Viking Ocean Cruises invited a couple dozen travel writers, including myself, on a six-day preview sailing as Viking Star made her way to christening ceremonies in Bergen, Norway, on May 17.
Our group had time not only to explore the vessel but also to hear from Viking Ocean Cruises’ Chairman Torstein Hagen, who flew from his base in Basel, Switzerland, to spend a few hours with us.
At 72, the Norwegian-born founder of Viking River Cruises has launched an impressive ocean cruiser. The Viking Star is a gorgeous ship, highlighted by an understated Scandinavian elegance that celebrates the company’s Nordic heritage.
Moreover, the new Viking Ocean Cruises is offering an appealing product by serving up something different from what is currently offered on most ships.
In fact, during a presentation to the media, Hagen showed reporters slides that showed Viking Star priced at nearly 60 percent lower than other ships and itineraries in its competitive set, which consists primarily of the upper-premium cruise lines.
Viking Star’s Inclusives
Having sailed on Viking Star for six days, and having experienced ships within its competitive set, I believe that Viking Star represents a breath of fresh air for cruisers looking for something new. The fact that so much is included will also come as welcome news to those who do not like being nickeled-and-dimed.
In addition to the inclusives previously mentioned, Viking Star features self-serve launderettes, where even the soap is dispensed at no charge. There are two specialty restaurants where you can dine at no charge, the Italian-inspired Manfredi’s and the wine-pairing venue known as The Chef’s Table. If you do want to dig into your pockets, for an extra $29.95 per person, per day, all alcohol is included, with the exception of premium spirits and wines.
However, seeing that beer and wine is served at lunch and dinner, you may not need the additional convenience of 24/7 booze.
The list of what Viking Star includes:
- Complimentary transfers between airports and ship
- Complimentary excursion in every port
- Complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
- Complimentary specialty coffees and teas served 24 hours
- Complimentary Wi-Fi internet access (and it works well)
- Complimentary self-service laundry
- Complimentary 24-hour room service
- Complimentary specialty restaurant reservations
- Complimentary mini-bar (in all but Deluxe Veranda and Veranda staterooms)
In addition to the specialty restaurants, there is the main restaurant on deck 2 and the World Cafe on deck 7. Both feature side doors that slide open for al fresco dining, an ingenious feature that I’ve not seen on any other ship. Both restaurants are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the World Cafe convenient for those who want to go casual (I had the best sushi I’ve ever eaten on a ship at the World Cafe).
For those who prefer to stay in, or dine on their balconies (all staterooms feature balconies on Viking Star), there’s 24/7 room service at no charge. Staterooms also feature complimentary mini-bars and some categories even include complimentary alcohol, all replenished daily.
For snacks, there’s Mamsen’s deli, named for Hagen’s mother, and serving up such Nordic specialties as Scandinavian waffles topped with berries.
Nordic To The Core
Light-filled and featuring modern Scandinavian décor, Viking Star was designed by the same interior design team responsible for the Viking Longships’ fleet. There is a sense of continuity, in fact, for those who move from Viking on the rivers to Viking on the oceans. Some of the fabrics are the same on both vessels, as well as the same brand of main dining room plates, glassware and cutlery.
The Quietvox system used for shore excursions on the rivers is in staterooms on Viking Star. Also as on the Longships, Viking Star offers one complimentary shore excursion in each port of call; beer and wine are served free of charge during lunch and dinner; and WiFi, which has functioned well for me so far, costs nothing. I also appreciate that I do not have to log in and log off each time I want to use WiFi.
Viking Star’s Nordic aesthetic appealed to me. I appreciated the ship’s clean lines and use of light woods, as well as greenery and birch bark (though not real) throughout. I found Viking heritage, including exhibits in a museum-like corner of the ship, and in the stairwell landings, where tapestries depicted the Battle of Stamford Bridge, a bloody skirmish that symbolized the end of the Viking Age in 1066. In the two-deck Explorers’ Lounge (inspired by the Norwegian coastal cruisers operated by Hurtigruten), I admired décor themed around ancient Viking trade routes.
My Penthouse Veranda Stateroom on the starboard side was spacious, measuring 270 square feet, with a king-sized bed, a living area with a long sofa, coffee table and chair, a desk that has ample room for a laptop and everything else I can put on it, a bathroom with a one-square meter shower (about 11 square feet) and a balcony large enough to enjoy with breakfast, or complimentary 24-hour room service. A nice touch: the desk lamp has five USB charging outlets at its base.
As on its river cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises’ is targeting the same group that it did for Viking River Cruises: 55-years-plus, English-speaking, well-educated, affluent, curious and interested in history. At 72, Hagen said he sees the target customer each morning when he looks into the mirror.
At 57, I do too, and when I envision myself on Viking Star with my families and loved ones, I like what I see. A lot.