Why This Viking Ocean Cruise Is the Best Way to See Northern Europe

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Cruisers love Viking for its river cruises, but the company is making a splash with its ocean cruise offerings as well. The Viking Jupiter is the sixth (and newest) ship in the fleet—with a seventh ship, Viking Venus, coming soon. The cruise line is adults-only, so passengers are all 18 or older. With a slightly higher price tag (though still great value) and longer itinerary than many cruises, the majority of passengers are around retirement age. Onboard highlights include the gorgeous Wintergarden space, outdoor infinity pool, fine-dining options, and nearly all-inclusive experience. Cabins are clean, modern, and reasonably sized, with ample closet space and a large bathroom. The ship almost always feels uncrowded, with plenty of places to tuck away, including the upper level of the Explorer’s Lounge and the atrium area.

As the newest ship in the fleet, the Viking Jupiter both set and met high expectations on the Homelands itinerary I joined in 2019. The Viking Jupiter mostly embarks on European (Baltic and the Mediterranean Sea) itineraries, but it’s also making a southern Atlantic crossing this year and heading to South America.

 

Viking Jupiter Pros

  • A smaller ship with less than 1,000 passengers (double-occupancy); never felt crowded
  • High crew-to-passenger ratio
  • Quiet cabins
  • Adults-only
  • Cozy spaces like the library and Wintergarden
  • New ship (2019) with refined and modern decor
  • Attentive and friendly crew
  • Outdoor infinity pool and hot tub
  • Indoor/outdoor pool with large deck area
  • A large cafe/buffet space, three main dining spaces, a pool grill, and two quick-service food areas
  • Restaurant with a five-course menu (menu rotates every two to three days)
  • Two onboard sommeliers
  • Tea time every day from 4 to 5 p.m.
  • 24-hour room service
  • Musical theater performances, live band every night, instrumental and acoustic performances multiple time per day
  • Jazz club, four open area bars, and plenty of lounging areas
  • Explorer’s Dome with nightly light shows
  • Sports deck with mini-golf, ping pong, bocce, and more
  • LivNordic Spa with a snow grotto, steam room, sauna, cold plunge pool, heated pool, hot tub, and treatment rooms
  • Nightly presentations on the next day’s port
  • Shore excursion (usually a walking tour) included at every port
  • Easy disembarkation process (ground transfers included when booking with Viking Air)
  • Easy-to-use app and website for itinerary planning
  • Heated floors in cabin bathrooms
  • USB ports and North American outlets in cabins
  • Wi-Fi at no extra charge
  • Free use of laundry machines
  • Free drinking water

Viking Jupiter Cons

  • Reservations required at two of the three dinner restaurants (although generally easy to get in last-minute)
  • Expensive shore excursions
  • Included shore excursions went at a slower pace
  • Windows in the lounge viewing area were tinted dark

What’s Included (And What’s Not) on Viking Homelands

Ashley Rossi

Almost everything is included on the ship and the Homelands tour, making for a stress-free experience.

Cruise rates include all food and meals at all of the ship’s dining areas, bars, and pool deck, and 24-hour room service. Non-alcoholic drinks are also included as well as house beer and wine with lunch and dinner service. There are two dinner restaurants that require reservations: Manfredi’s (Italian) and The Chef’s Table (Fine Dining), but I had no problem getting last-minute reservations when needed.

All entertainment, books and games, and use of the fitness center and spa are included. In each port, there is a free shore excursion included, which is typically a walking tour of the area. There are also free movie screenings and lectures onboard as well as dozens of complimentary movies on demand. Wi-Fi is included in the cruise rate as well. I found the Wi-Fi to be above average, especially for being out to sea. There are also computers onboard for use if needed. There are laundry rooms throughout that are free for guests. Free drinking water is replenished daily in the cabins and bottled water is provided when you disembark in port.

Alcohol, spa treatments, and most shore excursions come at extra charge. The Silver Spirits Beverage package is around $20 per guest per night, which is reasonable in comparison to other lines. This includes all beer, wine, and drinks up to $15 as well as an upgraded wine pairing at The Chef’s Table dinner. If you think you’ll be having a few drinks while on your vacation each day, it’s worth upgrading to this package. Otherwise, drink prices start at $5 per drink. You may also bring your own drinks with you; there is no corkage fee.

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For gratuities, Viking automatically adds a discretionary hotel and dining charge of $15 per guest per day to your shipboard account, which appears on your final invoice at the end of your cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine, and deck service tabs. If you want to make changes to the amounts or pay in cash, you can do so onboard. You can also pre-purchase the standard recommended gratuity ahead of time, which is shared among the onboard staff.

