|Ushering in a new age for Viking Cruises—Welcome aboard the Viking Star. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless otherwise noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Since the dawn of a fledgling river cruise company in 1997, Viking Cruises has grown to become the world's leader in river cruising with 60 river vessels plying the rivers of Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Egypt and China. But Viking guests wanted more. Well this year, they got it as Viking Cruises enters a new age with its debut of Viking Ocean Cruises and the first of three planned ocean-going vessels—Viking Star whose christening in Bergen, Norway, was celebrated on the country's National Constitution Day—May 17, 2015.
|The Viking Star Christening Celebration Event May 17, 2015, in Bergen, Norway. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
I was quite fortunate to be there when Viking River Cruises debuted the award-winning Viking Longships in 2012 and once again, I find myself standing alongside Viking on the threshold of a new horizon, a milestone for the company, the realization of a dream—the introduction of Viking Ocean Cruises. Seems my good fortune endured when Viking invited me to experience the Viking Star during a series of media-preview cruises leading up to the christening and all of the pomp and circumstance of the big day. So how does Viking fare as it voyages from the rivers to the seas? Join me on a tour in a galaxy not so far away—for a new star is born, the Viking Star!
"A thinking man's cruise."
|The Viking Star as seen in Cartagena, Spain.|
"Viking Ocean Cruises will be a thinking man's cruise" Chairman Torstein Hagen regaled our press conference on the first day. Hagen shared his belief that in its quest to build bigger ships, the cruise industry has lost sight of connecting passengers with the destinations. Viking Cruises is going to change that by re-introducing guests to new destinations with carefully curated itineraries that allow for maximum time in port to experience new cultures. And because of its relatively intimate size, 47,800 gross registered tons (GRT) as compared to the 100K+ GRT of the behemoth mega-liners, the Viking Star can navigate into ports not accessible by its larger counterparts ensuring for greater cultural immersion through discoveries in art, history, music and cuisine. And if that's not enough, enrichment programs will be brought back on board through lively entertainment and informative lectures. Viking Cruises will not set out to be everything to everybody, but it will cater to its target—culturati age 55+ who want to learn and connect with foreign cultures. Tor joked at the end of our meeting that every day he wakes up and sees his target in the mirror.
An Explorer's Ship
|The Explorer's Lounge on the Viking Star offers stunning views of the horizons ahead. Note the constellations on the band of wall between the two decks as well as the interactive coffee table at the bottom of the photo.|
As you wander around the ship, you can't help but feel the spirit and romance of those legendary seafarers who charted their courses by the stars and possessed an insatiable appetite for exploration. The allure of maritime exploration is everywhere from nautical instruments and Viking artifacts down to the subtle hints in the carpets and window treatments.
|The spirit of Exploration is palpable in the two-deck Explorer's Lounge. This is the view from the upper deck. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
But it's most palpable in the Explorer's Lounge at the bow on Deck 7. Hands down, this is my favorite spot on the ship! Paying homage to the ancient Viking trade routes and navigation instruments from days gone by, this two-deck observatory with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking new horizons, is brimming with a fantastic collection of astrolabes, antique globes and other maritime tools used by explorers who have come and gone. If you look carefully, you'll also discover constellations projected on the walls and ceilings, while some may be familiar other Norse equivalents will not but in either case, they drive home that sense of discovery. Sit down at one of the interactive coffee tables and let your fingers guide you through a series of videos from Viking.
|Undoubtedly my favorite place on the Viking Star was the Explorer's Lounge.|
Upstairs, you'll find a library trove filled with maritime and exploration adventures, and in the display cases behind the sofas, hints of Torstein Hagen's past come to life in the scale model of Bergen Line's Stella Polaris that debuted in 1927. Hagen began his career in the cruise industry at Bergen Line.
|Tracing Torstein Hagen's heritage to its humble beginning at Berlin Line. Pictured here is the Stella Polaris, one of the line's first ships which made its debut in 1927.|
Intimate spaces and gathering places
|Welcome to the Living Room, a three-deck atrium surrounded by cozy nooks, a library, the concierge and a bar. Marvel at the two-deck monitor at the top of the stairs that cycles through dazzling array of high-res visuals of places yet to be explored.|
One of the things I enjoy most about river cruising is the intimate onboard experience these vessels engender so I wondered how all of this would translate on board Viking's ocean liner. As you know, I am not a fan of the mega-liner experience and even though the Viking Star falls into the "Venice Class" of vessels (less than 50,000 GRT and less than 1,000 passengers), I was skeptical about my upcoming experience.
|Another view of the Living Room.|
Once I got on board and had an opportunity to roam about the ship, I realized my fears were unjustified, thankfully! I mean who would name the main lobby atrium the "Living Room" if the intent was not to evoke a cozy gathering place for all occasions. The 930-passenger Viking Star delivered and exceeded my expectations for keeping the experience intimate. Never once did I feel there were 929 other passengers sailing with me. But don't take my word for it, have a look around for yourself at some of my favorite corners of the Viking Star above and below.
|The Wintergarden adjacent to the main pool serves up a proper English tea every day.|
Art and Heritage
A masterpiece of Scandinavian design, the Viking Star takes its cues from nature—from its light woods and stone textures to the woven textiles of the rugs, tapestries and window furnishings, the ship is a work of art steeped in Viking artistry and craftsmanship.
