After 26 cruises this was our first on Viking; surely, not our last. I'll get over our one gripe first and move on to the positives. On the evening sail from Bergen, we visited the ship's apparel shop in search Viking's red and white signature Dale of Norway sweater. My wife resisted buying other attractive sweaters in Bergen's shops with Viking's signature sweater in mind. The shop had no stock of size medium. The excuse was that they sold out on the last voyage. That is lame excuse since we just sailed from the cruise line's home port and the Dale of Norway production center. The salesman offered no recourse, eg. a special order that could be shipped home, and assumed a rather indignant, huffy attitude. The message. "Clients from the Bergen cruise origin aren't as worthy as those from the Greenwich start of the same cruise itinerary."
That said, now to to the cruise. Despite scheduling 13 excursions in 11 ports over 13 days, we felt that this was one of our more relaxing cruises. The casual, unbustled on-board environment undoubtedly contributed to that feeling. We used Viking Air for flight arragements and arrived in Bergen around noon after a short connecting flight from Oslo. There were at least half a dozen Viking representatives at the airport to assist passengers and get us on the way to the ship. This exemplifies a typical pattern that we experienced on the whole cruise. Ample Viking staff are readily available where needed to assist customers. A seamless check-in at the port had us in our stateroom before the scheduled time. Our luggage had already been delivered, a first time experience on any cruise.
The Atrium serves as the core public area from deck 1 to 3. Above The Viking Living Room on deck 1 with its nooks of lounge furniture, book collections and artwork, deck 2 has a perimeter balcony with lounge and table game areas and deck 3 features sitting areas along with exhibits of Norwegan traditional ceremonial dress; deck 2 has a nook with Viking cultural artifacts. My wife, a serious fiber spinner, delighted in the spinning artifacts. Stateroom corridors and public areas abound with artwork. Explanatory narratives are available through an on-board dedicated phone app. At the head of the grand staircase in The Atrium is a 2-deck electronic panel with changing images of Norwegan and Viking culture and the voyage's port areas. Beneath the staircase is a garden of multi-colored visual delights. At the deck 1 staricase base performance space features daily soothing classical performances on the Steinway by Olga, resident pianist, and the Viking classsical duo on violin and cello. Other performances included well chosen port-based ensembles providing local cultural programs and the ship's staff who shared diverse talents.
Deck 7 offers other retreats at Mamsen's, where light fare is available, and in the Explorer's Lounge with its bow views and bar. A mezanine extension of the Explorer's Lounge on Deck 8 privised additional views and seating nooks. Midship on Deck 7 is The Wintergarden, a quiet retreat where most afternoons feature Afternoon Tea at 4:00 with the accompaniement of the ships classical artists. The pool area expands lounging and eating space, all or part of which can be covered by the retractable roof. Special buffets and entertainment are features. And for the always exposed to the elements, there is the infinity pool on the stern outside The World Cafe. And, back to deck 1 for Torshaven, a cozy club like venue for seminars and evening dancing from 9:00 to Midnight.
The Star Theater's informal lounge atmosphere is a relaxing place for tour meet-up and for guest lecturer presentations. Sofa pillows with images of Norwegan performance and artistic celebraties on one side and the autograph on the other typify the Viking touch.
Four lecturers on our voyage informed and entertained us. To celebrate the July 20, 1969, moon landing, retired USAF pilot and astronaut Karol Bobko shared experiences and related the technoogy of space exploration. He also gave presentations in the shipboard planetariumn on deck 8. Ship passengers celebrated the moon landing at 8:17pm on July 20th with pastries in the Atrium that included a chocolate replica of Apollo 11.
William Thayer's lectures offered insight into the energy production technologies that are active in he North Sea. Other topics included the British pursuit and sinking of the Bismarck in WWII and the "Breaking if the Enigma Machine," a step in the development of today's digital computers.
Dr.Michael Fuller combined archaeological artifacts with historical evidence in lectures about Viking and Northern European history. (Without historical documentation, archaelogy is speculation.) Particularly interesting was his presentation on the Hanseatic League. He met with passengers in nooks around the ship to pursue a variety of individual interests.
Notable is Russell Lee, who synthasized complex topics from history and current events into connections that are often missed among the detail of events. He was literally up-to-date, including his visuals, with his Brexit presentation on the day that Boris Johnson became the UK's PM. Outstanding was Lee's presentation "Baa, Baa Black Sheep - How Wool Transformed Medieval Europe." He included his wife demonstating a centuries old spindle technique that persists today in spinning yarn. The only tidbit he omitted, according to my wife, was how the word "sabotage" became part of our vocabulary because of the industrialization of weaving.
