Last year, I had a conference in Stavanger, Norway (tough gig!). It was awesome. Cool old harbor town combined with being one of Norway’s industrial centers. So you had the incredibly charming harbor neighborhood and the sardine canning museum and the oil museum, with its wild ass intro video that tried to make the case that oil brought generations together based on a fictional story about an old dying oil worker and his hippie son who hates oil but now regrets that it tore them apart. Stavanger calls itself “The Houston of Norway,” but there’s a big difference, which is that Stavanger is a tremendously pleasant place and Houston, well…….
There was one exception to this great place. That was the daily arrival of the monstrosity of a cruise ship vomiting out thousands of people at once and then completely dominating the harbor for the next few hours. Aesthetically it was a disaster, like a monster had come and swallowed the town. Moreover, the tourism of the cruise ship is the lamest possible–people stop for a couple hours and buy crap and then get back on their germ boat. The only other place I’ve really encountered cruise ships was in Martinique, which is a place you’d expect it more than Stavanger. In this case, it was just completely set up so that tourists wouldn’t even venture into the heart of Fort-de-France (a lovely little town in its own right). Everything was set up for tourists to spend their money and get right back on the boat with a little cheap souvenir of this place they have “visited.”