Posted on Friday, May 17, 2013 by Peter Knego
Knego heads to Beverly Hills to attend the gala Viking Cruises reveal feting the exciting new upper premium market cruise ship VIKING STAR.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Established in 1997, Viking Cruises (nee Viking River Cruises) has taken over the cruising scene like no other river line. The Los Angeles-based company has a fleet of 35 vessels and is growing at a breakneck pace, with a projected 100 ships within the next few years. Emphasizing geography, culture, history, good food, deluxe comfort and value for the money, Viking calls at 90 ports in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt and will even be establishing itineraries on the Mississippi in the near future. Last night, in a gala event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the line unveiled its new ocean cruise product in a major reveal hosted by CEO, Torstein Hagen.
Hagen helmed the event in the 16,000-square-foot International Ballroom, the setting for a myriad of gala Hollywood affairs. The 70-year-old Norwegian-born CEO has quite an impressive cruise industry resumé, having once been the CEO of lamented Royal Viking Line and serving on the boards of both Holland America and Kloster.
After some revelations about what has made Viking such a success (all of its 4,300 berths are fully booked through November), Hagen transitioned to the ocean product. For those like myself who have grown weary of the trend in building bigger, denser, more gimmick-infused ships, what followed was an affirming return to what cruising was once all about.
First of all, the first in a pair of ocean going vessels, the VIKING STAR will actually look like a ship. For a newbuild, her profile is quite pleasing with a long, pointed bow (which will be longer in reality than shown in the rendering) that conjures up the original Royal Viking trio. The terraced, rounded forward superstructure is reminiscent of the original “R” ships and the overall proportions and sculpted funnel recall the ROYAL VIKING SUN and CRYSTAL HARMONY.
The 48,000 gt, 754 by 94.5 foot, 928-passeger, Maltese-registered VIKING STAR will boast many features that are now considered classic, such as a genuine library, an open air pool on the afterdecks (not just any pool but one with an infinity basin that extends all the way to the edge of the stern), a full wrap-around promenade and the dual-level Explorers Lounge that overlooks the bow. There will be no rock climbing walls, wave riders, waterparks or casinos. As Hagen stated, “No ship can be everything to everyone and we know our market.” That target market is age 55+, well-traveled and keen on cultural and historic immersion.
The spectacular interior renderings were infused with a Scandinavian Modern sensibility. The main dining room will “have the best food” (versus many ships today where the specialty restaurants are superior) and will surround a Gio Ponti-esque grand staircase (think CONTE GRANDE) that descends to the main lobby. The main dining room will also have floor-to-ceiling windows that can slide open to provide al fresco dining.
Another plus will be that the specialty restaurants will not command any fees. Hagen is adamant about “no nickel and dime’ing” in his fleet. Access to the specialty dining experiences (Italian Grill and Chef’s Table) will be prioritized for those booked in top stateroom categories. There will also be the World Cafe and adjoining al fresco Aquavit Terrace (the ship’s Lido Restaurants) as well as a Viking Deli in the Explorer’s Lounge.
The midships pool will be under a retractable Magrodome; a gorgeous spa will boast a sauna and a snow room and there will be an airy wintergarden, a piano bar, a showroom and two small cinemas.
Staterooms will all have verandas (no insides or exteriors with windows) and will start at a spacious 270-square-feet. Other categories include Penthouse Verandas (338-square feet), Penthouse Junior Suites (405-square-feet), Explorer Suites (757 — 1,163-square-feet) and a 1,448-square-foot Owner’s Suite.
All staterooms will have king-sized beds and the bathrooms will feature spacious 12-square-foot showers.
In addition to the outstanding hardware, Viking will provide excellent value for the money (starting at $421 per person per day, including airfare) with the following included : shore excursions in each port of call (enhanced excursions are also available at an additional cost); concierge service; free unlimited wifi; complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner service; complimentary specialty coffees; complimentary self-service laundry; complimentary room service; all port taxes and transfers to and from the ship.
The VIKING STAR will commence her career in 2015 with three summer European itineraries: a fifteen night Viking Homelands from Bergen to Stockholm via the Baltic and St. Petersburg; a thirteen night Mediterranean Odyssey from Barcelona to Venice; and a ten night Empires of the Mediterranean from Venice to Istanbul. All cruises will begin and end with overnights in port, none will have more than one sea day and Viking’s port stays will be much longer than the industry average. Hagen stated that after her maiden season, the ship may remain in Europe year-round or venture to other, not-yet-determined places.
At the end of the presentation, curtains rose on either side of the room, revealing food stations representing regions VIKING STAR will be visiting, including the Baltic, The Aegean and the Mediterranean. If the food on the ship is anything like what we experienced, Viking will conquer the Upper Premium ocean cruise market like it did river cruising.
VIKING STAR will begin construction this June at Fincantieri’s Marghera (near Venice) shipyard.
Bookings for the new ship begin today, May 17. For more information, please contact your travel agent or Viking Cruises
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Erik DeLaCruz, Ian Jeffries, Doug Parker