If you have ever been fortunate enough to have been on a cruise that called at Ålesund in Western Norway, you won’t be surprised to learn that it featured in the US publication National Geographic Traveler 2013, as one of “Europe’s Best Small Ports - Six Secret Harbors to Call Your Own”. A deserving accolade based on my impressions after I visited the port whilst on a Princess cruise during summer two years ago.
I’m also not surprised to learn that it is expecting a record 131 cruise calls this year with passenger numbers of approx 200,000. Considering a large growth of almost 100% increase in the number of passengers from 2011 to 2013 (93,000 in 2011 and 184,000 in 2013) that they should still anticipate a further 8% growth in passenger arrivals for 2014 is notable to say the least. In the current climate, that is no mean achievement that many competitor ports would be delighted to record.
Back to my call that August. Prior to our passengers disembarking from their cruise vessel, they would already have noted the clean and pristine appearance of the town. The memorable concentration of Jugendstil, or art nouveau architecture, was built after a devastating fire in 1904. The view from Aksia Hill (a mere 418 step climb if you are feeling mildly energetic!) provides a panoramic view and sweeping vista of the town centre of Ålesund with a backdrop of rugged North Sea islands and the Sunnmore Alps.
Vital to the success of a cruise call from a cruise line’s perspective is a variety of distinctive shore excursions and it is also in this area that Ålesund comes into its own. The list of excursions will appeal to both the more adventurous passengers, keen to compensate for extra calories that may have been acquired whilst on the cruise, while those passengers keen to pursue a more sedentary type of activity, will possibly opt for a relaxed walking tour along picturesque cobblestone streets followed by a visit to a local outdoor café.
On the subject of the inner man, and woman, I was told by Bente Saxon, who is the Press Relations & Marketing Manager Cruise for the port and a leading figure responsible for Ålesund’s successful record in attracting cruise calls to the port, that Ålesunders love their svele – a sort of crepe filled with butter and sugar or brunost, a caramelized cheese made from whey – with a cup of strong coffee. But bacalao is their mainstay: Ålesund exports more of the dried, salted cod, also known as klipfish, than anywhere else in the world.