Viking Star sailed into New York last month, marking “a new era of possibilities” for the company, according to Viking’s chairman and CEO. // © 2016 Viking Cruises
Feature image (above): By 2019, Viking Ocean Cruises will have 5,580 beds on six ships. // © 2016 Viking Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star sailed into New York in October, heralding an impressive global expansion for the brand, including a world cruise.
The new Americas and the Caribbean cruises that Star is launching from San Juan, Puerto Rico, are not your average Caribbean sailings. The ship operates an 11-day West Indies Explorer itinerary with an island call every day (no sea days). Guests will spend time on islands including Tortola, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe, Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Martin and St. Thomas.
“With the same spirit as the Vikings, who originally sailed their longships across the Atlantic, arriving in North America signifies a new era of possibilities for our company and our guests,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman and CEO for Viking. “As our fleet continues to grow, we will look for new ways to bring our unique destination-focused approach to more regions of the world. There are no kids onboard, and there are no umbrella drinks. Instead, our Caribbean itineraries are inspired by iconic 18th-century navigation routes and were developed to highlight the rich history and culture of the region.”
But this is only the beginning. By 2019, Viking will have 5,580 beds on six ships: the existing Star and Viking Sea; Viking Sky and Viking Sun in 2017; Viking Spirit in 2018; and one unnamed ship for 2020. In addition, with two river cruise ships dedicated to the mainland China market (which feature Mandarin as the primary onboard language) launching on European rivers, and a $500 million investment from TPG Capital and the Canada Pension Plan to spur future growth, it would seem to be only a matter of time until Viking announces new dedicated seagoing ships in the Chinese market. However, the company has no comment on this yet.
With all this expansion, Viking ships are spreading out like, well, Vikings, with the upcoming Spirit designated for cruises in Asia and Australia/New Zealand in 2018/19, and in Alaska in 2019 (bookings are not yet open). Hagen notes that Spirit will sail on itineraries including Bangkok to Hong Kong; Seward, Alaska, to Vancouver, British Columbia; and a 93-day Auckland, New Zealand, to Vancouver Circle Pacific cruise.
“Many of our guests like to take long cruises,” Hagen said.
Viking Ocean Cruises is accommodating these cruisers with the company’s first world cruise, which will depart from Miami Dec. 15, 2017, and Jan. 4, 2018, from Los Angeles. The 120-day cruise is already 83 percent booked, and Viking has not sold any segments. Hagen says 74 percent of the cruise was sold within a month after the books opened. The cruise will be onboard Sun and sail from Los Angeles to London, or guests can opt for the 141-day sailing from Miami to London.
The Miami to London route will allow guests to visit Cuba and the Caribbean; sail the Panama Canal and the South Pacific; explore Asian ports from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and cruise the Arabian, Red and Mediterranean seas before sailing in the North Atlantic. World cruise passengers will receive a complimentary shore excursion in each of the 66 ports, free unlimited Wi-Fi access, business class airfare, all gratuities and service fees, a Silver Spirits beverage package including virtually all drinks onboard, free laundry services (both self-service launderettes and full-service laundry) and all onboard medical services.
Meanwhile, Viking ships continue to sail Northern Europe, including cruises between Stockholm and Bergen, Norway, and Bergen and London, and the line is offering two In the Wake of the Vikings cruises next year between Bergen and Montreal.
Hagen attributes much of the success of the line’s ocean cruising to the company’s expertise in river cruising.
“We know how to design and operate small ships with tremendous efficiency, and we pass the savings along to customers,” Hagen said. “We built our ocean cruise line on the shoulders of our river cruise operation.”