Throughout the ship, homage is paid to this rich heritage from artifacts and traditional costumes to the artwork and interior design. Honorable mentions go to some of my faves:
|Note the wrought-iron partitions paying homage to Odin and his ravens.|
A nod to Norse mythology is brought to life in the wrought-iron works of the partitions and walls leading into and surrounding the Wintergarden as well as the wooden tree-like structures in this cozy space off the main pool. Seek out the ravens, Huginn and Muninn that fly around the world to gather information for Odin, the Norse Father of the Gods. According to legend, the ravens represent "thought" and "memory" respectively and you'll likely find them flying past some of the world's most iconic cities.
|Odin's ravens, Huginn and Muninn, pause for a break here in the Wintergarden during their long flights around the world. Re-trace their journey to some of the world's most famous cities.|
|Tree-like structures continue the homage to Odin and his ravens within the Wintergarden. In the foreground, a beautiful quartz sculpture decorates a small divider between the sitting area and bar.|
On the walls behind the stairways from the top of the ship to its keel, seek out the exquisite reproductions of panels from the Bayeux Tapestry. Each level recounts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Or, for a more convenient way to enjoy this work of art created nearly 1,000 years ago, head to the Living Room's second-floor where you'll find an animated version scrolling before your eyes! I've never seen anything like it!
|Along the back walls of the stairways from the top deck to the bottom, you can retrace the Norman conquest of England in these reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry.|
|Close-up view of the one of the Bayeux Tapestry panels on Deck 5.|
|If the journey up and down the stairs seems daunting, seek out this animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry in the Living Room.|
Celebrating the roots of Viking River Cruises is a scale model of a Viking Longship that can be found on the second floor of the Living Room as well.
Even your staterooms are decorated with drawings by children in China. As you roam about the ship, be on the lookout for more discoveries in art!
Staterooms—some of the largest in the industry
Modern-day explorers can choose from five categories of staterooms ranging from 270 sq. ft. to more than 757 sq. ft. in the Explorer's Suites. The real bonus is that regardless of category, all staterooms have full verandas ensuring the destination immersion I mentioned above.
Below are some of the all-veranda staterooms on board the Viking Star.
|Deluxe Veranda stateroom measures in at 270 sq. ft. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Penthouse Veranda measures in at 338 sq. ft. and features desk with minibar plus a credenza for extra storage. This was the room I had the pleasure of staying in while on board. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Explorer's Suite (3 images below)
|1 of 3: Explorer's Suite measure between 757 - 1,163 sq. ft. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|2 of 3: Explorer's Suite living room and dining area. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|3 of 3: Verandas in the Explorer's Suites range from 167 to 490 sq. ft. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
For the absolute ultimate in luxury, you can always reserve the the Owner's Suite! Measuring in at 1,448 sq. ft., the Owner's Suite ticks every box you can imagine.
- Living room
- 1 1/2 baths
- Private conference room that seats 11
- Separate bedroom with walk-in closet and private sauna with ocean views
- Dining area with fully stocked bar.
|Owner's Suite Living Room. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Owner's Suite Dining Area with fully-stocked bar. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Your own conference room seats 11. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Owner's Suite Master Bath.|
|Your private sauna with ocean views too!|
Dining Options on board the Viking Star
|The main dining room on board the Viking Star is known as The Restaurant and offers open seating arrangement during the dinner hours. Come and go as you please.|
With such a diverse menu of dining options on board the ship, you can dine at a different venue each night for nearly a week. Wait it gets better because all of the main and specialty restaurants are included in the price of your fare so the choice is yours—from the main dining rooms of "The Restaurant" and "World Café" to the more intimate locations of "Manfredi's" (Italian), "The Chef's Table" and "The Kitchen Table," a specialty venue that offers cooking classes by day and intimate dining experiences by night.
|Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, actually Manfredi's Italian Restaurant. As it turned out, this was my favorite restaurant of all. They serve up the best calamari I have ever tasted, including in Italy.|
|The Chef's Table is another specialty dining location and what the chef says, goes! The menu is not open to negotiation.|
A few notes to keep in mind as you consider the options. "The Kitchen Table" is not included in the price of your cruise so there will be an additional charge. The menu at the Chef's Table is non-negotiable so be sure to stop by during the day to review the menu posted outside the restaurant. If you're a vegetarian, there are no substitutes once you sit down to eat.
