Norwegian Fjords Disney Cruise Line Report – Day 3
Day 3 of our Norwegian Fjords cruise aboard the Disney Magic had our first port stop, in Stavanger, Norway (click here to read our report on day 2). I’m going to do this installment of the cruise report a bit differently, with mostly planning-oriented info regarding port recommendations, followed by our anecdotal account of what happened. (This is to make things easier for me when I compile this all into a Norway Disney Cruise Line Planning Guide.)
Before we start into that, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about our port days. One thing that gave pause about doing Norway with Disney Cruise Line was the time in each port. When traveling, I like to burn the candle at both ends, and be in control of my own destiny. Usually, this means being up for sunrise, sunset, and night photography.
No matter how we toured Norway (in the summer at least), being up for all of those things would not be possible–it’d mean 2-3 hours of sleep per night! However, the windows of port time would be tested by our plan for Stavanger. There were a few things I wanted to do in Stavanger, and not enough time to do them all…
Stavanger is a fascinating city because it has a rich history with commercial fishing, but has transformed in the last ~50 years to become Europe’s oil and energy capital.
In 1969, the first Norwegian oil field was discovered at Ekofisk south in the North Sea, which made the Stavanger region a key player in the Norwegian economy. The oil industry in the region has made locals and Norway quite wealthy in the process (Norway’s wealth management and fiscal policies are themselves fascinating, albeit beyond the scope of this report).
Today, Stavanger seems to be a blend of old and new, with a small town university feel and also features modern and old world charm. It’s a town we would’ve visited on the Norway in a Nutshell tour, too.
There would be no sleeping in this particular morning. I was up at 5:30 a.m., and quickly got ready before heading up to the top deck to watch the ship arrive into Stavanger.
I expected a large crowd for this, but there were only a handful of other guests up this early. My gain, I suppose.
We saw a lot of rocky islands like this, and I was always on the lookout for puffins when we cruised past. Spoiler: we saw 0 puffins over the course of the entire trip.
Oh well, guess that means we have to go back to Norway…
As with many of these port cities in Norway, Stavanger has a compact layout and is easily walkable. For the majority of things you might want to do in port, there’s no need to rent a car, use a taxi, or rely on the various forms of public transportation. There is one notable exception to this, which we’ll cover below.
My top things were the Norwegian Petroleum Museum (yes, really–it sounds really fascinating!), Norwegian Canning Museum, Old Stavanger, and hike to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).
Based upon my research, we could do both museums and Old Stavanger, or Pulpit Rock and nothing else. While the museums sound fascinating, Pulpit Rock was the clear winner for me.
Disney Cruise Line offers a Port Adventure for hiking to Pulpit Rock, but the goal of the Norwegian Fjords cruise for us was to save money over what a non-cruise trip to Norway would cost, so that was out.
Instead, I did some research and found what appeared to be a relatively easy way to do this hike on your own via public transit.
That’s what we ended up doing, and if you’re visiting Stavanger on a future cruise, I’d highly recommend it.
Disney Cruise Line’s Port Adventure is (in my opinion) overpriced for minimal added convenience–you’re paying for peace of mind since they are less likely to leave you if you’re on an “official” Port Adventure.
The threshold question before that, though, is whether hiking to Pulpit Rock is for you. This is a moderately intense, 4.4-mile hike with an elevation gain of ~1,000 feet. There is no scrambling involved, nor is the hike unsafe at any point (aside from the ledge at Pulpit Rock).
Despite Disney Cruise Line requiring guests be 12 years or older, the hike is appropriate for people of all ages who are physically fit to a reasonable degree. You will need hiking shoes, and I’d also recommend athletic attire and a hydration pack.
I’d also recommend a thin, waterproof and windproof jacket (think GORE-TEX). You won’t need any insulating layer because you’ll be on the move.
As far as strategy for getting from the cruise port to the trailhead, we’d recommend purchasing a Tide Ferry & Bus ticket and doing it yourself. With that ticket in hand, be ready to get off the ship 15 minutes before the official ashore time and run to the ferry, which is about 12-15 minutes away.
We were ashore by 7:45 a.m. and the first ferry was at 8 a.m. We literally ran through Stavanger (along with a couple dozen others), and made it onto the ferry at 7:58 a.m. The boat left promptly at 8 a.m. Running was of the essence, and if we were cleared to go ashore just 2 minutes later, we would have missed the ferry.
There was another ferry at 8:40 a.m. that others, including Disney’s Port Adventure, caught, but I think making the 8 a.m. ferry provides a huge advantage.
