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World’s best ship? Viking Star review and Viking Homelands cruise

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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?

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

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 review

Viking Star review: What's it like to sail on the world's most epic cruise ship?

Spoiler alert! What you’ll read here

Viking Star ship – A revolutionary new concept

Viking Ocean Cruises’ reviews – Freebies and Scandinavian design

Viking Star staterooms

Spa – You’ll love the free thermal spa!

Pools

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’s the first ship for Viking Ocean Cruises – the ocean-based brand that Hagen introduced to complement Viking River Cruises and its 60+ river ships.

Viking Ocean Cruises reviews

Freebies:

A Viking Ocean Cruises ship in Malta
A Viking Ocean Cruises’ ship in Malta

The cruise line now has six ships, virtually identical.

Two more new ships, Viking Tellus and Viking Venus, are slated to set sail in 2021.

Purpose-built for destination-focused itineraries, they offer a long list of free inclusions that usually aren’t offered on similarly-priced, ocean-going cruises – like complimentary shore excursions, unlimited WiFi and complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner.

Read next: Find out everything you want to know about 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 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

Do you love cruises? Then read our Cruise Guide for more cruising inspiration! (We cover everything from small ship yacht cruises to adventure expeditions)

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.

Our deluxe stateroom with private balcony

The real king-size beds were a nice surprise too.

The pop-up make-up mirror was also quite nifty – the desk opens up to reveal a backlit mirror lid with 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.

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

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?

Make like a Norwegian in the Viking Star 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 so 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.

After trying out the warm, swim-against-the-current pool (with underwater massage roller beds), heated stone loungers, sauna, steam room, hot whirlpools, cold-dunk shower and “snow grotto” (an ice-cold, blue-lit glass room with real snow), hitting the spa 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 with a book as the ship glides by the shoreline

The inviting pool areas also lured us in.

Facing the windows, cushioned seating areas and teak loungers with soft blankets are popular spots to curl up with a 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 Homelands cruise itinerary

No matter how attractive a ship is, though, it’s the destinations that matter most to us. The Viking Star ship scores high marks in this department.

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 eight countries.

Viking Homelands cruise itinerary map
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.

Tallinn, Estonia:

In Tallinn, Estonia, our free Viking Ocean Cruises excursion was a guided walking tour of the well-preserved medieval Old Town, listening to our guide on Quiet VOX earphones.

Warnemunde, Germany:

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

Other ports-of-call:

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

Other ports-of-call included Helsinki (Finland), two full days in St. Petersburg (Russia), Gdansk (Poland) Copenhagen and Alborg (Denmark), and Stavanger and Flam (Norway).

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 ports

Excited about sailing on the Viking Star or sister ships that do the Viking Homelands trip? Then read our 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

Tallinn:  Eye-Catching Sights in Tallinn Old Town, Estonia

St. Petersburg:  Mystery of the Looted Amber Room at Catherine Palace

Stockholm:  Things to Do in Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s 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.)

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.

World Cafe:

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 Cafe 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:

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.

And no children under 16 may sail.

Cruises on the Viking Star are selling quickly. Clearly the word is getting out and others are as curious as we were to see what all the hype is about…

Read also:  Viking Sea review – our adults-only Caribbean cruise

Staying in Bergen before or after your cruise?

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

Read our review: The Hotel Havnekontoret is 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:

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. (Some 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).

The newest Viking cruise ship is Viking Venus, which welcomes its first guests in 2021.

More new Viking Ocean Cruises’ ships are scheduled for delivery in 2022 and subsequent years too.

More information:

See the Viking Cruises website.

Other Viking Cruises reviews?

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


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Viking Star review and Viking Homelands cruise

Photo credits: 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 15, 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:

Janice and George Mucalov

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

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

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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 :-).

RANDAL C lundin

Thursday 23rd of May 2019

I have been on 2 Viking cruises for about 27-28 days each . I loved them both and didn't want to get off the boat after each one. I loved the waffles and caramelized goat cheese in mamsens every morning in the front of the ship ( nice and quiet ) don't tell that little secret...lol The help is very friendly and I enjoyed chatting with them; they are from all over the world. A big shout out to pred my cabin steward on the Mediterranean cruise. I tried to see if I could get him on my second cruise such nice guy ! John Ray the restaurant mgr made my experience all the more wonderful he just so happened to be on both my cruises and welcomed me with a big hug and open arms the first day right after boarding on my 2nd cruise. You'll love your Viking experence! I also met wonderful new friends on both cruises. They are the best ships you can go on.........RANDY LUNDIN

Janice and George

Thursday 23rd of May 2019

Hi Randy, Thanks for writing in about your wonderful Viking cruises! We're jealous that yours were some 28 days each :-). We've done 2 cruises now: Viking Star for 14 nights and Viking Sea for 10 nights (we'll be writing that trip up soon). And on both, we weren't ready to get off the ship.

Dorothy

Saturday 4th of May 2019

Greats information. THANK YOU. We’ve done Viking River cruises and I thought nothing would compare but I think our booked ocean cruise will prove me wrong! We leave from Greece in Aug on the Star. So excited! 3 questions: is there a need for formal wear? Do you need to reserve tables in the dining rooms? Are there single bed accommodations?

Janice and George

Sunday 5th of May 2019

Hi Dorothy! Thank you. Nice to hear you liked our review :-). (1) No need for formal wear. "Elegant casual" is the dress code for evening. And because it will be hot in Greece in August, sundresses for ladies will be fine. The only limitations are to not wear shorts and jeans in the evenings. (2) Reservations aren't needed for the main dining room, but they are needed for the specialty restaurants: Manfredi's and the Chef's Table. You can pre-book in advance of your cruise (wise to do for Manfredi's, which is very popular). Also, on your cruise, you can check to see if you can get additional reservations. (3) Yes, the king beds can be split into twin beds. Have a fabulous cruise!

VickiB

Tuesday 1st of May 2018

We are booked on the same Viking Baltic cruise in August, and are even more excited about our trip after reading of your experience. Thanks for the very interesting and informative blog, and we look forward to reading more about your travels.

Janice and George

Friday 4th of May 2018

You'll love your trip -- it's a fantastic itinerary with lots of different experiences on a beautiful ship. And thank you for taking the time to share your comments :-). Enjoy!