CRUISES

Onboard: Viking Star sets sail for its new home

October 15, 2016
Viking Star makes its approach to NY Harbor (Credit: Viking Star)
Viking Star makes its approach to NY Harbor (Credit: Viking Star)

Viking Star makes its approach to NY Harbor (Credit: Viking Star)

Celebrating a first with the Viking Star

After its first sail across the Atlantic, the elegant Viking Star made its inaugural debut in North America this month. We were thrilled to be invited onboard the 930-passenger (considered mid-size) passenger ship at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in New York City as the ship set sail on October 14, 2016 for its new winter home in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Another milestone: This is the first time Viking is expanding its itineraries to the Americas and the Caribbean.

Welcome onboard the Viking Star champagne cocktail

Welcome onboard the Viking Star champagne cocktail

During a festive Sailaway Party kicking off this mini four-day celebration, we joined other guests on the outside deck of the ship’s Explorers’ Lounge to soak in the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline at night, which never gets boring even to native New Yorkers.

Westside of Manhattan by Day

Westside of Manhattan by Day

Midtown Manhattan by Night

Midtown Manhattan by Night

Of course, the highlight was sailing past Ellis Island the Statue of Liberty. No matter how many times we catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty, we still get goose-bumps trying to imagine how our immigrant grandparents felt arriving here from Europe with only the clothes they had on their backs to be greeted by the 151-foot copper statue.

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

Perpetual NY Tourists

Perpetual NY Tourists

Viking expands its journeys

Most travelers tend to associate the Viking brand with Viking River Cruises; that’s not surprising. The line has launched a staggering number, 59 river cruise vessels since 2012.

Viking now also operates two sister ocean cruise vessels, the flagship Viking Star (introduced in 2015) and the Viking Sea (introduced in 2016). As part of an ambitious expansion plan, four more ocean vessels are set to launch by 2020: The Sky, Sun and Spirit will set sail in February 2017, October 2017 and June 2018, respectively. The last ship is yet unnamed, which leaves us wondering what other “S” name the line might choose.

On our first morning onboard, we attended a special event for trade and press by Viking founder and Chairman Torstein Hagen, entitled “The Viking Story.” An industry giant and engaging storyteller Hagen explained how the goal of the company was to “reinvent cruising” by developing ocean cruises built upon the shoulders and success of their river cruise cousins.

Viking founder and Chairman Torstein Hagen

Viking founder and Chairman Torstein Hagen

The line conducted copious research among its guests to learn why their river cruises are so popular with older (over-55) travelers. This group has many strikingly different sensibilities than passengers booking the large mass-markets cruise ships.

Some of the features he pointed out, now obvious on the Viking Star include:

  • Ship design and décor that might be described as understated elegance;
  • All-balcony cabins;
  • User-friendly cabin space and bathrooms with “efficient” layouts;
  • Minimizing add-ons so that fees are highly inclusive;
  • Minimal age threshold of 18 years of age for passengers
  • “Keeping casinos where they belong” (in Las Vegas, not on cruise ships)
  • Emphasis on feeding curious minds interested in history, geography and culture (through shore excursions and enrichment programs);
  • Offering value by maintaining a reasonable ship size that delivers a quality product at a good price.

The success of this strategy has been remarkable. Hagen reported that Viking has captured a 49 percent share of the North American river cruise market.

One snapshot of how the man behind Viking thinks: He told an anecdote of how frustrated he is when he stays at luxury hotels that use water restrictors to limit shower pressure, usually under the environmental guise of saving water. Hagen said that property operators are usually more concerned with cost and use the environment as an excuse.

Viking Shower to Remember

Viking Shower to Remember

We will continue to report on our experience on the Viking Star but we can affirm that the extra wide showers have great pressure and user-friendly controls. Without a doubt, you don’t have to be over-50 to appreciate a great shower experience—on land or sea.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    October 15, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Sounds like a wonder cruise on a beautiful ship! Look forward to hearing all about it.

    Bon voyage!

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    October 15, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Still can’t imagine a cruise ship without a casino — we’ve enjoyed many hours in such on transatlantic and transpacific cruises. Guess we’ll have to try Viking someday and see what it is like. Great report Irene – loved the New York skyline photos.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 17, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Our iPhone camera didn’t even do that view of the skyline justice!

  • Reply
    Jo ~ Lifestyle Fifty
    October 17, 2016 at 12:26 am

    I also associated Viking with river cruises, and it wasn’t until I attended a travel expo in Perth the other day that I was made aware that the company offers ocean cruises too. Looks as if this is a wonderful ship – with all the trappings that I’d want or need 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 17, 2016 at 10:08 am

      This is a great option for the midlife traveler who wants a more sedate experience on an ocean-going vessel!

  • Reply
    noel
    October 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve never been on a Viking Cruise, looks like a fun way to also explore and expand their ocean focus to more destinations with their exceptional cruises. Hopefully I’ll get to do this someday before I actually retire 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 19, 2016 at 10:01 am

      I have the sense you will be a perpetual traveler, Noel!

  • Reply
    Denis Gagnon
    October 17, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    A most interesting article about the Viking ocean ships. We are familiar with their river cruises and we think that Viking has a winning formula, so I hope we’ll get to experience one of those new Viking ocean ships soon. And thank you for mentioning the shower pressure which is one of those critical details that help make all the difference! Thank you for a very helpful article!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 19, 2016 at 10:00 am

      The line has really refined the design of the ocean-going vessels based on the appeal of the river ships. Such a smart move!

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    October 18, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Irene. I’ve never cruised with Viking, but have heard nothing but great things about them. I can only imagine how magnificent it must be sailing out of New York harbour. No matter which city it is, It always looks fascinating from the water, and Manhattan has definitely got a skyline to beat! I look forward to more posts on your journey.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 19, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Although we boarded during the afternoon, we didn’t leave until after dark so we got to see day and evening views! So neat~

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    October 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve never sailed into our out of New York harbor. I realize I’m missing one of the “should” cruising experiences, so I shall endeavor to make that happen. Viking sounds like it has done its homework and knows what cruisers of a certain age and sensibility find appealing. I hope to experience their ocean going and river product at some point.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 19, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Sailing out of New York is especially wonderful for people in the tri-state area who don’t have to fly to get on their ship! The amazing views belong to everyone~

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    October 20, 2016 at 12:43 am

    That promises to be an ocean cruise with a difference. Viking River cruises have gained such excellent reputation. It is such a great brand it should carry over!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 20, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Yes, I agree. The same leadership, training and focus on their niche!

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    October 20, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I’ve heard good things about Viking so it’s interesting to see that they’ve branched out into sea cruising. I look forward to hearing more…

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    October 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Sailing past the Statue of Liberty at night would be something! So funny you mention the showers on the “Viking Star” and Hagen’s comment. We noticed how good the water pressure is on our recent Baltic cruise on the ship – no dinky trickles and PLENTY of hot water. Glad you got to experience this lovely ship :-).

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    October 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I have not yet cruised with Viking but have heard wonderful things about them. It’s exciting they are expanding into the Americas and the Caribbean. I’ve only been on two cruises so far – one on a ship with thousands of passengers, the other with a passenger count around 700. The size of the Viking Star sounds perfect to me.

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    October 22, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Viking does such a great job with the river cruises I can only imagine that the ocean cruises will be as well. How exciting to part of the opening festivities!

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