If you miss the lecture theater presentation, it's available 3 hours later on the ship's TV, not just an fuzzy video of the stage presentation, but with the presenter in a quarter panel and sharp graphics taking up the rest of the screen. Great Viking Jupiter production team!
While on technology, kudos to the full-time internet service included in the cruise fare. Wi-fi access is throughout the ship, and there are desk top PCs located in a "nook" of The Living Room. Most passengers used their own devices. An on-board "trechie" can assist. Viking Jupiter's internet service is the fastest, most reliable that we have experienced on a cruise ship. Also, amenities include wine (red and white) and beer (light and dark). Menu beverages have a modest charge, eg., $7.50 (including gratuity) for a Manhattan. No charge for all the bottled water you want. And, no charge for the daily refrigerator set up of soft drings, snacks, and Toblerone chocolates. Spa facilities have no surcharge.. Unwind in a sauna, a cold tub, the Snow Room, a hot whirlpool or churning pool. An ample variety of standard fitness equipment is also available.Spa treatments are available at fees comparable to other cruise lines. While I was pleased with a massage, my wife was less so with her facial. She noted a harsh abrasive material used on the skin that she hasn't experienced before. And, after leaving the spa, she discovered unpleasant blotches of a greasy cream on her skin. And, let me not forget the included excellent self-serve laundry facilities on 4 of the 6 cabin decks (soap is included). So nice not to be nickeled and dimed. One can opt for individual paid launtry at reasonable rates. Repeat: So nice not to be nickeled and dimed.
For us a genuine surprise was a bottle of sparkling wine and cake delivered to our stateroom. Viking graciously added to celebrating our 50 years of marriage.
And, the on-board dining; overall - excellent. Several individual dishes were too salty (some chefs know only that "spice"). We didn't eat at Mamsens, noted for light fare, but enjoyed the no-surcharge specialty venues. First night out was The Chef's table featuring regional Nordic cuisine. International cuisines rotate avery few days. We chose the Nordic which was excellently prepared and plated for full enjoyment. We also enjoyed an evening in Manfredi's Italian Restaurant, where portions easily contribute to expected weight gain on a cruise. One can book as many meals in these restaurants as there is availability. The Restaurant is the main dinner venue with multiple sections that avoid the "heard feeling" on other cruise lines; one can actually enjoy conversation without straining. Overall excellent well plated dishes with reasonable portions served by attentive staff who remember us when we repeat at their tables. Thank you, Henry for your songs and attentive service. For a snack, on the pool deck, light fare is available, including what may be the best hamburger at sea. Vegans can also indulge. And, The World Cafe serves for a breakfast buffet as well as lunch and dinner. Customized omlets are worth the few minutes' wait. Sometimes staff were overwhelmed by passenger needs, but they were attentive and (with few exceptions) handle the demands well. Buffet food is among the best we have had. Do no pass on the ice cream and pastry selections. Seek out the daily pizza options that go well with a Viking beer at lunch.
As related above, Viking clientele are learners. Each port includes one tour. Additional, paid tours are available. Most included tours are city drive throughs with a couple of stops. Our Dublin 3 hour city tour had an excellent guide. He related neighborhood histories along with those of major monuments. He summarized economic conditions in the city and country as well as the possible Brexit impacts. Included was a 45 minute stop at Jubilee Gardens. We were able to hop off the bus to explore Temple Bar on our own. On the Orkney Islands the included tour got out of the port of Kirkwall into the countryside, and included a too brief stop in the seaside village of Stromners. My bride found a shop with her favorite roving from the native North Ronaldsay sheep - a breed that cannot be exported elsewhere in the world because of its particular seaweed diet. Plenty of time was allowed for a stop at the neolithic Ring of Brodgar, a predecessor of Britian's more famous henge. Port Ulapool's included walking tour was perfect for getting a sense of a western Highlands Scottish seaside community, and included a pub stop with adult and bakery refreshments along with lively local music. We felt that the guide gave a reasonable overview of life in the community. Comments do not include all of out complimentary tours.
