When it comes to superyacht cruising grounds, sometimes it may be easy to forget that there is a big wide world to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of the main Mediterranean and Caribbean hotspots. With more and more owners and charter clients opting to stray a little further from the beaten track, here we shine a spotlight on some of the more exciting cruising destinations from all four corners of the world, with the help of the expert Captain’s and Owners who have fallen in love with it. Together with Superyacht Norway, we travelled to the Nordic destination ourselves to get a taste of what it is exactly that the superyacht fleet who are spending summer after summer on the Mediterranean Riviera’s are missing out on, and get a first-hand insight as we follow Captain Fraser Gow and his team of the 55-metre Gene Machine on their recent voyage into the Norwegian wilderness.
Take me to…
The Norwegian fjords
For Captain Fraser Gow, navigating his vessel through the endless fjords of Norway has always been a dream of his, but, like many other captains and also owners, never thought a trip to the postcard-perfect destination would ever be possible. “Norway has always fascinated me; the silky smooth cruising grounds within the endless network of fjords each with their own set snow capped mountains melting in the summer sun, creating hundreds of waterfalls that cascade down steep cliffs into the waters below. I had, however, resided to the fact that these mystical cruising grounds were reserved purely for the many new-build yachts leaving shipyards yards across Northern Europe who made a quick stop in Norway as they signed out of the European Union.”
This all changed, however, following a successful past winter cruising season in the Caribbean. “The brief I was given was simple: “We want to cruise briefly around the South of France and Balearic Islands, and once we’ve had our taste of the sun you have carte blanche, Captain”.”
“We decided to set ourselves the goal of sailing from Nice, France to Svalbard, Norway with stops in as many countries and cities as possible on route. After several drafts, the itinerary was finalised and everyone was onboard, however, it wasn’t until after we had finished bunkering operations and cast off into the Straits of Gibraltar that I actually believed we stood a chance of accomplishing this mammoth itinerary."
Gene Machine cruising in the fjords
It was on a Sunday morning as Gow woke up and stepped onto the bridge after assuming that Gene Machine must still be at anchor, when he first experienced the absolute calmness of the Norwegian fjords to find the yacht cruising through a misty Lysefjord. “We had finally arrived – and just as promised, Norway delivered.”
The following is but a taste of Norway’s finest spots as experienced by Gene Machine’s voyage this past summer which accumulated to 7,500 nautical miles over 72 days.
Fly into Ålesund Vigra airport, a brisk 20 minutes’ drive from the historical town of Ålesund. Arrive onboard, unpack and relax before heading ashore to explore the unique architectural heritage of the town. Settle into what will become your home for the next week as captain and crew set course for an overnight cruise to Tafjord.
Wake up in Tafjord at the very end of Storfjord with a 700m waterfall cascading into the water a stone’s throw away from the yacht’s stern. After breakfast spend the morning fishing, swimming, jet skiing or jet surfing around the fjord and under the waterfall, if you dare! After lunch, set out on a whitewater rafting adventure down the Valdølla river in Valldal - one of the only places in the world where you can end a rafting experience and paddle to the stern of your yacht. End the day with a dinner cruise down to Geirangerfjord past the seven sister waterfall (best enjoyed in the evening after tour-boat operating hours).
After a gentle overnight cruise to Hyenfjorden, wake up the next morning to breakfast as your yacht effortlessly cuts through the glassy waters flanked by towering cliffs on either side. The town of Hyen, situated on the innermost part of the Hyenfjord, offers a picture-perfect anchorage for all types of water sports in complete privacy. Weigh anchor for an overnight cruise to Songefjord, the innermost side-arm of the world’s deepest and second longest fjord for an adrenalin-filled day.
Aurlandsvangen provides an excellent base to stage a day of paragliding over Aurlandsfjord. Depending on the weather, flights over the fjord can last from 45 minutes to several hours, Giving you a rather unique perspective of the fjord where the yacht lies at anchor below. When it is time to land, simply touch down in one of the many green pastures just next to the yacht. Slowly cruise down to the town of Flåm for a quick stroll or a longer hike for the active guests on board. A gentle overnight cruise takes you to the town of to the town of Gaupne.
Wake up at anchor for breakfast before heading ashore for an ice adventure on Tunbergsdals Glacier. Expert guides will lead you over top the glacier and for those who are more adventurous down into the ice caves below. Return to the yacht for lunch and an afternoon exploring the fjord by kayak, jetski or tender. A gentle cruise over dinner out through the winding fjords is the perfect end to the day before retiring to bed.
As we draw closer to Bergen, the drop-off point for this trip, we get to enjoy the last fjord of our cruise. Make the most of the picturesque setting of Storeholmen by spending the day lazing around or exploring the remote surroundings by kayak. Stay at anchor overnight.
After breakfast we heave anchor and cruise slowing into Norway's second largest city. Spend the morning exploring the city with its beautifully coloured houses of Bryggen and wonder through the fresh (mostly seafood) markets. A funicular service takes you up to Mt Fløyen and offers a panoramic view over the entire city. Sadly, this is where we end this journey, although it just scratches the surface of what Norway has to offer superyachts as a cruising destination, it should be enough to wet one’s appetite.
Norway Top 5
Highlights of the Norwegian Fjords
The city of Bergen
Flåm Railway to Myrdal station
The town of Gudvangen and its new Viking village
Hardangerfjord seen from Hotel Ullensvang
Photo: SuperYacht Times
Need to know
A few things to remember before coming to Norway
Norway has long since been a popular destination for cruise liners operating around the world, something that fjord destinations have greatly benefitted from. Established infrastructure in many of the towns mean that yachts can make use of the existing facilities to ensure a care-free experience during the trip. However, to make the most of your stay, here are a few tips worth remembering.
Get local help
Norway spans a vast area and to ensure you get the most out of your time spent here, make contact with an established local agent. Ola Hiis Bergh from Superyacht Norway has years of experience in the field and knows better than most how to get around any obstacles. Superyacht Norway can recommend the best in the business to guide you through every step of the way during your stay. “Whilst we found cruising through Norway relatively hassle free, it was largely due to the support from Superyacht Norway,” confirms Capt. Fraser Gow.
Getting around your favourite spots along the Norwegian coastline requires a bit more planning and longer cruising time than simply dashing from Nice to Monaco, and often involves overnight or the odd one-day cruises. A well laid-out itinerary will ensure you visit all those postcard spots with plenty of time to explore and relax in between.
All yachts welcome
Although the journey to reach Norway might be a treacherous one, exploring the fjords and its countless coves and hidden valleys does not call for a heavy-duty explorer type vessel. Established shore services mean that supplies and support are never far away and even heading further north towards Svalbard can be accomplished by the traditional ‘all-white’ superyachts.
Capture the moment
Arguably one of the most picturesque superyacht destinations, a visit to Norway is certainly worth documenting. Making sure the yacht and its guests and crew have the tools to capture every moment of the trip is worth every penny as scenery such as this is seldom repeated. A drone will give you a unique bird’s eye view of your surroundings and put the majesty and scale of the incredible surroundings in perspective for friends and family at home to enjoy too.
To book your Norwegian adventure with Superyacht Norway, contact Ola Hiis bergh at [email protected].
Photos by Fraser Gow and SuperYacht Times