CRUISE THE PLANET
Completing our sailing of Viking Cruises new Viking Star, back home in Orlando but still a bit dazed by the stellar cruise experience, we’re still processing all that Empires of the Mediterranean itinerary brought to the table. A new cruise line and a new ship brought a new way to cruise and that will be the topic of an upcoming review. Still, without reflection, there were a number of stand alone wonderful moments on that trip, presented here as one photo from each.
Arriving in Venice late in the day thanks to another Lufthansa Airlines strike, our first glimpse of Viking Star was just after sunset. Docked at the exact same place we had been earlier this year on an Azamara Club Cruises sailing, the scene was familiar.
One of the first things we look for when arriving off an international flight is the cruise line airport greeter, usually holding an easy to spot sign. In Venice we found an army of greeters from Viking Cruises that were quite easy to spot as well.
Jumping right into the experience the next morning, we were happy to see that the logistics of moving hundreds of passengers off Viking Star for the included tour du jour was handled efficiently. Better yet, the local guides on each tour were of a similar high quality as we had experienced on a number of Viking River Cruises. About the same sized groups (a bus load) were handled much the same way, even when a short tender ride was added to the process; something not done on the river version.
Also of interest, guests wishing to do something else in place of the included tours, could choose a private tour or one of a select number of other shore excursions, curated to appeal to those who wanted a more in-depth experience. The interesting part here is that, like on optional river cruise tours, the ocean equivalents were also planned for those with a specific interest not everyone would care for.
Those special requests, tours and other custom experiences were handled at the Explorer’s Desk, the Viking equivalent of what would be called the Pursers Desk, Shore Excursion Department and Concierge of other ocean lines, all rolled into one.
One last thought and image on the topic of shore experiences: Plenty of free time was allowed to explore on our own. In Dubrovnik, we had ample time to roam the markets, collecting a few spices to bring home, one of our favorite activities when traveling. We got that idea from sailing with Seabourn on the Seabourn Food And Wine cruise after they left us an assortment of local spices as a take-home momento of the sailing. I have to say, cooking with local spices curated while we travel is one of the best ways to remember the experience. They make easy-to-pack and interesting gifts too.
One of my favorite activities on a cruise is not in any newsletter or promoted by any cruise line sailing. Still, getting to know the crew members brings a safe, multi-cultural experience that is hard to duplicate off ship with much efficiency. We do but it’s kind of a gamble as to how much we get out of the time spent meeting locals ashore. On the ship, any ship, we find crew members from around the world, all eager to talk about their home, life on the ship and more…if we take the time.
A bonus in this area that we noticed early in the journey; the crew on Viking Star has time to chat. We see that all around the ship where there is an abundance of crew to handle anything that comes their way. I noticed that on a short preview cruise of Viking Star when the ship was christened in Bergen, Norway earlier this year. An earlier career of mine opening chain restaurants years ago had me believe that the fully staffed ship was a result of a smart opening procedure. I did not expect to see as many crew around on this return trip, a normal sailing of the ship, months later. I did though. Impressive
In this part of the world, sunsets are hard to beat and this trip proved no exception. This one in Dubrovnik had the sky on fire. Obviously not really the work of Viking, sunrises and sunsets during this time of the year would not really have been possible on very many other ship. We were always the only ship in port during this sailing that happened to be nearing the end of the season. Another bonus, with no other ship, there were few crowds ashore.
Dining is always such a subjective topic that we usually avoid it in detail but do comment on the culinary operation in broad strokes. The first night at Viking Star’s World Cafe had Lisa saying “this is the way all buffets should be’. That comment was not hers alone either. Fueled by an open kitchen that makes the majority of what we see in the World Cafe service areas nearly to order, this is a huge departure from the standard cruise line cafeteria buffet where huge batches of food are produced hours ahead of when it will be consumed.
Case in point for early risers or those who stay up ultra late on other ships. Commonly noticed, the aroma of fresh bread baking or crispy bacon at 4AM. That’s what will be served when breakfast service starts, several hours later. This was not something that we noticed on Viking Star…and the topic of early riser conversations from about the second day on.
Speaking of early risers, here’s a couple reasons to do just that….or miss the show.
We’ll have more on each destination as those are surely an important part of the experience….but not quite as important as I thought they would be.
Sure, going ashore to have our time at local destinations was indeed a big, enjoyable part of the experience. But one of my initial impressions of the ship, first noticed during that short preview cruise during a first look earlier this year proved to be far too simplistic.
At the time, I wrote that “anyone who felt comfortable on a Viking River Cruise would fit right in on a Viking Ocean Cruise”, referring mainly to the decor. I still think that’s true and an accurate statement. But Viking Star is much more than an attractive piece of hardware. It’s the unique experience of sailing with new Viking Oceans that is simply not comparable to other ocean cruise lines.
That ‘not comparable’ designation is not something to dwell on either. Too often that brings thoughts of a rating system where all other subjects listed do not measure up; there is the top rated one and then all the others, somewhere down on the rating scale. What Viking Ocean Cruises has done with Viking Star is not like that. Perhaps more accurately put: to compare Viking’s ocean product to other ocean lines would be irrelevant. Which bring us you to speed on where our heads are at just upon returning home. I’ll think about this for a bit, reflect on the experience, and be back with more detail on what it is like to sail with Viking in the ocean.
One thing is for sure, this is no river cruise. Interestingly, we and those we talked to who have done both are pretty much evenly split on which Viking experience they like better; all for very good reasons. Stay tuned.
Want to review further before we come back with the grand finale? See Viking Star: Your Complete Guide To Our Cruise which is pretty much all of this, right now, with more to come:
- Viking Star: Examining What Really Matters
- Viking Star Dining Options
- Flight Change No Big Deal For Vikings
- Your Travel Agent And Viking Cruises
- Viking Star Included Tours: Promise vs Reality
- A Day In Dubrovnik With Viking Cruises
- Viking Star: Paint Your Masterpiece
- Viking Star Brings The Future: Now
- Viking Star: The Thought Behind The Ship
- A Day In Athens Helps Define Viking Star Passengers
- Little Things That Make Viking Star A Big Hit (this post)
- Travel Day To Viking Star
- Air Dolomiti- A lovely little airline we experienced thanks to the Lufthansa strike.
- Venice, Italy- Where we met the Viking Transfer Army
- Viking Star Ship Shots- Photos from around the new Viking Star
- Pula Croatia– Our first time visiting but surely not our last
- Viking Star On Instagram- Our experience, one Instagram a day
- Viking Star Staff– Photos of the crew, collected throughout our voyage
- Viking Star Culinary- Menu items we tried as we sailed
- Viking Star Sunrise and Sunset- Marvelous events that bookended each day
- Dubrovnik, Croatia- What we did, saw and consumed
- Dubrovnik Sunset- Probably the prettiest sunset we have ever seen
- Kotor Montenegro with Viking Cruises– our day and then some
- Viking Star Tea Time- like no other tea time anywhere
- Viking Star At Sea- what we saw and did on our one day at sea
- Viking Star Chef’s Table- a gastronomic journey through time
Facebook Photo Albums-
- Dubrovnik Sunset– perhaps the most beautiful we have ever seen
- Favorite Images From Our Viking Star Cruise– just those and nothing more