Now that more details are out about Viking Expeditions' new product and itineraries, what do trade sources think? What's the potential?
Last week, Travel Agent attended the Viking event and presentation at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, CA, where those new details were revealed. Here's a sampling of trade feedback from travel industry leaders and travel advisors.
Existing Viking Clients - Likely A Good Fit
Michael Consoli, franchise owner, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Roswell, GA, believes the new Viking expedition product is a positive addition to the many travel options the Viking brand already offers.
“Having an expedition offering means I don’t have to look elsewhere to fulfill my Viking clients’ adventurous side,” says Consoli, noting that the expedition ship design and stateroom offerings are “a nice extension of which the Viking guest is already familiar.”
Consoli -- recognized by Viking as the cruise line's top-selling travel advisor for several years running -- has already had good booking action from past Viking guests on six inaugural season Antarctica sailings previously opened up for sale only to past passengers.
In a follow up, Torstein Hagen, Viking's chairman, told the audience attending the Viking Jupiter christening event and expedition update announcement at the Beverly Hilton last week (see photo above) that those six sailings have now sold out.
So, for the newly announced voyages, “I cannot wait to present this to my new-to-Viking clients and adventure seekers," says Consoli.
As for the addition of Great Lakes sailings in 2022, Consoli called that “a game changer,” which “allows us to bring an option to our guests that will offer food and service that is a step above what is already sailing on the Great Lakes.”
Ship Design Creativity
“I have sailed to Antarctica many times and thought I knew what to expect at Viking’s announcement of Viking Expeditions but I should have known better,” Jean Newman-Glock, managing director - communications and public affairs, Signature Travel Network, told Travel Agent. “As Tor began to introduce the new ships it was clear, this was a passion project.”
Newman-Glock and others in the audience last week learned that Hagen had that “traveling to the ends of the Earth” passion from the age of 12 when he sent a letter to his sister in Ushuaia, Argentina, often the embarkation port for cruise ships heading to Antarctica. It’s important to note that his sister didn’t even live in Ushuaia.
But the 12-year-old sent it registered mail, so, of course, it was returned to sender as she wasn’t found there. That said, he then had a postmarked letter from what he considered the end of the earth. Hagen shared a slide of that (see photo above) during his presentation, and while he’s still not been to Ushuaia or Antarctica, someday he hopes to go.
After Hagen's "reveals" about the expedition ships, Newman-Glock praised the creative ship design changes, saying they’ve been “what we have all been wanting in expedition cruising…but didn’t know it.”
She cited “The Hangar,” for boarding Zodiacs inside the comfort of the ship, a theater and lecture hall with floor-to-ceiling windows that open to view what Newman-Glock calls "real life theater," such as Antarctic landscapes.
She also likes the addition of a fire pit, yellow submarines and the drying closet in each cabin.
What did she like best? “The decision not to have a helicopter,” she stressed. “My last trip to Antarctica, there was one buzzing around and it was just wrong in that pristine, quiet world.” She credits the Viking team for not considering the marketing or glitz angle of introducing a helicopter: “They decided it was just wrong.”
Taking Expedition to the Next Level
Also in attendance last week in Beverly Hills was Betsy Geiser, vice president, Uniglobe Travel Center of Irvine, CA, who believes Viking has already taken ocean cruising to the next level with sleek ship design and an adults-only concept.
Now, she’s even more intrigued because again, with the expedition announcement, “again, it seems Viking has taken it to the next level by offering a new [expedition ship] design, taking it to both sides of the globe and stopping in the middle at the Great Lakes.” She acknowledges that she can’t wait to check out the new expedition ship when it sets sail in 2022.
Pricing & Eco-Care
Long-time Midwest resident Christy Scannell, travel designer and franchise owner, Dream Vacations, San Diego, CA, is thrilled about the Great Lakes option for the expedition voyages. (See map below that Viking put up as a slide at the Beverly Hills event.)
Scannell also loves the idea of The Aula, the enrichment theater/presentation space with floor-to-ceiling windows that can deliver stunning scenic views. That's good in polar regions when the temperature -- even in summer -- can be cool, and guests can sit in comfort, listen to the lecturer or expedition leader and, yet, still see what's happening outside.
In addition, “the ship perfectly balances a traveler's desire to get the most from the Arctic experience — Zodiacs, submarines, labs — with Viking's subtle luxury touches and comfortable Scandinavian design,” says Scannell.
Another plus for her? “They’re doing it at a competitive price point too.”
In addition, Scannell “found it touching to hear Tor Hagen describe – nearly choking up – how his team worked hard to make sure these new ships will not take away from the environments they visit.”
“I’ve already shared this with clients who have shunned cruising previously due to environmental concerns,” she notes. “I think I may have some new first-time cruisers in 2022.”
Sharing the Journey
Travel Leaders Group has been on the journey with Viking since the cruise line’s first launch on the river, followed by their crossover to ocean 15 years later. "In both segments, our advisors have sold a tremendous amount of the Viking product," says Pam Young, senior vice president, industry relations, Travel Leaders Group. "We are very excited about the launch of Vikings Expeditions voyages to Antarctica and the Great Lakes of North America.
Calling Hagen "a true visionary," Young says that with both the river and ocean product, he's created a brand that resonates with Travel Leaders Group's customers. Now, she says he's taking the winning features of the ocean vessels and integrating those into expedition.
"Every detail has been well thought out and anticipated," Young stresses. "We have seen remarkable growth in our expedition sales over the last few years and are looking forward to Viking’s entrance in the market."