Another area that has been a focus of Viking Ocean Cruises over the past few years is the excursion program.
Viking Jupiter gives passengers one included shore excursion in every port. Expect these to be motorcoach "highlight" tours to some of the destination's most-known sights. You'll generally bring your Whisper audio device on these tours, which are led by local guides. We found these tours are best suited in places where the star attractions are too far from the port to walk, for example, Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo.
* May require additional fees
Far more interesting -- but come with a price -- are the for-fee shore excursions that Viking sells in different ports. There's a nice choice of offerings, ranging from specialty walking tours to active excursions such as biking to culinary-themed things to do like a food tour.
In the small port of Skagen, Denmark, Viking Jupiter had nine different excursions beyond the included tour. One focused on painters, while others brought you to historic sites a few hours away. "Meet the Skageners" allowed you to go into a local home and learn about their daily life. The one that we took, Skagen by Bike, cycled around the area, giving us a nice scenic 10-mile workout. The ship also ran a shuttle into Skagen regularly if you just wanted to walk around.
Prices for tours are on the high side, with most over $100. More extravagant options -- like visiting Pulpit Rock by private yacht -- ran as much as $1,000. There's a nice mix of short and long tours, and in most ports, you could do the free included tour in the morning and still find an extra-fee tour to do in the afternoon.
You'll want to reserve your complimentary excursions -- and paid excursions too, in high-demand ports -- before you board, as the best times book up early. (Sometimes the ship will add extra excursions if the demand is there.) You can also book the tours on the Viking app, through Guest Services or through the TV in your room.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
The passengers on Viking Jupiter are generally onboard for the destinations, and the ship doesn't offer too many things to do during the days that it's in port. Most people come back from their tours and spend the rest of the time relaxing, taking advantage of the Nordic spa or getting something to eat.
On sea days, there's a bit more to do, weather permitting. If it's nice out, you can use the sports deck; sometimes there are golf or Ping-Pong contests. There's usually a whiskey or Armagnac tasting that carries a fee at Torshavn. Several times during a sailing, there will be trivia or a name-that-tune contest; unlike some cruise ships, however, trivia is not a daily occurrence.
One thing we noticed passengers flocking to are the electronic table tops on Deck 2 of the Living Room's Atrium. Besides maps and ways to research future Viking cruises, the table tops have games such as backgammon, Scrabble and Memory. In the early evening hours and on sea days, these table tops were so popular that it was often hard to find an open one.
Every night, there's a performance of some kind in Viking Jupiter's lounge. On our cruise, we had a fantastic Norwegian violinist, who played native melodies alongside scenes of Norwegian art. Another act, called A Night with Edvard Grieg, was a musical show about the composer's life. Both of these, while on the highbrow side, were very well done and entertaining. Other nights featured cabaret-style musical revues, with baby boomer-familiar songs such as ABBA, the Beatles and songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s with a small group of singers/dancers who were actually pretty good. One night a simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera was featured in the theater. In general, the production values in the Star Lounge are better than you'd expect on similar-sized ships.
Live musicians -- many classical -- do play in the lounges; we were surprised one night to hear a guitarist plucking out an acoustic version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." The band in Torshavn's played to a small but dedicated and enthusiastic crowd every night. Still, all in all, Viking Jupiter is not a late-night ship; you'll be hard-pressed to find people up and out past midnight.
Fans of PBS, NPR and "60 Minutes "are used to seeing Viking Ocean ads, and Viking Jupiter provides a lot of learning opportunities for that kind of passenger. The ship has both a resident historian and a resident astronomer; on our sailing, there was also a special additional speaker. So every day -- sometimes twice a day -- you could find a lecture to attend. All of the talks we went to were full.
The resident historian spoke on topics relevant to the ports we visited. So we learned about the Hanseatic League, the Vikings and a short history of the Netherlands (while most passengers were debarking in Amsterdam, almost everyone we spoke to was spending more time in the city). His presentations were lively, full of slides and were only 45 minutes (so no worries about falling asleep in class). The historian also held several informal Q&As to discuss the difference between Scandinavian countries and the artist Edvard Munch.
