|Verandas, a popular aspect of Viking’s river ships such as Aegir, pictured here, will be a feature of all staterooms on the new Viking Star.|
With the expansion of its product, Viking River Cruises has now become Viking Cruises. The company, which has invested heavily in producing new ships (like its recent Longships) unveiled its brand-new ocean product line, Viking Ocean Cruises, last month. This makes Viking the travel industry’s first new cruise line in nearly a decade. Viking Ocean Cruises will begin sailing in May 2015 with its first vessel—Viking Star—embarking on maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltics, and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.
Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises, spoke to a gathering of consortia, media, agents and cruise passengers at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, claiming that many cruise lines have “lost sight of the destinations” in their goal to build ever-bigger ships. And while Viking was doing quite well with river cruises (35 percent growth each year, he said, compared to seven percent from the ocean cruise companies), there were cities they couldn’t reach without going out to sea. Beyond that, he had heard complaints from cruise fans that ocean ships are too big (and the smaller ones are too expensive); that they spend too little time at each destination; and that most ships are “old and outdated.”
And so Hagen and his team set out three years ago to develop an ocean cruise option that would appeal to the classic Viking guest—educated, mature and eager to see destinations up-close. “We want to be very clear about who our customer is,” he emphasized.
The new 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and debarkation. Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting at 270 square feet. Every stateroom will have a private veranda, king-size bed, large shower and LCD TV. Viking Star’s 14 Explorer Suites are two-room units ranging from 757 to 1,448 square feet with sweeping views from wrap-around private verandas and offer the most amenities and privileges of any category onboard.
From now through July 31, 2013, Viking Cruises is giving an introductory Early Booking Discount in the U.S. market for the 2015 maiden season with two-for-one pricing on cruise departures and savings of $2,000 per couple on international air.