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Viking Star Cruise Review
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,878 Reviews

They got everything right on our Northern Lights cruise

Viking Star Cruise Review by Frank CC

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jan 2020
  • Destination: Norwegian Fjords

(Sorry in advance for the long review.)

My wife & I had not been on any significant cruises in the past decade because the trend to larger ships goes against most of what I want in a cruise. Things that are important to me are: lack of crowds, not feeling like each activity or announcement was a grab for more money, food properly prepared (does not need to be uber-high end, but it shouldn't taste like cafeteria/buffet food), opportunities for learning, flexibility of choices, happy crew that were allowed to show their personality, and pretty but not ostentatious decor. I don't care a lot about stage shows and performers.

As I had heard about, embarkation and disembarkation were effortless and fast. The ship was beautiful and seemed to call out for relaxation. In virtually every area at all times, there were open places to sit or lounge. Not surprisingly on this cold-weather cruise, there was almost never anyone in either pool and rarely someone in the hot tubs.

The thermal suite was a joy and we enjoyed hitting the steam room followed by the snow grotto (although my wife enjoyed that cold room more than I did), followed by some soaking in the warm pool.

Whether because of the cold environment or the advanced age of a lot of the passengers, we found the ship interior a bit warm. I had been expecting to wear a sweater most of the time on the ship, but we found that was definitely not needed.

Wifi speeds were adequate for our needs. I would occasionally watch videos on YouTube or download an app, and it was fine for that, and was definitely good enough for email.

I liked the Chef's Table (fixed menu and wine pairings) almost as much as I enjoyed the Italian restaurant Manfredi's. We often got room service for breakfast and the quality and freshness was good there too. Surprising to me was that we used the World Cafe far more than we used The Restaurant -- quality in those two areas were good and fairly similar.

Our cabin attendants, Olivera and Jackie, were amazing. Olivera in particular made us feel like old friends, quickly building up shared in-jokes and repartee.

Even though we are not heavy drinkers, we loved the Silver Spirits drink package. Upgrading the wines with dinner was nice, but not worrying about the bill at the end of the trip made having a good time less stressful. And at $20/person/day, I enjoyed having it paid for in advance even if it might not have actually been cheaper.

We did a couple of treatments at the spa, and it was great not having them try to sell us a bunch of products. The products were available if you wanted them, but there was no hard sell (or even soft sell).

The fitness center was never full, and was only in the mornings was it somewhat busy. I liked that they had an area for non-machine activities (yoga, stretching, etc.).

I cannot comment much on the Viking excursions -- we arranged for our own tours in most of the cities because we like private walking tours of city centers. And for Northern Lights spotting, I highly recommend Northern Soul Adventures in Tromso. We did a couple of activities with them and loved both.

We had booked three separate tours to maximize our chances of seeing the Northern Lights. The first one turned out to be the best (see the photos from our Tromso tour). The next one was cancelled because it was very cloudy. And the last one, in Alta, had great conditions but dimmer lights, although they were multi-colored which was cool. And we saw them a couple of times from the ship. So we got quite lucky with respect to aurora sighting!

One bit of advice: be ready for the ship's plans to change. You are sailing in the North Sea in January and the captain will not hesitate to do things for safety. On our trip, we did not stop in Bodo due to unacceptable seas in that area (we toured a fjord instead) and they had to slow down the ship a LOT during a storm so that we got into Bergen at 11:30 pm instead of 1:00 pm, effectively eliminating the opportunity to tour that city for people that did not do the 2-day add-on. If things like that will bother you a bunch, this may not be the cruise for you. The ship is sailing in an area with unpredictable weather and seas -- flexibility is a good thing to have.

This was my first Viking cruise and I would not hesitate to recommend the line for people who are not looking for activities you can only get on a mega-ship. We will definitely be cruising with them again.

Frank CC's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Public Rooms
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

I had heard that some cabins do not have adequate storage, but at least in our cabin category, that was not the case. Even with the large volume of extra clothing we brought due to the cold conditions, we had room to store everything easily. We even had a couple of empty drawers!

Having sodas and snacks in the fridge was really nice. We never touched any of the hard liquor in there, but having some wine and beer of our choosing was nice.

They offered memory foam pillows and I am glad we got them.

And because we enjoyed it, Olivera would stay and chat and laugh fairly often.

Even though the sound insulation was good for the most part, we could hear the TV in the adjoining cabin as if it were in our room. Since the TV (and its rearward-facing speakers) is mounted on a common wall, I wish they had done more to insulate in this region.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

The Old Town

4-hour walking tour with Katharine booked through TourHQ. Loved it. She tailored our trip to what we seemed to be enjoying most, and talked about what it is like to live in Norway vs. other countries she has lived in.

View All 57 The Old Town Reviews

Small group, flexible itinerary, great snacks

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Frank CC
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