Cruise Addicts was recently welcomed on a special four-night cruise to San Juan, Puerto Rico, aboard Viking Star, the first ship of Viking Ocean Cruises.
We flew from Tampa, Florida, and arrived in New York City on a bright sunny day. As we claimed our baggage and exited, we were greeted by Viking Cruises representatives who immediately took our baggage from us and escorted us curbside to a waiting Lincoln. Before I knew it, our bags were loaded, and I took my seat in the lovely car that would take us to the Viking Star.
We enjoyed the sites of New York City as we made our way to the ship. We drove past the United Nations building, through Central Park, and past other amazing sites. It wasn’t long before we pulled up curbside to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, and a waiting porter took our bags from us. The terminal was beautiful, and everyone was very helpful and welcoming. The check-in process was very fast and completed using just a smartphone. Moments later we got our first sight of the Viking Star. At only 47,800 GRT with 14 Decks and a guest capacity of 930, this was one of the smallest ships I have ever sailed on. As we boarded, we were given a glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion.
At this moment I was already relaxed and enjoying myself. Not only because I was just given a nice glass of champagne, but I had already been experiencing the “Viking difference.” It may sound like a catch phrase, but it’s more than that. It allows Viking Cruise guests to not be overwhelmed with the stresses of cruise travel.
Think back to your last cruise where you flew two hours or more to reach your waiting ship. How stressful was it just to travel and reach your vessel? I know firsthand that it can be a great ordeal. Viking can’t control everything, but they sure make things easier for their guests and even made a car ride through New York City morning traffic enjoyable.
Easy Air Travel and Transfers
Viking Cruises pampers its guests who book their air travel with them by including transfers to the ship. It takes the worry out of being in a strange city and makes it much less stressful. You are met by porters who take your bags for you, then you’re loaded on to a waiting car, van, or coach, depending on the number of guests arriving at the same time as you. The vehicles are luxurious and very comfortable. It immediately puts you in vacation mode. As you arrive, your bags are unloaded for you, and you can get ready to go on board. It’s why I highly recommend anyone sailing with Viking Cruises to make the air arrangements with them so you can enjoy the easy transfers before and after your cruise. Yes, even after your cruise you are taken from the ship to the air terminal where a Viking representative makes sure you get checked in properly and on your flight. It’s just like having a close friend helping you along the way.
Viking Inclusive Cruising
During most modern cruise vacations, you have to budget or at least consider the costs of the extra items that could find their way onto the dreaded final invoice. This start’s from the very start with how they price the cruise itself. All port charges and government taxes are included in the price of the cruise. Viking believes that things should be inclusive, not so it can be called luxury, but so people know in advance how much the cruise will cost. Viking Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen said, “You shouldn’t first pay $2,ooo for the ticket price and and then another $2,000 to be fleeced.”
Viking Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen said, “You shouldn’t first pay $2,ooo for the ticket price and and then another $2,000 to be fleeced.”
I was recently on another cruise line and was almost immediately bombarded with solicitations to buy everything from artwork, specialty dining, drink packages, and wine tastings. I was offered a drink, but it wasn’t a nice glass of complimentary champagne. Instead it was an expensive “sail away” drink.
Everyone wants to go on a cruise to have fun and relax. However, the extra costs and the feeling of being nickel and dimed have steadily increased on even the most premium cruise lines. Viking Cruises inclusive cruising has solved this problem. It allows you to focus on exploring and maintaining a state of relaxation.
What I like most about Viking’s inclusiveness is that I know once I begin my vacation, most things are already included, such as these items:
- Complimentary enriching shore excursion in each port of call, led by local guides
- Complimentary Shipwide Wi-Fi
- Complimentary wine, beer & soft drinks with on board lunch and dinner service.
- Complimentary 24-hour specialty coffees & teas
- Experience premium specialty restaurants without any extra charge
- Complimentary self-service laundry facilities on multiple decks (Incl. detergents, irons and ironing boards)
- Complimentary 24-hour room service
You’re Not Nickel & Dimed
With so many things already included, you may be surprised how reasonable things they do charge for are. If you want a specialty cocktail or even have your clothes laundered or pressed for you, the rates are well below most other lines. During our recent sailing, we had some rougher than normal seas. They offered my wife complimentary medication and a fresh green apple as a remedy. They simply took her name down and did not charge us. It’s this feeling of being pampered that is making guests loyal to Viking Cruises.
Small Ship Comfort
These beautiful ships are light-filled with modern Scandinavian décor. During our cruise, we found Viking Star inviting and calming by design. The book-lined walls and peaceful sitting areas found throughout the ship made you want to curl up to read a good book or simply relax with an amazing view of the ocean. What further separates Viking from other lines is not what they have on board, but rather what they don’t have:
- No casino
- No children under 18
- No photographers
- No art auctions
- No formal nights
- No charge for use of the spa
- No sales pressure in the spa
Viking has listened to their river cruise guests and built its ocean product to focus on what these guests want and none of what they don’t. They don’t try to be everything to everyone like some lines attempt to do. Your fellow passengers will be English speaking, mature couples with a curious mind and an interest in history, culture, and geography. Viking prides itself on being an efficient operator who can pass along the savings to its guests by offering them a small ship experience at a large ship cost.
Cabins You Won’t Want To Leave
Viking Cruises has created spacious and thoughtfully design staterooms. All 465 cabins come with a veranda, so each cabin has a wonderful ocean view. You’re welcome to upgrade to a more spacious suite, but we found the 270sq. ft. (incl. veranda) veranda cabin very acceptable. It comes with some amazing features and amenities, and suite guests of higher categories can expect additional items:
- Bathrooms featuring strong water pressure, heated floors, large shower, easy to use dials in shower, easy to read toiletries
- Mini-bar with complimentary soft drinks, water & snacks
- Laundry, dry cleaning, shoe shine & pressing
- Purified water refilled daily
- King-sized Viking explorer bed with luxury linens
- 24-hour room service
- Luxury robes, slippers & toiletries
- 42″ flat-screen LCD TV
- Interactive TV & movies-on-demand
- Security safe, hair dryer, 110/220 volt outlets
- Direct dial satellite phone & cell service
An Award Winning Future
This past year, Viking Sea was awarded a top rating of five stars by Cruise Critic, a distinction previously bestowed to Viking Star – which was also named “Bests New Ocean Ship” of 2015 in Cruise Critic’s Editors’ Picks Awards. Additionally, the ship received three top awards in the 6th Annual Cruisers’ Choice Awards and was the highest rated ship in its category in the 2016 version of “cruising Bible,” Berlitz’s Cruising and Cruise Ships guidebook.
This year Viking will welcome two additional ships, Viking Sky® and Viking Sun®, whose maiden voyage will be a 141-day world cruise spanning five continents, 35 countries, and 66 ports. Two remaining, yet-to-be-named ships will be delivered in 2018 and 2020. The new Viking Ocean Cruises ships will be identical in design and decor; even the carpets will be the same. This allows the company to keep costs lower, maintain service standards, and pass along savings to the customer with an extremely high level of cost efficiency, a well-designed ship, and an excellent crew. It also helps past guests know exactly what to expect.
Our four nights aboard Viking Star were extremely enjoyable. The crew on board made for an amazing experience that was beyond my expectations. I found myself expecting to pay for things like I have on other lines and quickly found it’s included. Being on such a small ship and being so pampered made me think back to my first cruise in 1989. It too was on a small ship and was similarly inclusive. It reminded me what made me fall in love with cruising in the first place. At the heart of my love for cruise travel is a feeling of relaxation, the marvel of an ocean going ship, and the wonder of exploration that’s waiting for me beyond the horizon.