Inside The Launch Of The Viking Star (An Ocean Cruise Line)

First image...
The christening celebration in Norway...

Northern Delight

Viking Cruises, mostly known for river, now has an ocean line. What to expect?

... the glass-enclosed Wintergarden ...
... and an Explorer Suite.

By Fran Golden
Originally appeared in July 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life; click here to browse full issue.

Viking Ocean Cruises launched its first ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, with an extravagant concert and ceremony under the midnight sun in Bergen, Norway. An extension of 60-ship river-cruise giant Viking River Cruises, the world’s first entirely new ocean-cruising line in a decade focuses on Scandinavian design, destination-intensive itineraries, and founder and chairman Torstein Hagen’s policy of “no nickel-and-diming” – hence passengers receive a shore excursion in every port, Internet access, and wine or beer with lunch and dinner, among the lengthy list of complimentary inclusions. Fran Golden reports from the christening that if the devil is in the details, the Viking Star is sinfully good. Here are a few of her favorite discoveries:

1. Don’t let the Star’s subtle colors and use of natural materials such as birch twigs fool you – there’s high design at play. Pull up a Frank Gehry Cross Check chair for afternoon tea at the glass-enclosed Wintergarden and follow the tale of Norse god Odin’s traveling ravens depicted in its latticed steel partitions. Elsewhere, you’ll discover Eames chairs at Internet stations, Jakob Weidemann oil paintings in the dining room, and even an
Edvard Munch lithograph near the excursions desk.

2. Democracy afloat: All Viking Star cabins include balconies and thoughtful touches such as heated bathroom floors and down pillows. Of course, amenities increase with cabin category – the 14 sizeable Explorer Suites come with bathtubs. And the three-room Owner’s Suite has a boardroom and ocean-view sauna, plus a collection of Hagen’s own science books and personal photos.

3. A retractable glass roof covers the expansive, cushy main pool area, but the real splash comes at the stern’s heated infinity pool, which appears to spill off the deck into the ship’s wake.

4. The World CafĂ©’s buffet rivals the main dining room’s flavors, and you can order Norwegian salmon with dill sauce 24 hours a day from room service. Throughout the ship, you’ll find plenty of outdoor seating – including dining room windows that open onto the promenade.

5. A tale of two tables: Reserve a seat at The Chef’s Table for themed five-course menus paired with wine; choose Sweet and Salty, say, for tomato and watermelon gazpacho, grilled scallops with beets and passion fruit, veal tenderloin with red onion marmalade, and more. For an immersive culinary experience, splurge on The Kitchen Table cooking school ($299), where a dozen students shop a port market with a chef, then return to prepare a meal on board.

6. In the Nordic-inspired spa, complimentary facilities focus on the benefits of alternating hot and cold treatments. Take a dip in the heated saltwater pool or relax in the sauna, then duck into the Snow Grotto, where flurries drift from the ceiling. An excellent 50-minute Swedish massage (given by a real Swede) runs $150.

7. A vision, grown up: Though not strictly adults only, Viking Star is designed for the 55-and-up set: There’s no casino, rock-climbing wall, loud nightlife, or kids’ club. Lectures in the 450-seat theater might include tales by a pilot who flew the Concorde, while in the two cinemas, screenings of new and classic movies alternate with TED Talks.

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