The food on Viking Jupiter is almost universally tasty. The cruise line has spent a lot of time developing menus that reflect the destinations where it sails, while also providing familiar offerings. Dietary concerns, too, are catered to; gluten-free bread, pasta and desserts are all available, as are vegetarian and vegan options.
In an era of upsells, it's refreshing to have all specialty restaurants included in the fare. Getting reservations on the nights that you want can be tough, however, so plan ahead for The Chef's Table and Manfredi's if you want prime hours. That being said, we could spend the entire cruise eating morning waffles at Mamsen's and dining on sushi and seafood in the World Cafe -- the casual restaurants are that good.
Wine, beer and soda are included in your fare at lunch and dinner. Usually it's a choice of a white or red wine. Having the Silver Spirit package increases your wine options, which is a nice option if you are an oenophile (the package also gives you a premium wine pairing at The Chef's Table). Bottles of wine have a relatively low markup compared to other cruise ships. Still and sparkling water are offered at all meals.
The Restaurant (Deck 2): Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen likes straightforward names onboard, and so the main dining venue is called The Restaurant. The space has been designed with separate rooms and nooks, mostly with tables for two or four; it feels more like a land restaurant than a cruise ship dining room.
Breakfast and dinner are served in The Restaurant every day. There's no reserved seating, unless you're with a large group, and you can come anytime during dining hours.
Waiters use electronic tablets and ask about dietary restrictions right away. We found the service to be friendly and knowledgeable, recommending menu items when asked. Bread baskets are refilled and wineglasses are topped off -- we didn't see any glitches.
Breakfast each day offers a variety of hot and cold items. While the menu has the usual American breakfast favorites, you can also order more unusual items, such as lamp chops, shrimp salad, a salmon Benedict with hollandaise sauce or a creole omelet with salsa verde and tostones. Coffee, tea and juices are available.
You can really eat any way you want at The Restaurant at dinner. The line's destination menus are intriguing for foodies; for our Nordic cruise, the courses included a Lodderogn appetizer focusing on salmon roe, an aquavit-marinated beef tenderloin and a rhubarb charlotte (the cruise line's chefs have designed a whopping 245 destination menus themed for ports around the world). The dinner menu has four choices of starters and entrees, and there's also classic menu that has steaks and the "Chairman's Choice" poached salmon. Vegetarian options are available throughout the menu; these are also called out in a "highlights box." You can mix and match from the different menus. If you have the upgraded beverage package, the wine steward will pair your meal.
World Cafe (Deck 7): The World Cafe is the ship's buffet, and we have found it one of the best in the industry not only in looks but also in variety. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it is enjoyable and remarkably uncrowded at most meals.
Our favorite spot in World Cafe is at the back, where the space opens into the airy Aquavit Terrace. There's a bar back here, along with tables for two and four; it's almost invariably where you'll see the ship's officers dining. During nice weather, the windows and doors can open here onto the deck that has the ship's infinity pool. But even in stormy weather, the large windows make this is a lovely place to eat.
This back area has a station that's a bit quieter if you're looking to order an omelet at breakfast. In the main area of the buffet, you can also order eggs any way you'd like, as well as pick up hot dishes, such as eggs Florentine, bacon, corned beef hash, grilled mushrooms and waffles. As you'd expect on a ship with such a Norwegian bent, there are plenty of smoked salmon, fish and charcuterie available at breakfast. (There's also a section for Asian travelers).
Lunch is generally open and available when you return from your shore excursion, although we sometimes found ourselves getting in too late to make it (the World Cafe usually closes at 2:30 p.m.).
During lunch, that back grill station serves up different types of pasta. In the main area, you can find salads, a carving station, fish, cooked vegetables and pizza. The gelato station is a big hit, with a rotating menu of flavors.
Dinner is where the World Cafe really stands out. Because of its popularity, the restaurant's fresh seafood offerings have been expanded. One large area of the buffet is now dedicated to sushi, with a combination of rolls, nigiri and sashimi. On the other side, you'll find fresh shrimp, precracked king crab legs and langoustines. The sashimi, in particular, is super fresh; because the rolls change daily, we could have dined here every night of our cruise and not been bored.
Don't worry if you don't like seafood. There are still plenty of choices, ranging from pork loin to roast chicken. Yummy salads and sides are also available. And if you like Asian food, don't miss the noodle and dumpling bar at that back grill. The dan dan noodles are delicious (just be sure to ask for extra spice if you want some heat).
The Chef's Table (Decks 1): The Chef's Table, one of Viking Jupiter's two specialty restaurants, is another area where the cruise line's executive chefs have devoted a lot of energy. The restaurant has 18 themed five-course tasting menus, developed with ingredients and flavors around the world.
The menus rotate and are usually available three nights in a row. Unfortunately, on our cruise, we missed the Nordic menu, which would have made the most sense, culinary-wise, to where we were sailing. Instead, we tried the Xiang menu, focusing on southern China cuisine. While the courses were tasty and creative, we're not sure we enjoyed our meal here any better than we did when we were in The Restaurant. For an extra $25, you can have wines paired with your meal; people who buy the Silver Spirits package get this automatically.
