VIKING STAR Trek, Prologue

Peter Knego flies off to London to board Viking Cruises spectacular new VIKING STAR, the line’s first ocean-going cruise ship, for a four night journey that ends in Bergen, Norway.

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 1974 and 2015 unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

MV VIKING STAR rendering.

For the past two years, I’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of Viking Cruises’ first ocean cruise ship, the VIKING STAR. From a preview dinner held at the Beverly Hilton announcing her innovative features way back in 2013 through two christening events aboard her innovative Longship river cruising cousins, the world of Viking has singed itself into my watery psyche. The idea of a new cruise line featuring mid-sized, state-of-the-art ships that emphasize comfort, intelligent design, culture and good cuisine is ideal in every aspect.

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MV ROYAL VIKING STAR funnel with the Royal Viking Line logo.

Another caveat is that the new line is linked to the legendary Royal Viking Line, not only in name but in concept and management. Viking’s CEO Torstein Hagen was once CEO of RVL, having begun his career in passenger shipping with that line’s antecedent, Bergen Line. Hagen is the mastermind behind Viking’s ocean ships, which will soon include the VIKING SKY (2016) and VIKING SEA (2017), named with a nod to the trailblazing trio of RVL ships.

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MV ROYAL VIKING STAR Main Lounge, facing port.
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MV ROYAL VIKING STAR Observation Lounge, facing forward from port.

On a foggy July day in 1974, “meeting” Royal Viking’s sparkling ROYAL VIKING STAR in San Francisco was a revelation of uncluttered decks and open, light-infused spaces filled with metal-framed furnishings and contemporary Norwegian art.

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MV ROYAL VIKING STAR departing San Francisco on 25 July 1974.

By the time she backed into wind-whipped San Francisco Bay, dressed overall, streamers hanging from her promenade and with that long clipper bow pivoting towards the Golden Gate, my appreciation for modern ships had begun.

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MV VIKING STAR clipper bow close up.

But aside from that clipper bow (which on the newer ship has been enhanced with an extra 22 feet for a purely visual effect), a fully encircling promenade and the name, there really aren’t that many physical characteristics shared between the old ROYAL VIKING STAR and the new VIKING STAR. Unlike its 22,000-gt (later 28,000) predecessor, the new 47,800-gt ship has all-balcony staterooms, a midships pool that can be sheltered from the weather by a sliding glass dome, an infinity pool overlooking the stern, a massive spa and thermal area, multiple dining spaces and countless other advancements and enhancements. And while the ROYAL VIKING STAR was in her heyday the definition of a modern luxury ship, her truncated namesake makes no such pretenses. Their bond seems more spiritual, as each vessel represents the cutting edge of her respective era and a palpable “Norwegian-ness”.

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Approaching VIKING STAR at Greenwich.

My first glimpse of the new ship was from a mile above as BA Flight 459 made its descent for Heathrow: a gleaming white apparition in the cloud break, anchored in the bend of the Thames at Greenwich. It would be another five hours after touchdown before I would reach that spot, beleaguered from a long day’s commute and some of the worst traffic London had to offer. The setting sun was directly ahead as the tender made its way to the ship.

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MV VIKING STAR Viking Living Room, forward/port corner.

At the gangway, I was instructed to go to Deck 1 for check-in. But where was the reception counter? Eventually, I realized a nook on the port side called Explorations (that I had rolled past twice) was it. At that point, I recalled that Viking had done away with a standard reception area in favor of a Seabourn-style “living room”. Perhaps with a more welcoming agent and better instructions from the gangway security, I might have enjoyed the process a bit more.

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MV VIKING STAR elevator casing detail.
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MV VIKING STAR aft staircase landing with a reproduction of the Bayeux tapestries.
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MV VIKING STAR Deck 5 passage.

Before long, I was on my way up to starboard Deck 5 where Penthouse Veranda Stateroom 5097 awaited. Already, the myriad detailing was beginning to pique my admiration.

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MV VIKING STAR Penthouse Veranda Stateroom 5097, facing starboard.
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MV VIKING STAR Penthouse Balcony Stateroom 5097 balcony (the following day).

Penthouse Balcony Stateroom 5097 would be my home for the next four nights. With two twin beds, a sitting area and balcony, it measured 338-square-feet.

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MV VIKING STAR Penthouse Stateroom 5097 WC.
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MV VIKING STAR amenities.

The loo boasted a very large shower with a wonderful high pressure shower head, bountiful storage space and Viking’s signature night light setting, heated floor and towel rack.

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MV VIKING STAR Keurig coffee maker.
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MV VIKING STAR mini-bar.

Throughout the next few days, we would be enjoying little touches like a well-stocked and free-of-charge minibar, two American electrical outlets, adjustable reading lights over each bed, a cashmere blanket, binoculars and more…

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MV VIKING STAR Deck 5 Launderette.

My traveling companion Rob Di Stefano had arrived before me and was already enthralled with the ship, despite a similar experience at reception. We headed up to The World Cafe buffet terrace for a quick bite to eat, then dashed off to the no-charge Deck 5 launderette, where I was able to wash a load of clothes from the prior week of traveling.

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STARlight at Greenwich.

After that, we tendered ashore so I could get some night views of the ship, intentionally avoiding any onboard exploration until getting some much-needed rest.

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MV VIKING STAR Explorer’s Lounge lower level, facing port.

Once unpacked, we did manage to head up to the glorious Explorer’s Lounge for a nightcap and a bowl of those irresistible Viking spicy peanuts.

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MV VIKING STAR Explorer’s Lounge lower level, facing forward.

Outside, there was the twinkling Thames and in our immediate realm, the very best in contemporary design. The comfortable, stylish furnishings were fronted by a semi-circle of full length windows and, along the double deck forward rim of the room, a backlit panel of the constellations. In a time when most major cruise lines are doing away with observation lounges, Viking has created one of the best to ever grace the seas. So contrary to the current trend, so on the money and so Viking…

End Of Prologue

Much More To Come…

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

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 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."
Peter Knego

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