Viking Star – A Taste of Something Different

My wife and I have recently returned from a one week cruise on Viking Star, part of her  maiden cruise season…

As part of the Viking package we flew on a scheduled British Airways flight Heathrow to Barcelona for the start of our 7 day itinerary…

 

On our arrival at Barcelona Airport Viking continued to impress as they had representatives identifying themselves and offering assistance before our luggage made it onto the carousel. Transfer between the airport and the port was seamless, we were offered champagne on arrival  and  were delighted to learn that our stateroom was immediately ready.

We had chosen a Deluxe Veranda Stateroom on Deck 4…

 

*****

*****

Unlike their river cruise namesake, stateroom toiletries onboard Viking Star are no longer  L’Occitane. Very similar to those we have experienced  previously on Haag-Lloyds Europa 2,  an upmarket German brand named Freyja and exclusively found on Viking’s oceangoing ships…

 

At 270 sq. ft. the Deluxe Veranda grade stateroom that  additionally enjoys guaranteed reservations in the speciality restaurants, coffee brewing facilities with included coffee selections…

…in addition to a complimentary selection of non alcoholic beverages and confectionary in the stateroom fridge.

Having quickly sorted our accommodation we took lunch on the Aquavit Terrace…

…the  ‘al fresco‘ extension of the World Cafe –  just one of Viking Star’s  many dining options.

It is worth noting here that although ‘buffet’ service,  both the Aquavit Terrace and World Cafe tables are always pre-laid with linen napkins, cutlery and drinking glasses. Wines, beers and non alcoholic beverages are complimentary during both lunch and dinner in all dining outlets on Viking Star.

Each entrance has highly visible hand washing facilities in addition to recessed hand sanitiser spray dispensers…

We were over nighting in Barcelona so we devoted the rest of our first afternoon to discovering what Viking Star was all about: and we were pretty impressed with Torstein Hagen’s definition of ‘understated elegance’ and the efficient utilization of space. There isn’t a casino onboard, neither is there a photo gallery. They take up space that can, and is, better utilised.

The Ship:-

Not unlike its river cruise cousins, the initial impression  is that Viking Star is a celebration of all things Nordic – not quite a kind of floating Ikea – but airy, light, spacious and with that, once again, understated elegance.

The  Atrium encompasses three decks and has a wide staircase between decks 1 and 2…

Atop the  staircase is an LCD screen that displays all manner of changing images, and beneath is a carpet of Nordic lichen.

 

The lower deck of the Atrium is in fact referred to as ‘The Living Room’ and epitomises that Nordic homely feel  and sense of space. The design is Modern Scandinavian with an abundance of light and cosy areas  with soft chairs and sofas and books. These  nooks even  extend to the pool/ wintergarden  deck, with comfortable sofas and areas that afford a degree of privacy for those quiet moments: here the Lanai area adjacent the Wintergarden…

But back to The Living Room…

*****

*****

…you get the feel.

The Living Room additionally is home to the rather novel open plan Explorers Desk (Reception) …

… the Shore Excursion Office

 

…and of course, the Living Room Bar…

Other decks bordering the Atrium are equally endowed with spacious seating areas…

*****

The Explorers’ Lounge occupies two decks at the forward end of the ship. The lower level..

 

…and the upper level…

Another decorative feature of the Explorers’ Lounge is the ‘living fire’…

 

There is no Casino or Photo Gallery on board Viking Star, neither is there a dedicated  Library but, scroll back over the last dozen photographs and there are books everywhere. Cunning plan eh?

There is a Pool Deck which benefits from a magradome, seen here closed…

 

 

…and viewed from above with the magradome open…

 

The whole layout of the pool deck, as with the other public spaces, reflects space. Nothing is cramped, beds are not on top of each other while small tables are in abundance…

 

Adjacent and forward of the pool is the Wintergarden,  another  beautiful area to relax in and where high tea is served  each afternoon…

There is no casino onboard Viking Star though there is a ultra smart Spa, salon and fitness centre…

…not to mention a Barber’s Shop…

 

At the rear of the pool is the Pool Grill and Pool Bar

 

We used this facility for a number of lunches, particularly when time was a bit tight between excursions. The food was really good…

How’s that for a Pastrami Burger?