Review: Onboard the Viking Jupiter – Amenities, Activities, Entertainment, & ‘The Scene’

interior view of viking jupiter cruise ship.
Ashley Rossi

Live music, cozy corners, and a glimpse at Viking culture make for a well-rounded onboard experience.

The Viking Jupiter is an upscale casual ship focused on providing a cultural experience onboard and at every port of call. You’ll find plenty of relaxing spaces onboard in the atrium levels, as well as a library, games for use, and interactive maps. There are also two small exhibit areas featuring Viking clothing and artifacts. Viking hosts a daily series, “Munch Moments,” which showcases several Edvard Munch pieces each afternoon in The Living Room/Atrium area. You can also download a specific app that walks you through the art and design onboard. Don’t miss out on guest lecturers, port talks, streamed TED Talks, destination performances, film screenings, and more onboard. There is also an onboard cooking school, The Kitchen Table, where on sea days, you can learn to cook dishes highlighting an upcoming destination.

Music is an integral part of the Viking experience. The Viking Jupiter has a resident pianist, guitarist, violinist, and cellist that play throughout the day. There is also a band that plays in cast performances as well as nightly at the Torshavn lounge. There’s an onboard cast that puts on shows ranging from Broadway-style musical performances like “Decades” to cabaret.

The ship is on the quieter side, with music ending at midnight each night. Most guests are in their cabin before then. Port arrivals range from 7 to 10 a.m., and on port days, we were required to be back on board between 1 and 9:30 p.m., depending on the day’s itinerary.

The layout of the ship is easy to figure out, and by the second day, you’re likely to have a good feel for it. All of Viking ships are similar, so if you’ve been on one before, you’ll be right at home. Deck 1 is home to the specialty restaurants and spa, Deck 2 is where the main dining and entertainment options are, and Deck 7 is where you’ll find the main pool, pool grill, the infinity pool, World Cafe, Explorer’s Lounge, and Wintergarden.

Overall, the dress is semi-casual, with the only rule being no jeans in the main dining restaurants for dinner. The staff is very accommodating, though, and any sort of enforcement of dining room dress seems to be rare.

Review: The Cabins on Viking Jupiter

Viking jupiter deluxe veranda.
Viking Ocean Cruises

Spacious bathrooms, ample closet space and storage, and comfortable beds are all you can ask for in a cruise cabin.

On Viking Jupiter, you’ll find modern, clean, and brand-new cabins. All rooms have flat-screen TVs, ample closet space with built-in shelves, bathrobes, safes, a small seating area, and a desk with a pop-up vanity. Rooms are serviced twice per day, and a room steward is on duty. I stayed in the Deluxe Veranda Stateroom, which totaled 270 square feet, including the private veranda. On my cruise, I did not experience any noise from the hallways or surrounding cabins.

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The bathrooms are thoughtfully designed. There are multiple glass shelves for holding toiletries as well as a drying clothesline, towel racks, and drawers. Additional amenities include a spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated floors, toiletries, robes, slippers, and a hairdryer.

Veranda staterooms (there are three tiers: standard, deluxe, and penthouse) come with a King-size bed with an optional twin-bed configuration. Square footage ranges from 270 to 338 square feet and only the standard does not come with a stocked minibar. The penthouse stateroom gets you a welcome bottle of champagne, complimentary pressing and shoe shining, and a larger space.

In the suites category, Viking offers several types of suites, including the Penthouse Junior Suite (at 405 square feet), the Explorer Suite (757 to 1,163 square feet), and the Owner’s Suite, which includes a private library, and wine and music collections curated by Viking’s Chairman Torstein Hagen.

Review: The Food and Drink on Viking Jupiter

norwegian waffels
Ashley Rossi

Plenty of free food options that surprise and delight.

Onboard the Viking Jupiter, you’ll find plenty of all-inclusive dining options. On Deck 1 are the specialty dining restaurants, Manfredi’s (serving Italian favorites like lasagna and gnocchi) and The Chef’s Table. The latter offers a five-course themed menu that comes with wine pairings; the menu rotates every two to three days. On the night I went, the theme was West Indies, and I was pleasantly surprised by the flavors and execution of each dish. Reservations—which can be made in advance of the sailing or once aboard—are required for both specialty dining restaurants. On Deck 2 you’ll also find the main dining restaurant, The Restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner. Also on Deck 2 is Torshavn, an intimate lounge with a jazz-club feel that’s a favorite late-night hangout for live music. Dinner attire is elegant-casual, but there was never an overly stuffy feel—or judgment for being underdressed.

