Viking unveils ocean cruise plans

By Tom Stieghorst
Viking Star renderingBEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Viking Cruises has taken the wraps off a two-ship ocean cruise subsidiary that will launch in 2015 and complement its extensive river cruise operation.

The first ship in the Viking Ocean Cruises fleet will be called the Viking Star and will launch in May 2015 on itineraries in Scandinavia, the Baltic and the eastern and western Mediterranean. (Click here or on the photos for a slideshow of renderings of what the ship will look like.) 

The 928-passenger ship will compete in size and emphasis with lines such as Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises.

Viking Ocean Cruises has a firm order for a second ship to be delivered in 2016 and conditional orders and options for four additional ships. The Viking Star will be built by Italy's Fincantieri.

Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen unveiled the details of the new product, itineraries and amenities at a function for travel agents and media here.

Viking Star Explorers Lounge renderingViking will straddle the ocean and river cruise markets, an unusual feat; most firms tend to compete in one style or the other.

"With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary and ship design, privileged-access excursions and onboard experiences to make destinations the true focus," Hagen said.

The fare on the Viking Star will include shore excursions, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, WiFi, self-service laundry and 24-hour room service, along with port charges and government taxes.

Designed with the experienced traveler in mind, Viking Ocean cruises will maximize time in port, often with late evening departures or overnight stays.

Similar to Viking's river ships, the interior design of the Viking Star will be understated and Scandinavian modern.

Viking Star Main Pool renderingThe all-balcony ship will have five cabin categories, ranging from a 270-square-foot model to a 1,448-square-foot suite. There will be two pools, one with a retractable dome, the other a glass-backed infinity pool at the ship's stern.

Another unusual feature will be a "snow grotto" in the spa in which "snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air," according to a Viking description.

Dining options include a main dining room called the Restaurant, an intimate Chef's Table, an Italian Grill, a Viking Deli with Scandinavian specialties, a World Cafe and a cooking school and intimate restaurant called the Kitchen Table.

Pricing for the 10-day cruises starts at $2,999 per person, with discounted airfares from $695 per person.

The 2015 maiden season is initially being offered only in the U.S.; Viking will begin marketing the ocean cruises in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand later this year.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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