My cruise was sponsored by Viking Cruises. Opinions are my own.
I was invited by Viking Cruises to experience the first half of the Viking Homelands cruise on the Baltic Sea aboard the ship Viking Star. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this luxury cruise experience was for me…but I’ll do my best! I may have overdone it with photos, but I want to show you as much of the full experience as I can.
This was the first cruise I’ve been on as my view of cruise ships was that of an over-crowded, impersonal all-inclusive with a guest ratio much higher than the crew. Viking Cruises changed my opinion. The Viking Star, a small ship built in 2015, holds a maximum of 930 guests and there is approximately one staff member per two guests and so much space that we could always find quiet places to curl up or visit with new friends.
The Viking Star
I don’t know where to begin with describing this amazing cruise, so let’s just start with the ship! Our stateroom had a lot of space, and one of my favourite things is the balcony off of our stateroom of course, and a full sliding glass door. There is a seating area to curl up and read, as well as either a king-size bed or twin beds, depending on your choice. Each stateroom also has a large bathroom with a heated floor, large closet, and drawers for clothing or whatever you choose. There is also a coffee maker if you choose to make coffee in your room instead of going out or ordering room service. In the desk, if you lift the top of it, is a hidden compartment where you can find binoculars, a vanity, and a few other highly top secret things—I’ll let you discover them on your own! There is also a minibar located inside the desk as well. When planning what to bring on this cruise, I checked out the map of this ship and discovered that there are laundry rooms on three decks. I was able to pack less and simply do laundry one day. The staterooms are also equipped with USB plugins so we didn’t need to bring large chargers for our devices.
During a private media tour, we explored the bridge and talking to the crew about navigation and controls. We were especially curious about how easy it seems to dock…yes that sounds silly but it’s a big boat and our docking seemed seamless.
Pictures say more than words when describing food…so you’re getting an eye full! During the sail, the staff became quite familiar with our food and drink preferences. In the Pool Café, I’d ordered the super spicy Pancho Villa burger with habañero mayo and requested an even spicier version. The chef remembered and had tabasco sauce waiting for me each time after that…and we laughed!
We went on a kitchen tour and witnessed the prep for all meals including fresh-made pasta and desserts, plus the super organized methods for preparing for breakfast—the busiest room service time of the day. The deck below the kitchen contained many freezers for fresh meat and seafood. We did not tour this deck as it is kept sealed and minimal access for food safety purposes.
Entertainment and Pampering
The ship has two cinemas and a stage which were always in use with entertainment, movies, documentaries, and information sessions about our next port.
One evening we saw Kristian Grey, a magician/entertainer with a fun sense of humour. He is not the traditional magician as he incorporated tasteful humour into his show. I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard!
There is no end to the pampering onboard the Viking Star! I spend some time in The Spa for a manicure, pedicure, and relaxation massage. If you’re planning on taking advantage of this, make sure to book early as the time slots fill up quickly, especially on “at sea” days.
Stockholm is the perfect city to start our adventure. Just one word of advice that I didn’t think of beforehand…arrive a day or two earlier so you have time to explore this beautiful city built over 14 islands with 50 bridges. The one quick tour we did was not enough, in my opinion. I will need to visit this gorgeous city again!
From our ship, we took a bus tour of Helsinki. I’m glad we were able to have a bit of a walk during our city tour and explored the market and a few city streets for about 30 minutes. Of course, more time is needed in the future but it was a good overview of the city.
St. Petersburg, Russia
We spend more time in the St. Petersburg port than any other stop, as the Baltic Sea was rough so we had to spend one extra day in Russia. There was so much to see in St. Petersburg and we started with a visit to Peterhof Palace just outside of the city. It’s also referred to as the “Russian Versailles”. The Palace is filled with elaborate gold decor and the grounds are vast and well-manicured. Gold statues, fountains, and beautiful flowers can be seen throughout.
A visit to St. Petersburg is not complete without seeing the ballet, Swan Lake. Even if you are not a fan of ballet, this is something you must experience! Photos aren’t allowed during the performance but others were taking photos at the end during the bows, so I snuck one in as well.
The Hermitage Museum with its white, gold and teal colours, draw a crowd, as well as the beautiful cathedrals and historic architecture. Directly across from our cruise ship stood the new Okhta Tower, built by the state-owned electric company. It is apparently the tallest building in Europe.
By far Tallinn was my favourite stop on this cruise. I would have loved to spend two or three days in this port to explore Old Town further—from the famous roof-top views (look close, in one of my photos you can see the Viking Star in the distance)—to wandering the cobblestone streets through colourful buildings.
I always look for unique doors when I travel and Tallinn did not disappoint! There are so many gorgeous ones throughout Old Town and some souvenir stores have “Doors of Tallinn” posters for sale. I thought I could make my own after all the shots I took!
Berlin is one of my favourite cities, though I’ve visited for only a day or two at a time. I would love to visit again but for longer. This was the final city of our Viking cruise and had a few hours Sunday afternoon and evening to explore a bit before staying overnight at the Sofitel Hotel. We hit the highlights such as Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral/Berlinner Dom, the Holocaust Memorial, and of course…my favourite Christmas store—Käthe Wohlfahrt. It’s a “must stop” for me so I can add to my Christmas decorations collection that I’ve purchased each visit.
There is so much more to a Viking ship and the cruise I experience but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I highly recommend this experience and suggest you book a cruise to experience it yourself. Visit Viking Cruises’ website for all of the cruises they offer. Next on my bucket list is a river cruise!
For even more photos, please visit my Instagram at @GirlontheGoCA
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My cruise was sponsored by Viking Cruises. Opinions are my own.