And a good time to lead into Viking Star’s other dining outlets.

The Restaurant

The main dining venue, The Restaurant,  offers a high standard  dining experience…

*****

The restaurant operates an  ‘open seating’ dining system for breakfast, lunch and dinner with standard continental cuisine enhanced with locally sourced menus that attempt to reflect the ship’s location. Viking claim that this allows  guests to explore new cultures through food. One evenings  menu…

And how two main courses were actually served, the Lobster…

…and the Beef Wellington…

 

Worth reiterating at this stage is that at lunch and dinner all beverages: from coffees and teas to wine, beer  and spirits are included. That’s correct. They are complimentary.

Viking Star has two speciality restaurants that, though they require a reservation, do not carry any supplementary charges.  First up guests can embark on a culinary journey through Italy by visiting Manfredi’s. A welcoming air to this traditional style restaurant is generated through marbled flooring, subdued lighting, Italian chandeliers  and an open plan food-prep counter with giant Parmesan wheels and Serrano Hams on display…

*****

Considering Viking Star is not an Italian themed ship Manfredi’s offer an amazingly comprehensive Italian menu guaranteed to suit all tastes. Indeed, so comprehensive is Manfredi’s menu that not including dessert and side orders there are no less than 11 Vegetarian options.Diners are also encouraged to sample ‘un po’ di pasta e risotto’  either as a separate course or alternatively as  a main course…

 

 

The second ‘speciality’ restaurant is called ‘The Chef’s Table‘…

 

Dining in this restaurant is a culinary journey – a multi course tasting experience of gastronomic exploration and local area cuisine. A ‘Degustation Menu,’…

…dependant on the geographical position of the ship. Each course is  paired with selected vintage wines, and the meal is served by both knowledgeable waiters and sommeliers who offer a detailed commentary on food and wines…

On the evening of our visit ‘The Chef’s Table’ offering was of a French “Fine Dining” style with presentation being as important as is the food.

From the moment the ‘Oxtail Consommé’ is stylishly served table side one knows this meal is going to be something special…

…while the Renaissance-Style Lamb Loin, sweet potato mash and glazed carrot medley was nothing short of outstanding…

 

The World Café is Viking Star’s Buffet restaurant facility. Situated high on Deck 7 with panoramic views, the World cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner…

Mirrored on either side of the central cooking area and serving stations, guests can choose a selection of foods—from the deli, the pasta or wok station, a carvery and even a  sushi section with a choice of seating either in the main section or one of the two areas of the Aquavit Terrace. Here the inner section…

…and the open ‘al fresco’ area…

 

In a  small extension of the Explorers’ Lounge can be found one other dining venue that caps the Nordic heritage of Viking Star. It is called Mamsen’s and is a rather interesting  deli-style eatery serving traditional Scandinavian fare –  whether for  light snack or a full meal served in a casual atmosphere from early morning to late night. The dessert selection is to die for and there is even a daily ‘waffle hour’ if that is to one’s taste.

*****

We made use of Mamsen’s for two breakfasts and one lunch. The Gravlax with a Mustard Dill sauce was to die for…

…as was the Blueberry Waffle…

 

In addition to the various restaurants an extensive Room Service menu is available around the clock. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner either in the privacy of one’s suite or stateroom or on your private veranda, as you take in spectacular seascapes.

Entertainment:-

Central to the ship’s entertainment is The Star Theatre…

*****

Cleverly added at the rear of the Theater, on each side,  innovative retractable walls make The Star Theater a multi-purpose venue. One of the main purposes being to transform these additional spaces  into two HD movie theatres with advanced Dolby surround-sound features….

 

TORSHAVN is a venue along the lines of a  piano-bar come jazz lounge come night club in an intimate setting: a lively music venue  ideal for pre-dinner drinks and after-dinner entertainment…

It was here in Torshavn that the Viking organisation particularly excelled on one particular evening. It was one of those evenings  for  a ‘double’ bill. At 9.00 pm, in the Star Theatre, we were treated to an awesome production show by the Viking Star Singers and Dancers entitled “Songscape – An Operatic Fantasy”.  This was to be followed at 10.15 pm by a  cabaret act in the Torshavn night spot.

