Viking Cruises has announced the news that two new ocean ships will join the fleet in 2016. The cruise lines inaugural ocean ship, Viking Star will begin sailing in May 2015, commencing the first step in the lines attempt to break into the ocean cruising market. The decision comes on the back of strong customer demand. The two new ships for 2016 will triple Viking Oceans Cruises capacity in just two years. Both ships will have a passenger capacity of 930 and will be named Viking Sea and Viking Sky.
It is now a year since the cruise line announced the intention to tackle the ocean cruise market having experienced such tremendous success with river cruising. The announcement had been rumoured for some time but nevertheless, still took many industry personnel by surprise. Having made the announcement, Viking Ocean Cruise marked the first new ocean cruise line to the industry in almost a decade. The decision thus far has proved extremely successful. The first artist impressions of Viking Star began to filter through and have since picked up pace. The ship certainly looks impressive and will boast many unique facilities for guests to enjoy. Viking Star’s 2015 maiden season is now close to full capacity and 2016 itineraries have also progressed well.
Viking Cruises are expanding both segments of their brand aggressively. Viking River Cruises have already broken their own record this year with the most ships ever christened in one day and the Viking Oceans Cruises announcement comes on the heels of a further river cruising announcement that the river cruise fleet will again be expanded by a further 12 new vessels in 2015, bringing the total river cruise fleet to 64 ships.
Viking Sea and Viking Sky will follow the same line as sister ship Viking Star with 2016 itineraries set to include Scandinavia and the Baltic Capitals; Eastern and Western Mediterranean sailings as well as two brand new itineraries exploring the British Isles.
Neil Barclay, head of sales for the UK, said: “Due to the outstanding success of our inaugural ship launch – Viking Star – Viking Cruises will launch two further ships in 2016.
“Our maiden season in 2015 is already nearly at capacity demonstrating the strength of the product and the loyalty our past passengers have in a Viking experience.”
The Arrival of Viking Star
To many cruise enthusiasts and industry members, Viking Cruises announcing their plans to break into the ocean cruising segment may have come as unexpected news but the cruise line clearly knew what they were doing. A well laid plan had been put into place starting with the development of the ideal ship to fly the flag for the brand and the itineraries she would sail. Viking implemented extensive research, input and feedback sessions with their Viking River Cruise passengers as well as the ocean cruising market. The cruise line intended to develop a holiday with experienced travellers in mind. Itineraries have clearly been at the forefront of the lines mind with the port intensive sailings boasting maximum time in port, late evenings and
overnight stays and an excellent blend of cosmopolitan cities and scenic cruising. The intention appears to give passengers a unique blend of entertainment, history, art, culture and sightseeing experiences. Long-standing popular destinations have been combined with off the beaten track destinations and what the cruise line refer to as “collector ports”.
In today’s current cruising world, the Viking Star falls under the classification as a “small ship” despite her 930 passenger occupancy. She may fall under this classification but she is by no means small. Her facilities are excellent and the attention to details from Viking appears second to none. The ship has been engineered at a scale that will allow her direct access into most ports, meaning passengers have easy and efficient embarkation and disembarkation processes to allow optimal time ashore. This is also perfect for turnaround ports, meaning passengers can arrive and leave the ship in a streamlined process with minimal concerns for hold ups or delays.
Itineraries are crucial for attracting passengers to a new cruise line but you also need the right ship design and that is something Viking have most certainly achieved thus far. Viking Star has been imagined with a light and intimate feel, featuring understated elegance combined with contemporary Scandinavian design.
What’s On Board?
On board Viking Star, all staterooms boast a private veranda. There are five stateroom categories to choose from beginning with a veranda stateroom at approximately 270 square feet; an impressive space considering alternative cruise line accommodation choices. The ship will also boast 14 fantastic Explorer Suites, all offering two-room suite accommodation ranging in size from 757 to 1,163 square feet in size. Each Explorer Suite will offer sweeping vista views on their wrap-around private verandas along with luxury amenities and many exclusive privileges.
The pool areas have stolen the headlines since the announcement of Viking Star. First came the news that the ship would feature a Main Pool that would have a retractable dome roof enabling passengers to enjoy any season swimming, no matter the weather. I’m sure we can all agree that this is always an attraction, many of us enjoy a swim from time to time and even if the weather is not up to scratch, you can still enjoy the pool. Then, however, came the big news: Viking Star will boast a “first at sea” feature in the form of a glass backed infinity pool, cantilevered off the stern of the ship, allowing guests to enjoy a swim, surrounded by each stunning destination on their cruise. The imagery we have seen of this feature so far looks spectacular and a very clever addition to the ship from Viking Cruises. If you want to make a splash in the industry (excuse the pun) this is definitely one way to do it.
A holistic wellness philosophy will be implemented at the spa on board in keeping with the cruise lines Nordic heritage. Attractive features include everything from the centuries old tradition of the sauna to an amazing “snow-grotto” where passengers will find snowflakes gently descending around them from the ceiling through chilled yet soothing air.
All public spaces on board Viking Star are being designed to create and facilitate socialising. The cruise line have designed her with mingling in mind, to encourage passengers to enjoy cruising with like-minded travellers. The Explorer’s Lounge is certain to be a popular venue on board and is located at the bow of the ship. This will be a perfect venue for soaking up the scenery of the ocean as well as each port of call you visit. Explorer’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide the ideal sightseeing spot on board to enjoy a drink with friends. The Wintergarden is another venue we believe will be very popular, especially with British passengers. This venue will be much more of a serene environment on board with the highlight being a quintessential British afternoon tea service complete with a fully curated specialist tea selection.
Dining choices on board look to be highly appealing with multiple restaurants announced so far. The Restaurant will be the main dining room on board and is sure to be a popular venue, especially for evening meals. The World Café also looks extremely attractive and both of these dining venues will serve a variety of global cuisines and regional specialities. There are also other dining choices such as the intimate Chef’s Table experience, the Italian Grill and The Kitchen Table. Viking Star will also offer more al fresco dining facilities than any other ship when she makes her debut in 2015.
Authentic experiences appear essential to Viking Cruises plans. The concept of connecting passengers to their destinations is extremely relevant right now as destination immersion has never been so vital to attracting potential passengers. Enrichment features will also be excellent on board. A three deck atrium awaits guests with musicians throughout each day and night providing a relaxing and entertaining backdrop. There will be a state of the art theatre on board along with enrichment lectures from leading scholars and experts in multiple fields. An on board cookery school will also invite passengers to expand their skills and afterwards, the Viking Piano Lounge will be a relaxing location to sit and unwind.
Protecting our environment is now not only important but essential in cruise ship design. Royal Caribbean International have led the industry recently with their Oasis Class vessels and Viking Oceans have are also taking big steps forward. All Viking’s ocean fleet will feature energy efficient hybrid engines, h hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hulls and bows for maximum fuel efficiency, on board solar panels and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution.
Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises said: “The introduction of Viking Star next year will represent a distinct change in ocean cruising-an alternative to the mega-liners dominating the world’s ports,” said “It is our view that in the race to build enormous ships, some cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail. Based on the incredible response we have received, it is clear that our guests want a new experience to truly explore their destinations.”