Is a cruise a good way to see Norway?
I had been tossing around going to Norway for a few years an ultimately decided on a large cruiseship for a few reasons. First off, I'm one of those travelers who likes to eat locally but nothing in the Norwegian diet, which seems to be heavy in fish and game, really excited me. Second, Norway like most of the Scandanavian countries, is extremely expensive. When you are on a cruise ship, you tend to eat most of your meals on board so all you are paying for on land is the excursions.
I found that we had ample time in all of the ports to see what we wanted to see. I might have hiked to the top of Pulpit Rock in Stavanger and we might have done other excursions if we had more time but I didn't have the feeling like you do in some ports of having to leave before I was ready or having to make difficults choices between excursions.
Where to catch the bus
I'll try to be as specific as possible but boats dock in different spots and the bus stops might change. We had to tender in, I believe the other ship in port that day docked. Once we got off the tender to get to where we picked up the bus we would have gone to the left, just past where the tour buses were loading up. There was no blue bus sign, the only sign I saw was a pedestrian crossing sign. Stand on the same side of the street as the dock, the bus comes from the left. You can see where we stood in the 1st picture, right next to the pedestrian crossing, same side of the street as the cruise ship dock.
Alternatively we could have walked about 10 minutes in the other direction in what could be called the town of Olden (turn right after getting off the tender), there was a blue bus sign shortly after we passed the co-op market (see picture #2).
Public bus to Briksdal
The public bus is the most closely guarded secret in Olden, the woman at the tourist office would only offer vague suggestions on how or where to catch it and had no idea of the cost, since she was selling the more expensive mini van tours I'm guessing she didn't want to give us the information rather than not knowing it. The people running the cruise ship excursions naturally wouldn't offer up any information on it, I even tried emailing the bus company with no response.
After two unsuccesful trips to the tourism office, we finally spotted a pod of cruise passengers standing by the side of the road at an unmarked spot and joined them, I figured the worst case scenario was that we'd miss the 9:45am bus and we would then just pay for the more expensive mini van tours. At a little after 9:45 the bus rolled up with the Briksdal sign in the front, we all got on and off we went.
The bus cost 45NOK each way (currently $7.35 US), you buy the return ticket when you got back on at Briksdal. The bus driver accepted cash and gave out change but also accepted credit and debit cards although I'm not sure if they take US swipe cards as I used cash and most of the other passengers were British. The bus returned as 1:30pm, plenty of time to hike to the glacier and back and take lots of photos.
The bus schedule can be accessed on the attached link, we took the 9:45 bus, arriving at Briksdal at 10:30, returning at 13:30 arriving at Olden at 14:00, I guess you could also do the 11:30 bus, arriving at 12:00, returning at 15:15, arriving back in Olden at 15:45 depending on your cruise's departure time.
For those people who want to visit Briksdal Glacier but don't want to hike for 45 minutes each direction, there are troll cars that take you within a 10 minute walk of the glacier, the website says 700 meters distance. I didn't catch the cost but according to the attached website it's 185NOK ($31US) for an adult, 68NOK for 15 and younger, under 8 free.
They aren't shaped like trolls nor are they driven by trolls. Somewhere I read that you used to go up by two wheeled horse drawn carts but that they were considered too dangerous. You can arrange for them at the visitors center near the parking lot.
Minivan tours to Briksdal
If the public bus idea makes you too nervous but you still don't want to spend as much as the ship tours, there were at least two different van services that offered trips to Briksdal. The first was at the tourist office, she said they took credit cards and the cost was 280 NOK ($46US) per person. Just across the street from the tourism office, we also spotted a couple of black vans called Glacier Express, this tour cost 250NOK ($41US) but they didn't take credit cards. Both appeared to use minivans as the method of transportation, not sure how long they stayed or if the tour included anything else. It seemed like they left whenever they filled up, if we had missed the 9:45 bus, I believe some other people said that a tour was leaving at 10:30. Still about 1/2 the price of the ship tours.