We Join Viking Cruises First Oceangoing Ship for a Quick Journey to Norway

Viking Cruises' Viking Star, seen here in Venice in April 2015. Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises.

Viking Cruises’ Viking Star, seen here in Venice in April 2015. Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises.

Two weeks from today, I’ll be in Greenwich, London, England stepping aboard Viking (River) Cruises very first oceangoing ship: the elegant 930-guest Viking Star. My time aboard her will be short, with only four days standing between us and our final port of call of Bergen, Norway. It’s but a segment of a much larger voyage that begins on May 2 in Barcelona, but with one important distinction: Viking Star will be christened in Bergen – and we’ll be there to tell you all about it!

Historic Bryggen is a must-see on any visit to Bergen, Norway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Historic Bergen, Norway will serve as the backdrop for Viking Star’s christening ceremonies in May. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It was nearly two years ago that I gathered with some of my cruise journalist colleagues in Los Angeles to see the first unveiling of Viking’s plans for Viking Star, in a lavish ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Renderings were produced, and a small builder’s model was dramatically unveiled at the end of the room. I remember the rush as people dropped their caviar (no kidding) to go get an up-close glimpse of the ship. Grown men in suits and ties suddenly turned into kids: peering at the model from all angles. Bow, stern. Port, Starboard.

The consensus: Viking Star wasn’t just going to be any old ship. This was a ship designed for people who loved ships – and the magic of being at sea.

Viking Star will feature the industry's first Infinity Pool. Rendering courtesy of Viking Cruises

Viking Star will feature the industry’s first true Infinity Pool. Rendering courtesy of Viking Cruises

Indeed, the sea is designed to be everywhere on Viking Star, from her two-story observation lounge situated above her navigation bridge all the way forward, to her luxurious main dining room that is attractively situated next to the full wrap-around promenade on Deck 2. Four laps around this track equals one mile, and you might be able to say hello to your friends onboard as you pass: Viking Star’s main dining room features windows that can cascade open, letting in the warmth of the Mediterranean air.

Other unique features abound, like the real Scandinavian experience (including a snow room) in the ship’s Spa, which takes a less prominent place on Deck 1 forward. After all, who needs windows when you’re face-down and enjoying a Hot Stone massage?

The Wintergarden aboard Viking Star will feature a retractable roof and will be conveniently situated near the midships pool. Illustration courtesy of Viking Cruises

The Wintergarden aboard Viking Star will feature a retractable roof and will be conveniently situated near the midships pool. Illustration courtesy of Viking Cruises

Viking Star also sports a relaxing Wintergarden on Deck 7, which attractively cascades aft to the ship’s Midship pool – protected from the elements by a retractable Magrodome sliding roof. When the sun is out, though, it’s the pool furthest aft that’s going to attract the most attention: the true Infinity Pool that looks out over the stern, bordered on three sides by Viking’s famous Aquavit Terrace. The popular al fresco venue makes the jump from Viking’s popular Viking Longships, which first introduced the concept to the river cruise world in 2012.

Add to this a soaring three-story atrium, multiple bars and lounges, multiple dining venues, and more open deck space than you can shake a stick at, and you’ve got the recipe for one very cool cruise ship.

The atrium aboard Viking Star will span three decks and will focus as much on showcasing what's outside the ship as what's on the inside. Illustration courtesy of Viking Cruises.

The atrium aboard Viking Star will span three decks and will focus as much on showcasing what’s outside the ship as what’s on the inside. Illustration courtesy of Viking Cruises.

With most cruises, I typically spend hours pouring over photos of the ship – looking at past refits, analyzing public rooms, must-photograph spaces, things like that. I’ll typically troll CruiseCritic to see what people are saying about the ship, too: are things working? What’s the consensus?

This time, it’s different: I’m making a concerted effort to read nothing about this ship before I arrive. Other than the already-released renderings of her interiors and a couple of exterior shots taken on her delivery voyage, I don’t want to see anything secondhand until I can see her in person.

Viking Star, in the flesh. This builder's model gave us a great impression of this 928-guest ship. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking Star, in the flesh. This builder’s model gave us a great impression of this 928-guest ship. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With two straight days at sea before we reach Bergen, most of the daily posts will be dedicated to documenting this beautiful ship in pictures. If even half of the features that Viking has planned for her work as promised, Viking Star could very well revolutionize not just the Upper Premium segment of the market that Viking is targeting, but the industry as a whole. Perhaps it might even help to put the brakes on the whole robot bartender/giant bear sculpture/no deck space trend that seems to be so popular on so many modern mainstream cruise ships.

Indeed, the entire idea behind Viking’s new Viking Cruises product: give people more than they expect from an ocean cruise. This includes:

  • Private verandas in every stateroom and suite
  • Larger than average accommodations
  • Cultural Enrichment: onboard classes and in-port guides
  • Complimentary excursion offerings 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
  • Complimentary self-service laundry
  • Complimentary 24-hour room service
  • Complimentary specialty restaurant reservations

Viking Star will also have two sister-ships: Viking Sea and Viking Sky, both of which will enter service next year and which are currently under construction at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyards.

The names of all three ships are not accidental.

A proud day for Viking Cruises president and CEO Torstein Hagen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking Cruises president and CEO Torstein Hagen. His roots trace back to one of cruising’s most beloved lines, Royal Viking. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

New cruisers might not be familiar with it, but long-time cruisers will surely recognize the name Royal Viking Line. One of the world’s first upmarket cruise lines, Royal Viking Line was nearly universally beloved by their loyal guests, who prized the line for their intimate ships, exceptional service, and outstanding cuisine. Their first three ships were named Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sea, and Royal Viking Sky. The man at the top for much of the company’s history? None other than Viking Cruises founder Torstein Hagen.

Meet Royal Viking Sea - one of three nearly identical sister ships constructed in the early 1970's for Royal Viking Line. She now sails as Albatross for Phoenix Reisen. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Meet Royal Viking Sea – one of three nearly identical sister ships constructed in the early 1970’s for Royal Viking Line. She now sails as Albatross for Phoenix Reisen. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

So what happened to Royal Viking Line? A series of financial difficulties experienced by parent company Kloster Cruises doomed RVL. The fleet was divested to Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Today, the former Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky sail for Fred.Olsen Cruises as their Black Watch and Boudicca, respectively. Royal Viking Sea is on long-term operations with German company Phoenix Reisen.

One last look at the pretty Midnatsol this evening! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking Star arguably draws some inspiration from the vessels of Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten – most notably, the two-story forward facing observation lounge. Hurtigurten’s Midnatsol sports a similar lounge just above her bridge.  She is photographed in Molde, Norway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If the success that Viking River Cruises is experiencing in Europe is Hagen’s crowning achievement in a long and storied career in the cruise industry, the launch of Viking Star could very well be the icing on the cake. And standing pierside in Bergen as she is christened, how delicious it will be.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Viking Cruises’ Viking Star will begin on May 12 from Greenwich, England! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

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