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Viking Ocean Cruises Review (+ Honest “Viking Star” Review)

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 in all the reviews of Viking Ocean Cruises? 

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

As we discovered during our Viking Star Baltic cruise – and our subsequent Caribbean cruise on the Viking Sea – it’s not just one thing, but a whole lot of things that make Viking’s ocean-going ships some of the world’s best cruise ships and a true delight to sail on.

Writing this Viking Ocean Cruises review was therefore very easy.

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 Ocean Cruises review

We focus here on the Viking Star and our Viking Homelands cruise.

But all Viking Ocean Cruises’ ships are similar. So what we cover in our Viking Star review pretty well also applies to all of Viking’s ocean-going vessels.

Viking Star 

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

Viking Star review
The Viking Star in port

Unveiled in 2015, it was the first ship for Viking Ocean Cruises.

Hagen introduced this ocean-based brand to complement Viking River Cruises, which is the world’s largest river cruise line. (Viking has almost 80 river ships in its river-based fleet.)

Fleet of Viking Cruises ships

Ocean-going ships

Since the Viking Star debuted, several more Viking ships (all more or less identical) have set sail.

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. Both Orion and Jupiter boast 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 launched in December, 2022, with a world cruise.

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

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

Viking Expedition ships

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!

One of Viking's expedition ships in Welland Canal, Ontario, Canada
One of Viking’s expedition ships in the Welland Canal, Ontario, Canada

Viking Ocean Cruises freebies

The freebies are one of the first differences you notice between Viking Ocean Cruises and other similarly-priced ocean cruises.

Hagen promised there would be no “nickel-and-diming” onboard Viking’s ocean ships.

The Viking Star and its sister vessels offer a long list of free inclusions that usually aren’t offered by other cruise lines.

Complimentary shore excursions? Yes.

Unlimited free WiFi? Sweet.

Complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner? Pour us another!

Free 24-hour room service (also with complimentary wine and beer during lunch and dinner meal times)? Very handy.

(If you’d like to know more about Viking’s complimentary drinks as well as their for-purchase drinks packages, see our guide on Viking Cruises’ bar menu.)

Lots of light-filled space

You also notice how much space there is on these Viking cruise ships.

They have a very high passenger space ratio. (It’s technically 51.5 and anything over 51 is considered “very spacious.)

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

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

Take the Scandinavian design of the Viking Star and its sister ships.

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.

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.

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

Everything is serene and uncluttered.

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 (cabins on sister ships too)

Viking Ocean Cruise staterooms

Hailing from a cold country, Hagen is probably the man to thank for the heated bathroom floors in all Viking Cruises staterooms (and suites). 

It was a treat to have warm toes after stepping out of our glass shower – especially on our colder, Northern Europe cruise on the Viking Star.

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

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.

The real king-size beds are also a nice surprise in Viking Ocean Cruises’ cabins.

The pop-up make-up mirror is quite nifty too. 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 ocean ship and Viking Star cabin reviews also give high marks for the design of the cabin space.

Veranda and Deluxe Veranda staterooms are the “standard” cabins. The interiors are 224 square feet in size, with an additional balcony (46 square feet).

Deluxe Veranda staterooms have a free soft drinks minibar. And our only suggestion (if anyone was to ask) would be to swap this out for an extra chest of drawers.

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

For the value, the best cabins on Viking Ocean Cruises are probably the Penthouse Veranda staterooms.

Measuring 280 square feet, they’re bigger than the Veranda and Deluxe Veranda staterooms. So they have a larger seating area, more drawers and a more spacious bathroom, with a slightly larger shower.

The balcony is also bigger (48 square feet).

The Penthouse Verandas also come with perks like priority restaurant and shore excursion reservations.

Suites

There also 47 suites on every Viking ocean ship.

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

Viking Cruises food (the Scandinavian food is a hit!)

On both the Viking Star and Viking Sea, we never felt the urge to try local restaurants ashore – the ship’s food was that good.

There are several dining options onboard, and the dress code is elegant casual at night (no formal nights).

There are lots of tempting desserts in the World Cafe for lunch on Viking Ocean Cruises' ships.
Tempting lunch desserts

The Restaurant

The main dining room on Viking’s ocean ships is called simply “The Restaurant.”

It features regional cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.

The Main Restaurant on the Viking Star
The Restaurant on the Viking Star

The Restaurant is open for set hours during breakfast and dinner – typically 7:30 to 9:00 pm for dinner – and you can sit anywhere you want.

For dinner, we’d usually head in between 7:45 and 8:00 pm.

World Café

For breakfast and lunch, we’d pick and choose from the casual World Café buffet restaurant.

Savory appetizers on the Viking Star cruise ship
Savory appetizers

Local dishes were often featured.

For example, one day on the Viking Star cruise ship, there was a memorable Scandinavian seafood lunch, followed by made-to-order waffles, berries and cream for dessert.

