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World’s Best Ship? Viking Star Review and Viking Homelands Cruises

We were boarding the “World’s Best New Cruise Ship,” according to CNN, also hailed by Cruise Critic as the “Best New Ocean Ship.”

Naturally we were curious. 

What’s so special about the Viking Star cruise ship to merit such high praise? 

The all-veranda staterooms? The TED talks? The spa’s snow grotto?

As we discovered during our Baltic cruise (Viking Homelands itinerary), it’s not just one thing, but a whole lot of things that make the Viking Star ship stand out as one of the world’s best new cruise ships – and a true delight to sail on.

Friendly warning: Our Viking Homelands cruise and Viking Star review is detailed :-).

Viking Star, Explorers' Lounge
The bright Explorers’ Lounge at the front of the Viking Star is a beautiful place to read or have a drink

Viking Star review

Spoiler alert! What you’ll read in our Viking Star cruise review

Viking Star ship – A revolutionary new concept

Viking Ocean Cruises review – Freebies and Scandinavian design

Viking Star staterooms

Spa – You’ll love the free thermal spa!

Pools

Viking Star itineraries

Viking Homelands cruise itinerary – Map and ports-of-call

Viking Ocean Cruises shore excursions – You get one free excursion in each port

Viking Star restaurants – Check out the Viking Ocean Cruises menus

Enrichment – A thinking man’s cruise

What does the ship not have?

Pre- or post-cruise stay in Bergen

Other Viking Ocean Cruises ships

Viking Star – a revolutionary new ship

Viking Star review
The Viking Star in port

Viking Cruises’ chairman, Torstein Hagen, wanted to redefine ocean cruising with the 930-passenger Viking Star.

Unveiled in 2015, it was the first ship for Viking Ocean Cruises – the ocean-based brand that Hagen introduced to complement Viking River Cruises. (Viking has almost 80 ships in its river ship fleet.)

The ocean cruise brand now has eight ships in this class, with another debuting in 2023. Each mid-size ship is virtually identical.

(We’ve also sailed on another Viking ocean ship – you might want to see our review of the Viking Sea too.)

Viking Ocean Cruises review

These ships are purpose-built for destination-focused itineraries.

A Viking Ocean Cruises ship in Malta
Viking ocean ships sail to many destinations in the world

Freebies:

The ships offer a long list of free inclusions that usually aren’t offered by other cruise lines on similarly-priced, ocean-going cruises.

Think complimentary shore excursions; unlimited WiFi, complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner; and free 24-hour room service (also with complimentary wine and beer during lunch and dinner meal times).

If you’d like to know more about Viking’s complimentary drinks and drinks packages, see our guide on Viking Cruises’ bar menu.

Sun-filled Scandinavian design:

Naturally, Hagen’s Norwegian heritage is evident throughout the ships.

Take the Scandinavian design of the Viking Star.

The inside is so bathed in natural light, you almost need to put Ray-Bans on!

Huge windows bring in the sunshine, which bounces off white walls and pale timber floors.

Winter Garden on the Viking Star
Afternoon tea is served in this delightful space

In the beautiful two-story Explorer’s Lounge at the bow of the ship, reindeer pelts are draped over comfy couches. Leather footstools invite you to put your feet up.

Cupboard and drawer handles in the staterooms and stair railings are stylishly covered in leather.

And in the Winter Garden, where afternoon tea is served, sculpted blond wood “trees” reach up to a glass ceiling.

Everything is serene and uncluttered.

Resident musicians play classical compositions in the Viking "Living Room"
Resident musicians play classical compositions in the Viking “Living Room”

There’s even a display of museum-quality helmets and other Viking exhibits to add to the sense of place.

Viking Star ship review: A Viking helmet on display
A Viking helmet on display

Viking Star cabins (no cold tootsies!)

Hailing from a cold country, Hagen is probably also the man to thank for the heated bathroom floors in the Viking Cruises staterooms. 

It was a treat to have warm toes after stepping out of our glass shower.

All staterooms also have private balconies with glass railings – no more balcony envy! 

Everyone can relish the pleasure of sipping early morning coffee (from their in-room Nespresso machine) on their own balcony as the ship sails into port.

Deluxe Veranda stateroom on the Viking Star
Deluxe Veranda stateroom on the Viking Star

The real king-size beds were a nice surprise.