The astronomer's talks are meant to supplement Viking Jupiter's Planetarium program. The 26-seat planetarium features reclined seats that are so comfy, you'll wonder how you'll stay awake. Luckily the shows are engaging, with 3D features in some. Reservations are needed for the Planetarium shows; you can book on your phone or call Guest Services. Three shows a day are usually held, and all are complimentary.
If you want more enrichment, TED Talks are broadcast daily in a section of the Star Theater, and you can also watch them in your cabins.
Viking Jupiter does not draw a party-hearty crowd; people are much more likely to be sipping martinis and savoring their wine than downing shots. There are no real fruity cocktail drinks or pub crawls. But that's exactly the kind of adult atmosphere that Viking is trying to create -- plus people are usually early to bed to do excursions and activities in port in the morning.
That being said, the bars on Viking Jupiter are so gorgeous, you'll want to linger over drinks. We're not sure where else at sea you can drink wine while listening to a classical pianist play music that accompanies an Edvard Munch slideshow, or sip curated Armagnacs. Viking Jupiter's bar scene is as classy as the rest of the ship.
Viking Bar (Deck 1): Located on the first floor of the Atrium, this bar serves many purposes. In the mornings, it's a coffee bar where you can get cappuccinos, espresso and other hot drinks to go before excursions (although with a pastry). In the evening, it's a nice place for a drink while listening to a pianist or classical trio.
Torshavn (Deck 2): The main live music party spot on Viking Jupiter, Torshavn is a cozy spot in the evenings. Plush banquettes and dim lighting make it the sexiest bar on the ship. In the evenings, a live band plays music here -- mostly rock hits of the baby boomer era. Unusually, the bar features Armagnac brandy, and there's usually a for-fee tasting at least once during the cruise.
Theater Bar (Deck 2): This bar is not really a sit-down venue; it's more of a grab-and-go before shows or lectures in the theater. There's coffee and juice before morning lectures and popcorn when there's a movie or event simulcast.
Aquavit Bar (Deck 7): This pretty bar at the back of the World Cafe buffet is often more functional than social, but we did find it a fun place to grab a drink before sitting down at a table for dinner. It's gorgeous when the windows open, giving patrons a front-view seat to the infinity pool scene.
Explorers' Lounge (Decks 7 and 8): We're in love with this bar that spans two decks; the attention to detail in here is one of the reasons why Viking Jupiter (and Viking Ocean Cruises overall) earns such oohs and ahhs from the design conscious.
The furnishings in the Explorers Lounge are out of a Norwegian version of Restoration Hardware. Chairs and sofas are thick and comfy, and there are large furry reindeer hides on the back of the couches (these do shed, as we realized when we curled up in one). The color scheme is different shades of blue, and Scandinavian artifacts decorate the tables. On one side of the first floor, there's a long faux fireplace that still creates a cozy ambiance. Elsewhere, long bookshelves are full of tomes on exploration and travel. Huge windows give you an excellent view of the surrounding ocean.
The second floor has the planetarium, as well as more seating. This feature first debuted on Viking Orion and we found it a nice addition. Shows were interesting and popular -- it's hard to get a booking. Most of the time, the planetarium doors are closed, but occasionally you can peek in -- just don't fall asleep on the supercomfy reclined chairs; you'll get chased out.
We found ourselves in the Explorers Lounge at all hours of the day. In the mornings, it was an excellent spot for coffee and a waffle from Mamsen's, which is also located here. In the afternoons, we loved it as a place to read or participate in trivia. And in the evenings, it's a lovely place to watch the sunset.
Pool Bar (Deck 7): Another bar that isn't so much a place to hang out as it is a serving station for the nearby tables and loungers of the pool area and grill.
Wintergarden Conservatory (Deck 7): Another pretty place to have a drink, although the real highlight here is afternoon tea. Here again, design-lovers will coo over the decor, which features wooden "trees" that extend up into a glass ceiling. Glass doors connect the Wintergarden to the pool area and when that area's retractable ceiling is open, it's a very breezy and open complex.
This is another nice quiet spot to read or socialize. It's where the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingles and other events take place.
While Viking Jupiter feels more like an "inside person's" ship than an "outdoor person," there are still two lovely pool areas that are enticing in good weather.
