Viking Star made her maiden visit to The Netherlands at the 26th of september 2017. She is seen here sailing on her way back to the Northsea from Amsterdam, passing the village of Velsen Zuid close to the IJmuiden locks.
Viking Ocean Cruises was created in 2012 as a new brand of Viking Cruises, known for their large fleet of rivercruise ships. They became the leading company in Europe for rivercruises and became active in many more parts of the world. Company president Torstein Hagen had a history with Royal Viking Line, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line so he was not new to ocean cruising too. It was thus not really a surprise when the company announced their venture into ocean cruising too. As Hagen still was very fond of the history of Royal Viking Line in particular, the new oceanships would be based on the old company that had sailed from the beginning of the 1970's untill 1994. Also their names would follow those of Royal Viking Line so the first pair that was ordered recieved the names of Viking Star and Viking Sea, remembering the still active Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sea.
Construction and general statistics
At the 7th of june of 2013, at the Marghera Yards of Fincantieri in Italy the first steel was cut, marking the beginning of Viking Ocean's first cruiseship. The laying of the keel took place at the following 18th of december as yardnumber 6236. The ship was going to be 227,28 meters long and 28,79 meters wide. Her draft was 6,65 meters. The tonnage measurement was 47.842 and the ship was driven by two propellers. Her machinery was of Fyra MAN design, two 12-cylinder and two 9-cylinder diesels. Her normal servicespeed was going to be around 20 knots. For her 944 passengers and 602 crewmembers, some 14 decks are available.
At the 23rd of june of 2014, the ship was launched by Fincantieri, some 20 days before this was sceduled originally. Her sea-trials were held in the middle of the following december and after succesfully completed, the last stages of interiour fittings were carried out. Viking Star was delivered to Viking Ocean Cruises at the 28th of march of 2015.
The maritime design of the ship was awarded to the London-based SMC Design, while her interiours were designed by the Rottet Studio of Los Angeles. It was meant that the oceanfleet resembled the already popular Scandinavian style of the line's awarded Viking river longships. Elegant, semi-luxury style with many light northern designelements, in combination with elements reflecting the destinations visited. Although luxurious in tone with a very good passengers to crew ratio, Viking Ocean Cruises tries to avoid being in the same league as for example Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Seabourn, appealing to a more contemparary and slightly less demanding but well educated, older clientele instead. The ship doesn't have youthfull gimmicks or 'industries firsts', creating a modern but at the same time classic cruise experience. The ship thus has the normal, classic facilities that a cruiseship has to have. Two pools, a good spa and fitness area, two restaurants, several bars and lounges and a wintergarden. There is a theater with live performances and some live music in the ships atrium, but most nights seem to be quiet where passengers seek their own way of entertainment by reading, talking or just enjoying a cultural lecture on art, history or the ports visited. There is also the ability to follow some cookinglessons. The five categories of staterooms all have their own balcony and vary in size between 25 square meters to 134,5 square meters.
Now sailing as Black Watch for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, the former Royal Viking Star of course gave the new Viking Star its name.
The ship's propellershafts are lubricated with seawater that can be recycled into the ocean without problems. The ships' hull is hydrodynamicly designed for good waterflow, the ship has equipment for the minimizing of exhaust-pollution and some of the ship's electricity is obtained from solar-panneling. This allows Viking Ocean Cruises to also sail up to very pristine environmental settings like the Arctic, Antarctic or Alaska.
As a designfeature resembling the former Royal Viking Star, the new Viking Ocean ship also sports a long, sharply tipped bow and a blue line along the hull, just like the ships of Royal Viking Line.
Naming ceremony and some controversy
The name of Viking Star as the first ship of Viking Ocean cruises was not unexpected, as the companies president Torstein Hagen had been the CEO of the upmarket Royal Viking Line before, when this line operated between the beginning of the 1970's and 1994. The company had already stated that the names of the first ships would be following the names of the RVL ships as a rememberance to that company. As the first ship of RVL was named Royal Viking Star, the first ship of Viking Ocean Cruises became Viking Star, named by Trude Drevland, mayor of the Norwegian town of Bergen at the 17th of may of 2015. Bergen was also the homeport for the ship, so she traditionally was going to fly the Norwegian flag. The 17th of may is a national holiday in Norway and by coincidence, also Fred. Olsen's Black Watch, the former Royal Viking Star, was in port that day. Some 20.000 people attended the ceremony, listening to a concert with artists from Bergen to the likes of the soprane Sissel, violist Charlie Siem and actor Bjarte Hjelmeland. Of course, the ceremony ended with great fireworks.
In the aftermath of the ceremony, things became a little edgy as Trude Drevland was acused of corruption as she had been offered a voyage aboard Viking Star prior to the ceremony (which she turned down), attending the lanching ceremony at Venice being flown in Hagen's private jet and staying in a luxury hotel. Hagen was accused of trying to lobby via the mayor to have the ships registered in Norway, but these charges were later dropped. It all has been seen as bribery so Viking Cruises could have several economic benefits by pampering the cities mayor.
In the distance you can see the cranes working on the new IJmuiden lock, opening in 2019 as the worlds largest lock.
After the ceremony, the ship settled in for a series of cruises in Europe. On august the 1st in 2015, the ship lost power during a Baltic cruise, getting stuck in the Estonian capital Tallinn where she had to remain for several days. Because of this, a few ports in Germany and Poland had to be skipped, to the frustration of many passengers. On august the 2nd, the cruise was officially cancelled while the ship awaited repairs. In 2015, the Viking Star was named the Best New Cruise Ship by Cruise Critic, but several people raised their eyebrows because of this, as the ship seemed to suffer several technical problems in its first year. Next to the power failure in the Baltic, also there were talks about exploding glass-doors in the bathrooms, injuring passengers.
These issues now seems to be solved, as no new reports about difficulties are known after those first five months. It seemed that Viking had some problems making the transtion from a river cruiseline into an ocean cruiseline but with now a growing fleet and more experience, passengers seem to be very content with the Viking experience. The ships are not crowded, the crew seems very happy and the quiet tone of the design and the amenities aboard is very much appreciated. Also, the company makes passengers very happy by the supply of free WIFI and a free excursion-option in every port of call. After the first trio of ships, more were ordered and the company seems on the right track.
At the 12th of january in 2018, Viking Star had a collission with the Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV) ferry Fantastic when she was moored in the port of Barcelona. The GNV ferry lost power while approaching her berth and drifted backwards, into the flank of Viking Star. Luckily, there were no injuries and damage to both ships was minimal.