Viking Ocean Cruises today announced its first ship, Viking Star, has embarked on her maiden voyage from Istanbul to Venice, thus launching the travel industry's first entirely new cruise line in a decade. From Venice, Viking Star will make her way through the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic on her way to be officially christened in Bergen, Norway during a citywide celebration on May 17 – Norwegian Constitution Day. Developed from the ground up to return the focus of cruising to the destination, Viking Ocean Cruises also has two additional sister ships on order – Viking Sky and Viking Sea – all of which will sail itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.
"We have always believed that cruising should be about connecting you to your destination – not just taking you to places on a map. It is our view that in the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. "With our new ocean cruises, we have created a new kind of vessel that is smaller in size and smarter in design, offering an alternative to today's mega liners. Along with our privileged-access excursions and onboard enrichment, we have made the destination the true focus of our new ocean cruises."
A Ship Designed for Destination Cruising
Classified by Cruise Critic as a "small ship," Viking Star has a gross tonnage of 47,800 tons and accommodates 930 passengers in 465 staterooms – each with its own veranda. Engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, guests have an easy and efficient embarkation and disembarkation, allowing them more time to spend enjoying each destination.
Light-filled with modern Scandinavian décor, Viking Star was designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including the same interior design team responsible for the award-winning fleet of Viking Longships®. Throughout the ship, details were incorporated to pay homage to Nordic heritage and to help guests immerse themselves in local surroundings. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer more options for al fresco dining than any other vessel in its class; huge windows and skylights blur the lines between inside and out; and a wrap-around promenade deck nods to a bygone era of classic ocean liners.
Onboard Viking Star, clean lines, woven textiles and light wood evoke the Viking spirit of discovery and connection to the natural world. A carefully curated collection of Scandinavian artwork adorns the walls of the restaurants and public spaces. In the two-deck Explorers' Lounge at the bow of the ship, the décor was inspired by ancient Viking trade routes and navigation methods – imagery of star constellations and astronomical maps are complemented by antique globes, astrolabes and sofas with cozy pelts. In the Spa, the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia is in mind – from the Nordic ritual of the hydrotherapy pool and the first Snow Room at sea, to materials inspired by Scandinavian nature: Swedish limestone and black slate; juniper and teak wood details; recycled and etched opaque glass; and cast iron. In the Wintergarden, blonde wood "trees" stretch their branches up to the glass ceiling, forming a lattice canopy over a serene space where guests can enjoy afternoon tea service. And in the Viking Living Room, a geometric garden was inspired by the wild lichen of Norway's Finse Mountain Plateau.
Leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers, Viking Ocean Cruises was developed with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local culture at night or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," appealing to those with an interest in history, art, music, and cuisine.
While onboard, guests will enjoy informative talks from local experts and carefully selected lecturers in The Theater. Dining options onboard Viking Star elevate food as a cultural experience – the World Café features global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; Mamsen's features Norwegian deli-style fare, according to the recipes of Hagen's mother, Ragnhild, otherwise known as "Mamsen;" and Manfredi's Italian Restaurant embraces authentic Tuscan and Roman cuisine. In the Kitchen Table, the high-tech space offers cooking classes featuring a wide range of regionally inspired dishes and culinary techniques; at night it transforms into an interactive dinner experience with fellow guests and Viking's esteemed chefs. While every cruise fare includes a guided excursion in each port, Viking's optional excursion program was designed to provide guests with enriching privileged-access experiences that go beyond the iconic and expected. Highlighted examples include:
• Private Visit to Hagia Sophia by Night, Istanbul, Turkey - On this special excursion, guests visit the magnificent Hagia Sophia for a private tour free of crowds. After departing the ship with a guide, guests enjoy a drive over the Galata Bridge into the heart of Old Istanbul to walk the hallowed halls of Hagia Sophia and view its priceless treasures. After the visit, guests enjoy refreshments in the courtyard of the nearby Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamami, a charming Turkish bathhouse.
• Cooking with a Countess, Venice, Italy – Countessa Lelia Passi welcomes Viking guests to her home, which has been in her family for hundreds of years. In the magnificent surroundings of this lavish palace, the countess and her teaching staff share with guests the secrets of Italian cooking.
• Sail & Swim the French Riviera, Toulon, France – Guests have the opportunity to try their hand at sailing a luxury sailboat on the Bay of Toulon. Weather permitting, the yacht will anchor in one of many small coves, where guests can relax with a drink or snack, or perhaps a swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
• A Normandy Countryside Cheese & Brandy Tasting – In the village of Pont L'Évêque, savor a special Norman lunch amidst the Calvados barrels of Les Tonneaux du Père Magloire restaurant. After your meal, you will visit the cellars to learn how apples are transformed into the "eau de vie," the water of life—Normandy's favorite brandy.
• Kayak a Fjord – Guests have an opportunity to paddle among the tranquility Norway's mighty fjords, on an active and exciting excursion.
• At Home in Haugesund, Haugesund, Norway – Visit a traditional home for tea. Your hosts, a local garden designer and architect, welcome you into their wooden house that dates to 1884. You visit and enjoy tea steeped from herbs in their garden.