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Move over, premium lines – Viking Star is here
Anyone in Hollywood will tell you a sequel to a successful movie is a tough gig. Rarely do films manage to duplicate the magic and chemistry that inherently made the initial movie popular in the first place. Sometimes, though, studios get it right, and the sequel is even better than the original.
Here in Beverly Hills, California tonight, Viking River Cruises announced a star-studded sequel of their own when they took the wraps off their Viking Oceans product, and the forthcoming Viking Star that will debut in 2015. And like any great sequel, this one has the potential to even eclipse the line’s astonishing achievements with their Viking Longship river cruise vessels.
For maritime buffs, the name alone has some historic lineage: Royal Viking Star was the first newbuild ship created for the renowned Royal Viking Line, which Viking River Cruises president and CEO Torstein Hagen helmed in the early 1980’s. Indeed, her exterior design speaks heavily to some of that now-defunct cruise line’s most popular vessels. Witness the funnel design that looks remarkably like that found aboard Holland America’s Prinsendam, formerly known as Royal Viking Sun.
But the similarities end there. This new Viking Star represents an enormous shift in the premium cruise landscape, and rather than merely trying to match their future competitors, Viking has some astonishing features lined up for their very first oceangoing cruise ship.
Viking Star will carry just 928 guests, all of which will travel in all-balcony staterooms measuring no smaller than 270 square feet. Each room will feature a true king-sized bed that can be separated into two large twins. There will be no inside staterooms, no Oceanview staterooms. All staterooms will be double-occupancy; no third or fourth berths will be included on this ship.
There’s also an entire list of perks to sailing with the line. Guests will be able to choose one complimentary excursion in each port of call. They will be treated to complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner; complimentary 24-hour room service; and complimentary Wi-Fi internet access.
The line’s credo, which Hagen repeated numerous times, was that there would be “no nickel-and-diming.” To that end, Viking Star will lack a casino. She’ll also lack some of the other mainstay revenue generators found aboard competitor’s ships, like specialty restaurant surcharges.
At first, that may sound like unconventional thinking – and it is. But this is the magic formula that has allowed Viking to be so successful along the waterways of Europe: do one thing, and do it well.
“You can’t meet everyone’s demand, and I don’t think we should meet everyone’s demands,” said Torstein Hagen, Viking River Cruises’ chairman and chief executive officer. “All staterooms are designed for two passengers only. We [won’t] cater to multi-generational families.”
Instead, Viking is actively pursuing active, well-educated couples eager to see the world from the comfort of a cruise. Viking Star will spend, on average, 12 hours in port, with overnights at both the start and end of each voyage.
The line polled its past guests about their cruising habits and found that an astonishing 84 percent of them would sail with Viking if the line were to offer ocean cruises. They also discovered that their guests tended to chiefly spend their cruising dollars among a handful of lines: Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, and Oceania.
The new Viking Star is aimed squarely at those guests.
But the ship is also poised to be a striking innovator in its own right. Rather than being hidden deep in the bowels of the ship, the Viking Star’s main Restaurant will be located all the way aft on Promenade Deck 2 – with floor-to-ceiling windows that can be slid open to let in the fresh sea air.
Viking Star’s Spa will be extensive, but located much lower down on the ship than aboard other cruise vessels. But she’ll feature special heated sauna rooms alongside a snow grotto for a true Norwegian spa experience.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Viking Star’s aft pool deck. In addition to a seagoing version of the popular Aquavit Lounge, Viking Star will feature the industry’s first oceangoing infinity pool with a glass aft wall that cantilevers out over the stern of the ship.
Viking Star is also set to have a gorgeous Winter Garden that recalls the classic spaces aboard Cunard’s famous ocean liners, as well as a two-story glass-walled observation lounge situated high atop the navigation bridge. Known as the Explorer’s Lounge, this beautiful space located on Decks 7 and 8 may have been inspired by similar areas aboard Norwegian-based Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol and Trollfjord cruise-ferry vessels.
During her maiden 2015 season, Viking Star will sail three distinct itineraries:
- Viking Homelands: 15 days Stockholm to Bergen
- Mediterranean Odyssey: 13 days Barcelona to Venice
- Empires of the Mediterranean: 10 days Venice to Istanbul
While all the itineraries are spectacular, it is the 15-day Viking Homelands itinerary that made me drool. Viking will become the only line to embark cruises in the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway outside of Hurtigruten, and they will visit some amazing ports of call along the way, including Flam, Stavanger, Aalborg, Copenhagen, Warnemunde, Gdansk, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.
The call in St. Petersburg is particularly noteworthy, as Viking Star will sail past the other cruise ships docked at the main passenger terminal and continue up-river, docking within walking distance of the famous Hermitage.
Personally, I could barely contain my excitement tonight. It reminded me of the first time I ever saw a rendering of the first Viking Longships years ago and thought, “wow – this will change everything.”
The more I learned tonight about Viking Star, the more I realized how well thought-out this endeavour is. In fact, this project has been three years in the making now, involving two different shipyards and two totally different designs.
All we saw today were some renderings and a gorgeous builder’s model of the ship. Yet there was this electricity in the air. You could feel it. Everyone in the audience expected, I think, to be impressed here tonight; but the audible gasps of delight that emanated from the crowd when the Infinity Pool was revealed, followed by thunderous applause for the open-air dining concept erased any doubts in the project.
We’ve got an amazing amount of information to share with you about Viking Oceans and the new Viking Star, which is why we’re going to continue our coverage on Monday with a full overview of this exciting ship.
In the meantime, I want to leave you all with this: you should be excited about Viking Star. Really, really excited. For the first time, small ship cruising will be affordable to an entire segment of the population that has, until now, been largely regulated to mainstream cruising. Price points for this new product are very encouraging, running as low as $2,999 per person for the line’s 10-night Mediterranean voyages.
Viking’s new oceangoing product also takes a refreshing step back from surcharges and add-on fees that are becoming so commonplace in nearly every facet of the travel industry. They’re taking the very features that have made river cruising – not to mention their Viking Longships – so popular and applying them to ocean cruising.
Best of all, bookings for the new Viking Star opened today!
I came here expecting Viking to announce they were building an Azamara-lite. Instead, what they are poised to deliver in just two years could very well go down as Torstein Hagen’s greatest achievement in his long, storied, and always-eventful life.
Stay tuned – more information on the upcoming Viking Star will be coming on Monday here on From the Deck Chair as we recap this exciting day!
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