The main pool is covered by a sliding retractable roof, which allows the area to be used even in inclement weather (the roof was never open during our Scandinavia cruise). It's a very pretty pool, with a water fountain feature and an adjacent hot tub. Lounge chairs, as well as tables and sofas, surround the space, and there are also thick padded lounge chairs near the glass windows so you can spread out with a blanket and look out.
The second pool is the aft infinity pool, which also has a hot tub. To get there, you need to pass through the World Cafe and the Aquavit Terrace, which can feel a little weird in a swimsuit and cover-up, but many people get over it (the views from this pool are fab so it's worth it).
There's a sun deck area on Deck 8, where you'll find plenty more lounge chairs. There's a smoking section up here, where you can retreat with a cigar if you're inclined. The sports deck on Deck 9 has a putting green, a Ping-Pong table, shuffleboard and a bocce court. Usage depends on the itinerary and weather.
Guest Services is on Deck 1, and it's the main place to go if you need help with your account or booking appointments and shore excursions. There's also a small library area here, with a book exchange (you're certainly not limited to the books here, though, as there are many all over the ship that you can read if you're so inclined).
Wi-Fi is free on Viking Jupiter. You're limited to one device per person at a time, which means that usage on the ship overall is controlled. This is an excellent idea; although it can be annoying to shift between accounts, it does mean that it's easy to get on and that the internet is relatively fast (but not fast enough to stream).
There are a few jewelry stores onboard, only open when the ship is sailing. More popular is the small store, which not only has sundries and Viking logo items but also a curated section of Norwegian brand clothing, shoes and outerwear (Helly Hansen is popular). "The World of Finse" book series featuring Karine Hagen's Golden Retriever is sold here, as well as plates with the Mamsen pattern.
One popular feature throughout the ship are the self-service laundries on the passenger floors. It's free, including the detergent (but not fabric softener or dryer sheets). There's also an ironing board and iron in the space, too.
One of the best features about Viking Jupiter -- and all of the Viking Ocean fleet -- is the incredible Nordic thermal spa, which is included in your fare. Not only is the space gorgeous to look at, it's based on Scandinavian principles of exposing the body to hot and cold through steam rooms, saunas and plunge pools. Given how important the sauna is within Nordic life, the space feels authentic.
Within the complex, you'll find a warm thalassotherapy pool, a hot tub, a steam room, heated ceramic lounges, a cold water dump bucket and a snow room. There are also plush loungers and a water station with both still and sparkling so you can linger as long as you want. Within the locker rooms, the options continue with a dry sauna and a very cold plunge pool.
You can learn about Nordic bathing rituals through a guided Sauna Night, a $44 treatment/experience where you are walked through the principles. It's a sweet bonding experience, if a little woo-woo at times. We will say that doing the ritual helped us push through our natural aversion to cold so by the end of the trip, we were confidently heading into the snow room and using the dump bucket.
The spa is adjacent to the thermal suite, and you wait for your treatments in the locker room. You can continue the Nordic theme with Scandinavian facials and massages, which use organic products. A few things we loved about the spa -- there's no upselling of products, which makes the whole experience more serene. The treatments are all focused around wellness, too -- you won't find any medi-spa services such as Botox or fillers here.
There's a salon near the spa where you can get shampoos and blowouts, as well as waxing, mani/pedis and makeup applications. Services for men, such as beard trimming and haircuts, are also available.
Pricing for services is about what you'd find on any upscale cruise ship -- meaning that it's high but not out-of-line with hotels or large cities. A 50-minute massage is $139, while a 50-minute facial is $149. Manicure and pedicures run $59–$69, while the prices for blowouts depend on how long your hair is (medium length is $60–$70). Prices do not include tips, which you can add when you check out.
Fitness-lovers will be drawn to the gym, which has cardio equipment -- treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals -- both weight machines and free weights, and mats and TRX straps for stretching, yoga and Pilates. A morning stretching class is usually held for free, but occasionally during the cruise, you'll find other classes that do carry a fee. You can hire a personal trainer onboard, too.
While there's no jogging track per se, Viking Jupiter does have a full promenade on Deck 2 that's protected from the elements. A mile is four laps.
As the line promotes a kid-free atmosphere, the minimum age to sail on Viking is 18.