Yesterday, Viking Cruises, known up until now for their boutique-style river ships, christened their very first ocean-liner, the Viking Star, with a giant party in its homeport of Bergen, Norway. We hopped on board to get a preview of what life on-board is like. Our biggest surprise? That a cruise with 930-guests could feel so peaceful and intimate. Here, five other things that rocked our boats.
1. The Incredibly Cozy Lounges
Rather than wasting square-footage with casinos and endless bars, the Viking Star has a myriad of stylish nooks and crannies for unwinding, most notably the Explorer’s Room (pictured above). Tucked away on the top level of the front of the ship, the lounge has telescopes for views of the horizon, couches made for long reading sessions, and, on that note, a diverse library of books you’d actually want to read. That said, if you want to chat over drinks, there is drink service all over the ship and Torshaven, a cocktail bar for drinks and dancing after dinner.
2. The Norwegian Waffles
Our favorite dining option had to be Mamsen’s, where you’ll find traditional Scandinavian dishes and pastries, including smørrebrød and delicious waffles that are served with your choice of berries, syrup, or cream. The batter recipe comes from chairman Torstein Hagen’s grandmother (and we swear it’s spiked with a little bit of cardamom for a spicy kick).
3. The Sauna at Sea
Sticking with the Scandinavian roots, Viking built the spa around the tradition of bathing. There are steam rooms or saunas (as well as one room on-board with a private, ocean-view sauna) and an array of options to freeze your ass off: cold water buckets, plunge pools, and, for the especially gutsy, the snow grotto, a sub-zero room that generates real snowflakes and feels just like stepping into winter.
4. The Very Fair Pricing
Unlike many big ships, which hit you with exorbitant service fees, price-y drinks and excursions, and just about any other hidden charges they can, you’ll find the prices on-board to be more than decent. WiFi is free, as are the washers and dryers, which can even be found on every floor if you want to do laundry on your own instead of sending it out. Then there’s the prices for the actual cruise itself. For instance, a 10-day cruise from Istanbul to Venice starts at $3,600.
5. No Hop-On/Hop-Off Stops
One of the most frustrating parts of a cruise can be pulling into a port of call and pulling out a few hours later. While you’re still going to need more time to really get to know a destination, Viking does a good job of building in longer (and overnight) visits at special points of interest and avoiding super-short stops altogether.
6. And, Of Course, the Rooms
The staterooms are plenty spacious, cleanly designed (with eco-friendly showers versus tubs), and come with free 24-hour room service. Little touches, like couches and cashmere blankets, make it feel extra home-y. No matter the level of room you book, you get a king size bed and private balcony.
Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to cruise vacations.