Our Anniversary Cruise - 2022 - Viking Star
Our anniversary cruise would be aboard the Viking Star, one of a seven ship class of small cruise liners in the Viking fleet. She was put into service in 2015. Unlike the huge liners, she carries only 930 passengers. She is 745 feet long and 95 feet wide and can cruise at 20 knots (23 mph).
Our stateroom was on the port (left) side of the lowest stateroom deck. (See the small yellow arrow just ahead of the lifeboats.) Unlike other lines, there are only 4 classes of cabin, and all are good; the difference being amenities until you get into the suites up high, both in decks and price. There are no inside rooms: dark, small, and cheap. Each stateroom has a veranda and a full wall of glass to view the beauty that you are sailing by. Our stateroom was 270 square feet, plenty big since we only slept there. There was a full shower and toilet, along with a large closet and drawer space. Available, on each deck, is a four-unit laundry room available to the passengers, free, 24/7. They provide soap, irons, and ironing boards. You can also send your laundry out to be done by the crew.
The chef and dining staff on Viking are superb. Our only major complaint was the quantity served, and that is one that we learned to control, after a huge meal in the Italian restaurant. We dined, most of the time, in the buffet-style World Café where we could control the portions. Ninety percent of the time, the World Café served the same items on the main restaurant menu, in addition to more normal items, including a sushi bar and pizza. If you had room left, there was always a variety of gelatos and a selection of cookies, an assortment of pies, and other desserts, both familiar and unusual.
The hotel and housekeeping staff are professional, always smiling and always oriented toward the passenger needs. Most of the housekeeping staff are from Southeast Asia. We met employees from the Philippines, Java, Bali, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They are all paid wages far higher than they might expect in their home venues and they work hard for Viking. Viking, in return, takes excellent care of their family of workers. Their benefits include medical care, as needed, at Viking's expense. Cruise workers on other lines often strive to contract with Viking because of the all-inclusive care, and openings fill quickly. Their contracts are for four months at a time. Many come back for years. Upward mobility is one of the advantages, as well, as crew members new to Viking can work their way up in the ranks.
Each segment of the staff, entertainment, food services, housekeeping, and ship control are contracted by Viking through off-ship hiring organizations specializing in providing these specialty workers to the cruise industry. Most of Viking entertainment staff comes from Western Europe, while many of those responsible for the operation of the ship, deck, officers, and engineers, are from the Balkan states or Scandinavia. The food service staff appeared to have no geographic center, but all were well trained. (Aside: There was the one breakfast worker who was confused about the difference between over-easy and sunny side up, but anomalies do happen.) All are on contracts, even the captain and senior officers. In any port of call, crew members will depart, and new members will come aboard. While we were there, a farewell party was held for the medical officer, whose contract was complete. Every Viking crew member that we met was friendly and completely professional. That could be why Viking is continually at the top of the cruise line list.
Now, you can't eat all the time. Well, I can't anyway. Onboard Star is a full-service spa, including Norwegian elements such as a sauna and a cold room (with snow in it!), a hot tub and warm lap pool. Available, for a cost, are a variety of massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, and a hair salon. The Star also has an exercise room, running and walking track, bocce, cornhole, and mini golf; as well as 3 swimming pools and three hot tubs. There is a free library, board games, and puzzles. If you're bored, it's your own fault.
Just a side note, here. If you've ever used a hotel pool, you know the inconvenience of walking to your room in a wet swimsuit. Not on Star. In each dressing room is a suit dryer. For all the world, it resembles a stainless-steel 'salad spinner'. Put your suit in the small container, close the lid, and press down to start. When it stops, your suit is almost dry. Whodathunkit? No dripping mess on the carpet.
There are shops open when the ship is at sea selling items from Norwegian gnomes to high end jewelry and cosmetics. There are various music venues on board. In the Atrium, the large 3 deck high public area on Deck 1, a pianist, and a string-duet, take turns entertaining in the early evening. A guitarist and a more modern group entertain the small night-club area, Thorshavn.
There is a large theater area used for port briefings and lectures by resident historians and naturalists. One ocean biologist spent several sessions talking about whales, many of which populated the waters on which we sailed, and none of which we saw (sigh). I sat through a four-part series presented by a historian well-versed in the history of passenger travel from the rat and disease infested immigrant ships to the huge cruise liners defining today's industry. Nights at sea, two 45-minute entertainment shows were put on by a quartet of entertainers and a 3-piece combo.
Factoid: The cruise industry, as we know it, began when the Canadian Pacific line sold one of its underused passenger ships to a startup that would become the Carnival line. That first liner became the Mardi Gras. Many of the early cruise ships were converted passenger liners. Today, they are custom-built for the industry. In fact, the largest cruise liner today, Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, is 96 feet longer than the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy's newest aircraft carrier.
And there, in 1000 words, or so, is Viking Star, our home for twelve days: along with a very brief background on the industry and Viking.Next week, I'll describe our cruise; the good, the disappointing, and the unusual.
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