Can you relate to Rodin’s famous statue, The Thinker? Then we have just the cruise line for you…
If you consider yourself somewhat of an expert in ocean-facilitated exploration, ie. cruising, there’s a good chance you’ve set sail with Viking Cruises. The multi award-winning cruise line is in the midst of rapid expansion, having recently announced the order of six additional ocean ships to be floated out between 2024 and 2027. And when the brand-spanking new Viking Jupiter makes contact with the ocean for the first time in early 2019, it will bring Viking’s total ocean fleet to 16 ships, making Viking the world’s largest small-ship ocean cruise line.
This kind of growth is perhaps not surprising given the current luxury travel landscape – cruise is king, after all, and yet what is significant is how Viking is blazing a trail with its destination-centric approach to cruising. It throws the oft-held idea of cruising as being an experience of cringe-worthy excess to the wind, and puts the ocean-top focus back where it should be – on opening the door to culturally enriching holiday experiences.
This approach is undoubtedly what is fuelling the cruise line’s growth in the ocean cruise segment, with Viking attracting a loyal clientele we can only describe as the geographically-inclined, polymathic, and insatiably curious. They are usually highly experienced travellers and avid explorers, passionately interested in learning about and immersing themselves in other cultures. Viking welcomes aboard those who favour thinking over drinking, and exploration over pool-side stagnation. But that’s not to say there aren’t opportunities for relaxation, with an on-board luxurious spa, tasteful interiors, and comfortable staterooms that put passengers instantly into holiday mode.
More thinking, less drinking
Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen says the cruise line prides itself on being ‘the thinking person’s cruise’, with its itineraries created for discerning travellers with a true adventurer’s spirit. 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, mainstream cruise ships – Viking’s emphasis is on cultural enrichment. This might seem like an obvious thing for a cruise line to focus on and yet many cruise lines choose to go down the path of ‘more is more’, highlighting an on-board experience of excess that seems to say, why think about the treasures that await in Dubrovnik’s Old Town when you can take another zip down that on-board waterslide?
Viking Cruises wants its guests to forge memories while exploring distant lands and expanding the mind, as opposed to over shrimp cocktail number three at yet another buffet lunch. Viking’s itineraries are strategically nuanced, focusing on the food, culture, countryside and customs of each destination, catering to a guest-list interested in science, history, art, culture, and cuisine. And the journey to insight and cultural enlightenment begins before embarkation, with the cruise line providing its guests with materials to help them plan and anticipate their journey, from online filmographies and short cultural videos that inspire wanderlust to reading recommendations and cultural profiles that help guests delve more deeply into destinations.
On shore, what the cruise line calls ‘The Viking Way’ of exploration takes guests deeper, offering behind-the-scenes insights and opportunities in addition to the usual, expected and iconic museums and landmarks. There are opportunities to accompany the ship’s chef on a visit to a local market; step behind the scenes at a famous theatre company; tour a glassblower’s workshop; or view private collections and hidden vaults at world-class museums.
On board, further activities designed for the thinking traveller seeking enrichment and renewal await, with informative lectures on history and art, cooking demonstrations, restaurant menus inspired by local cuisine and wine tastings of vintages from upcoming destinations. Further forging a connection to the destinations, the ships also spend more time in port and feature more overnights than many other cruise lines.
It’s new-age luxury
Viking’s ocean ships are small, hosting 930 passengers, and this is another deliberate bid by Viking to carve out a unique space in the luxury cruising segment. Its version of luxury forgoes archaic notions of butlers in white gloves and over-the-top gimmicks in favour of good old-fashioned service, serene and functional Scandinavian spaces and mind-expanding exploration. Its ships are quiet and filled with light, with all-veranda staterooms meaning guests can greet a new, expansive vista every day.
Leave the kids with the sitter
And then there’s the adult-only factor. If the mini-mes of your household have a way of pulling on your heart strings, thereby eliminating any prior ideas you had of taking a romantic holiday away, you won’t have any choice but to leave them behind if you plan on becoming a Viking passenger, thanks to the cruise line’s no-children policy. We think it’s the excuse you’ve been waiting for. Better check Grandma’s availability…