A sushi buffet is a popular dining option onboard. // © 2016 Viking Ocean Cruises
I was snuggled on a huge couch near the lichen garden, wrapped in a soft cream wool throw and listening to dreamy guitar solos. I had gotten sidetracked on the way to what my fellow travelers called the “living room.”
It was clear to me after only one week onboard Viking Ocean Cruises’ luxurious Viking Star that it is, first and foremost, a home to its passengers. And for good reason — the designers have found a way to combine elegance and comfort, making the vessel not only a ship, but also a residence.
When the 930-passenger Viking Star launched last year, most of the spotlight was on the ship’s hardware, as the line had promised to bring many features over from its river cruise operation.
Now, what stands out the most is the ship’s culture. Guests don’t just cruise — they move in.
It’s hard to explain the ship’s combination of beauty and comfort. I felt as though a very well-traveled family had invited me into their large home filled with a collection of things they love, from sculptures and old machines to hundreds of intriguing books, maps, models, rolled manuscripts and other curiosities.
And, as in many homes, food is a key feature that brings people together. Although the dining room fare is beautifully planned and delicious, it was the more informal food offerings that were the topic of conversation among guests. The word got out quickly about Mamsen’s, the onboard deli that uses recipes from the owner’s mother (oh, the waffles!), but it was the World Cafe buffet with its open kitchen that truly impressed cruise veterans.
One passenger confessed to me that she had requested made-to-order eggs Benedict from the buffet three times. There were similar responses to the evening’s Peking duck, the cooked-to-order steaks and the nightly spread of fresh and gorgeous seafood — crab, shrimp, prawns and sushi. A spread of tapas was also popular, and vegetarians devoured dishes such as mashed sweet potatoes, pastas, curries and soups. Dispensers in the buffet served beverages such as coffee, juice, lemonade, cappuccinos and a choice of still or sparkling water.
The room service menu, too, received high honors from guests, and featured dishes such as Angus New York strip steak, grilled chicken breast, Norwegian salmon and artisan cheeses, gravlax (salmon cured with salt, pepper and dill) and Reuben sandwiches. Cheesecake, apple pie, chocolate mousse and dishes with no sugar added are also available.
Although the destinations Viking visits are incredible, I found it difficult to tear myself away from my stateroom. All accommodations have private verandas, superb king-size beds and bathrooms with glassed-in showers, heated tile floors and towel racks and Viking’s own Freya toiletries. Rooms are equipped with flat-screen televisions, and guests receive complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Complimentary self-service laundry is available on every deck, and pre-measured laundry detergent is offered at no extra charge.
And it’s not only the guests who are enthusiastic about what is offered onboard Viking Star. Service is excellent as well, and employees seemed genuinely happy. At the bar, a couple asked the server how the crew’s quarters were.
“We know how lucky we are,” the server told them. “They are much bigger and better than on the other lines where I’ve worked.”
Inviting as it is, Viking Star is not for everyone. The minimum age to come onboard is 16, and there is no dazzling entertainment or a casino. But for those who find their match here, it’s a difficult place to leave.