Transatlantic crossing the Star attraction for Viking
NANORTALIK, Greenland — By the time you read this, Viking Cruises’ 930-guest Viking Star will be docked in Quebec City, just one day away from finishing her inaugural transatlantic crossing in Montreal on Sunday.
This crossing is the first time the cruise line has ever sailed Viking Star to North America. The vessel’s arrival in Montreal will usher in the first official voyages to the Canadian Maritimes, New England, the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, as well as the sunny Southern Caribbean on voyages from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Viking Star will make her home this winter.
Torstein Hagen, Viking’s chairman and chief executive, likes to say that Viking is “a thinking man’s cruise,” and I’d have to agree with that. Viking Star has no casino clattering away with noise and chain-smoking diehards. There are no on-board photographers, and you’ll never be hassled to have your picture taken with a guy in a whale costume on the gangway.
There is a massive on-board art collection featuring Norwegian artists, but no hard-sell “champagne” art auction.
In fact, there’s very little “hard-sell” for anything here on-board. Like the company’s European river cruises, beer, wine and soft drinks are complimentary with lunch and dinner — and reasonably priced outside of those hours. Bar menus have gratuities already built into the price, with no need for additional tips.
You also don’t have to shell out for shore excursions if you don’t want to: Viking includes a selection of complimentary tours in every port of call, along with optional ones that come at an additional charge. I’ve been very pleased with these complimentary tours so far, most of which are panoramic city tours operated by motorcoach or on-the-ground walking tours.
Starting with an overnight stay in Bergen, we then sailed for Lerwick, in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, before heading for Torshavn, in the Faroe Islands. A massive fall storm — not uncommon for the North Atlantic at this time of year — caused us to skip that port, but guests remained enthusiastic even as, like true Vikings, we battled 40-foot seas and Gale-force winds.
Each port of call on this itinerary was thoughtfully selected for its past Viking history, from Reykjavik, Iceland to Nanortalik and Qaqortoq, Greenland. The last half of this itinerary was strictly Canadian, with calls made to L’Anse aux Meadows, N.L. (the only confirmed Viking settlement in North America); Saguenay, Que., and Quebec City.
This voyage will be wrapping up in Montreal, which could explain why so many Canadians were on board. Other guests included an intoxicating mix of Americans, Brits and a smattering of Europeans who were eager for the unique opportunity to cross the Atlantic between Norway and Canada. Sailings like this are exceedingly rare, with most cruise lines opting to sail their repositioning voyages between England, Spain and the U.S.
As amazing as this itinerary was, it really doesn’t matter where Viking Star sails to. The on-board atmosphere is so relaxing that you’ll feel every bit as at home and welcomed in the Caribbean as you would in Norway or out on the North Sea. Every single public room is lined with books on travel, explorers, and great works of literature — and you can just pull one out and read it anywhere on the ship that you please. Board games, like Scrabble and Monopoly, adorn nearly every table in the ship’s multi-story atrium. Open deck spaces are plentiful, and the ship never feels crowded, even when it’s fully booked like this sailing was.
Viking Star sets sail from Montreal on Sunday, bound for New York. Like my crossing, that sailing sold out long ago. But currently there are still a couple of sailings with spots to be had on Viking’s inaugural season in the Caribbean, with 11-day “West Indies Explorer” voyages departing from San Juan from mid-October to February 2017.
Viking’s ocean cruises are a master class in how good vacations should be. Restful, educational and luxurious, my 15 days aboard Viking Star reminded me of the best days of classic cruising, reimagined and updated for generations to come.