Diary of Viking’s Iconic Mediterranean Cruise Aboard Viking Jupiter

Starting in February, there will be 19 Opportunities to sail on Viking’s Iconic Mediterranean Itinerary.  Here’s what to expect.

Viking Cruise Line, perennially atop “Best Cruise Line” lists, offers this true Bucket List voyage. Viking sails from Rome to Barcelona (or the reverse) on this wonderful itinerary. It takes in Italy’s must-see cultural sites in Rome, Florence and Pisa.  And for those who have ‘seen it all’, there are forays into the Tuscan countryside including a Wine tour of Chianti.

Greve in Chianti, credit Monte Mathews
Chianti Countryside, credit Monte Mathews

From Italy, the ship visits Monaco, the principality that is among the richest places on earth and the gateway to the French Riviera. On to Marseille, France’s second largest city with its phenomenal harbor and its easy access to the glories of Provence.  From there, the ship sails to the port of Sète, which gives access to Montpelier and its namesake university founded in 1160.  Finally, the ship arrives in Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Spain’s Catalonia, with its own language and spectacular architecture.

Before and after, Viking offers great Pre and Post Opportunities to explore Italy and Spain more deeply.

One of the great advantages of the Iconic Mediterranean itinerary is its length.  At just 8 days, it’s a great invitation to extend your vacation. This will allow you to take in even more Italian culture at the start and Spain’s at the end.  Viking offers pre and post stays in Rome, Barcelona, and Madrid.  Or you can roam the Italian countryside on adventures in Tuscany, Umbria or the gastronomic capitals of Parma and Bologna.  You can also plan your own pre or post adventures independently. In my case, I visited family in Milano before rocketing to Rome in 3 hours and 10 minutes in a train that went 300 km. (190 miles) an hour! And not even a drop of expresso was spilled.  An easy connection at Rome’s Termini Train Station put me at Rome’s port of Civitavecchia in less than an hour.  And there, in all her glory, Viking Jupiter awaited.

What awaits on Viking Jupiter is what will await you, regardless of the name of your Viking ship.

Viking prides itself on having developed the perfect cruise ship. So, every one of their fleet of nine ships is identically laid out.  Past passengers immediately know their way to their favorite places aboard ship. And oh, what places they are! With just over 900 passengers, in today’s world, they’re called ‘small ships’. And yet there’s a feeling of space, greatly enhanced by Viking’s Scandinavian design and the incredible amount of light throughout the ship. But, with all the space aboard, Viking ships manage to feel intimate. The Restaurant bears no resemblance to a Banquet Hall. In fact, all Viking restaurants have a ‘clubby’ feel. Lounges are broken up in multiple sitting areas. There’s a Winter Garden for tea, a night club for dancing, a theater for lectures and performances, and two cinemas. There’s a two-story Explorer’s Lounge overlooking the bow of the ship.

There’s a glorious swimming pool with a retractable roof. There’s another infinity pool overlooking the stern of the ship. And everywhere there is fascinating art and Viking artifacts this proudly Norwegian cruise line displays.  And then there are the staterooms.  Every single one has not only a sea view through floor-to-ceiling windows but also that most-treasured of private spaces, a balcony. Inside, there’s every imaginable amenity from a personal refrigerator to an interactive Television and heated bathroom floors. You can choose from the least expensive offering all the way up to an Explorer suite where the extra perks are piled on. And every one of them lives up to Viking’s promise of “exploring the world in comfort”.

What Viking doesn’t offer is as important to Viking’s loyal following as what it does.

You won’t find a casino or a Ship’s Photographer aboard. You also won’t find anybody under the age of 18.  You won’t be charged to use the Spa.  You won’t pay a surcharge to eat anywhere on the ship. You won’t pay for beer or wine at lunch or dinner or even a Mimosa with your breakfast.  There’s no fee for 24-hour room service or to use the brilliantly equipped gym. There’s free WiFi throughout the ship (and it’s very good!).  And there’s never a charge to use the self-service launderettes on every deck.  With its included shore excursions, Viking is about as all-inclusive as it gets.

Aquavit Terrace Bar, credit Viking

Come and join me as I set sail from Civitavecchia on Day One:

Civitavecchia exists to harbor cruise ships.  The train stops virtually at the port.

