Samantha Brown’s Tips for Cruising Norway with Your Family

People posing for group photo on cruise ship deck with ocean and green landscape in the background.

We recently caught up with Samantha Brown, celebrated travel expert, after her family vacation in Norway with Holland America Line. Here’s what she had to say about their great adventure while sharing family travel tips along the way! 

My family and I had the absolute time of our lives cruising Norway with Holland America Line. Not only did I have my husband and kids with me, but much of my extended family came too – including my sisters. We haven’t been on a vacation together since 1982! All in all, it was three generations on one ship!

Knowing I had so many loved ones joining me on this once-in-a-lifetime cruise also made me want to make sure everyone felt both taken care of and had the most incredible trip. Here are some ways I made sure that happened:

Plan at least one special moment for the whole family to share.

The best part of cruising with Holland America Line is the sheer amount of excursions they offer to passengers. While everyone can easily split up, I highly recommend making sure everyone gets together for at least one excursion. Create a bucket-list moment that everyone can talk about years from now, and that any kid will claim as a core memory.

For us it was kayaking Naeroyfjord. Norway is known for its fjords, which are narrow inlets surrounded by cliffs, and Naeroyfjord is one of the most famous. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it’s one of the visual inspirations for Arendelle in Frozen. The views really speak for themselves. As I kayaked with my family, I was just absolutely awestruck by the soaring cliffs and countless waterfalls. Truly, I lost count trying to keep track of them all!

The real highlight though was hearing my daughter say, “This was the best day of my life!” I’ll never forget that moment!

Book must-do excursions ASAP.

Talking about the bucket-list moments leads me to my next point: make sure you book any shore excursion you really want to do as soon as possible. More popular ones – like kayaking Naeroyfjord – understandably sell out fast, so if you wait too long, you may miss out. Don’t despair if you can’t get the ones you want though. Organized excursions are great, but Norway is one of the places where you can just hop off at any dock and see where your feet take you. It’s truly one of the most naturally beautiful countries I’ve been to, and as you know, I’ve been to a lot!

During our cruise, we’d often disembark and explore based on how we were feeling. Some days all we had to worry about was picking which place to have an epic Norwegian lunch. Relax in Oslo with some boba tea? Check. Hike in Kristiansand to see what Norwegian forests are like compared to our own? Check. Wander around an open-air museum with homes from the 1500s in Liervik? Check. Try the coffee and pancakes in said museum? Double check!

Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

The beauty of large family trips is that you can mix and match the adults and the kids. Through many trips, I’ve found that grandparents have very similar body clocks as my kids – meaning they usually want naps and snacks around the same time every day. I say embrace the similarities and take the opportunity to switch up family dynamics.

Take advantage of the onboard activities. 

There is absolutely no such thing as boredom aboard any Holland America Line cruise, and if your kid starts telling you they’re bored, they have definitely not explored enough. We were on Holland America’s newest ship, Rotterdam, and it had everything aboard. For families, the Kids Club is included in the price of the cruise with supervised play and activities. And of course, we also had lots of pool time with their new friends.

Here are a few other onboard activities we enjoyed:

  • Rolling Stone Lounge: a great live venue space
  • Billboard Onboard: dual piano bar for the win!
  • B.B. King’s Blues Club: perfect for anyone who wants to shimmy the night away
  • Spa and Salon: for when you want some rest and relaxation.

My best tip though? Just start walking around without a map. I find all the best quiet spots on a ship that way.

Bring layers!

Even if you cruise Norway in the middle of summer, it’s still a lot cooler out than you’d expect. If you only pack shorts and T-shirts, you’re going to get cold very quickly. And if you try to buy while you’re here, you’re going to have quite the sticker shock once you figure out the price in USD from the Norwegian kroner. Bring sweaters, longer pants, and sturdy socks so you’re all set no matter what you do.

Also bring sleep masks.

If you cruise Norway in the summer, be prepared for very late sunsets and very early sunrises. The sun often rises as early as 4:00 AM and will set as late as 10 or 11:00 PM. For anyone who cruises farther north, expect 24/7 daylight with midnight sun. While Holland America Line rooms have blackout curtains, you may wind up staying in a hotel that doesn’t. Pack sleep masks to make sure you get enough sleep!

Norway is a mostly cashless country. 

Make sure at least one of your credit cards is set up to tap and pay. Norway is pretty much cashless, and many places won’t even accept physical money. You’ll especially need this at many public bathrooms, which cost 11-22 kroner or 1-2 euros for entrance.

All in all, have fun! Holland America Line provides plenty of structure with their itineraries while still giving guests plenty of time to see Norway on their own. Be present with your loved ones. This was a bucket-list trip for my family, and I just know we’re going to be reminiscing about it for years to come.


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One Comment

  1. Melody Weaver October 17, 2023 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Thanks for a very positive review and sharing your vacation experience with Holland America Line. We’re so glad that you and your family really enjoyed yourselves. I really loved your take on your family cruise of Norway with Holland America Line. Thank you so much for sharing. We can’t wait to help you put your next vacation together with us.

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