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

Aquavit Terrace

The World Café opens up onto the Aquavit Terrace at the stern of the ship, where you can sit and eat outside on the open deck.

Aquavit Terrace
Aquavit Terrace

At night, the terrace is turned into an attractive alfresco dining space.

Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant

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

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

With a black-and-white tile floor and vintage photos on the walls, it has 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.

Reservations are essential, and you should book early, as this restaurant is very popular.

Added bonus: Your cruise fare includes the specialty dining. There’s no extra 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

The second specialty restaurant is the Chef’s Table. And of all the Viking Ocean Cruises’ menus, the one at 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.

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 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 $35 for two hours.)

So on our first cruise, it took us a while to figure out that the Viking Star spa is free (except for massages and spa 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 Nordic 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

The inviting pool areas also lured us in on both ships.

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

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 on the Viking Star, 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.

There’s a hot tub by the aft pool as well.

viking star review - infinity pool
The cool pool (with hot tub) at the stern

Walking on the promenade deck

Like many guests, one of our favorite ways to keep reasonably fit on a cruise is to walk around the deck when at sea.

Not all cruise ships have a full circle walking deck.

But Viking’s Ocean ships are designed with an outdoor Promenade Deck. You can walk all the way around the ship; four laps equals a mile.

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

Another thing we’d read in Viking cruise reviews is that Hagen wanted to make the Viking experience a “thinking man’s cruise.”

And sure enough, we discovered oodles of interesting travel-related books scattered about in lounges throughout both ships we sailed on.

Two to three enrichment lectures and port talks are also given in the theater each day.

In fact, on our Viking Star cruise, we had five guest lecturers.

They included a polar oceanographer, a Fulbright scholar/law professor and a BBC television journalist. Their talks on NATO and Russia in the Baltic, as well as the EU’s refugee migration policy, were thought-provoking, to say the least.

Recorded TED talks also cover a variety of stimulating topics.

The theater on a Viking ocean ship

So what does the Viking Star not have?

There’s no casino.

Hagen once said Viking passengers would “rather have a free laundry.” And, indeed, there’s a self-service laundry on every deck.

There’s also no hard (or soft) selling of spa products or even liquor.

On our first Viking cruise, paying for “premium wines” seemed extravagant as our waiters kept pouring complimentary Italian, French and German selections, which were all very good!

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

Viking Ocean Cruises itineraries

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

These Viking ships score high marks in this department.

You’ll find voyages to most parts of the world.

Viking’s ocean vessels cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, through the Panama Canal, off the Central American coast and around the British Isles. There are also Iceland, Mediterranean, Asia, Australia and other cruises.

Viking Homelands cruise itinerary

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

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

Several sister ships also do Viking Homelands cruises.

The following are the ports of call on this itinerary:

  • Stockholm (Sweden)
  • Mariehamn, Aland Islands (Finland)
  • Gdansk (Poland)
  • Bornholm (Denmark)
  • Warnemunde for Berlin (Germany)
  • Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Alborg (Denmark)
  • Oslo (Norway)
  • Stavanger (Norway)
  • Eidfjord (Norway)
  • Bergen (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 Star Review: Bergen is visited on the Viking Homelands itinerary
The lovely Norwegian city of Bergen

Viking Ocean Cruises shore excursion reviews

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

In each port, passengers (who were divided into smaller groups) were treated to a complimentary shore excursion.

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

In Warnemunde, the free shore excursion was a chartered train ride to Berlin for a day.

Once in the city, we were treated to a panoramic bus tour of the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and other main Berlin sights.

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

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 Homelands cruise - Stockholm Drottningholm Palace
In Stockholm, we 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: 21 Best Things to Do

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

Staying in Bergen before or after your Homelands cruise?

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

You can read our full review of the Hotel Havnekontoret – 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

Staying in Stockholm before or after your cruise?

We picked the Diplomat Hotel. Read our review here.

That wraps up our review of Viking Ocean Cruises (and the Viking Star)!

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

Lots of Viking Ocean Cruises reviews have gotten the word out now since the Viking Star first debuted.

People who are cruising with Viking for the first time are as curious as we were to see what all the hype is about!

Viking Ocean Cruises also has a significant repeat cruise passenger base.

You’ll probably want to check out other Viking star reviews to see if a cruise on this ship (or with Viking Ocean Cruises) is right for you.

But with the brand’s almost all-inclusive pricing, spacious Scandinavian design, all-balcony accommodations, excellent food and destination-focused itineraries, we can’t imagine that a Viking Ocean cruise wouldn’t suit you!

More information

See the Viking Cruises website.

Other Viking Cruises reviews?

Here’s a review of Viking River Cruises and what the river ship experience is like.

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.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Viking Ocean Cruises Review
Viking Star Review

Photo credits: 2, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17 to 19, 21, 24, 26, 29 © 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 :-).