And the organisation?  Torshavn would never have been able to accommodate all the guests that would want to see the cabaret act so Viking had, very sensibly, advertised tickets (no charge of course) for three separate shows on 3 consecutive nights. Guests could simply choose which night they wished to attend. Pretty innovative and, as it turned out, a great success…

*****

On completion of the Cabaret the resident band continued to entertain and once more the Solents danced the night away…

As earlier mentioned we were treated to a number of superb production shows featuring the Viking Star’s Singers and Dancers…

Whilst visiting Barcelona and Civitavecchia the ship overnighted in port. On both occasions local entertainment, of a particular high quality, were brought onboard to entertain.

In Barcelona it was a  local group of Catalan Gypsy musicians who gave an outstanding  performance of Rumba Catalana…

For those  unfamiliar, Rumba Catalana is a traditional music style that developed in Barcelona’s gypsy community in the fifties. Its rhythms are derived from flamenco with Cuban and rock and roll influences.

In Civitavecchia, and in line with Viking’s Enrichment  Programme, we were treated to an evening of opera performed by a quartet of professionals from the ‘Academia Nazionale of Santa Cecelia Chorus’. Another awesome piece of entertainment…

 

The Itinerary

And so to our itinerary and how both Viking’s ‘included’ and ‘optional’ excursion programme impacted on us…

We had used Viking’s online cruise personaliser to plan and  evaluate which excursions we wished to do (as well as make our reservations for the speciality dining restaurants). Here is a typical example of a page on the personaliser…

 

Tickets for all pre booked excursions awaited us in our stateroom on embarkation. All tickets were coded and instructions appeared in each days ’ Viking Daily’ as to when and where one should join the excursion coach/guide – matched the ticket code. Staff were also on hand during our disembarkation to offer complimentary bottles of water and to ensure guests were in possession of their  bluetooth ‘quietvox receivers’…

Another good feature of the ‘Viking Way’ was the provision of pretty comprehensive ‘Port Guides’ for each port visit…

 

Barcelona

For our full day in Barcelona we opted for the complimentary excursion entitled … “A Panoramic Tour & Walk of Barcelona”. 

This consisted of an hour and a half coach tour of Barcelona’s historic sites followed by a guided walking tour that included  a full internal tour of Barcelona’s ‘Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia‘…

On completion we were given the option of being coached back to the ship or having free time to explore ourselves.  We chose not to return immediately to the ship because we had a number of priorities including lunch, some shopping and  a visit to one of Antoni Gaudí’s renowned building masterpieces, Casa Batlló

 

Toulon

The next port of call was Toulon and the first of our Viking ‘Optional’ excursions i.e. ones that are chosen from a selection of enhanced excursions and carry supplementary charge. We had chosen one entitled ‘Cassis and France’s Seaside Scenery’: a 5 hour morning tour at a cost of £69.00 per person.

Our coach took us to the attractive fishing village of Cassis where we initially boarded a boat for a cruise through a magnificent network of canyon-like inlets: geological marvels that provided the stone masonry for the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York…

…before heading for a very generous  wine tasting in the town. We were also given free time to wander around the picturesque harbour.

Returning to Viking Star for lunch our afternoon was occupied with a harbour  boat ride followed by another walking tour. Toulon is affectionately known as “The City of Fountains”.

The prize for the most novel goes to ’Fountaine des trios Dauphins’ in Place Puget which has been decoratively overgrown with fauna over the years…

Our guide was particularly good and took us to many interesting sites including the Opera House – the second largest in France – and La Corderie – a naval rope making factory dating back to 1697 which had connections to the local prison more infamously recognised for its feature in the musical Les Miserables

 

Monaco

Our fourth day on board saw us waking and surrounded, following an early arrival,  by the glamour and highlights of Monaco and Monte Carlo…

Having visited Monaco earlier in the year on P&O’s Britannia…

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2015/05/24/monaco-one-way-to-do/

…we had other plans. We were going to head to Nice, some 45 minutes away along the Côte d’Azur.

In addition to excursions in Monaco Viking also offerred a complimentary coach to Nice. We however chose to use public transport only because it would extend our actual time in Nice…

We had such a great day out in Nice that it just has to feature soon in one of my ‘One Way to do…’ series. Watch this space.

