We chose this cruise in hopes of seeing the elusive Northern Lights. We were so lucky as we saw them on four or five different nights. Our best views were from the ship after leaving Narvik.
We cruised from Bergen to Tilbury on the Viking Star February 15 through February 27th. We have been on over 50 cruises but this was our first on Viking. We were surprised with the uncrowded open spaces. Service was exceptional. Food was good. The ship was beautifully furnished. Our stateroom was attractive, convenient and well planned.
The Star's public rooms are lovely. It is the most uncrowded ship we have seen. There are three floors of open area around the atrium with an abundance of seating areas, game tables and cocktail tables and also a big puzzle table and Viking heritage items and photos. There is no designated game room but people were invited to play cards or Mah Jong in the Chef's Table. Scrabble and others games were available.
We had been on the Caribbean Princess in October in Canada. It was cold and windy so no one used the pool decks. You couldn’t find a seat anywhere on the Caribbean Princess. Great entertainment but no room. Another issue on that ship was there was only a handful of kids so all that room was wasted.
At the other end of the spectrum from the CP is the Viking Star - uncrowded, lovely Scandinavian style and great service.
The pool area is firmly covered in winter. There is much available seating there also. We usually travel with friends or family. All this roominess would truly be used and appreciated when traveling with a big group.
The workout room is well equip and was never crowded.
With a total of 930 passengers no line was ever long, no area was ever crowded.
The main dining room is the Restaurant. My husband and I were traveling alone. We were always asked if we wanted a shared table. Most of those are for six people. Tables for two are grouped closely together by threes so we always visited with our table neighbors which was really enjoyable. We met many people because of the Restaurant set up. Our fellow travelers were mostly Americans but there were many from Australia and England.
The food was good but not exceptional, the included wine was mostly just okay. Some of it was quite good. We realized on the last night that some people had found an included wine they really enjoyed and asked for it specifically.
Manfredi's is a wonderful Italian restaurant. The sole and chicken Parmigiana were delicious. Loved everything I tried. I forgot to book this ahead so I was afraid we couldn’t get in but we got a shared or individual table each time we asked. The buffet and pool grill had great food. You could take pool grill food into the buffet or eat near the pool where there are many, many tables. I am missing the fabulous strawberry sorbet I enjoyed repeatedly.
We have been on over 50 cruises. The service on the Viking Star was exceptional. Our room stewards Juan Carlos and Vee were the best ever. They were so attentive. Our suite was always perfectly clean and welcoming. They were friendly and seemed happy which many room stewards are not. They kept our bottled water stocked and ice bucket full.
Housekeeping on the whole ship was very good. Maybe since we traveled as the novel Coronavirus was first leaving China, we saw hand rails cleaned repeatedly. Every thing was spotless. My only suggestion would to have crew members do all the serving at the buffet. In all restaurants they were insistent on using the alcohol sprayers on our hands.
When we boarded the Viking Star on February 15th we were given a health interview as well as the usual health form. We also had our temperature taken.
The Northern Lights
We were so very fortunate to see the Northern Lights on four or five nights that we were above the Arctic Circle. It was amazing. The best event was the night we left Narvik. The sky was clear with the Big Dipper visible through the extraordinary, ever changing lights.
The on-ship entertainment was fine. The guitarist, Paulo, was exceptional. The ship band was really talented. They accompanied everyone who performed in the theater. We enjoyed the group of four who danced and sang with the ship band several evenings. We watched one show twice! Quite often a talented pianist or two violinists were performing in the atrium.
The TV set up was really good too. So many on-demand options were available which was great when we couldn’t get a satellite signal to support live TV. The included internet worked every day. It generally wasn’t strong enough to download pictures. My husband was able to stay in touch with his office through email the whole trip.
The included excursions were mostly riding on a bus to see the areas. We were able to go inside the very unusual church in Alta and went to a museum with a great planetarium style theater with a beautiful display of Northern Lights Film. We wanted to see the outside area with ancient indigenous stone carvings but snow covered them. There are some on display inside the museum.
