Review: Viking Star, Viking Ocean Cruises
As we mentioned in this article a few weeks ago, Carol and I were invited by Viking Ocean Cruises to experience their inaugural sailing in North America.
Aboard ship were a select group of invited travel advisors (that’s us) as well as notable travel industry journalists and bloggers.
It was fun to see fellow travel blogger Matt Long aboard ship. We met Matt in Washington DC many moons ago when Carol and I were first starting our travel blog in 2010.
Today, as you know, Carol and I wear two hats: travel agency owners + travel bloggers. It’s great fun! Although, the travel industry doesn’t quite know what to do with us as they seem to have a hard time figuring out if they should look at us as travel bloggers or agency owners. That’s OK, we like to keep ’em guessing.
Our first morning aboard ship, as we sailed towards San Juan, Puerto Rico, we had a very interesting two hour meeting with Torstein Hagen, the founder and CEO of Viking Cruises.
Mr. Hagen first talked about the phenomenal success that they’ve been enjoying as they have single-handedly re-imagined the river cruise industry. Then, as we were sailing aboard the Viking Star, Viking’s very first foray into the ocean cruise industry, he went on to share his vision and early successes in the ocean cruise business.
If you’re not aware, Viking Ocean Cruises is the world’s newest cruise line, and remarkably, the World’s Best Cruise Line for 2016, according to the readers of Travel + Leisure.
Torstein went on to share with us his Viking philosophy:
- Don’t try to be everything for everyone:
- Focus on English speaking, mature couples with curious minds and an interest in history, culture and geography
- Offer an alternative experience on a small, quiet ship
- Be a destination oriented cruise line
- Offer a highly inclusive product with no nickel and diming
- Be an efficient operator and pass savings on to guests
- Offer a small ship experience at a large ship cost
- Hire the best staff in the cruise industry
Our First Impressions
- Torstein went out of his way to let us know that his cruise line is not a luxury product, per se. While I don’t recall if he mentioned names, Viking Ocean Cruises is not designed to compete with the likes of Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, or Regent Seven Seas. However, they do have Oceania, Azamara, and several other brands in their crosshairs. While Torstein refuses to use the “L” word (luxury), Carol and I did find their ship to be quite luxurious. Think perhaps of a beautiful 4-star Westin Hotel and not a 5-star Four Seasons. Frankly, in my humble opinion, the public spaces could well be considered 5-star with the staterooms perhaps being more 4-star with their minimalist Norwegian design.
In regards to the staterooms, I’m not a big fan of minimalist styling, so my upper lip was a little curled up when I first entered our Penthouse Veranda Stateroom. I didn’t get that warm and cozy feeling that I enjoy in the world’s finest resorts. However, and this is important, the design of the room was remarkable and very comfortable. Viking has gone out of their way to give everyone a balcony, to have some of the largest staterooms in the small ship segment, and their bathrooms are spacious, beautiful, and even feature heated floors. Plus, their showers are large enough to actually enjoy taking a shower. Nice! I might also add that I found their Jr. Suites and Explorer Suites to be the cat’s meow. Luxury travelers will definitely enjoy these spacious rooms. While the design cues were similar to our Penthouse Veranda, I found these staterooms much more to my liking. If you can swing it, get yourself one of these suites!
- Mr. Hagen shared that the main dining room should not be the worst food on the ship. So, he has doggedly went out of his way to assure that the cuisine in the main dining room is awesome. We found the cuisine in the main dining room equal to any that we’ve experienced at sea. The service and food were quite amazing. Further, their specialty dining rooms are included in the fare, and are equally amazing. I’m very confident that 5-star travelers will be quite impressed with the cuisine aboard Viking Ocean Cruises. We were!
Public Spaces – one of the things that I’ve learned to look for is a cruise ship’s passenger space ratio. I don’t like crowds, and I certainly don’t want to feel crowded on a cruise ship. The space ratio of the Viking Star is 51.5 which is twice the public spaces available on most of the big ships floating the seas. The Viking Star carries a maximum of 930 guests, but I promise, you won’t feel crowded at all. The ship is full of comfy nooks and crannies to hide away with your favorite book to enjoy a little quiet time. I like that a LOT! Plus, as I mentioned above, the public spaces are beautiful and designed for comfort. In fact, the lowest level of their central Atrium is called the Living Room. It’s ultra comfy and beautiful with plush chairs to lounge away those times when you’re at sea. And if you prefer, the main pool area is replete with comfy chairs and even a large sliding glass dome to cover the pool area if the weather is cool or rainy. I could go on and on, but you should also know that the spa pool is a real eye-popper complete with a hot steam bath area and something they call a Snow Grotto where you can roll around in real snow, if you’re so inclined.
As this post is approaching 1,000 words and getting rather lengthy, I’m going to circle back around and write future posts to give you more information about their staterooms, cuisine, life aboard ship, and much more. But for now, please know that Carol and I were very impressed. In our minds, Viking Ocean Cruises is going to be our go-to ocean cruise line for our 4-star travelers traveling without kids. No kids under 18 are allowed on Viking Ocean Cruises. Like I mentioned above, the ships are designed for mature couples with curious minds who look to explore the world in comfort on a small ship.
Torstein also shared with us that he plans to be the world’s largest small ship ocean cruise line by 2019, and as you can see in the chart above, he is on target to make that happen with three more ships coming in the next three years.
Bravo Viking Ocean Cruises! We’re very impressed!
If you’re looking for a small ship ocean cruise line with a destination focus and 4-star luxury at large ship prices, then we highly and confidently recommend Viking Ocean Cruises.
Carol and I hope to sail Viking Ocean Cruises in the near future, and as Scandinavia and the Baltic’s are in their backyard, that is first on our bucket list.
For more information, or to book your own fun Viking Ocean Cruise, call our travel agency at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll reach out to you. Plus, when you call, mention #VikingFun and we’ll add a special $100 shipboard credit on top of Viking’s best offers so that you can enjoy a couple of nice bottles of wine on us!
Link: Viking Ocean Cruises
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