Among the paid tours we enjoyed The Beatles Experience tour in Liverpool, except for the hot, stuffy museum at the end. Otherwise the ecellent guide and typically cramped bus seating are worth the effort for "Fab Four" fans. In Edinburgh the Rosslyn Chapel and Glenkinche Distillery tour were well done. One has to suffer an excessive crowd at the chapel. So, it takes effort to appreciate the complexity of the architectural gem. Do leave a few coins to support the chapel cat. The distillery tour with guide Willie was excellent; that's from a Kentucky resident bourbon enthusiast. Very disappointing for a train enthusiast was the Ffestiniog Railway and Lunch tour at the Holyhead port. We arrived at the train depot with barely enough time to board - no time for photos. Photo opps were "promised" at the terminus. By the time most of the photogs in our group got to the head of the train the engine was decoupled and on its way through the rail yard. Then, we had to rush to a bus to get to the next stop, lunch in a hotel in Betws-y-Coed with provided meal and time to wander the community that reminded me of Aspen, CO, without the opulence.We traveled through the Sodonia highlands, Wales slate producing region, distinct part of the UK. A positive with the Viking tours is that the limit seems to be around 25. So, one doesn't feel like part of ther herd. We took 7 included and 6 paid tours over the two weeks. So these comments offer only highlights.
Preparing us for each port was a presentation by the cruise director and the shore excursion manager. Special kudos to Vicki, the cruise director. She was genuinely engaging and totally professional; and very unlike cruise directors on most prior non-Viking cruises, did not act like a clownish buffoon. I do fault the tour director, however, Javier, for a demonstrably lack of personal knowledge about some port tours.
Debarkation, not a welcome 5:00am rise to be ready for our 6:15 group to end this Viking experience. In The Living Room we had fruit, breakfast pastry, and beverage options as we awaited our group call for airport transport. Friendly Viking staff were at every turn, literally as we left the ship. On the 90 minute bus ride to London-Heathrow Airport, a Viking representive gave us a guided narration through the London neighborhoods and assisted at our airport arrival.
As my wife said, "This is one cruise that we return from without needing a vacation." Thanks Viking staff and Viking Jupiter crew. We'll be back! Lecturer quality is one reason for booking an Inside Passage Alaska cruise for 2020. It will be our fifth in the region. We look forward to the Viking difference. Finally, I have kept a spreadsheet for costs on prior 26 cruises and on this Viking cruise. For comparable 2 week cruises our Viking costs were only $300.00 more. I attribute this to the longer air distance to Norway. By comparison to US carriers, SAS to Norway and BA from London to the US provided FAR SUPERIOR comfort, food, service, and amenities in the same passenger class, Economy Comfort/Economy Plus or equivalent level.
From our arrival to our debarkation 15 days later, our cabin steward, Sugara, provided congenial, excellent service. The stateroom brightly appointed in contemporary Scandanavian decor was a Deluxe Veranda that included two comfortable lounge chairs and ample below the bed storage for luggage. Closet access was somewhat cramped because of its position spanning one side of the bed. And, the night stands could use a drawer or cubby in place of a decorative facia panel. Overall, drawer space in the cabin was adequate. Most convenient on the night stands were 110/220 volt electric and USB outlets. The desk also had outlets and a hinged top that presented a lighted make-up mirror and storage space for small items, including provided binoculars. The bed was comfortably firm. Adjustments can be made, as Sugara asked us if we were satisfied with the bed's comfort.
The bathroom offered ample drawer, counter, and shelf storage. But, with only one towel rack that served hand towels and face clothes, it lacked hanging space for bath towels, unless one used the door hooks intended for the provided comfortable robes. And, thanks for the slippers, useful for treking to the spa. Bathroom mirrors were steamless after showers; and, what a treat to step onto the user controlled, heated bathroom floor. Excellent water control and flow typify the sink and shower. And, to lead us to the bathroom at night was a floor nigh light toggled by switches on both sides of the bed.
Included in cruise fare. We hare somewhat familiar with Bergen from prior visits. This is a well done overview of several areas in and around Bergen.View All 136 City Tour Reviews
On a small farm outside of Bergen we learned about farm operations and life in Norway. It was informative and entertaining. Seeing a few hours old bew born lamb was a treat.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Would be "excellent" were it not for the crowding at the chapel which impeded getting around the interior. Willie, the distillery tour guide, was excellent.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Kirkwall's center is a delightful walking area to explore. The cruise's included tour, Highlights of Historic Orkney, gave us a good sample of the countryside, a small fishing village and the Bronze Age Ring of Brodgar.
Interesting narated drive through the countryside. Crowding at the Causeway limits enjoyment.View All 94 Giant's Causeway Reviews
Very knowledgable guide as we traversed various neighborhoods and historic sights.View All 44 City Tour Reviews