Viking River Cruises recently welcomed seven new vessels to its European fleet during a festive ceremony that spanned three countries all linked via satellite video. Two of the newest Viking Longships—Viking Einar and Viking Sigrun—docked side-by-side on the Rhine River in Basel as seven godmothers took to a stage on the Viking Einar’s Sundeck to name and bless six new Longships and one additional ship specifically designed for Portugal’s Douro River.
From musical performances to a mini pyrotechnics display, the mid-March ceremony was met with all the fanfare that’s expected for the event that officially brought the number of Viking river vessels up to 72. According to Viking chairman Torstein Hagen, this is just the beginning.
In a press conference leading up to the naming ceremony, Hagen announced that seven new additional river ships will make their debuts in 2020 including two new Viking Longships destined for the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, four new ships designed for the Seine with priority docking near the Eiffel Tower, and one new ship for the Nile River that will make Viking the first Western company to own and operate an entirely new build
on the Nile.
“The main ambition here is to make Viking a great company.… A great company is one that is loved by its guests, loved by its staff, and hated—or at least respected—by its competition,” Hagen said with a laugh, while also noting that Viking’s success is in large part due to its staff. “We are very fortunate to have such great staff,” he said. “I think we have the choicest staff on both the rivers and oceans.”
Rhine Sailing on Viking Einar
As the celebrations wound down and the Viking Einar and Viking Sigrun set sail to give press, Viking executives, and special guests a small taste of what the cruise line offers on its Rhine River itineraries, I saw firsthand, while on board the Viking Einar, the superb service that Hagen wants Viking to be known for. On board, this translated to an attentive and approachable staff that learned my name early on, accommodated special requests in the restaurant, and refilled my drinks in the Lounge before I even realized they needed refilling. Onshore this meant we were met by friendly and knowledgeable hosts ready to guide the group through immersive experiences in their cities. First stop on this mini getaway: Strasbourg, France.
Here, Viking partnered with a local food tour company to take us on an excursion that was equal parts immersive, historically informative, and delicious. Meandering through the most picturesque part of the city known as “Petite France,” we strolled by centuries-old timbered buildings, serene canals lined with trees, and small pedestrian bridges before reaching the grand dame at the epicenter of it all: the Strasbourg Cathedral. Along the way, we took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city while learning its history and sampling regional sparkling wine and macaroons from “Masterchef” winner Elisabeth Biscarrat, plus locally made chocolate, cheese and pastries. The culinary experience continued with lunch at a typical Alsace restaurant where we were treated to a cooking demonstration and munched on an onion tarte, salad and tarte flambe made with apples and brandy—all local favorites.
We couldn’t leave Strasbourg without a proper visit to its Gothic gem, so after some free time to roam the city on our own, we ended the evening with a private, after hours visit to the cathedral that included an organ concert. Inspired by the private concerts Viking offers to guests in Vienna, this experience was a test run for an excursion that the cruise line hopes to offer in the near future. According to Richard Marnell, executive v.p. of marketing for Viking, it’s exactly the type of exclusive and immersive experience that Viking guests are looking for and that the cruise line aims to deliver. It was also just the first of several unique experiences our group would enjoy.
As our sailing down the Rhine River continued, we were treated to a tour of the Heidelberg castle in Germany followed by lunch at one of the city’s oldest restaurants; and a walking tour of Mainz that included a private tour of the Guttenberg Museum with a live demonstration of how the first printing press worked. Each evening, the Viking Einar’s understated elegance, its cozy lounge areas, and its absolutely delectable food and wine all made for the perfect retreat after a long day of exploration. To top off the whole experience, a string quartet joined us on our last evening aboard the Viking Einar and regaled us with a concert, while the staff kept the drinks flowing as usual.
It was the perfect ending to our journey on one of Viking’s newest Longships, and it brought to mind something else that Hagen had mentioned earlier that week.
“What is real luxury?” he asked at the press conference. “For me, the main one is time, and the second is not having to worry.”
And that is precisely the experience that a Viking river cruise provides—one in which your clients will be well taken care of morning through night and their time will be well spent on delicious meals, immersive experiences, and exclusive explorations of new destinations.
What’s In it For Travel Advisors
“The more you’re educated, the more confidence you have. The more confidence you have, the more you can convince a customer that it’s a great trip,” says Milton Hugh, executive v.p. of sales for Viking, when asked what makes a travel advisor successful. “The other part,” he adds, “is how you market yourself.” Through the Viking Travel Agent Academy, Viking’s travel agent portal, and FAMs, Viking gives advisors the resources they need to succeed. For more information, visit myvikingjourney.com/agent/welcome. One thing to note: Viking pays commission on every aspect of a booking.
Viking River Cruises: vikingcruises.com