Viking Cruises spectacular new VIKING STAR ends her maiden voyage with a sunny arrival in Bergen, Norway, her port of registry. Another day aboard this state-of-the-art cruise ship and a gala christening on Constitution Day conclude this Sea Treks report.
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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2015 unless otherwise noted.
Friday, May 15, 2015
We awoke as VIKING STAR entered the waters of Bergen, her port of registry, for the first time. Instead of plume-spraying fireboats and a flotilla of small craft, she was greeted by a lone helicopter that flew circles around the ship as she pivoted and backed into her berth.
Backing into Bergen.
The low-key arrival was probably a well-calculated maneuver to save the hoopla for the christening on Sunday. Nonetheless, it was gratifying to be on the deck of this spectacular first in a new generation of cruise ships as she made her historic homecoming.
Karine and Torstein Hagen at the rails.
A beaming Karine Hagen was joined at the rails by her father Torstein, Viking Cruises CEO, who boarded with the pilot. What a pivotal moment it must have been for them.
Bergen Mayor Trude Dreveland.
I discovered later that the enthusiastic lady on the pier waving the Norwegian flag was the VIKING STAR’s godmother and Bergen’s mayor, Trude Dreveland.
MV VIKING STAR Spa flames.
After breakfast, we would have the entire day at leisure. With the ship mostly documented, I had some free time, so made the most of it with a massage. Afterwards, there would be occasion to try out the VIKING STAR’s Nordic Spa.
MV VIKING STAR Spa therapy room.
How nice it was to enjoy an excellent Swedish massage by Anne, an actual Swede. To my pleasant surprise, there was none of the hard-sell product pitch afterwards.
MV VIKING STAR Snow versus Steam in the Spa.
One doesn’t have to purchase a treatment or pay a fee to use the VIKING STAR’s steam and relaxation area. And what a facility it is, with a snow room and a steam room.
MV VIKING STAR Thalassotherapy Pool, facing aft/starboard.
There is also a cold water dunking station along with heated tile settees and a large Thalassotherapy pool with swim-against-the-current jets.
MV VIKING STAR Men’s Changing area.
In each of the changing areas are lockers, a sauna and cold dip pool as well as thoughtful touches like a spinner to dry off swimwear. Is there anything these savvy Viking people haven’t thought of?
MV VIKING STAR at Bergen.
After lunch, we had time to wander Bergen on an untypically sunny day, the main goal, of course, to get images of a beautiful ship in her element.
Few places in the world are as scenic and friendly as Bergen, the second largest city in Norway.
Back aboard, conditions were perfect to grab that signature “face” shot of the VIKING STAR.
Viking’s Guiding Principal and Principles.
At a press conference that afternoon, Viking CEO Torstein Hagen (an erstwhile astrophysicist fond of logarithms) restated his goal of having ten STAR Class cruise ships and a fleet of 100 riverboats by 2020. Thus far, he is well on his way, with the VIKING SKY to follow in 2016, the VIKING SEA in 2017, a fourth ship (dare we suggest VIKING SUN?) contracted and options for two more. On the rivers, Viking already operates sixty vessels worldwide, with more on order.
Setting the stage as VIKING STAR backs into Bergen.
After dinner, in practice for Sunday’s events, VIKING STAR backed into Bergen Bay, dwarfing the historic district of Bryggen and a harbor full of historic ships and small craft.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Viking sweetened our inevitable but dreaded disembarkation with an excursion to composer Edvard Grieg’s former home in the southern outskirts of Bergen. The rain was a perfect metaphor for what most of us felt upon leaving our ideal ship.
Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg’s former home.
I had done a tour to Troldhaugen way back in 1993 with the ENRICO COSTA but in six or seven languages, that experience was marginal, at best. Today was altogether different, with an all-English tour led by passionate and knowledgeable guides.
The highlight was a piano recital in Grieg’s living room by Rune Alver, a soft-spoken maestro who explained the back story of each poignantly played Grieg opus.
Despite the showers, we opted for a stroll down to the cave where Grieg and his wife Nina are interred. Typically Viking, this was a cerebral and cultural notch or two above the average cruise ship shore excursion and for this participant, it created an entirely new appreciation for the great Norwegian composer and humanitarian.
Blossoms in the rain.
We had the rest of the day to to explore Bergen.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Random VIKING STAR float for Constitution Day.
The predicted high winds and downpours could not dampen the festivities as revelers filled the streets for Norway’s Constitution Day, honoring its emancipation from Sweden on May 17, 1814.
Constitution Day in Bergen.
It was easy to share in the appreciation of such a peaceful, conscientious nation. I can’t imagine a better day to celebrate the homecoming of 2015’s most beautiful new ship.
In the early afternoon, I spotted Fred. Olsen’s BLACK WATCH at the cruise terminal. What could be more perfect than seeing the former ROYAL VIKING STAR, Royal Viking Line’s first ship (originally registered in Bergen) berthed alongside the VIKING STAR, Viking Cruises’ first ship (also registered in Bergen) at Bergen on the latter’s maiden call on Constitution Day?
MV VIKING STAR meets former ROYAL VIKING STAR, now BLACK WATCH (right).
Short of raising the former STELLA POLARIS (the inspiration for both ships’ lovely clipper bows) from the Sea of Japan, could it get any better?
Early that evening, we were off to the christening dinner, held in the outstanding Grieghallen, which is composed of ordinary elements that are juxtaposed in a masterfully aesthetic and functional way. So Scandinavian.
Trude Dreveland prior to the christening.
Magically, the skies above Bergen parted as the ceremony commenced. Dark clouds loomed in the distance but other than a brisk breeze, the Viking weather gods were smiling down on the 20,000 gathered for the christening.
Sissel sings. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2015.
A procession of Norwegian musicians and singers (rocker Sondre Lerche, violinist Charlie Siem, novelty duo Ylvis and songstress Sissel) delighted the crowds as the VIKING STAR emerged in the twilight, slowly backing into the tiny harbor.
Norwegian christening speech. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2015.
The celebrations culminated when Mayor Dreveland took the stage with Torstein Hagen, delivering her blessing in pure, unadulterated Norwegian…
Bottle break. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2015.
…dispatching a magnum of champagne into the VIKING STAR’s bow. On cue, brilliant fireworks flared above the harbor and the ship blew her whistle.
Fireworks and Klieg lights. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2015.
Starry night in Bergen. Photo by Rob Di Stefano 2015.
The crowds dispersed as our subject inched her way back to the passenger terminal. As the celebrations reached their end, the VIKING STAR’s next voyage was about to begin.
End Of VIKING STAR Trek, Maiden Voyager
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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