Viking Cruises' first foray into ocean cruises is causing quite a stir in the cruising industry. Up until now, they've been among the heavy hitters of river cruising, and everyone's been eagerly awaiting how river's all-inclusive model, education programs, and more will be translating to the high seas. But after a recent Lisbon-to-London media preview, we think the Viking Star also deserves an identity of its own. Irrespective of its history, luxury doesn't even begin to describe the experience of being on the nine-deck, 930-passenger "small ship." So here's a first, objective look at one of the most important areas of any cruising vessel: the staterooms.The Viking Star has 465 staterooms, each with a king-sized bed, and none that are adjoining. While other cruise ships offer an overwhelming number of stateroom categories -- well over 15 for the bigger ones -- the Viking Star has a reasonable five. That's enough to cater to a variety of traveler needs, without making the research process a giant headache. During our five nights onboard, we felt like we were sailing in a five-star hotel, with impeccable service to match. Here, seven specific aspects we loved about this home away from home:
1. All staterooms have a veranda.
Nothing beats starting and ending your day on a cruise standing on your very own balcony, staring off into the horizon. Fortunately, even the Viking Star’s lowest stateroom category boasts this feature. The sizes of the balconies range from 46 to 490 square feet, and all have at least a table with a couple of chairs. (The stateroom categories are, from lowest to highest: veranda, deluxe veranda, penthouse veranda, penthouse junior suite, and explorer suite.)
2. Deluxe veranda rooms and higher have a coffeemaker.
When's the last time you found a coffeemaker in your cruise stateroom? Probably never. While most ships don't offer this amenity in-room, Viking Star does, at least in the four higher categories. The coffeemakers come with coffee pods, cups, sweeteners, and creamer. In a veranda stateroom -- or just don't have the time to brew a cup before heading out? There’s always the option of ordering from room service or popping upstairs to the 24-hour beverage station on Deck 7.
3. Four out of five stateroom categories have a mini bar with drinks and snacks.
Look, it’s pretty difficult to go hungry -- or thirsty -- on a cruise. After all, on the Viking Star, there’s the aforementioned beverage station to quench your thirst at all hours of the day, not to mention the unlimited beer and wine that's included with lunch and dinner. But what if you prefer not to hightail it from your room to another deck? Every stateroom, with the exception of those in the veranda category, has a mini bar stocked with complimentary drinks and snacks like Twix. Those in the three highest room categories also get alcoholic beverages. The minibar is replenished once daily at no charge, and a pitcher of water found in every stateroom is refilled twice daily. (If you'd like additional stock, you can fill out a form to do so, for $1-$4.)
4. There's so much storage space that you can truly feel at home.
No one loves living out of a suitcase. Good thing, then, that our mid-range penthouse veranda stateroom had more than enough storage space for a six-day sailing. We had nearly a dozen drawers to stow all of our clothes and essentials away, with lots of room to spare. Our favorite touch was the motion sensor light in the spacious closet.
5. The bathrooms -- yes, the bathrooms -- pack a punch.
Dare we say the Viking Star’s stateroom bathrooms are better than our own? Here’s why we would: there are heated floors, a retractable clothes line, and even a couple of drawers and small but very functional shelves. There's a nice amount of counter space, too, for all of your toiletries. All in all, it's sleek and modern, with glass-walled showers, wood finishes, and soothing stone tiles.
6. The TV has on-demand movies and TV shows.
When you're not out exploring the ship and the beautiful destinations that she ports in, maybe you'll have the opportunity to enjoy your stateroom TV, which offers up dozens of classic films and even recent releases, plus some episodes of hit TV shows like Friends, Mike and Molly, and Scandal. Also on your TV, you can book shore excursions and spa treatments, review your onboard account, and check out your itinerary and calendar.
7. There are plenty of other thoughtfully little touches.
These include a built-in vanity at the desk that's extremely helpful when applying makeup. There's even a little pull-up nook for storing jewelry and other small items. And we haven't yet mentioned the robes and slippers -- requisites for any pampering vacation.