The project is the brainchild of Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises. A veteran in the cruise and shipping industries, Mr Hagen will stand out in the memories of more mature cruise aficionados like myself as the CEO of Royal Viking Line, THE luxury line of the eighties (and of course you long memoried people will also remember that his ships were named Royal Viking Star, Royal Viking Sky and Royal Viking Sea, followed in the late eighties by Royal Viking Sun). But this time round it looks like his time has really come, as he follows the success and meteoric growth of his river cruise line with this ocean going project.
At the end of March, twelve new Viking river vessels inaugurated in Amsterdam and Rostock, bringing the size of the river fleet to an amazing 64 vessels, with six more to enter service in 2016, and options for another eighteen after that. (He has joked in the past that one hundred is a nice round number - but why stop there!) Mr Hagen clearly wants to bring the success of his river cruise model to the oceans. Once the next two ships Viking Sea and Viking Sky are launched in 2016, he has an option for a fourth ship, and has indicated aspirations for more to come.
The 47,800gt Viking Star can accommodate 930 passengers. With the same fresh and minimalist Scandinavian décor as the river fleet, the ship features plenty of glass and marble, with floor to ceiling windows and blonde woods. Public space includes the serene Wintergarden area around the pool, the Viking Living Room and the airy Explorers Lounge, not to mention a spacious Nordic spa, theatre, and Library. Plenty of dining options including speciality restaurants ensure a relaxed style on board. Spacious staterooms, all with verandah and ranging in size from 270 square feet to suites of 757 square feet, feature a range of amenities, not to mention complimentary wi-fi.
Itineraries are designed in such a way that guests can stay on board for multiple days without repeating ports, and initially at least, the ships will remain in Europe year round. As on the river vessels, selected shore excursions are included in the fare, as well as wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, and 24 hour room service.
The Viking style is to offer an uncluttered proposition, with plenty of inclusions, unpretentious, reliable and comfortable. It remains to be seen how successfully this transfers from rivers to oceans, but this one is certainly worth a second look.
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