I boarded a shuttle bus that took me directly to Viking Jupiter.  After the brief formalities, I was quickly aboard ship and into my stateroom on Deck 4. Settling in was a breeze. There’s plenty of space for a chronic over packer.  My steward soon appeared to explain everything there was to know about my Deluxe Veranda suite. This was my 4th Viking Ocean sailing, so his time was brief.  But his cheerful presence was felt every day of the voyage and there was nothing the man would not do for his guests.  I was anxious to re-acquaint myself with all things aboard ship and so I took a stem to stern walk, delighted to find everything exactly as I remembered it.  I ended up at one of my favorite perches. The Bar at the end of the World Café on Deck 7 overlooks the outdoor Aquavit Terrace with its infinity pool and views over the stern of the ship.  My interest is in all things culinary so that night, and several subsequent nights, I chose to have dinner at The Chef’s Table. This is the gastronomic heart of every Viking Ocean ship. Its menus reflect where the ship has been and where it is going. Every three days, it changes from one cuisine to another.  I so enjoyed my dinner and the incredibly attentive service, that I missed our 10 p.m. Sail Away altogether.

Pisa, credit Monte Mathews

Day 2: Florence/Pisa, Italy. A plethora of pleasures.

The hardest part about a Viking voyage is choosing your shore excursions. And Livorno, the port for Florence and Pisa, is no exception.  Today, Florence and Pisa were on offer in one 10 ½ hour tour. It starts with a scenic drive to Florence where three of the city’s major monuments were the order of the day: The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the medieval Ponte Vecchio and finally the Basilica di Santa Croce, resting place of Michelangelo. On to Pisa, for an exploration of the Square of Miracles, with its Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. Since I am a perennial visitor to Italy and its museums and monuments, I opted instead for an extra charge tour “Wine Region of Chianti”.  This tour was right up my culinary alley with its stunning scenery, extensive wine tasting and a truly wonderful dinner at Castello Vicchiomaggio, a magnificent ‘Castello’ dating from the 15th Century. It was approaching 11 o’clock when we returned to Viking Jupiter and a blissful sleep.  The ship overnights in Livorno.

Day 3: Florence/Pisa, Italy

The second day provided a second chance to visit Florence. The shore excursions offered were even more immersive than the first.  The Pitti Palace and Michelangelo’s “David” were among the offerings. Instead, I was very pleased to see that the included shore excursion, the four hour “From Tuscany to Pisa,” was offered at several times including in the afternoon. This allowed a little recovery from last night’s late night in Chianti. The tour was an example of just how good Viking is at selecting its guides. The young native of Pisa had been baptized in the famous Baptistry and one day hoped to be married in its Cathedral. She really brought this extraordinary monument’s history to life.  And she also knew the exact angle to take the compulsory picture of ‘holding up the leaning tower’. And she even took every picture she was asked to.  Back to the ship, tonight I chose to have dinner at Manfredi’s. Appropriately this is Viking’s superb Italian restaurant and every bit as authentic as anything on land.

Day 4: Monte Carlo, Monaco

While the focus of this day is indeed the home of an American princess, Grace Kelly, the ship dropped anchor in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The lovely little town is well-worth a walkabout and if you have time, be sure to stop in at Chapelle Saint-Pierre which is literally yards from where the tenders land. Here, Jean Cocteau, French poet, painted its murals. St. Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen would be bowled over by their beauty.  The included excursion here is a walking tour of Monaco.  It could be called the Grimaldi family tour as it takes in the Prince’s Palace, and St. Nicholas Cathedral which was where Princess Grace was both married and buried. The walk leaves plenty of time to allow for a second shore excursion, this one called “Nice on Your Own”. This is a splendid way to spend an afternoon. Be sure to include a visit to the Marche aux Fleurs, Nice’s splendid fruit, vegetable, and flower market, in the Old Town. Sample Nice’s Socca Pancakes, a savory chickpea pan cake that is synonymous with the French Riviera.