On Deck 7, you’ll find the World Cafe, which is Viking’s version of a buffet, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are many stations serving different foods, but favorites include the sushi bar and gelato bar. I appreciated that the food was refreshed constantly and that there were plenty of options for all types of diets. The Pool Grill (also on Deck 7) offered a smaller version of the World Cafe buffet (and a killer burger), but also occasionally had specialty dinner offerings like “Surf and Turf.” The Pool Grill is open for lunch and dinner daily.

For eating and drinking outside traditional meal hours, you can head to The Viking Living Room and Viking Bar on Deck 1. On Deck 7, there’s also the Pool Grill and Bar, Aquavit Bar, Explorer’s Lounge, and Mamsen’s, a Nordic-inspired snack bar of sorts that serves late-morning waffles, mid-afternoon smorrebrods (open-faced sandwiches), and late-night charcuterie. The Wintergarden, also on Deck 7, hosts a lovely tea with finger sandwiches from 4 to 5 p.m. every day.

The onboard liquor is priced fairly, with most beer, wine, and well liquor selling for $5 per drink. Onboard, there are two sommeliers, so the wine selection is always well-considered. (Upgrading to the drinks package offers an even finer selection for lunch and dinner.) In both the Explorer’s Lounge bar and Torshavn lounge, there’s a large selection of liquor ranging from well to premium.

Room service is available for more basic food items and is included 24/7. I only ordered breakfast once, and it was on time and warm when it arrived.

Review: The Spa & Fitness Center on Viking Jupiter

interior view of cruise ship spa.
Viking Ocean Cruises

A Nordic spa and gorgeous fitness center make working out and self-care easy onboard.

The LivNordic spa is an ideal spot to visit during sea days or after a chilly shore excursion in the fjords. Each locker room has a cold plunge pool and sauna, while the joint spa area includes a snow grotto (a cold room with piles of ice that you rub on your body to open up your pores), large hydrotherapy pool, a cold bucket dump shower, a hot tub, and a multi-jetted experience shower that refreshes you with water at various temperatures. The spa itself is free to use for all guests.

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Treatment prices at the spa are in line with what you’d find at a high-end spa or luxury hotel, though discounts were available on certain days. There’s also a salon onboard offering blowouts, manicures, and pedicures.

Also included in your cruise rate is the use of the fitness center, which offers excellent views and plenty of brand-new machines and weights. For an additional cost ($10), you can sign up for group classes like Pilates.

Review: Shore Excursions/Itinerary on Viking Homelands

white historic houses in norway.
Ashley Rossi

Plenty to do in each port, but you will need to dish out some extra cash for experiences.

The Viking Homelands trip is a 15-day itinerary that makes port stops in Stockholm (embarkation port), Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk, Berlin, Copenhagen, Alborg, Stavanger, Eidfjord, and Bergen (disembarkation port). It highlights true Viking culture at each port, with enriching shore excursions like home visits and walking tours with locals. This is an ideal itinerary for seasoned travelers looking to blend new destinations and revisit favorites. It was my second time visiting Berlin and Copenhagen and it was nice to have a relaxing day to enjoy the city and return to some of my favorite spots. Cruising is also the best way to experience Norway’s fjords—many passengers I spoke with named this part of the journey as their favorite. While generally, you need a visa to spend time in Russia, as a cruise passenger, you won’t need a visa if you are booked on one of the cruise’s excursions—a convenient and simple way to visit St. Petersburg. Overall, I thought the itinerary was well-planned, with an interesting mix of cities and the perfect amount of time in each port. There is only one at sea day (on day seven); and the boat stays overnight in Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Bergen.

I booked two shore excursions with Viking: a RIB boat tour in Stavanger, where we got a closer look at the landscape via a speedboat; and a kayaking excursion in Eidfjord. Both were active and exciting excursions that I probably wouldn’t have booked on my own. I also liked that the excursions were only a few hours long, which left me extra time in port to explore. Viking’s walking tours are also a great option for travelers looking for an introduction to the city; they are followed by enough free time to walk around at your leisure. Viking did a fantastic job explaining the optional activities at each port—you could even book excursions via your stateroom TV if there was still availability, though passengers are encouraged to book in advance. There’s an activity level listed with each excursion. In talking to other passengers, many enjoyed the Flam railway (Eidfjord) and flightseeing excursion offered in Eidfjord and Bergen.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this ocean cruising experience and revisiting a few of my favorite cities in Europe in a completely new way. And, there really is no better way to take in the natural beauty of the fjords than by sailing on them. Plus, the region is the cruise line’s home, so this itinerary is specially thought out and exclusive for travelers.

Interested in finding out more about this ship or this cruise itinerary? Send me an email at [email protected]

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Ashley Rossi was hosted by Viking Cruises. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.