Characteristic of the Viking way are impressive inclusions such as more time docked at destinations than on competitors’ itineraries; a shore excursion in every port; Wi-Fi, subject to certain usage policies; house wines, beers and soft drinks at lunch and buffet; specialty restaurants; self-service laundry; 24-hour room service and specialty coffees and teas; and all port charges.
The Viking Star is a graceful beauty with a sweeping bow, a stylish, flared-out high deck, and a unique cantilevered infinity pool suspended high over the stern. Although the ship’s smaller size is a refreshing change of pace from today’s standards, it still feels far better than it really is. Lots of natural light from heightened decks and floor-to-ceiling windows illuminates the comfortable Scandinavian spaces, making the ship feel more residential than resort-like. The Viking Living Room atrium, in particular, makes for quite an entrance, as a high-definition digital tapestry at the head of the stairs displays rotating teaser images of ports of call yet to come.
Accommodations continue the spacious theme, with staterooms and suites whose size is more akin to hotel rooms than typical cruise ship cabins. For example, median Penthouse Veranda staterooms boast 338 square feet and include a king-size bed and a cozy seating area. Most importantly, private bathrooms are likewise expansive, with easily maneuverable shower enclosures. On the tech side, here are desk lamps with 5 USB charging ports and flat-panel TVs with free programming.
Among the public spaces, the Explorers’ Lounge observation area is a standout. The double-decker venue draws the attention back to the destination, especially when so many other ships are lacking the classic feature. The Liv Nordic spa is also a treat, especially since its revitalizing steam room, authentic snow room, thalassotherapy pool, tile beds, dry sauna and gymnasium are completely complimentary. Only treatments cost extra.
Light and original regional fare makes the tasty onboard food, from Mamsen’s Norwegian deli (conveniently located in the observation lounge) to the main dining room. Also emphasizing the destination, both the Restaurant and the World Cafe bang feature wraparound deck doors that can open to make the venues alfresco. Unlike specialty eateries on so many other cruise ships, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant and the Chef’s Table tasting menu experience require reservations but are free of payment.
Entertainment mostly consists of extensive enrichment programming pertaining to the destination and related topics. Viking has even teamed up with TED and will soon offer signature talks on board. When available, local entertainers are showcased, and in-house theatrical productions also play well to the crowd but could use a bit more polish over time. Classic dance sets in the atrium and live music throughout the ship are more impressive.
For a cruise line that doesn’t claim to be a luxury brand, Viking Ocean Cruises and the Viking Star often approach that high level of quality, and do so at a much more affordable price point, making it an exceptional value.