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Viking Cruises: Cruise For Thought

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© Viking Cruises Aschaffenburg, Germany (photo courtesy of Viking)

By Mimi Kmet, TravelPulse

When Viking Cruises launches Viking Orion in June, it will be the fifth ocean-going ship in a fleet that made its debut with Viking Star in 2015. By 2023, the ocean fleet will include 10 ships, carrying a total of 9,300 passengers.

Viking Sea entered service in 2016, and Viking Sky and Viking Sun joined the fleet in 2017. A sixth ship, Viking Jupiter, will inaugurate service in 2019. Including Viking’s large and expanding river cruise product, the company currently operates 64 vessels.

The growth spurt is a response to demand, according to Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. And that demand is a result of the company’s ocean cruising philosophy. “We have a unique approach to destination-focused ocean cruising that is built upon our success in river cruising,” Marnell said.

The ocean vessels’ size, 47,800 gross tons each, allow more direct access to ports, and easy embarkation and disembarkation. And each of the 465 staterooms and suites on every ship has a private veranda, bringing guests closer to the destinations. “We believe that the size of our ocean ships is the right size for our guests, which is why all of our ships are identical sister ships,” Marnell said.

Public areas are also destination-focused. For example, guests have views via a glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern, a wrap-around promenade deck, large windows and skylights, and al fresco dining options.

At the same time, the ships provide a culturally enriching onboard experience with a high level of service. “Onshore and onboard, we also focus on cultural enrichment, which immerses our guests in the destination,” Marnell said, noting that guests are primarily experienced travelers age 55 and older who are interested in science, history, art, culture, and cuisine. “Our Chairman, Mr. Torstein Hagen, often says that we are the ‘thinking person’s cruise,’ not the ‘drinking person’s cruise,’” he added.

To that end, the ships have no casinos, major theatrical productions, climbing walls or other large-scale bells and whistles that are typical of larger cruise ships. In addition, there are no children—guests must be 18 or older. “To us, luxury is not butlers in white gloves, formal nights and frivolous gimmicks; to us, luxury is personalized service, serene spaces, and comfortable exploration,” Marnell said.

The ships offer several onboard cultural programs via Viking’s Culture Curriculum, which includes music and art performances, cooking demonstrations, port talks and guest lecturers who speak on the destinations visited. The newest, which was launched in 2017, is the Viking Resident Historian program, featuring historians who provide guests with a historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey. Among the others are Munch Moments, which celebrate Norway’s most famous artist, Edvard Munch; the Viking Art & Design Guide, a mobile app that provides a walking tour of the ships and their Nordic art; The Kitchen Table, a cooking school that highlights the cuisine of the destinations on the itinerary; and Destination Performances, featuring music, theater, dancing and other performances that represent the areas visited.

Port calls also are designed for cultural immersion. On most itineraries, there is a call every day, including some that stay late into the evening or overnight. And shore excursions include a range of experiences that highlight different aspects of the destination. Local Life excursions, for example, feature visits to local homes and cultural activities that allow guests to obtain an authentic glimpse of daily life in specific ports. Working World excursions allow guests to experience how farmers, artisans, and fishermen make their living. And Privileged Access tours feature such exclusive experiences as a behind-the-scenes private tour of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Besides those experiences, fares include WiFi, specified shore excursions, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, access to the Nordic-inspired spa and fitness center, self-service laundry, 24-hour room service, ground transfers (with air purchase), and port charges and government taxes—which add up to a value of more than $200 per guest, per day.

Moreover, Viking’s ocean ships have eight dining options, all with no additional fee, including The Chef’s Table, which offers a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings, and Manfredi’s, which features fine Italian cuisine.

Per diems start at $463 per person, double, including air, for Northern European itineraries in 2018, according to a Viking spokesperson. Itineraries range from eight to 15 days—to destinations that include Northern Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Americas and the Caribbean.

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