“In the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail,” Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises, said in a statement announcing the new venture. “With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary.”
Ship design, privileged-access excursions and onboard experiences will make destinations the true focus, he said.
|Artist's rendering of Viking Star|
Holland America’s ms Volendam, for example, is considered a “mid-sized” ship. At slightly over 781 feet in length, it carries nearly 1,500 passengers. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Sea and Allure of the Sea, currently the world’s largest cruise ships, are nearly 1,200 feet (three football fields) long and carry 6,000 passengers. That’s more than an aircraft carrier. But I digress.
The Viking Star’s maiden voyages will be in Scandinavia and the Baltic, and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.
Boasting what the company calls “understated elegance,” the ship has an all-verandah
design and offers passengers a choice of five stateroom categories from 270 square feet to 405 square feet. All staterooms have king-size beds, large showers, and LCD televisions in addition to private verandahs.
|Deluxe Verandah Stateroom, Viking Star|
Itineraries are curated for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, allowing guests the option of experiencing local nightlife or taking in evening performances. Ports are selected to appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture.
Prices area all-inclusive, with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Passengers also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including beer and wine with lunch and dinner service, wi-fi, self-service laundry and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise, according to the company.
|Viking Star Atrium Lobby|
I have taken only one cruise to date: a repositioning cruise on which I had an outside cabin with a window but no outside space. Although it was only three days, I decided then and there that it was too claustrophobic and that I would not take another cruise unless I could secure at least a verandah suite. Viking Ocean Cruises’ approach overcomes that hurdle.
The second facet that has kept us from cruising is the price. Given my self-imposed limitation on our accommodations, we have not been able to find a cruise to a location and at a time we want to travel for less than $1,000 per day per couple. At least when one takes advantage of the early-booking two-for-one special, Viking Ocean Cruises overcomes that hurdle as well.
The shortest cruise – the 10-day “Empires of the Mediterranean” from Istanbul to Venice or vice versa – can currently be booked for a fare as low as US$2,999 per person, or about $6,000 for a 10-day cruise. Of course that doesn’t include tax or airfare, but it does include all the items previously mentioned, which can add a fair amount to the base fare quoted by other cruise lines.
The early-booking fares expire Jul 31. Go to www.VikingCruises.com/oceans for more details, and ask for EBD (early-booking discount) when booking.
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Photos courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises
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