Recommend had the opportunity to board the Viking Star in New York for a sailing that would take the 930-passenger ship to San Juan, Puerto Rico, her homeport through February 2017. The sailing, which was hosted by Viking Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen, offered travel agents the opportunity to truly understand Viking Ocean Cruises’ distinct philosophy. As Hagen explained during an onboard conference, the cruise line differentiates itself by:
• Not trying to be everything for everyone. Agents should focuses on English-speaking, mature couples with curious minds and an interest in history, culture, and geography, while offering an alternative experience on a small, quiet ship.
• Being a destination-oriented cruise line.
• Offering a highly inclusive product without nickel-and-diming.
• Being an efficient operator and pass savings on to guests.
• Offering a small ship experience at a large ship cost.
• Hiring the best staff in the cruise industry.
Hagen noted that for every week a guest spends on a river cruise, they spend four weeks on an ocean cruise. “People go on Viking Cruises to be informed, educated; and they have curious minds. There’s a reason why we don’t have a casino,” says Hagen. “We don’t want to be an overwhelming thing, we want the ship to be the means of transportation to get to a destination,” he added.
Hagen didn’t hold back on what sets Viking apart either, as he pointed out all of the features Viking does not have in comparison to its competitors—a list he’s proud of. These include no casino, no children under 18, no umbrella drinks, no photographers, no art auctions and no formal nights. Clients will want to know there’s also no charge for beer and wine, no charge for alternative restaurants, no charge for WiFi, and for Viking Ocean Cruises, there’s also no charge for the use of spa amenities or laundry.
There’s also included shore excursions at every port; informative port talks; comfortable bathrooms with heated floor, large-size toiletries, and a spacious shower; extensive power and USB outlets in the cabins; leather handrails and cabin door handles; and a calm, relaxing ambiance. And new to Viking is a partnership with NPR, which will bring NPR journalists on board for engaging discussions.
Life on Board
Between touring gorgeous towns, and participating in informative talks, and maybe a cooking demonstration, too, your clients will need a little time to unwind and relax. That’s where my favorite spot on the ship comes in—the spa, which features a snow grotto, complete with fluffy snow; a warm sauna; and an indoor pool, all of which work together to stimulate the circulatory system. These spa amenities, incidentally, are offered complimentary to all guests. And, of course, there are plenty of treatments to choose from.
New for Viking Ocean are Scandinavia itineraries, including the 15-day Viking Homelands sailing April through September from Stockholm to Bergen with 23 sailings a year; the 15-day Into the Midnight Sun itinerary sailing Bergen to London June through July with five sailings; and the 15-day British Explorer itinerary sailing May through August on three cruises a year from Bergen to London. Also new are Mediterranean sailings in the autumn, winter, and spring, including the 10-day Empires of the Mediterranean itinerary sailing Venice to Athens with five sailings March through April; and the 13-day Mediterranean Odyssey sailing Barcelona to Venice in March, April, and October with six cruises a year. The line will also be repositioning to America via Iceland and Greenland on the 15-day In the Wake of the Vikings sailing from Bergen to Montreal offering two sailings in September. Plus, the new Caribbean sailing from San Juan, the 11-day West Indies Explorer, offering nine cruises through February.
In December 2017, Viking will launch its first World Cruise sailing for 141 days, but get your clients on it quickly, because Hagen noted that it’s already 83 percent booked. In 2019, Viking Ocean will launch a Far East and Australia itinerary for the winter and a summer Alaska sailing. Also for 2019, Viking Spirit will sail 93 days from February to May visiting Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Butan, Yokohama in Japan, Petropavlovsk in Russia, Seward in Alaska, and Vancouver.
When asked if Viking would be sailing the U.S. rivers such as the Mississippi, Hagen said, “It’s a product our guests want, but we have to make sure we can deliver it.”
Agents, Hagen also noted that Viking pays higher commission than its competitors, offering a 14.6 percent commission on Viking Star.
Viking’s Million Dollar Voyage
Viking is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year and is offering travel professionals a
chance to win $1 million. To participate in the “Your Ship Has Come In: Viking Million
Dollar Voyage” contest, which runs through March 31, qualified agents must register at vrc.com/million. Each qualified Viking River Cruises or Viking Ocean Cruises reservation made during the booking window will count as an entry in the contest. There is no limit on the number of entries an agent can have, and the winner will be chosen at random from all qualified bookings.