The Unexpected Star Of Viking River Cruises


Christening complete, a dozen more Viking Longships will begin sailing as the 2015 river cruise season begins.  Enabling a couple thousand more travelers to enjoy the Viking travel experience each week, a hearty congratulations is in order. Thank you Viking River Cruises for creating and promoting a comfortable way to see the world for culturally curious travelers.

(very brief pause for applause, because that’s the way Viking rolls)

Soon, Viking Star will launch,  promising to deliver to oceans what Viking Longships have brought to rivers. Simply put; a thoughtfully planned travel experience like no other.

It makes sense that Viking Cruises will bring to the table award-winning travel options.  Since debuting in 2012, Viking Longships have racked up a long list of awards. ‘Best River Cruise Ships‘, rated the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.  “Best New River Ships” proclaimed Cruise Critic’s® Editors’ Picks Awards.  Look for Viking Oceans to perform equally as well.  While there is a lot we still do not know about Viking Star, we do have a lot of information on Viking Longships. Reviewing the flavor of those vessels might give us a better idea of what to expect from Viking Star, the first of at least three, maybe four or possibly even ten new ships.

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How important to Viking is the longships concept? Viking River Cruises has changed the name of  their new ships, making “longship” the middle name of every vessel which qualifies.   The award-winning Viking Odin I sailed for the marvelous 15-night Grand European Tour is now Viking Longship Odin.  This is serious business with Viking and the longship design is no accident. To put this in perspective; adding ‘longship’ to the name of these vessels feels much like saying the Carnival ‘Fun Ships’.  Both are accurate and reflect a considerable differentiating factor of the line.

 

It’s Not Totally About Destinations

At a press conference just before the 2015 Viking Longship Christening, Chairman Torstein Hagan gave credit to Viking’s patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology. Corridors on most river cruise ships go right down the center of the deck plan.  Moving that corridor slightly to the side enabled Viking to add not only balconies to staterooms but two-room suites as well.  Hybrid diesel engines which operate much more efficiently, in the process reducing vibration, enabled adding two top end Explorer’s Suites to each ship.  The end result was a diverse selection of accommodations, priced below competitors.

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The expansion of Viking’s fleet comes as a response to increased traveler demand for destination-focused cruises.  That means more travelers can try a Viking River Cruise than ever before, with new inventory bringing an opportunity to sail still in 2015.   Viking River Cruises: right on track, this year’s expansion complete, 64 total ships.  In 2016, probably another 6 ships will join the Viking fleet as the carefully grown company makes its way to 100 total ships, an unofficial goal that makes a lot of sense.  It’s the right product at the right time, done very well.

On The Horizon: More Of The (Fabulous) Same

Viking Oceans, sight unseen, is proving popular too with inaugural season sailings selling out far in advance. That’s the power of a highly visible brand that also happens to do a very good job delivering their product.  Not all do.  Some did and don’t now. Others try and fail.  Still more are improving but have a long way to go.  Vikings have clear direction, an interesting travel experience and good people in place to make it all work.

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Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

On takeaways from the 2015 Viking Longships Ceremony, the focus put on Viking employees at a time normally reserved to spotlight hardware,  is impressive.  At the launch of most ships, it is the ship that is the star of the show with Godmothers playing a strong supporting role.  Rightfully so, that new ship aroma can be intoxicating to all.  Imagine then the herculean effort necessary to refocus that natural ship-centric spotlight on to the people consumers come in direct contact with rather than the ship they will ride on.  The ‘people variable’ is the one we watch closest of all,  on all cruise lines.  At the end of the day, the ship and destinations are still things and places.  Marvelous things and interesting places to be sure and quite consistently so with only rare mechanical issues or climatic changes in weather or politics affecting them.   Getting the people factor right is tough, ongoing work.

“We are immensely proud of the response to our new ships that we continue to receive from guests and industry experts,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises in a press release that came out just after the launch of those dozen ships.

Of continued importance to us, as some of the people who ride on those ships, that statement was followed in the same breath by  “It is always important that we recognize those who have helped us achieve success, and this year I am especially pleased to honor fellow Vikings as godmothers of our newest river vessels.”

So, customer first, employees a close second: Viking is singing our song.

Long after the Viking brochure we received in the mail has been put away, at a time when Viking’s enticing television advertising is a distant memory and when the actual experience is taking place, it’s those crew members that will make wonderful things to happen.  The 2015 Viking Longships Christening was a good day for cruise travelers as the true star of Viking River Cruises was honored for the professional, efficient and often thoughtful job they do.

What About Those Tinkerbells
Chrtistening - 093Seen at the 2015 Viking Longships Christening, these little girls all carried pillows with special scissors for cutting the line which released the ceremonial bottle of champagne at the ship’s naming.

Later, at a Christening Dinner, a different tinkerbell would fly over the audience, ushering in a moment when Viking employees gathered to thank Chairman Hagan. “Because of your dream, you have created a company that is first class, well-known and respected, ” said Viking Longship Lofn godmother Karoline Landa Controller & Hotel Manager , thanking Hagan for his “drive and his vision” that made it possible for “4,500 colleagues around the world that are proud to call themselves Vikings.”

So full circle it has come, this mutual respect of a company’s management and the front-line workers.

Considering which cruise line to engage for a great future travel experience, this one has our highest recommendation.  This one you will return from and tell me how wonderful it was, not what went wrong, did not happen that was supposed to or simply did not live up to expectations.  We want to know how it went for you and want to hear both the good and the not-so good.  Still, directing readers to an experience that has the best odds of providing that usually returns the best results. This mutually beneficial business relationship Viking and Viking employees share increases those odds dramatically.

Pictured above, Viking Program Director “Joey”, a Viking employee typical of those we find on every ship we sail.