Turning Back Time Aboard Viking Star
“I enjoyed myself as if I were on a summer palace by the sea, surrounded by every comfort.
-Colonel Archibald Gracie
Guests awoke today aboard Viking Cruises’ Viking Star to calm seas, overcast skies and temperatures warmer than we’re used to – a balmy 9°C.
Today, we’re cruising the Labrador Sea en-route to our first North American port of call on Viking Star’s maiden transatlantic crossing: the early Viking settlement now known as L’Anse aux Meadows, in the Canadian province of Newfoundland.
A transatlantic crossing may very well be the best form of time machine ever devised. While the amenities and features have changed since the glory days of the ocean liners of the 1920’s and 30’s, the art of the Sea Day has not.
Transoceanic travel in the early part of the last century was a double-edged sword. For business travellers or the independently wealthy, it was a chance to rest and recuperate. Indeed, doctors of the time used to prescribe a long ocean voyage as a treatment for maladies that ran the gamut, from the common cold to bouts of hysteria. For others, a transoceanic voyage represented the end of their old lives and the start of something new as thousands of Europeans immigrated to North America.
Yet, the way these two groups enjoyed themselves is very similar to the way we enjoy a day at sea now, in the closing months of 2016.
Open up any maritime book on ocean liners and you’re likely to see photos of elegantly-dressed people relaxing in deck chairs, or taking in the air out on the promenade deck. As the teens gave way to the 1920’s and 1930’s, deck games became more popular. By the 1950’s and 1960’s, poolside games were all the rage; brochures from the period show men in ridiculous-looking bathing trunks chatting up bikini-clad women, who smile back coyly. Make no mistake: the PR departments of the time were pretty blatant at hinting about what might result from such interactions.
Today, the experience is similar, but different. Guests are no longer defined by the rigid dress codes of the early part of the last century, and the overt sexuality used as a marketing technique went out with The Love Boat. Yet pool games are still enjoyed, people still take the air on the Promenade Deck, and guests still relax in deck chairs, albeit with far more casualness than a century ago.
Seasickness – which certainly doesn’t affect us here onboard Viking Star today, with our calm winds and following seas – was cured a century ago with a variety of concoctions that were rooted in superstition or just plain ignorance. Remedies of the time included ether, opium, and cocaine – the latter of which was particularly popular with the ladies, notes Luxury Liners: Life on Board author Catherine Donzel.
What has changed is the comfort in which we sail the Atlantic, which here aboard the Viking Star in 2016, is unparalleled.
In the old days, ships lacked stabilizer fins, and this made them susceptible to dangerous rolling. Some ships rolled so badly even in calm seas that they were known as “rollers.” Of course, in keeping with the times, such ships were afforded folksy names like “Rollin’ Billy.” On other ships, vibration from the ship’s propellers was so severe that cabins mounted directly at the stern were unusable, and passengers could barely hear themselves speak in the ship’s public rooms.
None of that is an issue here aboard Viking Star, which employs the latest technology that leaves her even quieter and less prone to vibration than even other modern cruise ships. And she owes much of her quietness to her unique propeller design.
Rather than utilising the pivoting Azipod propulsion systems that many newbuilds feature, Viking Star became the first-ever cruise ship to feature the Rolls-Royce Promas propulsion system when she was launched last year.
Essentially, Rolls-Royce Promas is made up of two traditional, shaft-driven propellers that operate on a variable-pitch arrangement. This means that the blades can be “feathered” or rotated to increase, decrease, or reverse the motion of the ship, all without changing the direction of the shaft itself.
What makes Rolls-Royce Promas different from other systems is that the flap-style rudders are positioned within centimetres of the end caps of the pr