|Viking now operates 35 vessels, many are new longships, and they have 12 more launching in 2014—a remarkable expansion on global rivers.|
After ambling around the Viking Aegir or some of Viking River Cruises’ other new longships for a day or so, your clients booked on this or a sister vessel will likely appreciate the simplicity, comfort and differentiated look. In the midst of an unprecedented river vessel building boom, Viking now operates 35 vessels; many are new longships and they have 12 more launching in 2014.
In fact, by the end of next year, Viking will have introduced 24 new ships over a three-year period, a remarkable expansion on global rivers. For agents, “Viking has done a very good job of marketing their longships,” says Karen Malone, Travel Leaders, Woodbury, MN. “I actually had two bookings specifically request the ‘longships.’ ”
Boasting modern, sleek, contemporary lines and decor, “the longships are a very nice step forward in river cruise design,” says Gary Smith, owner, CruiseOne, Eugene, OR. Both Smith and Malone agree that longships have an appealing design feature—an off-center hallway. “This allows for more room size options, most notably a full-size room with a full-size veranda,” says Smith.
Based on a Viking Aegir trip this spring, here are Travel Agent’s gleanings about the Viking longships.
Upscale Simplicity: Designed by naval architects Yran & Storbraaten, the Viking longships are all similar in decor, identical in layout, and reflect a soft, contemporary feel. Viking Aegir was decorated in shades of cream and tan, while another longship Travel Agent visited had light blue and cream decor.
No, you won’t find a pool, whirlpool, movie theater, spa, beauty salon or exercise room onboard any Viking longship. In contrast, the line keeps it simple. All Viking longships have a spacious, sleek two-level atrium, upscale accommodations, welcoming lounge, elegant main dining room and a top-deck sunning space with a small putting green and track. There’s also a small library and Internet cafe onboard each ship.
But the line’s perspective is that if you want to work out, enjoy a spa treatment, go to a movie theater or take a dip in a pool, the concierge can set you up at a shore-side facility in many ports. Viking chooses to not use valuable space for facilities that are rarely used by the majority of guests. It isn’t trying to be a river line with ocean features, but rather a river line that provides the spaces and amenities that guests most need and want onboard.
As a result of not having some of those public amenity spaces, Viking also can accommodate more guests on each vessel—190 compared to the 168 or 175 one might find on other river ships plying the same waters. The economics are clearly good for the line, but the ship didn’t seem crowded on Travel Agent’s recent cruise.
|Viking Aegir’s main dining room is comfortable, elegant and has open seating. Menus include European specialties and, for dinner, guests will enjoy a five-course gourmet meal.|
Two-Level Glass Atrium: Looking at Viking Aegir and the other longships from an exterior perspective, it’s easy to see that the middle section has two levels of soaring glass. That’s the stunning, modern atrium, the focal point of each longship. A large distinctive piece of art graces the wall at the top of the glass staircase.
The atrium is ringed by a small gift shop, the purser’s desk, concierge desk, a small Internet cafe and library, as well as two automated coffee bars. One small glass elevator has unique views out to the countryside. And a small Nordic garden is alongside the bottom of the staircase, a nice green touch.
Diverse Accommodations: For clients seeking the very best, two Explorer Suites deliver space, comfort and spectacular 270° views with a private “wrap-around” veranda. These are the largest suites on European river cruises.
The suite’s living area has a classy sofa, black lounge chair with matching ottoman and a large flat-screen TV, among other perks. The Explorer Suite bathroom has two sinks, a separate whirlpool tub and glass rainforest shower.
In addition to the Explorer Suites, Viking longships also feature seven two-room Veranda Suites; each is 275 square feet with a full-size veranda in the living room and French balcony in the bedroom. Other accommodations include 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms and 25 Standard Staterooms.
All accommodations have a 40-inch flat-screen TV system with complimentary movies, TV, maps, weather and other features. Hotel-style beds feature crisp, attractive linens and comfortable pillows. Another nice feature for all staterooms and suites is that bathrooms have heated floors and mirrors, as well as L’Occitane bath products. The staterooms are certainly comfortable, but space is tight in some of the lower categories; these cabins have half-height windows for natural light.
One tip: If clients desire to book a French Balcony Stateroom and like to spend “some” time in their stateroom just relaxing and viewing the scenery, suggest a Veranda Stateroom rather than a French Balcony Stateroom so that they’ll have a chair in the stateroom for relaxing or taking in the river views. Otherwise, they will only be able to use the small backless stool from the desk, or sit on the bed.
|Viking Aegir’s Explorer Suites come with various perks like a sofa, black lounge chair with matching ottoman and a large flat-screen TV in the living area.|
Dining Options: Viking longships have one main restaurant capable of open seating for all 190 guests. As with other public areas of the ship, it’s contemporary in design. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of the countryside while guests dine. Dinner is a five-course gourmet meal with regional specialties and a choice of regional wines.
But it’s the indoor-outdoor Aquavit Terrace that really serves as a product differentiator, say agents. “They have added a casual indoor-outdoor eatery for a second dining option,” says Smith. Located on the ship’s bow, it’s a pleasant spot where guests may enjoy breakfast, lunch or casual dinner, which are a bit lighter compared with offerings of the main restaurant.
Guests gravitate to Aquavit throughout the day and evening. It’s an all-weather space, as its retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors can be opened in good weather and closed in bad. Guests can dine within the glass-enclosed area or outdoors under the stars.
Malone encourages her clients to visualize the experience noting that the outdoor experience can be wonderful: “No busy shows at night, instead they are sitting outside and watching the little lights in the villages passing by. It’s so relaxing.” The Aquavit Terrace also connects to the ship’s Observation Lounge, a large interior space with a bar, dance floor, andsofas and chairs.
“River cruising and Viking [longship or not] are designed for the traveler who wants to explore Europe from the comfort and convenience of a floating, moving, boutique hotel,” notes Smith. “The ships provide a fantastic jumping off point in a new city each day while providing the guest an English speaking environment of fellow passengers and crew, combined with first-class service and excellent food.”
Malone just finalized payments on three different Viking River Cruises. “All of my clients are in the late baby boomer age group,” she says, noting that these folks have done escorted tours in the past. They now wish to see Europe in a more relaxed style. Malone says the new longships fit well, because they offer “an affordable luxury product with many inclusions.”