|The Kitchen Table offers cooking classes by day and intimate dining at night.|
By night, the Aquavit Terrace at the stern adjacent to the infinity pool transforms into an al fresco dining experience surrounded by your destination or the sea. Actually, the Viking Star leads the cruise industry in providing more al fresco dining than any other ship in its class. Stop by Mamsens inside the Explorer's Lounge where you'll indulge in Norwegian favorites inspired by Karine's (Tor's daughter) grandmother. You'll find the most delicious waffles and open-faced sandwiches here! Or if you prefer to stay in for the night, room service is available at no additional fee.
|The Aquavit Terrace is located on Deck 7 aft and is a wonderful gathering place with al fresco dining.|
|Welcome to Mamsen's! One of my favorite impromptu dining locations on board. Those waffles are out of this world!|
The Spa, Theatres and Gym
|Welcome to rejuvenation at the Liv Nordic Spa. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Yes, that is real snow you see in the snow grotto, complete with falling snow flakes. Photo: © Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Yes, for all who crave essential treatments, heavenly massages and even a snow grotto with real falling snow flakes, head to the Liv Nordic Spa for a Scandinavian wellness program on Deck 1. Relax in the hydrotherapy pool and sauna as well. The fitness center adjacent to the spa is the perfect place to burn off all of those extra calories.
One deck up is your complete destination for entertainment from two movie theatres to the main theatre where you'll enjoy lectures, show-stopping entertainment and special presentations.
|For the ultimate in destination immersion, head to the industry's first infinity pool on Deck 7 aft.|
Not one but two pools are offered on the Viking Star including the cruise industry's first-ever infinity pool Deck 7 aft providing for the ultimate in destination immersion. Swim out in the heart of some of the most exciting places in the world! Or enjoy the main pool, midship, that features a retractable roof to protect you from the elements.
|Full view of whirl pool and whirlpool.|
|The main pool midship has a retractable roof so that you can swim without regard to the elements. The Wintergarden is just beyond those darkened windows to the left.|
A special Viking crew and making new friends
|Smiles with unswerving dedication from that fabulous Viking crew. Hands down, Jasna was my favorite!|
Making new friends wherever I travel is paramount to my experience and this cruise proved no different. From the crew to my fellow passengers, it was a pleasure to meet and spend time with all of them. Never once did I want for anything because Viking's attentive crew was on hand to ensure that my comforts were met.
|And same holds true for our fearless leaders on excursions.|
|Cappuccino anyone? My favorite place in the Wintergarden.|
As for passengers, well, I made many new friends on board including a vivacious group of women who travel together under a new name for every journey they embark on. Meet the "Star Chasers," formerly known as the "Danube Dancers" on their previous Viking river cruise. I really loved spending time with them and will cherish these special memories forever!
|Sailing away to new horizons. This photo was taken en route to Lisbon, Portugal.|
Tor shared his vision with us for the future and his hopes of having 10 ocean-going vessels and 100 river-cruise vessels by 2020. I asked him about other destinations outside of Europe and he said he has sights on Asia and Singapore, and even alluded to Antarctica after I specifically asked him about this remote corner of the world! Surely an intrepid Viking at heart, Tor's vision knows no bounds when it comes to even the far reaches of our planet earth.
Indeed the future looks bright for Viking Cruises with the Viking Sea entering service next year followed by its sister, Viking Sky, in 2017. I think you'll agree that Tor Hagen reaches for the stars, grabs hold and reels them in to conquer his vision! A true Viking!
With the debut of Viking Oceans comes the introduction of MyVikingJourney.com, an online planning tool where you can manage your daily calendar, explore the ship and learn about the ports of call you'll visit during your voyage. Pre-book your dining reservations, spa treatments and shore excursions all from the convenience of your home. Depending on stateroom category, the windows of advanced priority reservations expand from 60 to 90 days prior to departure so be sure to check when your windows will open up. To register, sign up with your name and booking number and voila, you are master of your destiny aboard the Viking Star!
- 47,800 gross registered tons (a cruise-industry measurement for volume, not weight)
- 1,500 miles of welds
- 11,484 tons of steel
- 24,000 gallons of paint on the hull
- 20 knots is the maximum speed
- 932 miles of electrical cables
- 3,350 pieces of luggage moved per cruise
- 4,200—5400 eggs cooked every day
- 10,000 plates washed daily
- 800 loaves of bread baked every day (may not be enough for me)
Be sure to follow my chronicles as I retrace my voyage aboard the new Viking Star from Barcelona, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal—coming soon on EuroTravelogue.
|Climb to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar with me!|
|One of my new friends at the top of the rock. He's one of 300 or so Barbary Macaques that live here.|
|The vibrant colors of Spain come to life in this square in Sevilla.|
Since the dawn of time, legendary explorers set sail for new horizons and so too, will the modern-day voyagers aboard the Viking Star. Together we embark in this new age of Viking Cruises!