My wife and I have fairly limited experience with cruise vacations (3 or 4 previous cruises). Our last big vacation was a cycling vacation in France two years ago. We have tended to look for moderately active vacations with some room for independent travel, especially in areas of great natural beauty. We were drawn to Viking quite simply by the rave reviews we heard from several friends who had gone on both river and ocean trips with Viking. We also wanted a chance to see, up close, a part of the world we had not visited.
Because of our friends' and family members' glowing reports of past Viking trips, he had high expectations for this trip. Viking exceeded those expectations in every category.
The ship: OK, admittedly, the "new ship" smell of the Jupiter grabbed us the minute we boarded. The Jupiter launched in February in Italy, so our trip could be considered a continuation of the ship's maiden voyage, as I believe it was Jupiter's first trip on our itinerary (Bergen to London, via fjords of Norway and Scotland). Inside and out, the ship looked as if it just came "on line." Simply put, it sparkled.
Our cabin, though in the lowest-cost "veranda" category, felt like anything but "bargain" accommodations. Neither my wife nor I ever felt crowded or cramped in the 15 day trip. With the midnight sun and jaw-dropping beauty of the fjords, we got a lot of use of the veranda. I was pleasantly surprised at the ample storage space and especially the efficient and comfortable functionality of the bathroom.
Our favorite feature of the Jupiter, however, was the design of its ample public spaces. If I hadn't seen it myself, I would never have imagined it was possible to create so many intimate spaces that, even with 900 passengers, it felt like we always had multiple "living rooms" to relax in, or read, or chat or simply admire the beauty out the window.
The dining venues and menus were also sufficiently varied to avoid seeming repetitious even on a fairly long cruise. With extremely minor exceptions, the food was excellent. A very few dishes (the pool-side paella comes to mind) could have done with a bit more flavor, though I suspect this is a necessary adjustment when cooking for 900 people with, shall we say, fairly "mature" palates.
Viking's "crown jewel" however, is its crew and staff. I have never experienced the level of consistently excellent service in the hospitality industry. Without exception, every Viking employee we encountered was not only very responsive, but just plain nice. A special shout-out here to Jose, our waiter in The Restaurant, Andrew our steward and LangLang (forgive me if i get that spelling wrong) who served us in the Explorer Lounge.
One last "kudo." As I understand it, Captain Knudsen made the call to take us on the "inside passage" from Gerangerfjord to Tromso, rather than offshore, in order to give us more time to enjoy the beauty of his native Norway's west coast. I am certain the offshore route would have been navigationally easier, and probably more less costly in fuel for Viking. We would have missed, however, the sights of many scenic little Norwegian villages, farms and homes. Thanks you, Captain Knudsen.
In short, I'm sold. We will probably continue to alternate cruise vacations with other sorts of travel, but Viking will be our cruise line of choice, and we will make future voyages, both river and ocean.
Excellent - comfortable and surprisingly roomy. See above.