The pop-up make-up mirror was also quite nifty. The desk lid opens up to reveal a backlit mirror and a leather-lined drawer with boxes for jewelry and other small items.

Other Viking Star cabin reviews also give high marks for the design of the space.

Our only suggestion (if anyone was to ask) would be to swap out the free soft drink minibar for an extra chest of drawers.

You can never have too much storage space on a ship, right?

Explorer Suite on Viking Ocean Cruises
Splurge on the Explorer Suite, and you have lots of outside space on your private balcony!

Make like a Norwegian in the Nordic spa

Other Nordic influences, like the tradition of alternating hot and cold water therapies, can be found in the thermal Viking Star spa (co-ed).

We’re used to ships where you have to pay to use the spa pools and sauna (the Aqua Therapy Centre on the Queen Mary 2 costs $40+ day).

So it took us a while to figure out that the Viking Star spa is free (except for treatments, of course).

Viking Star review: The Nordic spa
What a treat to be able to use the thermal spa whenever you want!

Where are your rubber slippers?” asked a fellow guest when we gingerly padded barefoot into the spa the first time.

Oh, the spa robes, slippers and lockers are also free?

By this time, we were starting to appreciate the “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy onboard.

So we tried out the warm, swim-against-the-current pool (with underwater massage roller beds), heated stone loungers, sauna, steam room and hot whirlpools.

And we shivered under the cold-dunk shower and in the “snow grotto” (an ice-cold, blue-lit glass room with real snow).

Hitting the spa then became our much-anticipated ritual before dinner!

Brrr... This is the snow grotto on the Viking Star
Brrr… This is the snow grotto on the Viking Star

But, alas, we never did see the real snowflakes falling in the snow grotto that we’d read about.

Two beautiful pools

A guest relaxes on the Viking Star with a book as the ship glides by the shoreline
A guest relaxes with a book as the ship glides by the shoreline

The inviting pool areas also lured us in.

Around the main pool, cushioned seating areas and teak loungers with soft blankets that face the windows are popular spots to curl up with a good book or nap.

With a retractable roof, the large mid-ship pool deck was built for comfort whether sailing in cooler climes or hotter destinations.

When the weather is cool, the roof over the pool is shut on the Viking Star ship.
When the weather is cool, the roof over the pool is shut

We lucked out with unexpectedly warm weather on our September cruise, and the pool roof was open much of the time.

We even got to splash around in the second glass infinity pool suspended at the stern’s edge – it felt like we could swim right off into the sea.

viking star review - infinity pool
The cool pool at the stern

Viking Star itineraries

No matter how attractive a ship is, though, it’s the destinations that matter most to us.

This Viking ship scores high marks in this department.

The Viking Star cruises to the Hawaiian Islands, through the Panama Canal and Central America, the British Isles, Iceland, the Mediterranean and more.

Viking Homelands cruise itinerary

On Viking Homelands cruises, the ship sails for 14 nights from Stockholm to Bergen, then does the reverse trip from Bergen to Stockholm, calling in at six countries.

Map showing the ports-of-call on the Viking Homelands itinerary
Map showing the ports-of-call on the Viking Homelands itinerary

Viking Ocean Cruises shore excursions

We were in port every day except one on our two-week cruise. 

And in each port, passengers, divided into smaller groups, were treated to a free shore excursion.

Viking Homelands cruise itinerary:

The following are the ports of call on this itinerary:

  • Stockholm (Sweden)
  • Mariehamn, Aland Islands (Finland)
  • Gdansk (Poland)
  • Bornholm (Denmark)
  • Berlin (Germany)
  • Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Alborg (Denmark)
  • Oslo (Norway)
  • Stavanger (Norway)
  • Eidfjord (Norway)
  • Bergen (Norway)

In Stockholm, we walked the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan (the 13th-century Old Town).

In Warnemunde, it was a chartered train ride into Berlin and a panoramic bus tour of the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and the city’s other main sights.

This was followed by several hours of on-your-own exploration before the train ride (with free German wines) back to the ship.

Our days in port were often long ones (sometimes until 10:00 pm) and included overnights too.

If you wanted to shop after your shore excursion or eat dinner ashore, you had time.

