Post-pandemic, the itch to explore has never been greater. A girlfriend getaway long overdue, I called my lifelong adventurous friend Molly to join me on the Vikings Homelands cruise from Stockholm, Sweden to Bergen, Norway aboard Viking’s state-of-the-art ship Jupiter. Our goal was to catch up after years of separation by COVID, see new sights, experience world cuisines and cocktails, get one with nature, relax and laugh.
Our deluxe veranda stateroom was just as we hoped – modern with a Scandinavian design and plenty of space for two gals’ clothes and souvenirs too. The duo beds separated by the nightstands gave us each a place for our plethora of electronic charging devices. With children and significant others left behind, being fully charged and available is a must. The generously sized living area accommodated in-room dining nicely. The bathroom has two very good storage spaces and the vanity in the main living area is perfect for one person to be finishing getting ready while the other showers. I requested feather-free bedding and could not be happier with the linens provided. Fluffy robes and slippers were donned for breakfasts on the balcony. Paparazzi in Stockholm port-side be damned, we were living our best lives as besties on a cruise.
A typical day in the life of this travel writer began with early morning workouts in the well-equipped fitness center, power walks on the panoramic deck two-track, and logging miles in spectacular ports of call. A quick breakfast via room service enabled us to maximize our time, ready for morning tours.
The option to eat lunch on the Aquavit Terrace at the World Café outdoors under cover during a brief sprinkle or on the sunny deck is a treat. Whether underway at sea or in port the views of the Scandinavian coasts delighted us daily.
Afternoon activities ranged from the sublime – strolling along cobblestone streets in Copenhagen, Denmark, and high-end shopping in Oslo, Norway to exhilarating adventures – bouncing on the choppy waters at high speed in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) tour of the stunning coastline in Aalborg, Denmark and kayaking deep into the ancient fjord of Eidfjord, Norway.
A rhythm to the cruise was quickly established; take advantage of the organized tours in each port, but also take time to absorb the unique history and charm of each city with afternoon breaks sitting at cafes sipping on wine or local spirits. Gdańskis love their Danziner Goldwasser “Gold Water” as our guide told us so we stopped into the famous Goldwasser Restaurant in Gdańsk, Poland to imbibe. We were impressed enough to bring back a few nips as souvenirs.
Several evenings we took advantage of the amazing Nordic Spa facilities. After pounding the pavement for miles a day there is nothing like jumping into the plunge pool and hot tub to relieve sore muscles. Molly was braver than I was and visited the Snow Grotto as well. We booked Swedish deep tissue massages and compared notes afterward. Her therapist focused on her neck and head and I requested feet and shoulders. We were both thrilled that years of COVID stress were all but alleviated. Relaxation, check!
Nighttime aboard Jupiter is particularly enjoyable. The Chef’s Table is a coveted reservation. Every few days a new themed menu is served and we took full advantage of trying international epicurean dishes specially paired with wines recommended by the sommelier. Manfredi’s Restaurant has an Italian flair but serves exceptional steak that melts in your mouth. On particularly busy days we opted for a more casual, quick buffet-style meal at the World Café and sat en plein air painting a colorful memory with each delicious bite. Never has sushi tasted so good as dining late on Jupiter’s seventh deck with the sun setting against the backdrop of Norway’s breathtaking fjords in the background.
On the nights we still had the energy to get a groove on we attended performances in the comfortable Star Theater. Highlights included performances by the Viking Band and Virtuoso Violinist Irina Guskova. Energized by the shows, we frequently moved on to Torshavn, the ship’s nightclub to listen to the outstanding guitar entertainer Michael croon our favorite tunes followed up by the talented Speedy and the Viking Band. Admittedly the cruise is mainly made up of couples, but we soon made friends with many who loved hearing of our enduring friendship and joined us to celebrate it wholeheartedly on the dance floor. The tasty hand-crafted cocktails might have had a tad to do with our enthusiasm to embarrass ourselves dancing, but no regrets – we loved every minute of it and laughed until we fell asleep.
We ended the cruise in charming Bergen, satisfied that our mission was complete. We ate well (too well, ahem), we drank well (wines from Chile, Italy, France, South Africa, and Portugal), we studied extraordinary landscapes in historical lands, we danced to our heart’s content, we communed with nature, we relaxed in the spa, and we shopped, but most importantly we laughed until our sides hurt. It was the gift of a lifetime to experience the two weeks with Molly celebrating a nearly 50-year friendship. Viking Jupiter was a super vessel and combined with the Viking Homeland’s itinerary, they were a perfect match for a fantastic girl’s getaway cruise.
- Stop by the Explorer’s Desk in the mornings and use your cell phone camera to take a shot of the QR code for each port. It provides local maps and ship locations so you can explore on your own without getting lost.
- The Silver Spirits Package is an excellent deal if you like to try world-class wines or desire to try hand-crafted cocktails without worrying about a bill at the end of the cruise. We found loads of new labels we enjoyed that way.
- Dinner time is a good time to use the Nordic Spa when others are dining. We had the place virtually to ourselves during the early evenings.
- Book dinner reservations as soon as possible, but do not panic as availability opens up once aboard. Flexibility is key.
- Book sought-after optional excursions as soon as possible pre-cruise but once underway check back periodically or request to be put on the waiting list at the Explorer’s Desk if your first choice is unavailable.
- The gift stores are only open when the ship is at sea. Make time for duty-free shopping and take advantage of the experts in the jewelry areas to learn about Amber (the special gem of Scandinavia) if you don’t find what you are looking for onboard they will point you in the right direction of reputable shops in each city.
- Get out into nature. Norway, in particular, shines best when seen up close by kayak or RIB or by hiking and biking. You will have the best vantage points and see areas not accessible by bus.
- Do NOT pack too many clothes. The laundry facilities on each stateroom floor were excellent. The easiest times to do loads without a wait were during meal times or early morning.