Not just that 40 minutes, but also in terms of crowds on what can otherwise be a busy (and narrow) path. I’d hazard a guess that we saved over an hour of time of by virtue of catching that first ferry.
From the ferry, Tide has buses that are synchronized, so it’s a simple matter of stepping off the ferry and lining up for the bus. All told, the ferry and bus take around 70 minutes to get you to the Pulpit Rock trailhead. From there, the hike is roughly 4 to 4.5 hours roundtrip (about the same amount of time up as down, albeit less intense down), plus however long you want to spend up at Pulpit Rock.
Due to the above time constraints and transportation schedules, it’s advised that you begin the descent from Pulpit Rock by 12:30 p.m. in order to make the last bus. Tide is one of two bus services operating at the trailhead–if you’re tight on time, you may have to purchase a ticket for the other bus. No big deal.
While we encountered many people on the cruise who fretted about having to turn around before making it to Pulpit Rock, or worried about worst case scenarios involving paying for a taxi from the trailhead to the cruise port.
These hypotheticals are unlikely. You should have an adequate window to make it up there whether you’re on the first or second ferry, so long as you’re in reasonably good shape.
Ultimately, I would highly recommend the hike to Pulpit Rock to anyone visiting Stavanger, Norway. I love to hike, and have done some incredible hikes in the Canadian Rockies, Yosemite National Park, Swiss Alps, and many other locations.
I would put the hike to Pulpit Rock among the top 5 hikes I have ever done. It’s a fun experience, and even though it’ll consume most of your time in Stavanger, the hike is well worth it.
Alright, with that generalized planning info out the way, let’s spice things up with an anecdote about our experience. Joining us (or perhaps we were joining them?) on the hike by Stephen and Tammy Whiting, who has a lot of great posts about cruising on TouringPlans.
We’ve “internet known” Tammy for close to a decade, which probably sounds creepier with air quotes around it, but whatever. (Also–she took many of the photos of Sarah and me in this post, so credit to her for those photos.)
Hiking with them definitely improved the experience. More importantly, it also would’ve helped from a strength in numbers perspective had we encountered Norway’s infamous anorexic polar bears that were featured in Maelstrom.
Frequently, I use “we” and “I” interchangeably on the blog when conveying our/my experiences. If you know English good, you might find this perturbing. (No one ever claimed this was the paramount of the written word.)
When I refer to past hikes above, I mean my experiences. Sarah enjoys hiking and has gone on a few hikes with me, but she’s more casual about it. Details about strenuousness and dangerousness of hikes I do are sometimes omitted when I tell her the stories from my hikes. (Just kidding, dear. 😉 )
I mention this because Sarah and I have different opinions on the strenuousness of the hike to Pulpit Rock. I’d describe it as moderate, whereas she’d describe it as intense. Thankfully, she found a blog that described the hike as “easy” while we were researching the trip. To the badass Norwegian who thinks this hike is easy, I am eternally grateful. I think Sarah would have been discouraged from doing the hike had she read more about its intensity. On Page 2, I’ll share our experience with the hike, its intensity, and the rest of our day in Stavanger and evening back on the Disney Magic.
Great review of the hike. I was one of those running to the ferry for the 8am departure. THe hike was great and I agree that it was great being there early, the hike down was indeed much more packed. I would love to camp up on pulpit one day. I imagine the sunrise would be spectacular from up there.
That’d be awesome, but my worry would be that you wouldn’t even get a sunrise. I’d hazard a guess that they only see a sunrise about 25% of the time or so! (Regardless, it’d be cool.)
“It also “sold” me on cruising as legitimate form of travel, rather than just a leisure vacation on a boat.”
For this reason, I highly recommend a Hawaiian cruise. You can see so many islands in a short time as you cruise between them at night! 🙂
Loving this trip report! Now I’m itching for a Norwegian cruise. 🙂
Tom, found your blog via Facebook. I can’t tell when you published your Norway trip blogs, but I’m interested in the rest of your Norway cruise, as we’re cruising there in August 2017. Thanks for the tips so far!
Part 4 should be out later today. Thanks for reading!
Just in case he does not see this- he was just on this cruise! He was doing some updates on FB while there. Have fun on yours. Tis is our next big adventure I think!
Your experience with the bus is exactly why we hate Disney transportation at the parks. I know a lot of people are all for it, but we’ve had that exact scenario happen more than once and it is infuriating.