Marseille OId Port, credit Monte Mathews

Day 5: Marseille, France

There was a time when Marseille was to be avoided.  The city, France’s oldest, was considered dangerous. Now, it’s hard to imagine why. The included 3-hour Scenic Marseille tour dispels its former reputation by taking Viking guests along the city’s beautiful ‘Corniche’ and to its Old Port. The magnificent harbor is dotted with hundreds of yachts and its quays lined with restaurants offering its most famous recipe: Bouillabaisse. Instead of seeing Marseille, you may want to head inland to the magical land of Provence.  There’s one tour to the Paris of the South of France, the lovely Aix-en-Provence. Another takes you to Avignon, of “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” fame and its former Palace of the Popes.  Or you can stay close to the coast and see the truly beautiful “Calanques”, rocky cliffs and bays that lead to the pretty little town of Cassis. I opted for the 3-hour tour for one simple reason. I cannot get enough time aboard Viking Jupiter. This sunny afternoon was the perfect opportunity to loll around the swimming pool, indulge in all the goodies that are served at afternoon tea in the Winter Garden and later, to have another splendid meal in the Restaurant.

Day 6: Montpellier (Sète), France

Docking in Sète, the port for Montpelier, it’s a multiple choice day again. You can opt to visit Montpelier with its University of the same name. Or you can venture inland to Carcassonne, a walled Medieval City of great beauty. Or go to Narbonne with its Abbaye de Fontfroide, a magnificently restored 11th century Benedictine Monastery. I opted for the included “Scenic Sète by foot”.  This was a great opportunity to visit a town that is off the tourist track. It is called the “Venice of Languedoc”. Here the canals that run through town are lined with Tuna Fishing Boats. We walked along one to the sea. Next up was a truly wonderful indoor market with magnificent produce and an astonishing selection of oysters all harvested from a lagoon close to town. Returning to Viking Jupiter, this is my least favorite day of the cruise. Not that Sète wasn’t wonderful but tomorrow we will reach our final port, Barcelona. The only upside is we have a whole day before we disembark.

Gaudi Apt Barcelona, credit Monte Mathews

Day 7: Barcelona, Spain

I confess to being an unabashed fan of Barcelona. This was my fourth trip there in five years. I have gone out of my way to come here. Why? Because I cannot think of another city with so many reasons to visit.  If you only need one, Antoni Gaudi comes to mind. This masterful architect, with his undulating buildings and affection for Spanish tile as an art form, is imprinted on this city. In his body of work there’s the still-unfinished Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. To me, this magnificent place is so spiritually uplifting the often long waits to get in are worth every minute. You can join Viking’s “Gaudi Architecture and La Sagrada Familia” for an immersive Gaudi experience. Or you can opt for the included “Iconic Barcelona” Its four hours will give you your bearings and then you can explore the city on your own. Take in Las Ramblas, visit the Picasso Museum, go to the Palau de Musica, visit the Mediterranean beach in the center of town, eat tapas at La Boqueria Market. There’s no end to what’s on offer in Barcelona.

Day 8: Return to Reality or Continue Your Spanish Sojourn…

The dreaded last day has arrived. Our bags have been in the hall since 10 o’clock last night. We’ve said our goodbyes and wistful farewells. We’ll be whisked to the airport to catch our flights home. Or perhaps not…in just an hour or so, we could go to Lisbon, Portugal, where, luck would have it, we can join Viking River’s superb Douro River Cruise and spend another extraordinary 10 days with Viking as our host.

Experience Viking’s industry-leading health and safety program.

Grounded in scientific research, the Viking Health & Safety Program was developed in partnership with an international team of medical advisors, including Raquel C. Bono, M.D., Viking’s Chief Health Officer. Dr. Bono is a board-certified trauma surgeon and retired Vice Admiral of the United States Navy Medical Corps—and most recently led Washington State’s medical and healthcare systems response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing a full-scale laboratory installed on every Viking ocean ship—and a strong network of dedicated shoreside labs for Viking river ships in Europe—all guests and crew will receive frequent quick and easy non-invasive saliva PCR tests. New air purification technology has also been installed on all Viking ships, which have always featured independent air handling units for all guest staterooms. And additional health checks, sanitization and physical distancing measures will provide further protection for Viking guests and crew at all points of the journey. A complete overview of the Viking Health & Safety Program can be found at: www.viking.com/health-safety.

Viking Jupiter docked in Sete, credit Monte Mathews

Cover photo: Villefranche, credit Monte Mathews


Ed. Note: See sailings here: Viking Ocean Cruises (cruisecompete.com)

Viking Jupiter

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3 thoughts on “Diary of Viking’s Iconic Mediterranean Cruise Aboard Viking Jupiter”

  1. Beautifully written recounting of your voyage. I felt like I was with you at every stop. Viking seems to be a wonderful choice. My wife and I can’t wait to book this magnificent journey!

    Reply

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