Other reviews have quite adequately covered the cruise portion of South America & the Chilean Fjords on Viking Jupiter. My only comment would be to support the exceptional ratings given and echo the compliments given to the crew for ... Read More
Other reviews have quite adequately covered the cruise portion of South America & the Chilean Fjords on Viking Jupiter. My only comment would be to support the exceptional ratings given and echo the compliments given to the crew for their performance. I would add that on our cruise, we were not able to go ashore in the Falkland Islands nor were we able to go ashore on Magdalena Island (from Punta Arenas). The costs for our optional excursions were immediately refunded to our accounts and the money will be refunded after the cruise. While disappointing, safety was the highest concern of the Captain and he made decisions with that in mind. Rough seas and high winds are always a risk in that part of the world and he did the best he could to maximize our experience.
With others covering the actual cruise portion, I wanted to address our pre and post cruise extensions as they do not seem to be mentioned in other reviews. We elected to go to Rio de Janeiro and Iguazú Falls before joining the ship in Buenos Aires. From the first time I saw pictures of Iguazú Falls on a TV special, I have had a visit to Iguazú Falls on my personal “bucket list.” A visit to the Galápagos Islands provided the post cruise extension.
The Viking extension begins in Rio de Janeiro where Viking books you into the Belmont Copacabana Palace, a classic hotel right on the beach. The included tour of Rio was on the next day so on the first day, we hired a driver from the hotel to take us to places we wanted to see and knew would not be part of the next-day’s tour. I had several places I knew I wanted to see but then left it up to Mario Marino, our driver, to take us to places we didn’t even know about. His car enabled us to get to places that would be impossible with the bus the next day. He was great as a guide and added immensely to our understanding and appreciation of Rio.
The included tour the next day took us to the iconic locations of Rio, e.g., Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. With the tour arranged by Viking, we avoided long lines but still had the inevitable crowds at Christ the King. The views and experience made up for any slight inconvenience of the crowds.
From Rio, we flew to Iguazú on the Brazilian side of the falls and stayed in the Hotel Belmont das Cataratas, actually inside the national park boundaries. Our hotel’s location facilitated our visit since we were already inside the park. One day visiting the Brazilian side of the falls and the next day from the Argentinian side provided spectacular views of the falls but did require some amount of walking. We also took the opportunity to see the falls from an optional boat experience on the river. You had “wet” or “dry” options depending on whether you wanted to pass by the falls or actually go through the water cascading from above. Even with the “dry” option, you can depend on getting a bit wet from the spray.
After our visit to the falls, we flew from the Argentinian side of the falls to Buenos Aires where we joined our ship. As I said, the cruise portion has been adequately reviewed so I will jump forward to the end of the cruise where we arrived in Valparaiso. We did take the included tour in Valparaiso before packing up in preparation for the next part of the trip and that was the post extension to the Galápagos Islands. The included tour in Valparaiso was mostly a bus tour with a few stops for photographs. The next day, however, as part of the extension, we would have a more extensive tour of Valparaiso and much more before arriving in Santiago for our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
One note regarding luggage. The trip to the Galápagos only allowed one checked bag and a carry-on. Because of the length of the cruise and extensions, most of the people had two carry-on bags. Viking made sure we were aware that only one bag would go to the Galápagos and that a second bag (if there was one) would be transported by Viking from Guayaquil to Quito where we would find the second bag in our hotel room in Quito when we arrived from our time in the Galápagos. That took place as advertised.
After we departed the ship, we began a walking tour of Valparaiso that provided an in depth look at some of the different areas of the city. It was a much better tour than the day before and covered many of the same locations but with more time to explore and take photographs. On leaving Valparaiso, we headed out of the city and to a vineyard where we would have a short tour and tasting and then a fabulous lunch on a terrace overlooking the vineyards, complete with wine pairings suitable for each course. After lunch, we continued to Santiago and our flight to Guayaquil. One night in the Hilton Colon Guayaquil and the next morning we took another flight to Baltra Island in the Galápagos.
As soon as we landed in the Galápagos, we began an extraordinary visit to see wildlife of many varieties. We traveled by bus, small boats, zodiacs, and a yacht to experience the flora and fauna offered by these islands. For two days, we traveled by yacht to two separate uninhabited islands where we would have the opportunity to see and discover the particular species of birds and other animals on the islands. One word of caution is necessary here. Getting to the islands required leaving the yacht, getting into a zodiac, and then getting from the zodiac to the somewhat primitive stairs on the shore. The guides we had were excellent in helping with the transitions but if someone had significant difficulty walking, this would be quite difficult and the walks along the trails problematic.
I cannot say enough good things about the time spent in the Galápagos. We stayed in the Finch Bay Galápagos Hotel and our host, Franco Pesantez, did an outstanding job of taking care of us (note that there were 18 on the extension from the cruise).
From the Galápagos, we flew to Quito and then back home.
Cabin - Penthouse Junior Suite. Lots of space to store clothes and other items. Dual sinks in bathroom with heated floor and towel rack. For a longer cruise, this was exceptional with plenty of room for relaxation and watching the playoffs of the NFL. They were also telecast in the theater but we watched some of them in the room. Two large screen TVs.
Dining. We took advantage of the opportunity to eat in the specialty restaurants (no additional cost) and they were excellent. For the Chef's Table, the menu changed every three days but if there was something on the menu you really didn't like (but wanted the rest of the meal) they would make a substitution for you. Normally the Chef's Table is a fixed meal but they are flexible. Manfredi's is always good and don't miss the waffles in Mamsen's. Also, the grill by the pool provides an excellent opportunity for a light meal. World Cafe always provides a wide range of offerings to satisfy any taste. The staff is always ready to provide drinks and whatever else you need.
Public rooms are quite pleasing, open and decorated in Norwegian style. Easy to find a place to just relax or talk with others.
Service is excellent across the board. The rooms are services several times each day.
Shore excursions provide opportunities to see and experience a wide variety of wildlife, landscapes and the cities. The included tours are mostly a bus tour and to get more in-depth opportunities, I recommend taking a careful look at the optional tours. My two favorites during the cruise were in Puerto Madryn where we visited the Punta Tomb Penguin Colony. The excursion requires a long bus ride (about 2.5 hours each way) but the ride is worth it when you are able to walk through the colony and observe literally thousands of penguins. My other favorite was in Puerto Montt, Chile, where we did the Osorno Volcano, Petrohué Falls and Puerto Varas. We visited the falls and had incredible views of the falls and volcano. The falls are not as spectacular as Iguazú Falls but few are even close. We observed the volcano from across the lake and then drove to about 4000 feet on the volcano to be able to see even more spectacular views of the area. The excursion is long but again very worth the time and expense. One note: During this cruise, we were not able to go ashore in the Falklands and we could not go ashore on Magdalena Island from Punta Arenas. Viking refunded our payment for the tours we missed.
On-board experience. Viking provides elegant ships excellent service. Read Less