“We are Arendal, we are Arendelle; it is a huge advantage,” said Gordon Fuglestad, cruise manager and assisting harbor master.
This year, Arendal, which is in southern Norway, will have seven calls, up from two last year, and so far five calls are booked for 2016, including Crystal, Fred. Olsen and Saga, while Fuglestad said he is expecting as many as 12 to 14 calls for 2017.
Among the callers this year are the 1,200-passenger Artania and 450-passenger Seabourn Quest.
‘On Our Toes’
“New cruise lines and ships are testing us,” said Fuglestad, “so we are on our toes. But that is not a problem; we have been practicing to accommodate the ships and their passengers.”
He also sees Arendal as an alternative to ports in the region. “To offer a little variety, especially for repeat passengers,” Fuglestad said, “they should come to us. We are only 45 minutes from open sea and the pier is right downtown.
“We can add something new to itineraries and our location makes us a gateway to both the Baltic and the coast of Norway.”
Crystal is telling its passengers that Arendal is often referred to as the Venice of Scandinavia, built on seven different islands with a network of connecting waterways and winding canals, and that the city claims to have the best weather in Norway. There are also plenty of museums, art galleries, historical landmarks, and beachfront activities to enjoy.
Among the attractions Fuglestad pointed out were boat trips among the local, small islands, and guided or individual walking tours around town.
"We are also working with smaller local suppliers, who can offer customized tours for small groups,” he said, “from deep-sea fishing to kayaking or bicycling in groups from eight to 10 people. Everything does not have to be on a large scale.”
Fuglestad said he is most comfortable with small and medium-sized ships up to 2,000 passengers. “We do not want to flood the town with cruise passengers. While the larger town has 44,000 inhabitants, only 3,000 to 4,000 live in the downtown area, so we are aiming to ensure a better experience for both our inhabitants and the passengers.
“It is important that we do not have ships every day that could overwhelm the town. We want our citizens to be enthusiastic about cruise calls, to come out and meet the ships in their boats and to greet the passengers on the pier and in town. It must be a positive experience for both parties,” he added.
Longer term, Fuglestad said he hopes for 20 to 25 calls a year.
Of course, a Christmas call in Arendal would offer a totally different experience, more akin to Arendelle and Frozen, but that is a different story.