Cruising Europe’s seas and ports on the new, sophisticated Viking Star

Viking Star christening in Bergen, Norway
Viking Star christening in Bergen, Norway

A new cruise line, starting with a new ship, seldom happens, perhaps once in a decade. Huge obstacles include vision and investment, design and itineraries, marketing and selling to new clients.

So, the debut of the Viking Ocean Cruises’ Star Viking is a big deal. That the ship’s home port is in Norway, where much of the modern cruise industry began, but left, is remarkable.

The 930-passenger Viking Star, now cruising on itineraries to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and in between, is one of the prettiest cruise ships you will see.

On the outside, starting with its classic pointy bow, this ship looks more like a sea-going vessel than most of the recent new builds of snub-nosed behemoths that often resemble floating resort hotels, or container ships for people.

On the inside, Viking Star is Scandinavian modern and sophisticated, from its huge mid-ship Living Room, with nooks and books new and vintage, to the Explorers Lounge, where Viking has amassed a collection of arresting art, ship models, and classic sea-going volumes.

Return to sea by the Viking Hagen

Viking Star is a floating library (Photo by David G. Molyneaux, TheTravelMavens.com)
Viking Star is a floating library (Photo by David G. Molyneaux, TheTravelMavens.com)

This ship is the vision of Torstein Hagen, a Norwegian who once was involved deeply in management of Norway’s old and much loved Royal Viking Line.

He spent decades planning for a new ocean cruise line. Recently, as chairman of Viking River Cruises, he has had great success with dozens of new riverboats that carry more than half of the American passengers in Europe.

Hagen wanted an ocean ship that would appeal to folks who love refined and intimate cruise vacations, offering cultural experiences for curious, educated passengers.

Here are some of the special features on Viking Star, which will be followed by nearly identical sisters Viking Sea and Viking Sky during the next two years:

Cabins all face outside, and each has a private balcony.

The smallest cabin is 270 square feet. The mid-sized ship can carry 930 passengers (all adults) and 477 crew members, of whom 101 work in and around the kitchens.

Viking Star penthouse suite measures 338 square feet
Viking Star penthouse suite measures 338 square feet

More al fresco dining than on any other ship at sea.

Glass doors open directly from dining areas to the outside for an ocean view. The buffet restaurant, for instance, is lined on both sides of the ship with sliding glass doors.

If you like to eat outside, even in very cool weather (which can happen in Northern Europe in summer), bring a sweatshirt and perhaps a hat, because there will be tables outside for you.

Choices for dining — all at no additional fees — include Mamsens for Norwegian favorites, a Chef’s Table and Manfredi’s Italian restaurant. Viking also offers a large room service menu, available 24 hours a day without an additional fee. “No nickle and diming,” says Hagen.

Public rooms in natural colors, designed for mingling and storytelling.

Aboard Viking Star
Aboard Viking Star

Much of the ship, well decorated with art, is like a huge library, with probably the largest book collection at sea, and enough comfy chairs for all.

Music still is a work in progress. Local entertainers will come aboard for evening performances when possible, said a spokesman. The ship’s band in the primary bar/lounge was rather timid and tame, at least early in the evenings. The sounds piped around the pool during the day were like elevator music from the 1950s. I kept waiting for Patti Page or Doris Day to sing “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” (1953), which would have been worth listening to, once.

Viking Star rates include a list of extras beyond the norm.

Viking Star christening in Bergen, Norway
Viking Star christening in Bergen, Norway

This ocean cruise ship offers similar amenities to those included on Viking river vessels, such as beer and wine at meals, free WiFi (though it’s not fast), and a basic introductory shore excursion at each port.

Viking Star is, as its chairman says, an ocean ship for people who like the style and quiet relaxation of a river cruise.

Next: Eccentricities and itineraries on Viking Star

David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column is published regularly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise  He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com 

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