As one world’s most famous artworks, Munch’s The Scream expresses existential angst like no other; it even has its own emoji. But nothing beats the emotional power of standing in front of this iconic painting for real – especially when senior staff from the recently-opened Munch museum in Oslo are talking through Munch’s work with just you and your small group.
We were getting the low-down in the dramatic new MUNCH building that looms over the city’s waterfront with its own Munch-like intensity. After the subdued lighting in the picture galleries, we were guided into the laboratory-bright conservation studio where 11 experts are kept busy preserving artworks such as The Scream – which is painted on cardboard – for future generations.
Still to come was lunch with the MUNCH staff on the topmost floor, with breath-taking views over Oslo. It was all part of Viking’s ‘Behind Closed Doors At The Munch Museum’ excursion that granted us privileged access and an unforgettable experience at the mid-point of our 7 night Viking Shores and Fjords cruise.
We’d flown to join Viking Jupiter in Amsterdam. First stop was Skagen, the northern-most point of Denmark, which with its warm microclimate, sandy beaches and immaculate clapboard houses, oozed old-style charm. Then we headed for Norway’s capital, its picturesque towns and, finally, its fjords, before flying home from Bergen.
Exploring was easy – Viking’s guiding principle is to include virtually everything in the ticket price so that once away, your holiday feels frictionless. Flights are included, as are wine or beer at lunch and dinner, wi-fi, tips and, at nearly every port, a shore excursion that’s a great way to get the feel of each new place.
Included tours of Oslo’s stomach-turning Holmenkollen ski jump and the city’s Vigeland Park, with its monumental sculptures depicting all manner of human emotions, were conducted mainly by coach with top-notch guides. In small-town Kristiansand and oil-HQ Stavanger, guided walking tours through the old quarters pointed to former lives dependent on fishing, while Stavanger’s impressive Oil Museum told a more modern story.
For different experiences ashore, there are optional paid-for excursions available which saw us take to the water from Flam on a kayaking expedition. Paddling past waterfalls and scree slopes still dusted with snow gave us new perspectives on Sognefjord, with a delicious alfresco lunch against a backdrop of birches and churches adding the finishing touch. Others opted for the famously scenic train trip from Flam up to Myrdal on one of the steepest standard-gauge railways in the world.
Back aboard Viking Jupiter, our accommodation offered fantastic views too. Every room on the ship has a full balcony – perfect for sunny room-service breakfasts – and floor-to-ceiling windows as well as a stocked fridge (with a mini bar that’s replenished daily in Penthouse Veranda suites and above), coffee machine, and easy-to-use safe.
The ship offered many other vantage points from which to enjoy the scenery: front-row seats in the double-height Explorers Lounge over the bow, and the hot tub and infinity pool on the Aquavit Terrace aft. In between, sunloungers looked out to sea close to the airy Winter Garden where lavish afternoon teas were served daily.
Come dinner time, the choice is yours. The main dining room includes a destination menu with regional specialities such as salmon roe flatbreads with sour cream, reindeer stew and rhubarb charlotte while the main menu has more familiar items such as seared foie gras, New York steak and crème brulée.
Manfredi’s is one of two alternative dining venues available at no extra charge and feels like a proper Italian restaurant – the monkfish in pancetta was excellent. Or try a themed menu with paired wines that changes three times a week at the Chef’s Table.
With only 930 passengers, Viking Jupiter – like its sister ships – is in the sweet spot in terms of size. It’s small enough to feel friendly and uncrowded. But it’s also large enough to offer things like the indulgent spa – which comes with a snow grotto as well as a steam room and saunas – and, unusually, a 26 seat planetarium which can project the constellations to look out for in the night sky before Viking’s resident astronomer takes you up on deck to see them for real.
Everything has been well-thought-out. There is birdsong in the public loos. Leave a novel in your cabin and your room steward will add a Viking bookmark. Water is offered as you leave the ship and hot towels as you return.
Cruising with Viking feels like Scandi-chic living at its best.
Prices for the Viking Shores & Fjords cruise start from £3,290pp for 7 nights in May 2023, including flights to Amsterdam and back from Bergen, wine at lunch and dinner, tips, wi-fi and many shore excursions.