The Viking's thinking person's cruise includes a trip to space. It's certainly not the normal cruise ship to shore excursion, but on Viking Jupiter and her twin sister, Orion, each vessel is uniquely fitted with a high-tech planetarium-theatre, which can transport guests to distant lands and galaxies.
Seating up to 26 people, you enter on the upper level of the two-deck, forward-facing Explorers' Lounge, which is decorated with antique globes, displays of star constellations and a golden telescope.
On my cruise, three panoramic films are beamed onto the dome's ceiling screen. There's Experience the Aurora, a 2D film that follows a team of photographers to the Arctic Circle as they track down the mystical Northern Lights in temperatures of -50°C. For the other films, Explore and Hidden Universe, we wear 3D glasses and are drawn in by the mesmerising visuals and tales of space exploration, faraway stars and planets, and the potential for humans to settle on Mars.
Cruise ships are increasingly diverse, catering for a wide array of passengers. You have family -friendly vessels with giant, twisting waterslides and fun-packed activity programs. Then you have another type of cruise ship: smaller, more intimate and with a greater onus on culture, wellness and cuisine. Viking Jupiter is a fine example of that.
I've embarked Jupiter in Barcelona for a 15-day voyage that'll take us from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, a region whose influence infuses Viking vessels, from the stylish, yet understated furnishings, featuring materials such as Swedish limestone, birch and juniper wood, to the sleek spa and its Nordic-style sauna bathing. Founded in 1997 by Norwegian Torstein Hagen, Viking initially specialised in river cruises before branching out into the ocean in 2015. Jupiter is the latest in a six-strong fleet of more-or-less identical 930-passenger vessels that sail the seven seas - with 11 more of these adults only ships planned over the next decade.
The staterooms and suites are chic and spacious, all boasting a private veranda (we're staying in a Deluxe Veranda cabin, one of six categories, the swankiest being the 135-square-metre Owner's Suite). Free wi-fi, in-room movies and 24-hour room service are among the complimentary perks. But the atmosphere on board is so calm and inviting, we're happy to linger in the public areas.
The vibe is generally unpretentious and laid-back, the dress code never more formal than "elegant-casual" and the service polite yet not over-bearing. On our cruise, we often find our fellow passengers perusing the ship's (largely) Scandinavian art and artefacts, sometimes while listening to a narrated tour via the Viking Art Guide app.
There are paintings by Edvard Munch to seek out, outfits once worn by Vikings and, in the stairwells, reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry, which charts the 1066 AD invasion of England by the Vikings' Norman descendants.
When we're not in port - and appreciating the charms of places such as Malaga, Falmouth in Cornwall and Amsterdam - we also enjoy live performances from classical violinists, attend history lectures and relax in the ship's cosy lounges. One of the nicest hangouts on Jupiter (the ship, that is) is the Wintergarden, a glass-enclosed space where afternoon tea is offered daily.
Our favourite part of the ship may well be the LivNordic Spa, which is free to use. It has a smorgasbord of spots designed to cool you down and heat you up again in true Nordic style. Ask at the spa reception and they'll give you instructions for a self-guided Nordic bathing ritual (you can also book facials and massages where therapists apply authentic Scandinavian products like birch scrubs, blueberry body wraps and lingonberry face creams).
Start off somewhere warm, perhaps in the "Experience" shower, where jets fizz hot water from all directions. Alternatively, there's the 38°C hot tub or the dark steam room, where it's 46°C with about 99 per cent humidity. After five minutes' sweating, you'll want to chill. Literally. So, walk over to the Snow Grotto, which has icicles dangling from its ceiling and fresh snow pumped in, similar to the white powder produced by machines at ski resorts. The temperature plunges to -10°C, but it's soothing and relaxing in here. Or at least that's how it feels until my other half, a big grin on her face, chucks a snowball at me. It's amazing what you can do on cruise ships nowadays.