Viking Homelands cruise - Stockholm Drottningholm Palace
In Stockholm, we also visited Drottningholm Castle

Viking Homelands cruise ports

Excited about sailing on the Viking Star or sister ships that do the Viking Homelands trip? Then read our other articles on these ports-of-call and shore excursions:

Bergen: The Edvard Grieg Museum (and Love Story) Cast a Beautiful Spell

Eidfjord (Flam): Norway’s Flam Railway: One of the World’s Most Beautiful Train Rides

Berlin: One Day in Berlin. Crazy? Or Not…

Gdansk: A Peek into Gdansk Old Town

Stockholm: A Regal Day Trip to Stockholm’s Drottningholm Palace

Also read:

Stavanger: The Top 7 Things to Do in Stavanger, Norway

Check out these Baltic cruise guides on Amazon too. (Pssst! As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

As well as the included tours, there are optional tours on each cruise, for which there’s an extra charge.

These optional tours, which focus on more in-depth experiences, include such activities as small boat tours, museum visits, hikes, wine tastings and concerts, depending on the cruise.

Viking Star restaurants (the Scandinavian food is a hit!)

Savory appetizers on the Viking Star cruise ship
Savory appetizers

We never felt the urge to try local restaurants ashore – the ship’s food was that good.

In addition to the main dining room, there are several other dining options onboard, including the following.

World Café:

There are lots of tempting desserts fro lunch on Viking Ocean Cruises' ships.
Tempting lunch desserts

For breakfast and lunch, we’d pick and choose from the World Café buffet restaurant, sitting alfresco on the open deck at back. Local dishes were often featured.

The splendid Scandinavian seafood lunch followed by made-to-order waffles, berries and cream for dessert is one example.

You can eat all the delicious seafood you want on Viking Cruises' ships!
All the delicious seafood you can want!

Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant:

Manfredi's on the Viking Star
Manfredi’s has a real Italian vibe

For dinner, we loved Manfredi’s, one of two specialty restaurants onboard.

With a black-and-white tile floor and vintage photos on the walls, it had a real Italian atmosphere.

And everything – from the hand-cut beef tartare to the veal scaloppini to the angel hair pasta with scampi – was excellent. We learned the kitchen makes all its pasta noodles fresh each day.

Added bonus: No cover charge (not often the case with specialty restaurants at sea).

Charming black-and-white photos of Italian food scenes decorate the walls of Manfredi's restaurant on the Viking Star.
Charming black-and-white photos of Italian food scenes decorate the walls of Manfredi’s

Chef’s Table:

Of all the Viking Ocean Cruises’ menus, the one at the other specialty restaurant, the Chef’s Table, was the most interesting. This five-course set menu revolves around a different theme each night.

It might not appeal to everyone.

But we enjoyed being introduced to new tastes and flavors – like the Scandinavian-themed menu of reindeer consommé, lingonberry-infused salmon tartare and a delicious lamb-and-cabbage casserole.

A “thinking man’s cruise”

Lots of books and travel guides help make Viking Ocean Cruises a “thinking man’s cruise."
Travel guides, novels, coffee table books – there are many books throughout the ship that you can pick up and read

In keeping with Hagen’s desire to make the Viking Star a “thinking man’s cruise,” oodles of interesting travel-related books are scattered about in lounges throughout the ship.

And two to three enrichment lectures are given in the theater each day. We had five guest lecturers on our cruise, including a polar oceanographer, Fulbright scholar/law professor and BBC television journalist – talks on NATO and Russia in the Baltic, as well as the EU’s refugee migration policy, were thought-provoking.

Recorded TED talks also cover a variety of stimulating topics.

So what does the Viking Star not have?

There’s no casino. (Hagen once said Viking passengers would “rather have a free laundry,” which indeed there is on every deck.)

There’s no hard (or soft) selling of spa products or even liquor – paying for “premium wines” seemed extravagant as our waiters kept pouring complimentary Italian, French and German selections, all very good.

There’s also a minimum age limit. No children under 18 may sail.

Cruises on the Viking Star (and its other ships) sell quickly.

Lots of Viking Ocean Cruises reviews have gotten the word out now. And others are as curious as we were to see what all the hype is about!

Staying in Bergen before or after your cruise?

We booked the Hotel Havnekontoret and were very happy with our choice.

You can read our full review of the Hotel Havenkontoret – it’s a lovely place to stay on Bergen’s historic waterfront.