Before moving on to our next port of call it should be noted that one of the great features of Viking Star’s port visits was the early morning arrivals – often before normal breakfast times – and regular late departures. Monaco, for example, we eventually departed around 10.00 pm.

Ajaccio, Corsica.

Another glorious sunrise arrival and for us a second cruise visit to Ajaccio this year.

Taking into account that we have probably done Napoleon’s birthplace to death we again opted for one of Viking’s ‘Optional’ excursions. On this occasion to the 17th century village commune at Cargèse.

The scenic village of Cargèse was some 27 kilometres from Ajaccio and the drive took us along the coastal road and around Liscia Bay where we witnessed some stunning scenery. Cargèse was originally a refuge for Greek immigrants whose ancestors escaped Ottoman persecution. The village itself sits 60 metres above a small picturesque harbour and its most distinguishing feature are its two churches – one Catholic and one Greek Orthodox – that face each other across a small valley…

We were very lucky with the weather and on return to the ship I was able to enjoy a dip in Viking Star’s Infinity Pool…

 

 

The port of Livorno was next up. We were scheduled on a ‘complimentary’ afternoon excursion to Pisa. Viking very kindly laid on complimentary shuttle buses into the town of Livorno so I availed myself of that facility and had a few good hours in Livorno

… before returning for lunch and then heading off to Pisa. Here our coach guide handed us over to a specialist ‘Pisa’ guide and we were most pleased to learn that Viking had arranged for us to be present inside a ‘locked’ Baptistry to witness a demonstration of the buildings unique acoustics by a member of staff…

 

We were fortunately given some free time and made good use of it to make a visit to the  Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).

One of the most intriguing buildings to be explored, this walled cemetery —which some believe to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world—is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Calvery, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade…

 

Rome and Civitavecchia

The port of Civitavecchia is basically  the cruisers gateway to Rome. I had opted for the full 10 hour complimentary excursion to Rome by coach, leaving my wife onboard on this occasion – we have done Rome many times together including a shore-side holiday.

My coach was scheduled to leave at 8.00 am and duly did. I had turned up a little early and was lucky enough to ‘bag’ one of the coveted front seats. The drive to Rome took around an hour and our guide organised one comfort stop. Again the guide kept us well briefed with lots of valuable information and each passenger received their own copy of a Rome Tourist map. In addition, and this was an excellent touch, we were each given an ‘emergency’ contact list should we become unavoidably detached from the group.

On arrival in Rome we again met up with a specialist ‘Rome’ tour guide who would accompany us for most of the day. The first hour was a panoramic coach tour around the outer popular areas  before we alighted the coach near the Coliseum  for our walking tour.

Sites visited included the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps,Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon to name a but a few. December was a good time to be in Rome, tourists were in short supply which made this photograph of the inside of the Pantheon all the more rewarding…

As our guide explained, in the summer months there literally is no ‘floor’ space to be had.

We were given two hours  free time for lunch before returning to our coach and heading  across Rome to the Vatican and St. Peters Square. Here there was the option of a visit to St. Peters Basilica or Castel Sant’Angelo. Having ticked off  St Peter’s on a previous visit I was delighted with the chance to visit Castel Sant’Angelo, seen here reflected with the ‘Bridge of Angels‘ in the Tiber River…

We departed the Vatican around 5.30 pm for the drive back to Civitavecchia. The return journey took a little longer: hampered by Rome’s notorious rush hour traffic. It was a  long day but a really top drawer excursion: particularly for anyone who may have never visited Rome.

Another superb touch and most fitting end to a great day out was being greeted on our return to the ship by the crew  lined up to welcome us ‘home’ – and champagne was once again available to all who wished to partake…

 

And so to our final day and departure from Viking Star. The organisation and administration was  as good as that we received on arrival. The only contact we had with our luggage was to identify that it was on the transfer coach. A Viking representative accompanied us to Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci International Airport and remained at the check-in desk until all guests were checked in.

There was one final nice touch to end this excellent cruise. Our British Airways pilot even managed to find a break in the cloud over Civitavecchia so we could say one last farewell and thank you to Viking Star…

 

Summary:

Where does one begin?

From the moment your travel documentation arrives by post…

…the impression is that no corners are being cut.

