Viking Ocean Cruises launches maiden voyage

Viking Ocean Cruises’ first ship left Istanbul, Turkey for Venice on April 15, marking its maiden voyage while simultaneously launching the first entirely new cruise line in more than a decade.

Cruise ship in Venice
Photo courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises
Carrying a complement of paying passengers, a handful of Viking executives and news media, the Viking Star will make her way through the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic after its stop in Venice, on her way to be officially christened in Bergen, Norway during a citywide celebration on May 17, which is Norwegian Constitution Day.

The Viking Star along with its sister ships the Viking Sea and the Viking Sky are all classified as “small ships,” carrying 930 passengers in 465 staterooms, each of which has its own veranda. The choice to stay small was deliberate.

“We have always believed that cruising should be about connecting you to your destination, not just taking you to places on a map,” Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises, said in a statement. “It is our view that in the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail.”

The three ships of Viking Cruises will sail itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic as well as the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

Viking Ocean Cruises was developed using extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers and was designed for upmarket, experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local culture at night or evening performances, the cruise line said. Ports will include both cosmopolitan cities and “collector ports,” appealing to those with an interest in history, art, music, and cuisine. Onboard, passengers can attend informative talks and lectures in The Theater.

While cruise ships are often renowned for their food, Viking Cruise ships will elevate food as a cultural experience.

The World Café features global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; Mamsen’s features Norwegian deli-style fare, according to the recipes of Hagen’s mother, Ragnhild, otherwise known as “Mamsen”; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant, which embraces authentic Tuscan and Roman cuisine. In the Kitchen Table, the high-tech space offers cooking classes featuring a wide range of regionally inspired dishes and culinary techniques; at night it transforms into an interactive dinner experience with fellow guests and Viking’s esteemed chefs.

While every cruise fare includes a guided excursion in each port, Viking also offers an optional excursion program designed to provide guests with upmarket, privileged-access experiences.

Hagia Sophia
Photo credit WikiMedia Commons
Those include a private nighttime visit to Hagia Sophia, the iconic building in Istanbul, Turkey constructed as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in 537 A.D; an opportunity to meet an Italian Countess who will share some of her family’s cooking tips; sail in a luxury sailboat on the Bay of Toulon in France; or savor a special Norman lunch amidst the Calvados barrels of Les Tonneaux du Père Magloire restaurant in the village of Pont-L’Évêque in France’s Normandy region.

Through the end of April, Viking is offering U.S. residents special savings for 2015 sailings and early booking discounts for 2016 sailings. Those include 2-for-1 pricing on cruise departures and savings of up to $750 per person on international air. For more details, call Viking toll free at 1-855-8-VIKING (1-855-884-5464) or contact your preferred travel agent.

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