Norway’s government is taking an aggressive stance towards banning fuel-powered cruise ships from sailing in the fjords.

Starting from 2026, only ships powered by alternative fuels, like liquified natural gas (LNG) will be allowed to visit the fjords. And this may rule out major cruise lines from visiting.

Lines like Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas offer sailings in the fjords.

While most of the lines have ordered LNG-fuelled ships, many of these new builds will not be ready by the 2026 Northern Hemisphere summer season.

Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Princess have LNG ships on order which will launch by 2026. This will allow them to sail in the region.

Other lines like Ponant, Viking, Silversea, MSC Cruises, and Hurtigruten have already made the move towards using alternative fuels. And this will allow them to sail in Norway.

What Norway’s government said

In Norway, nearly five million cruise ship passengers visited Norway. According to the Western Norway Research Institute, cruise ships in Norway use around 170 million litres of fuel a year. This equates to around three per cent of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the fuel is burned at sea. But around 30 per cent, or nearly 34 million litres are burned while the ships are in port or visiting fjords.

Geirangerfjords which is one of the most sought-after destinations in Norway, has around 800,000 visitors a year. The Norwegian government says that 40 per cent of those visitors are from cruise ships.

Hurtigruten battery powered ship
Hurtigruten battery-powered ship

Hurtigruten has been environmentally upgrading its fleet, replacing traditional fuel with cleaner sources of energy. By this year, all seven of the ships in its coastal fleet will run on a combination of batteries, shore power, and biofuel.

Three ships – MS Richard With, MS Nordlys, and MS Kong Harald will be transformed to battery-hybrid power with new low-emission engines and large battery packs.

Both Ponant and Hurtigruten revealed designs for the next generation of cruise ships.

Ponant’s new concept ship will include sail systems so 50 per cent of the vessel’s propulsion energy will come from wind power. The ship will also operate on liquid hydrogen and electrical power for solar panels.

While the cruise lines have yet to reveal their 2026 Northern Europe itineraries, there will be a limited number of vessels that are eligible to sail.

“Based on the latest proposal from Norway’s National Maritime Authority, cruise ships will continue to sail in the World Heritage Fjords beyond 2026.  The National Maritime Authority has proposed a transition period until 2035 for implementation of the Zero Emission mandate, for ships using low- and zero carbon fuels,” said a spokesperson from CLIA. 

“Cruise lines have committed to a vision of net zero emissions by 2050 and are investing in new technologies to achieve this ambition. The cruise sector is exploring a range of fuel solutions including green ammonia, battery technology, and advanced biogas and biofuel. The cruise fleet is being continuously upgraded to use shoreside electricity, and several ports along the Norwegian coast have shoreside electricity projects underway.

“We hope to work closely with national and local authorities to ensure good access to these new fuels of the future for ships sailing in Norwegian fjords and waters.”

What the cruise lines have said

Currently, Viking, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises have LNG-powered ships in operation.

At Carnival Corp we are proud of our rich relationship and long history serving our destinations in Norway. Many of the ports we serve are well-established and have long traditions with cruise dating back to mid 1800’s.

“Given our presence in Norway, we are working closely with our stakeholders to understand the impact that future developments will have on our operations,” said a spokesperson from Carnival Corporation.

“We are committed to excellence in compliance, safety and environmental protection and will comply with all laws and regulations that govern our business, including any changes announced by the Norwegian Government.”

Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, and Holland America declined to comment.

Cruise Passenger is awaiting comment from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line at the time of publication.