Viking Cruises was founded a little over 22 years ago. At the helm of Viking is Chairman Torstein Hagen. He oversees the river and ocean cruise product lines. A Norway native, he has extensive experience in the shipping and cruise industries. He is the former CEO of Royal Viking Line from 1980 to 1984, a respected line of its time. I recently had a chance to sit down with him and fellow journalists in Basel, Switzerland for a press conference before the naming of Seven new River Ships. This was the second time I had the honor to hear him personally speak about his product.
One thing I enjoy most is Chairman Hagen’s no nonsense approach. He knows what he wants to offer his guests and what he doesn’t. His vision is very clear. He offers his guests a great value for a what many people consider a luxury product. His passion to use clean Scandinavian designs on his river and ocean vessels helps set his brand apart. All the Viking Longships on the river and Viking Ocean vessels share almost identical designs. He explained this in a previous press conference. He stated the initial costs of designing a new ship and its interior are immense. Why would he need to redo this regularly if the first design was done right? Further, by not spending huge amounts they could offer a great cruise at a much better value than their competition. Other cruise lines completely redesign ships from top to bottom every few ships. Viking keeps almost everything the same. From the carpet, light fixtures and chairs. If something needs to be replaced, they don’t have to special order it. This is a bold move but, with a 98% guest satisfaction rate and loyal customers it is working for Viking.
The Chairman’s passion for simplicity continues to even the smallest things. Such as not having tubs in most of his staterooms. He explained that the tub takes up a lot of space. It can also be dangerous for older travelers. So by removing this it makes it safer and offers the guests more cabin space aboard their ships. Further, He designed the television remote controls to be simple and easy to use. As a passionate traveler himself he has his hand on every facet of the Viking Difference. Some of these things are:
- Good water pressure in the showers
- Easy to use TV remote and other items
- Easy to read Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Soap containers
- No-Nickel & Diming or “Fleecing” the Guests
- Attention to detail in all areas
These may sound trivial at first but, when they become frustrations to you or a guest, they can be key to a good or bad experience. Though the river and ocean products do vary in what they offer. Here is a list of what Viking does NOT do:
- No Casinos
- No children under 18
- No Umbrella dinks
- No Photographers
- No art auctions
- No formal nights
- No smoking
- No charge for beer or wine at lunch & dinner
- No charge for Wi-Fi
- No charge for the launderette
- No entrance fee to the spa
- No sales pressure in the spa
- No inside rooms
- No butlers
- No white gloves
- No charge for alternate restaurants
Viking River Growth
Viking plans to continue to grow at a rapid pace. They have plans for seven new river ships in 2020. This would bring their current 72 up to a staggering 79. The new ships on order are the Viking Gersemi and Viking Hervor and will sail on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. They will also be building Viking Fjorgyn, Viking Kari, Viking Radgrid and Viking Skaga which are dubbed ‘Baby Longships’ and specifically designed for Seine river cruising. Lastly, Viking Osiris will also be another Baby Longship and will sail along the Nile river. It will also mark the first Western company to own and operate an entirely new built ship on the Nile river. Some river cruise operators lease their river ships. Viking owns and operates the world’s largest fleet of vessels. This allows them to be nimble and make adjustments during low or high water level events. Since the vessels are identical, the guest experience is not affected. This allows them to offer a consistent level of service, increased efficiency and an overall better guest experience.
Oceans & Beyond
Viking is not resting on its success with their ocean cruises. With six current ocean ships, they currently have six more under construction. As many of you know, Viking has talked about offering cruises in the United States along the Mississippi River. Viking first announced plans to offer river cruises along the Mississippi in 2015. This on-again off-again plan has re-emerged with cities along the river announcing they have reached agreements to host Viking ships. The un-released images of the proposed five-story ships have been described as “a long ship on steroids” could carry up to 400 passengers. Chairman Hagen was asked about progress of offering Mississippi cruises? He joked he hoped to start “before the start of Mardi Gras”. We just don’t know what year that will be. Things appear to be moving in the right direction on all fronts and we will bring you more news as formal announcements are made.
Viking has not officially released any information on their expedition cruise ships but, news broke last July that they had signed a Letter Of Intent to order two ice-class expedition cruise ships from Norway’s Vard with an option to order two more. You may recall Vard also delivered Ponant’s Le Lapérouse with her maiden voyage in June 2018. During our press conference Hagen did make the first public acknowledgement of plans to enter the expedition cruise market. He said the ships will be small, but larger than current expedition ships to provide more comfort for guests. So it is safe to say, when Viking says they will allow their guests to “Explore the World In Comfort” they mean it.
Viking is on a trajectory to become one of the largest small ship ocean cruise lines in the world and will continue to be the biggest line in the river cruise business. For those watching Viking grow, it is exciting. We look forward to sharing it’s evolution with you.
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