Thanks for the info! I want to do the hike but my kids wouldn’t be able to, so my husband would watch them. Would you consider the hike safe for a solo female traveler? Also, would there be an easy place to “meet up” with my family after the hike?
It’s completely safe for a solo female traveler (the path has no dangers and is full of people), and there’s a ‘lodge’ of sorts (it’s pictured in the post) at the trailhead, so it’d be easy for family to meet you there.
I’m really enjoying this trip report. We have family in Southern Norway and it’s been 9 years since we’ve visited. Your pictures are taking me down memory lane (: We have also been looking into doing a Disney cruise, so I was wondering if these ports are always the ones the Norwegian cruise stops at. Thanks!
P.S. The traditional Norwegian dress Minnie is wearing is called a Bunad (boo-nahd)!
Thanks for the info on Minnie’s dress. I had no idea!
The picture of you eating the school bread is my favorite – natural Tom. Way to go Sarah on capturing a picture of Tom that looks natural… not sitting with food, but becoming one with his food.
“Becoming one with my food” is something I do a lot. 😉
Great trip report from Pulpit Rock, happy that Sarah joined you for the hike.
And I love Godt BrÃ¸d! They are more expensive than some other bakeries, but I think it’s great and like to support them when I can. I appreciate that they care about the quality of ingredients, and I LOVE knowing that what I buy was baked in that very bakery over night by professional bakers (sadly not something to take for granted other places).
If puffins are your thing, come and visit us in Maine sometime!
Last year I did a 7 day cruise to the southern Caribbean. I didn’t think I was a cruise person since I like to be an active and independent traveler, but as you point out I now see the convenience of a moving hotel. Every day I did a full excursion or exploration, just using the ship for dinner, recharge, and rest. While others sat around on the boat all day, it is nice to cover multiple places without the hassel of moving or transit.
We did the same–we were among the last 10 people out in port each day of the cruise, and had a really satisfying experience seeing Norway via the cruise. In fact, it was much more satisfying than I imagined it could be.
These trip reports are exactly what I’ve been looking for! We booked the Norway/Iceland cruise next summer for our honeymoon. I’ve had similar concerns about not being able to travel/sightsee. I want to be able to relax, but I don’t want a leisurely vacation! Pulpit Rock is going on our “must do” list for sure. Thank you for all the planning details. I am very much looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip!!
There are plenty of puffins, whales, and icebergs here in Newfoundland!
What insane blogger said that was easy?! I’m with Sarah! I’d definitely go with the intense side of moderate.
Exhaustion aside, it was probably my favorite day of the cruise and the company was top notch! 🙂
Butter Brickles, on Nordic FIRE, with another scorching hot take!
So, no Anorexic polar bears. but between the troll paraphernalia and oil rigs, you have confirmed that at least 2/3 of Maelstrom is a correct representation of Norway!
That looks like a great hike. I wish the weather had been better for you, but the pictures are still pretty.
Is the towel animal Constantine from the muppets?
I’ll definitely have a rant on Maelstrom/Spirit of Norway later in the report, so stay tuned for that (or not).
Lol on the Constantine comment. I think it’s a penguin?
“Now, I had fresh and totally different clothes to wear that evening…like a RED flannel shirt!”
YouÂ´re killing me!!! hahaha this is great!!! looking forward to read the next chapter.
I was led to believe every man in Norway looked like Chuck Norris (or a viking) and had a closet full of flannel. I was misled. 😉
Loving your trip reports. Can’t wait for all of the rest. I don’t really have a desire to do the Norwegian cruises, but it’s still fun to read about. Before my first cruise, I didn’t think I’d actually end up being a cruiser. I only went because my daughter really wanted to go on a Disney cruise. This…”the convenience of going back to the ship for dinner and transit to the next port—as opposed to checking out of a hotel and taking our luggage on a train” is why I decided I love cruising. We have done 2 cruises and have 3 more booked.
By the way, “If you know English good” should be…If you know English well! 🙂
Ummm…. never mind.
Great report, and beautiful photos as usual.
Cove Cafe is the best – we’ve been fortunate enough to sail the Dream, Fantasy and Magic, and the CM’s and the coffee are always terrific. If you ask, they’ll give you a card – buy 5 get one free. Love that!
Godt BrÃ¸d was easily my favorite part of Norway, and I can taste the School Bread now! So sorry you didn’t see any puffins either, I’ve been back to Norway twice and I’m still 0/2 on puffin sightings. Guess I’ll just have to go back
In Alesund, there’s actually a puffin island that’s supposedly covered with thousands of them. We briefly considered visiting, but the logistics were a bit much.