 

The Viking Star is an elegant and beautiful ship run on relaxed lines, offering exceptional food and service, and a smart casual dress code.  The company’s  ethos is that your ship should be built to enhance your destination, and that more time in port will allow you to experience destinations up close and in depth.  The downside of this is that sea days are limited (or non existent on this cruise), and the trip can therefore be exhausting. This approach allows the cruiser, particularly those from USA who have travelled far, to see a great deal of what Europe has to offer in a short space of time.  Included in the fare are shore excursions, drinks with meals and wi-fi, so no unpleasant surprises.

Those who have enjoyed Viking River Cruises will already be familiar with the quality and organisation offered by this fine company, and are sure to enjoy their ocean cruise experience.

Would we cruise on Viking Star, or any of her sister ships which are already on the stocks, again.

The only three minor  negatives for us, and these really are personal points that probably reflect the passenger nationality breakdown ( 31 British residents out of 856 onboard). The tendency for the majority of guests to dine in the evenings very early.  Similarly we felt the early scheduling of the main production shows, at or around 9.00 pm,  impinged on relaxed dining, while finally some interpretations of the ‘casual’ dress code often left a lot to be desired. However, none of those points  affected in any way our enjoyment of this superb ship and cruise.

The simple answer is a resounding yes with the only caveat being that it would very much depend on itinerary. though they are getting more and more difficult to find these days.

 

If you have enjoyed this review of Viking’s first ocean cruise ship and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including  forthcoming cruise reviews of  Oceania Riviera and the new Irrawaddy river cruise ship Princess Panhwar,  plus port reviews ( which will soon include a One Way to do Toulon, Salem from Boston, as well as a number of Australian ports of call including Brisbane), why not join the many other followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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17 responses to “Viking Star – A Taste of Something Different

  1. I do love a sea day though it would seem most cruises in these areas are port intensive
    Agree, having main show at 9 am forces an early meal especially returning from an all day excursion
    Lovely write up though how one defines casual at night for Americans might be a mix bag
    Need Fashion Police here
    Viking might cause changes in all inclusive

  2. Fascinating review and Viking looks very elegant indeed. Enjoyed reading your port information and the beautiful photos you take makes it all so real. Thank you and a Happy New Year to you.

  3. An excellent review about Viking, Looks really lovely. So much information provided by you and the photos just bring it all to life. Thank you. Happy New Year.

    • Hi Tina. Brochure price after usually applied Viking discount was £1899.00 per person. Then other discounts kick in, two of which were a ‘past passenger’ discount and the bonau attached to a advanced and pre-paid deposit. What one must remember though is that all excursions, wifi and drinks with lunch and dinner are included.

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  5. Hello Richard:
    I am most interested to hear your thoughts in comparing the H-L Europa2 with your Viking Ocean experience.
    As huge fans of E2, your Viking O experience seems to be similarly pleasant.
    Thank you for an excellent review.
    Elizabeth

    • Hi Elizabeth. Viking Star wasn’t up to Europe 2 standards by a long chalk. Having said that I don’t think she is really aimed at the same market level. A fairer comparison level may be between Viking Ocean cruises and say Oceania or Azamara, though it would still be difficult to make a fair comparison. Hope that helps. By the way, we are booked to go back on Europa 2.

  6. I really enjoyed your blog. We are going on a Viking Homelands cruise in May 2016. We’ll be in a deluxe veranda also, and I was a little concerned whether I would get the excursions I desired. It appears you didn’t have any problems with reserving them. Hopefully, we will have the same success.

  7. Loved reading your blog and seeing your pics Richard, we usually cruise with Oceania but are looking forward to Viking Star and all the more so after seeing your blog. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Did you do Florence from Livorno, if so wondering how you got into town! Train? Taxi?

  8. It was a beautiful cruise and you have done a delightful job of describing the journey!! It was wonderful meeting you on the bus to Nice! Hope we meet again on another adventure. Be Well. Ave & Kevin ( US NAVY)

  9. Excellent review. Have experienced Viking River Cruises and looking forward to our Viking Ocean experience in Aug (Istanbul-Venice).

  10. Hello

    A great overview of a wonderful ship. I am wondering if there is a usable promenade deck on this ship along with deck chairs in which to siit and watch thee sea go by. Also, is there an orchestra for dancing?

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this review.

    PATRICK

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