I cruise for the destinations. I enjoy luxurious ships, but the real luxury to me is getting as close to destinations as possible. So my review of Viking Cruise’s first ocean going ship, Viking Star, may not tick all the boxes you are looking for. If you want to know costs, cabin size, bathroom configuration, restaurants, spa etc., google Viking Star and you will find many excellent reviews over the past week. I found the physical attributes, cuisine and service all excellent but I found something else. Something that is very extraordinary on a cruise ship. Maybe the last time I felt it was on Aristotle Onassis’ yacht Christina. (Google the bar stools.)
Viking Star is designed with a passion for Norway, the Vikings and exploration that refreshingly wasn’t dictated by a brand expert. The leitmotif of almost everything onboard, sometimes tongue in cheek, is a nod to the owner, Tor Hagen’s pride in his country and heritage. Admittedly, when I first saw the name of the evening venue was Torshavn, I wondered if Tor might have gone too far. He has not, it works perfectly. As does Mamsen’s, the café that touchingly serves dishes that Tor’s daughter, Karine Hagen, remembers from her grandmother’s kitchen. It is a glimpse into daily life in Norway and her famous explorers that few cruises can provide—on land or at sea.
Viking Star is a statement from a family that continues to chart its own course (excuse the pun) and lead cruising, both river and now ocean into new waters. I am certain that experts, (cruise, design or branding,) may have suggested a less overt statement on board. Consensus might have presented a ship barely distinguishable from the many other excellent ships sailing today. Viking Star was surprising to me and in a very fulfilling way.
And oh yes, The destinations I carve— are right off my balcony. Whether sailing as on the Seine below or when in port. This ship knows how to get close and how to explore. Viking Star’s itineraries are creative and varied. Their strong team has worked for years perfecting the “destination experience” on their river cruise itineraries. You have seen the videos of many excursions on Downton Abbey. I feel confident they will continue to deliver on land.
The standard adage, that for some “the ship is the destination” was never true for me. But yesterday, as I sailed up the Thames, a reenactment if you will, on one of the most historic waterways in the world on Viking Star’s maiden voyage the ship was the destination. On a ship that unapologetically presents the Bayeux Tapestry, as her primary design element, lauding the Norman/Viking conquest of 1066. The Vikings had returned, the mayor of Greenwich offered the Master the keys to the city, and history was again made.
Am I too dramatic for your tastes? Trust me, I drank the Norwegian kool aid, ate the waffles at Mamsens, sat in the ice room in the spa and was proud to be part of a ship that isn’t afraid to make a statement. Waving goodbye as she sailed to Bergen for her christening on Norway’s Constitution Day, I wanted to stay onboard. And for me, a peripatetic traveler, that is rare and my highest compliment.
Happy almost Christening Day to Viking Star.
NOTE: I was an invited guest on #VikingStar for this maiden voyage, but as always, the opinions are my own. I never promise a positive review, or any review, as a condition of accepting travel.