If you're interested in The Chef's Table, we recommend sussing out the menus in advance and reserving ahead of time for a meal that you know you're going to like. Although the menu and courses are set, the staff will make some substitutions for those with dietary restrictions -- vegetarians can get tofu rather than beef, for example. Still, it's probably a good idea to talk to the maitre d' once you're onboard to make sure.
Manfredi's (Deck 1): Delicious Italian specialties, steak and fish are the highlight of Viking Jupiter's second specialty restaurant. It's a big menu with lots of choice and big portions, so come hungry.
A full menu could include a starter, a pasta, an entree and dessert. Luckily for your waistline, you can order pasta, risotto and gnocchi in half portions, which we highly recommend as all are delicious.
The entrees include Dover sole, a pork chop with porcini mushroom sauce, chicken Parmesan and bistecca Fioentina, a dry-rubbed rib eye. Dessert could be an apple crumble, tiramisu or gelatos.
You'll want to book a reservation at Manfredi's as it fills up quick. Just make sure you eat lightly earlier in the day.
Viking Bar (Deck 1): Viking Jupiter has several places to get snacks during the day, particularly if you have a sweet tooth. The Viking Bar serves the atrium's Living Room area, but it's also a coffee bar with a refrigerated case containing pastries, cookies and small sandwiches. It's a nice place to grab a coffee and croissant to go before a morning excursion.
Mamsen's (Deck 7): For such a small space -- really, a counter in the Explorers' Lounge --Mamsen's packs a punch; we could eat here every day. The undisputed highlight of Mamsen's are the waffles. While you can get them with just fruit and syrup, why not go full Norwegian and add the sour cream and special brown goat's cheese? Other adorable touches are the china, which has the same pattern that "Mamsen" -- Hagen's mom -- used when he was growing up (you can also buy the pattern in the ship's gift shop).
It's hard to look beyond the waffles, but Mamsen's also serves up pastries, smoked herring and oatmeal in the mornings; delicious Nordic-inspired open-faced sandwiches at lunch and the afternoon; and hot pea soup and cold cuts at night. If the waffles didn't give you enough of a sugar rush, there are also different cakes you can try.
Pool Grill (Deck 7): Great for a hearty post-excursion lunch, the Pool Grill has the typical -- and a few not-so-typical -- burgers and hot sandwiches, as well as a small salad bar. The adventurous need to try the Nordic dog, a hot dog topped with shrimp salad (apparently this is a real thing in Norway, as we saw a vendor in Stavanger offering it). The burgers and fries are pretty tasty; the Buffalo wings, on the other hand, are lost in translation.
The Pool Grill also serves for some special occasion buffets during the cruise. One night, for example, the space was transformed into a seafood extravaganza, complete with ice sculptures, fresh-cooked sea bass, a caviar station, crab legs, shrimp and mussels. Another day, the space was used for a pasta cooking lesson -- and afterward, Alfredo for all.
Wintergarden Conservatory (Deck 7): One of the prettiest public spaces onboard, the Wintergarden Conservatory is an airy spot with Nordic-style wooden "trees" throughout. Tea is served here daily at 4 p.m., and come early because the space can get busy. People flock here for the tea (although you can also have coffee), the yummy hot scones served with clotted cream and jam, and a tower of nibbles, which is brought to your table (and yes, you can have more than one scone if you ask).
The Kitchen Table (Deck 1); $180 to $260 per person: To make a reservation for The Kitchen Table, look at your My Viking Journey account before you sail under excursions. More of an excursion than a restaurant meal, The Kitchen Table is an extra-fee market-to-table foodie extravaganza. If sampling local cuisine is one of the reasons you travel, this is a must-do.
The Kitchen Table experience takes place in two parts. In the morning, you'll go out to a local market with the chef and interact with him or her as they taste cheeses, examine vegetables, research fish and haggle with vendors. Expect to have some tastes -- we were given slices of some award-winning Norwegian cheese, as well as homemade truffles.
Later that night, participants meet for dinner in the Kitchen Table restaurant. You're given an apron, but you're usually too distracted by the huge spread of meats, cheeses, seafood and spreads that has already been put out for you. You can go up to the front of the room and talk to the chef as he's preparing your meal or ask the sommelier about the pairings. Expect about five courses, plus appetizers, to be served -- you should arrive very hungry (and pace yourself throughout the meal).
What's most exciting about The Kitchen Table is trying local flavors and realizing that your dinner is directly correlated to the vendors you met earlier that day. It's a fun experience that's worth the splurge for foodies; probably not if you're a picky eater.
Room Service: A nice perk of Viking Jupiter is the 24-hour room service menu. We found it prompt, not only in the morning when you can order breakfast via a hang tag on your doorknob the night before but also late night after a show or dancing. The menu includes burgers and sandwiches, salads, a strip steak, salmon or chicken breast, pasta and desserts.