Who’s excited about the launch of Viking Cruises first oceangoing cruise ship, Viking Star? We are.
Nine months from now, Viking will christen Viking Star in Bergen, Norway and usher in a brand-new era of cruising. It sounds like marketing double-speak, but it’s true: Viking is sailing into uncharted waters here. Viking is, after all, a river cruise line that has had an extraordinary streak of success with their trendsetting Viking Longships that first set sail in 2012.
Since then, Viking has embarked on a campaign of aggressive expansion and brand-awareness, with advertisements on television and in print. Whenever we tell someone about river cruising, the brand recognition is instantaneous: Viking is synonymous with river cruising in the same way that Kleenex is with facial tissue. Perhaps it’s not the most elegant analogy, but it’s accurate.
Of course, a successful river cruise line branching out into ocean cruising would make news regardless, but it’s what Viking plans to do with its ship – and product, and itineraries – that makes it doubly worthy. Simply put, instead of doing what other premium cruise lines are doing, Viking is going its own way. The company is not catering to the mainstream cruise passenger. It’s not catering to the luxury passenger. Viking is literally catering to the same type of guest that enjoys river cruising, and the inclusive value it provides along the Danube, the Rhine or the Main.
It’s as much an original idea as it is a knee-jerk reaction to the state of the cruise industry at the moment, which seemingly seeks to fill each successive new ship with a never-ending array of diversions and distractions, from bumper cars to soda shops to lounges that feature “virtual” views. The ocean, it seems, has suddenly become un-sexy; an object to be hidden, even blocked, from view.
Viking is taking the road less travelled with Viking Star, giving her amenities and features that would be more at home on ultra-luxury vessels that carry per diems that vastly exceed what Viking is planning to charge guests.
Take, for example, the ship’s dining room. On most ships this occupies a space rectangular in design, bordered by windows, and given some soothing interior décor elements. Onboard Viking Star, the dining room could be the ship’s greatest technological achievement: in conjunction with engineers at Fincantieri, Viking has located the dining room on the promenade deck of Viking Star for one simple reason: The windows in this dining room will open to let the fresh sea breeze in.
Why has no one done this before? Because it’s a simple idea that poses a series of incredibly complex challenges for the engineers at Fincantieri, but they have rose to the challenge in much the same way that Rostock’s Neptun Werft shipyard conquered the impossible during the initial construction phase of the first Viking Longship river cruise boats. Viking was tired of doing things the old way, and worked with its designers and engineering partners at Neptun Werft to give the Longships a unique (and patented) offset corridor design and an entirely new type of tapered bow that would give the space to create its biggest hit, the indoor-outdoor dining venue known as the Aquavit Terrace.
The Aquavit Terrace makes its way onto the Viking Star, as does a Hurtigruten-style Explorer’s Lounge that spans the height of Decks 7 and 8. Hurtigruten has sailed the Norwegian Coast – dubbed the world’s ‘Most Beautiful Voyage’ for decades, and Viking joins them in offering more diverse, unique and interesting Norwegian itineraries than any other major cruise line.
There are other noteworthy features, too, like the Infinity Pool that will grace the stern on Deck 7; the expansive Wintergarden surrounding the Midship Pool that is covered by a retractable magrodome cover; and the large Nordic-style Spa nestled down on Deck 1.
In terms of inclusive, Viking takes a page from its river cruise operations. A selection of complementary excursions is offered on each voyage, not to mention complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner. Viking’s even throwing in complimentary wi-fi internet access for all guests and complimentary specialty coffees and teas served around the clock.
A lot has been written about Viking’s enigmatic founder, Torstein Hagen, but his daughter Karine arguably plays just as much of a pivotal role in the company. Vice President of the company, Karine had a very international upbringing and feels as comfortable in Russia as she does in Norway, England, or North America. She’s also the driving force behind many of Viking’s itineraries on the rivers and the oceans, and after meeting her in person several times now, we have to greatly admire the wide-eyed enthusiasm she still displays for the wonders of the world, and the pleasures it can bring to travellers.
Viking’s focus is on enriching experiences ashore enjoyed by a selection of like-minded guests who are just as thrilled to be a part of this as you are; guests who still enjoy the simple pleasure of being at sea. There’s no need to hide the sea from the guests onboard Viking Star; the two are inexorably linked.
For those who say the golden age of cruising has long since passed them by, we have good news: Viking is poised to bring it back, starting next spring.
You can learn more about Viking Star by visiting the Viking Cruises website.