointment that we were not stopping, had led to most people sleeping in.
When I got up there, the wind was absolutely brutal (nearly my entire coffee “jumped” out of my cup before I put the lid on it). The wind had been/was so bad that everything was tied down.
I was really glad to have my suitcase back at this point, because I had packed for a veritable arctic expedition. I bundled up, and sat at the rail on the forward side of the ship, watching for a while. In a couple of hours, this same spot (below) would be elbow to elbow with people, so it was nice to enjoy it in relative solitude.
I think I mentioned it before, but packing a waterproof & windproof outer layer, an insulating layer (think a down jacket), and a moisture-wicking base layer is essential for a cruise like this.
My recommendation for the outer layer is something GORE-TEX. It can be very expensive, but it’s made to last, and most brands that use GORE-TEX have generous repair policies. (I had my last GORE-TEX jacket for ~10 years and sent it in to have holes repaired twice…before I was finally “advised” that it looked “very 1990s.”)
Presumably, the same outerwear recommendations apply to Alaskan cruises and other European itineraries.
Even if the weather report does not dictate all of those layers, remember that the ship is moving and you’ll potentially be up early/late to watch port arrivals.
At some point (fairly early), the crew brought out pastries, hot chocolate, and coffee.
Despite the circumstances, most guests we encountered that morning seemed to be in a pretty good mood. Even with the disappointment of not docking in Geiranger, I think the landscape we were passing was enough to lift our collective spirits.
Sarah joined me an hour or so later, and the deck was starting to get more crowded. It was also getting progressively better. The folks who opted to sleep in definitely made the right decision, as things didn’t start getting really good until about 7 a.m.
This scenic cruise was exceptional. We passed all of the famous waterfalls, De syv søstrene (“the Seven Sisters”), Friaren (“the Suitor”), and Brudesløret (“the Bridal Veil”), and had some exceptional weather as we did.
Aside from the luck we had for a fleeting period up at the Path of Trolls, the entire trip had been overcast up until this point. We weren’t exactly disappointed as we knew there was a high probability of overcast weather and drizzle in Norway.
Really, the biggest negative of overcast weather is in terms of photos. In person, this still looks (mostly) spectacular; I think it’s easier for your eyes for focus on the elements that are stunning regardless, or maybe you just mentally block out the sky (or maybe I’m the only one who feels this way and you’re scratching your heads at what on earth I’m talking about).
In any case, the conditions were perfectly photogenic this particular morning, and the cruise through Geirangerfjord was one stunning sight after another. I don’t want to say that we were not disappointed that we didn’t dock in Geiranger (I definitely would’ve preferred that), but the extended cruise was a nice consolation prize. It also reinforced our desire to do the Alaska cruise, as others around us kept comparing the fjord to Tracy Arm. On Page 2, we’ll share more from our Geirangerfjord cruise/impromptu day at sea, I’ll share thoughts on Frozen’s Norwegian roots, our Alaskan cruise decision, and more!