Monday, May 20, 2013

From Rivers to the Sea: The Vikings Are Coming

Viking Star
When Viking Cruises launches its ocean product line, Viking Ocean Cruises, it will mark the introduction of the travel industry's first new cruise line in nearly a decade. Developed from the ground up to focus their cruises on the destinations, Viking Ocean Cruises will begin sailing in May 2015 with its first vessel—Viking Star—embarking on maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

Better known for their river cruises, Viking Cruises has aggressive expansion plans in both the ocean and river cruise categories, with a second ocean ship on order for delivery in 2016 and conditional orders and options for four more additional ocean vessels. The ocean ship order follows the company's continued rapid fleet expansion in the river cruise sector, with 10 new river ships recently christened in March of this year and 12 new river ships planned to launch in 2014. Before going any further, those ambitious plans sound somewhat familiar...remember Renaissance Cruises? From 1998 to 2001, the now-defunct line introduced eight extremely popular mid-sized ships. Hopefully, the Vikings have a larger war chest. But I digress.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, shares his vision, "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. With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary and ship design; privileged-access excursions; and onboard experiences to make destinations the true focus."

Leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers, Viking Ocean Cruises was developed with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are curated for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, all-inclusive pricing provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Passengers also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; wi-fi; self-service laundry, and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.

Viking Star

Classified as a "small ship," the new 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and debarkation.

Viking Star Technical Details
Length overall: 745.4 ft.; beam 94.5 ft.; draft 20.7 ft.; air draft 131.2 ft.; gross tonnage (GRT) 47,800 t; deadweight 3,640 t; service speed 20.0 kn; number of decks 14; classification: Lloyds Register.
The ship has been designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including an interior design team of London-based SMC Design, and Los Angeles-based Rottet Studios. The first of two ocean ships on order, Viking Star will be built by Italy's Fincantieri shipyard. The ship's understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design is crafted for maximum guest comfort. Highlighted features include:
-- All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. veranda stateroom, all with private verandas, king-size beds, large showers, and LCD TVs.
-- Explorer Suites: Viking Star's 14 Explorer Suites are two-room suites ranging from 757 to 1,448 sq. ft. and offer sweeping views from wrap-around private verandas as well as the most amenities and privileges of any category onboard.
-- Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, Viking Star features one of the only infinity pools at sea, allowing passengers to swim surrounded by their destination in a glass-backed pool cantilevered off the stern.
-- The Spa: In keeping with Viking's Nordic heritage, The Spa onboard Viking Star is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind, from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a "snow grotto" where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air.
-- Explorers' Lounge & Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers' Lounge at the bow of the ship is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service complete with a curated tea selection.
-- Dining Choices: Viking Star offers multiple restaurant locations and food choices--from The Restaurant and the World Cafe, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties--to intimate dining experiences at The Chef's Table, Italian Grill and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Furthermore, with multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking Star offers more al fresco dining than any other ship.
-- Enriching Entertainment: Connecting passengers to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and Viking Star's onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where passengers can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Star Theater, home of enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn local specialties; and the Viking Piano Lounge, where guests can relax, mingle, and exchange stories after a day of exploring.
-- Sustainable Features: Designed with the environment in mind, Viking Star features energy-efficient hybrid engines, a hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hull and bow for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations.
Itineraries and pricing are outlined on the Viking Ocean Cruises web site at and Viking is offering an introductory Early Booking Discount in the U.S. market for the 2015 maiden season with 2-for-1 pricing on cruise departures and savings of $2,000 per couple on international air. The 2015 maiden season is initially being offered only in the U.S.; Viking will begin marketing the new ocean cruises in the UK, Australia and New Zealand later this year.

This new cruise line looks intriguing.

Image Courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

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