This is a banner year for Viking River Cruises, having just christened the first four of its new Viking Longships at a spectacular event in Amsterdam last week, and with two more longships to debut later this year. We spoke with Richard Marnell, senior v.p. of marketing at Viking River Cruises, to find out more about this milestone year in which Viking celebrates its 15-year anniversary.
Taylor Harker: Can you tell me a bit about the six new Viking Longships that Viking River Cruises will be debuting? Will they all be debuted this year?
Richard Marnell: Viking will set an industry record by debuting six new Viking Longships in 2012. Designed by celebrated maritime architects Yran & Storbraaten, the Viking Longships will herald a new standard in European river cruising. The new vessels will hold 190 passengers and will feature cutting-edge technology and amenities including energy-efficient hybrid engines and the largest real suites in Europe, as well as more full-size rooms and full-size verandahs than other European river cruise vessels.
The Viking Njord, Viking Odin, Viking Idun and Viking Freya, christened last week, will sail Viking’s most popular European itineraries including the 15-day Grand European Tour, 8-day Romantic Danube, 8-day Danube Waltz and 10-day Tulips & Windmills. Joining their sister ships, two more Viking Longships—Viking Embla and Viking Aegir—will make their debut in July and August 2012, respectively. Viking is also planning the launch of two additional Viking Longships in 2013.
TH: Can you recommend one or two of your favorite itineraries? What about them makes them so spectacular?
RM: I don’t know if I can pick just one favorite, but I’m really excited about our revamped Russia program. Viking got its start with four ships in Russia, and as we celebrate our 15th anniversary this year, we’re also celebrating a completely refurbished fleet for the 2012 season. Because of our heritage in Russia, Viking is the only river cruise line that can provide travelers with a variety of immersive and intimate experiences throughout our Waterways of the Czars cruise. From behind-the-scenes access to the Hermitage Museum and live onboard performances by Mariinsky musicians to a visit to a Dacha home in the Russian countryside, our Russia cruises are truly an unforgettable experience.
TH: In what areas does Viking River Cruises sail?
RM: Viking sails in six regions worldwide—Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt—which is more than any river cruise company. By doing so, we can offer more itineraries, more departures and more experiences to all guests, past and future, who want the immersive experience and the camaraderie that a river cruise can provide.
TH: And what is your most popular itinerary in Europe?
RM: Among Viking’s most popular European itineraries are the 15-day Grand European Tour, 8-day Romantic Danube, 8-day Danube Waltz and 10-day Tulips & Windmills. Each itinerary features spectacular views, excursions in Europe’s most exalted cities, visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our exclusive Culture Curriculum program designed to enhance passengers’ journey through the heart of Europe.
TH: What makes a Viking cruise experience different than something guests can find on board another company’s ships?
RM: Viking River Cruises prides itself on providing guests with an immersive travel experience via our Culture Curriculum program. Designed to complement excursions with enrichment offerings, hands-on activities, demonstrations and lectures, Viking’s Culture Curriculum is an exclusive program that has proved to be a favorite amongst new and past guests for the way it illuminates the cultures and cities visited. Passengers can participate in onboard lectures, regional food and drink tastings and excursions to sites of historical, cultural and artistic importance; all as part of an enriching and unforgettable voyage.
TH: Does the staff aboard a Viking cruise have any particular goals they aim for in regard to guest experiences for each cruise?
RM: Viking’s onboard staff of more than 1,500 people means that the guests’ every need is anticipated and expectations met. In fact, Viking has won more consumer and industry awards than any other river cruise line and our guests have awarded us a 99.6 percent satisfaction rating, saying that we have met or exceeded their expectations.