Just how close does the 930-passenger Viking Star come to being an all-inclusive?
Much closer than any of its competitors, that’s for sure. Viking River Cruises makes a policy of not “nickel and diming” on its river cruises, and it has carried that over to, Viking Ocean Cruises ship—the line’s first ocean vessel.
Here, seven things you have to pay for on all but the luxury lines that are included here:
In each port of call, local guides who offer history and point out the best of local sights lead tours. These tour guides use “Quietvox” systems to broadcast their observations to the cruisers in their group as they lead passengers around the port town on walking or coach tours. And while the line also offers upgraded tours for a fee, only Regent Seven Seas (a much more expensive cruise option) includes shore excursions for passengers.
The good news: There is no charge for wireless Internet on board. The bad news: You can stream video and it’s slow at best, and (at worst) drops you frequently. Still, you can walk around the ship and see passengers sharing comments on Facebook and texting with friends and family, an experience that can be just as frustrating on most other laws but also racks up a big bill at checkout time.
This ship has two alternative dinner restaurants—Manfredi’s and Chef’s Table—both of which would come with a substantial fee on other ships.
Manfredi’s, easily the better of the two, is a polished Italian restaurant with handmade pastas, and classic dishes such as osso bucco, bistecca Florentine, and veal saltimbocca. Appetizers include lovely salads and well-done soups, as well as treats like fried calamari and octopus carpaccio; desserts, from tiramisu to ricotta cheesecake and a dense pistachio cake, are all rich and satisfying. It’s a big upgrade from the occasionally spotty dining room, and a restaurant we would gladly pay extra for any night of the week.
Chef’s Table, a five-course set tasting menu full of foams and tuiles (think wafers), may be less impressive (with its small portions and weak alternate choices for vegetarians and those with limited diets), but it still feels like a welcome break from the dining room and buffet. These two spaces fill up quickly so the key to getting a table (even last minute) is being willing to dine after 8pm, when the mostly older crowd onboard prefers to have finished up their evening meal.
In addition, breakfast, lunch, and dinner come with no extra charge at Mamsen’s, the Swedish café in the Explorer’s Lounge that serves waffles, open-face sandwiches and soups, gorgeous multi-layer cakes topped with whipped cream and fruit or toasted almonds, and charcuterie served with dark, hearty breads.
At both lunch and dinner, wine, beer and soft drinks are included in the meal, a decision that makes pairing wine with your each course a reasonable option. In addition, throughout the day, coffee (including specialty espresso drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes) and teas (from the line’s list of 19 choices) are also included from any of the ship’s many coffee bars and lounges.
Not only is the spa’s thermal suite complimentary at all times for all passengers, it’s gorgeous. Walk through the doors and you’ll find a large Jacuzzi tub with a large fireplace beside it, a shower with multiple heads, a show with a bucket that’s designed to dump cold water on your head and cool you off, a steam room and a snow grotto—yes, that’s right, a room full of snow that you are expected to sit in barefoot in your bathing suit. That area is coed, but there are also single-sex saunas with cold plunge pools in the dressing rooms, and none of it comes with a charge. With no fee attached, expect peak times on sea days to be crowded, and come early, late, or during lunch if you prefer a quieter atmosphere.
While there are only one or two offered each day—such as Pilates, yoga, and Zumba—many lines (including Holland America and Oceania, which Viking competes with) charge approximately $12 per class, fees that can add up if you like to go every morning before you start your day.
This is included no matter what class of cabin you’re in, and it’s offered 24-hours a day. The menu isn’t enormous, nor does it include the daily dishes from the dining room or choices from the specialty restaurants—picture soups and salads, burger and other sandwiches, grilled salmon or chicken, and pasta as well as a few dessert options—but after a long day of travel or an especially tiring shore excursion it’s a pleasure to dine on your verandah or even in bed.