To stay in Bergen before or after your Homelands Cruise, we suggest Hotel Havnekontoret
To stay in Bergen before or after your Homelands Cruise, we suggest Hotel Havnekontoret

Other Viking Ocean Cruises ships

Fleet of Viking ships (ocean-going):

As we mentioned, Viking Star was the first revolutionary ship for the fleet’s ocean-going cruises (2015).

Since then, more Viking ships (all more or less identical) have set sail. Several sister ships also do Viking Homelands cruises.

Viking Sea was launched in April, 2016. Viking Sky followed in early 2017, joined later in the year by Viking Sun.

Viking Orion debuted in June, 2018, and Viking Jupiter set sail in 2019. Like its sister ship Orion, Jupiter boasts a high-tech, 26-seat planetarium (called the Explorer’s Dome).

Then came Viking Venus in 2021.

In 2022, Viking Mars welcomed its first guests. And Viking Neptune will launch in December, 2022, with a world cruise.

Viking also introduced a couple of expedition ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, in 2022.

They’re a marked departure from the other Viking ocean ships.

They hold just 378 passengers and are designed to travel to off-the-beaten-path places in the world, including Antarctica and the Arctic. They even have kayaks and submarines for exploring!

We’re not done yet! Viking Saturn is slated to debut in 2023.

That wraps up our Viking Star ship review!

Check out other Viking star reviews to see if a cruise on this ship (or with Viking Ocean Cruises) is right for you. (We can’t imagine it wouldn’t be!)

More information:

See the Viking Cruises website.

Other Viking Cruises reviews on the river ships?

Review: What it’s Really Like Aboard Viking River Cruises

More cruising inspiration!

Seabourn | What’s luxury like on Seabourn Cruises? Find out in our Seabourn review.

Ponant Cruises | Ooh la la! We’re going French on Ponant Cruises!

Scenic | Discover the riches of Normandy on a deluxe Seine River cruise with Scenic. See our Scenic Cruises review.

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Viking Ocean Cruises Review
Viking Star Review

Photo credits: 2, 6, 8, 11, 13, 17 to 23 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining photos Viking Ocean Cruises.


While we cruised on the ship as media guests, this Viking Star review and Viking Homelands cruise review are completely our own, and the cruise line had no influence over them. (We are always free to express our own thoughts, warts and all.)


About the authors:

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Mark Craven

Sunday 6th of November 2022

Can't argue with this review! I love the hot pool in the spa. Used it almost daily on 2 world cruises. Snow grotto and steam room, too. Food is great and so are the personal choices of in-room premium liquors and beer/wine. Have a 3rd world cruise coming in 2024, too. We love Viking.

Janice and George

Sunday 6th of November 2022

Ahhh, a world cruise! Fun to look forward to!

Mike S.

Thursday 3rd of November 2022

You cannot go wrong with any Viking ship and/or Viking cruise. Been on three now.

Janice and George

Thursday 3rd of November 2022

Agree :-)

Adrien

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Just an FYI, the age limit is 18 years old. We're leaving on Viking Venus in 36 days for 15 days on the Trade Routes of the Middle Ages. First time on a Viking ocean cruise, but have been on many River cruises. I highly recommend Viking!!!!

Janice and George

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

As a repeat Viking river cruiser, it sounds like you didn't need any convincing to go on your first ocean cruise with Viking :-). Enjoy your cruise!

John and Ellen

Sunday 22nd of September 2019

We are taking our second cruise in February to the Caribbean and can’t wait to get back on the ship. Our first cruise was last year the Italian Sojourn trip, and we will be on the same ship! Loved everything about it especially the Nordic Spa and restaurants were fabulous. :-)

Janice and George

Sunday 22nd of September 2019

February is a great time for a Caribbean cruise! We recently sailed on the Viking Sea in the Caribbean (from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico). You can read about what it’s like in the Caribbean with Viking Ocean Cruises in our post: Viking Sea Review: Our Adults-Only Caribbean Cruise. Have fun!

liisa tynkkynen

Tuesday 28th of May 2019

Very Nice Blog. But FYI - Helsinki is in Finland, the happiest country in the world they say, not in Norway :-)

Janice and George

Tuesday 28th of May 2019

Of course! What a blooper! Thanks for catching this. We've just edited the content to show Helsinki in the right country, where it properly belongs :-). And thanks also for the kind comment about our blog :-).