REVIEW: When Viking Cruises, known for its 60 riverboats, announced they were launching a 930-passenger ocean cruise ship called the Viking Star, everyone was curious about what they would
create to compete on the high seas.
However Viking’s unique riverboat perspective serves them well as they transferred many of their “up close and personal” concepts to their new ocean cruise ship. Even though the Viking Star was just launched in April 2015, the line won #1 Ocean Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure readers in the 2016 World’s Best Awards. Viking’s win unseats luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises, which held this category title for 20 years in a row.
Perhaps it’s not just about what the Star has, as much as what it doesn’t have, that pleases passengers so much. There’s no glitz and glamour — or even a casino — onboard. The line doesn’t cater to children, and best suits a 60+ demographic. There are no umbrella drinks served here.
To aptly suit this clientele, the Viking Star features a classy, conservative, nautical decor of blue hues, crisp whites, and upscale teak and leather furnishings. The simple Nordic style is soothing, calming, and conveys understated elegance. Although there are no gleaming chandeliers or crystal-lined staircases, you will notice fur pelts subtly gracing couches and museum-quality artifacts displayed on bookcases and in glass showcases.
A carefully curated collection of Scandinavian artwork adorns the walls of the public spaces. And in the three-storey atrium, an enormous digital screen of constantly changing photos featuring famous paintings commands attention, while a classical pianist plays at the grand piano, often accompanied by a violinist.
However, the ship’s most interesting design feature is the infinity pool that’s cantilevered off the stern of the ship. The glass wall provides a seamless view that blurs the line between where the ship ends and sea begins. It is so mesmerizing that you are drawn to swim here, or at least take in the view, for a few moments everyday. However the mid-ship pool is also pleasant and popular, and features a retractable roof if it’s raining or cold.
Many all-inclusive aspects earned the cruise ship a five-star rating such as many free shore excursions, free Wi-Fi, complimentary wine and beer at meals, free dining in the speciality restaurants, as well as many more treats that normally cost extra.
Then there are the little details that make a big difference to your day. Being handed a bottle of water whenever you leave the ship to visit a port, given a cold facecloth when you return, or served a tumbler of champagne sorbet mid-afternoon as a refreshing treat, are all appreciated.
Although the Star is considered a small cruise ship at 47,800 tons, only hosting 930 passengers on onboard means there are no crowds or lineups. The ship feels half full. The ratio of 930 passengers to 602 crew also means the service is attentive.
All the cabins have balconies and range in size from 270 to 1,163 square feet. The furnishings are simple, yet cleverly designed. The bedside tables have a pull-out tray. The desk has a pop-up makeup vanity with lighting. The bathroom floors are also heated.
In the LivNordic Spa, the wellness philosophy of Scandinavia is in mind where it’s all about hot and cold experiences – from the Nordic ritual of going from a Snow Room, cold pool or ice bucket shower, to the hot sauna, steam room, hot tub, fireplace or heated loungers. The decor supports the philosophy with materials such as Swedish limestone and black slate; juniper and teak wood; etched opaque glass; and cast iron.
In the mid-ship Wintergarden, blonde wood formed into tree-like pillars stretch their branches up to the glass ceiling forming a lattice canopy over a serene space. It pays homage to Norse mythology and Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. Everyday at 4 p.m. guests can enjoy afternoon tea with scones and jam, cakes and tarts.
As for entertainment, the approach is to enrich passengers and connect them to their destinations with authentic experiences. There are talks on history and art; tastings of vintage wines from their destinations; informative port lectures; folkloric shows and an onboard cooking school to learn how to prepare local specialties.
Viking perfects their goal to be a “thinking person’s” cruise line from the design and decor of this ship and ships to come, to the destinations they visit.
For the winter season, the Viking Star homeports in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From there she cruises 11-day West Indies Explorer itineraries that include the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cruise ship returns to Europe in February 2017 with a transatlantic cruise to Barcelona. For more information call 1 855 8-VIKING (1 855 884 5464) or visit www.vikingcruises.com.