We did the Pulpit Rock cruise in the Lysefjord from Stavenger. It took most of our scheduled stop in Stavenger. The town was so pretty we wished we had explored the town instead. Stavenger has an oil museum that we would have enjoyed seeing. The cruise was in a huge, enclosed ferry with a whole lot of people. The fjord was very pretty.
Our stop in Bodo was cancelled due to rough weather. This seemed a very smart move as I think that’s where the Viking Sky got into trouble last year.
Our reindeer sled ride was fun and memorable. We enjoyed meeting a few Sami people there and getting up close with the reindeer.
Some fellow travelers were fascinating. One lady who had to be well into her 80s was traveling alone. The little Australian put on her short snow boots and heavy coat to walk at each stop. She would take an included excursion and then hop off to explore on her own. i don’t think I will be so fearless in 20 or 30 years. Or now!
All the towns except Tromsø kept their streets and sidewalks mostly clear of snow and ice. Tromsø was treacherous. I would recommend wearing boots with great traction or attaching ice cleats.
Disembarkation was smooth and quick.
I highly recommend this ship and this itinerary. This was our first Viking cruise. We will sail with them again.
We were on Caribbean Princess in Canada in October and Disney Magic in the Caribbean in November. I plan to avoid the Caribbean Princess in the future. The weather was chilly and windy so no one was on the pool decks which drove all the passengers inside. Princess has wasted so much space with their “art gallery”, shops and casino that all the public areas were extremely and uncomfortably overcrowded.
Viking has taken the opposite approach. They have only three small shops (clothes, essentials and jewelry) and no casino or art sales. The specialty restaurants have no up charge. No photographer is trying to snap your picture to sell to you later. Unlimited and included wine and beer are available at lunch and dinner. Each port has one included (generally lackluster) excursion. One of our paid excursions was cancelled due to weather so Viking owed us money at the end of the cruise.
Our cabin was a two room suite on the very front of the ship. The suite was great with a big living room which had a dining table for four, two sofas, two chairs, a big coffee table and a desk that did double duty with the coffee maker on top and fridge in the drawer to the right. We moved the dining table to the side to have extra floor space.
The dressing table and open closet with drawer storage are off the hallway into the bedroom.
The king bed is extremely firm. It took us a few nights to get used to it. There is a big, comfy chair in the bedroom!
The bathroom is very nice. Two sinks, a towel warming rack and large shower with a bench and bathtub. I really like the shampoo shelf which extends over the whole bench. I keep looking at my shower at home - thinking of remodeling my shower to get the long shampoo niche. -)
There is a similar shelf over the sinks and four deep drawers and cubbies under.
There is an attached makeup mirror in the bathroom. A lighted makeup mirror is on the dressing table.
My only complaint with the room was with the electrical outlets. The dryer could only be plugged in at the dressing table or at the desk where there is no mirror. The outlet was under the dressing table and all the way to the back. Every time we used the hairdryer one of us had to get under the dressing table to plug it in and then unplug it to rep lug the mirror. That was very shortsighted.
There was an American plug at the desk and one on each nightstand. The electrical offerings on the nightstands also had USB ports. Very handy.
I missed getting a chocolate each night as we have had on all other cruises.
The bedroom has a nightlight but it’s way too bright. The towel warmer's switch has a blue glow that was enough nightlight for us.
The furniture is very Scandinavian. I really liked the throw that was on the foot of the bed at day and over the sofa back at night. I wish I had bought one to take home. The color scheme - cream and blue throughout the ship - is beautiful and classic. Orange is the accent color.
Our balcony was to the side of the ship as the balcony to the front of the ship was blocked off to us. Two loungers and a dining table and four chairs are in this space. It was too cold to sit on the balcony in Norway in February though we went out often for pictures. This is where we took our best Northern Lights pictures.
The oddest thing was we were told we couldn’t open our drapes at night if the ship was moving unless we turned off all our lights. The glare interfered with the crew in the bridge above. We were very careful to comply.
Big windows overlook the front of the ship from both living and sleeping areas. The only opening door was the one to the balcony on the side.
We had two rough sea days. If you are troubled by seasickness do not book on the front of the ship.