The detail and design of Viking Ocean are identical onboard each ship. // © 2016 Viking Cruises
Feature image (above): Viking Ocean Cruises will visit destinations such as Santorini, Greece. // © 2016 Viking Cruises
The key to Viking Cruises’ longstanding success ultimately comes down to a winning combination: quality mixed with value.
And this pairing has led to accessible cruising for a large number of people, according to Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman for Viking, who addressed the company’s mission during the inauguration of the new 930-passenger Viking Sea.
“We create innovative design, and then we pass the savings along to the guests,” Hagen said. “We plan with great care and then we have something to execute consistently.”
That formula certainly applies to Viking Ocean’s seagoing ships. Viking Star, the line’s first vessel, was enthusiastically received by travel agents and guests, and travelers who step onboard Viking Sea will feel at home with her elegant and home-like appointments.
Indeed, Viking’s design has drawn praise from magazines such as Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler. Ships have exceptional touches — heated tile floors in the bathrooms in both the river and ocean sector, walk-in closets in the high-level accommodations and more.
Although executives have yet to use the word “luxury” to define the product, guests apply this term often. Agents also benefit substantially from the company’s formula for success — Viking has eliminated non-commissionable fees and executives say the average commission is about $2,700 per booking.
Dining at sea is outstanding as well. Hagen believes that the best food should be available in the ships’ main restaurant, with the other venues serving as culinary alternatives rather than specialty restaurants known for higher-quality fare.
The buffets are impressive, and Mamsen’s, the cafe named after Hagen’s mother, is always in use. There is no charge for alternative dining, even at Chef’s Table or Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant.
This policy of not nickel-and-diming guests extends to other onboard features as well, such as unlimited complimentary laundry on seagoing ships. Executives described free Wi-Fi access as a basic necessity, and passengers’ beer, wine and soft drinks are included for lunch and dinner, as are ground transfers, and at least one shore excursion in every port.
Even with these inclusions, Viking’s price point compares to premium lines, not luxury ones. Hagen said in both river and ocean cruising, the company has pretty much achieved its goal of reinventing ocean cruising and setting the standard on the rivers.
Viking now deploys 64 river ships, 49 with the Viking Longship design. Expansion has slowed to six new river cruise ships this year, and demand is on par with last year due to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium. Two additional ships are set to launch next year.
Meanwhile, in the seagoing fleet, four new ships will join Viking Star and Viking Sea by 2020, with two debuting next year in February and October, one in June of 2018 and one by September of 2020.
Jeff Dash, the project lead for the ocean’s newbuild management team, said the new additions will make Viking the largest operator of small ships — carrying fewer than 1,000 passengers — in the world.
Hagen describes Viking’s entrance into the sea-faring market “as near to perfect as you can get.”
“Seldom has anybody seen a cruise line come out of the gate as No. 1,” he said.