After putting river cruising firmly on the map, Viking Cruises launched a new effort last month: Its own ocean cruise line. The first new cruise line in over a decade, Viking Ocean Cruises also is the first line to launch with a brand-new, custom-designed and -built ship since Disney introduced Magic in the late 1990s.
The 930-passenger Viking Star, which underwent a series of shakedown cruises leading up to its christening in Bergen on May 17, is a ship that redefines affordable luxury in the marketplace. It’s luxuriously and sumptuously decorated, its crew is service oriented and well trained, and itineraries, which rarely repeat a port, are a perfect blend of destinations marquee and offbeat. Venues range from the superb Manfredi’s Italian restaurant to a best-in-cruise spa. There’s also its elegant sun deck, the kootchy-kootchy Torshavn nightclub, and its efficiently styled and larger-than-average staterooms (all of which come with balconies), among others.
Ultimately, however, what really distinguishes this new line — and its debut ship — is this: Viking has effectively transferred much of what really works for river cruising — a more value-added, inclusive experience — and brought it to the high seas. This means that passengers onboard Viking Star enjoy complimentary wine and beer with meals, free Wi-Fi, at least one free shore excursion in every port of call, where — and this is another standout of Viking’s Ocean product — immersive experiences are the focus.
And that’s what’s most interesting about cruising’s newest line: It feels like luxury, with a more moderate price tag. It’s the industry’s best oceangoing bang-for-the-buck cruise experience we’ve experienced.
With that in mind, here are our hits and very few misses.
Most passengers we’ve met onboard our two sailings agree that Viking Star is a beautiful ship. The style is eclectic Danish modern — very sleek and contemporary, but with vibrant colors, and lots of lovely touches. Intriguing collections of books dot bookshelves in public rooms. Shelves are also furnished with lovely art pieces (in particular, we love the gorgeous glass vases scattered throughout), antique artifacts, such as the ship models in the Explorer’s Lounge, and furniture throughout that’s both handsome and comfortable.