For anything to have “personality”, logic dictates that a “person” must be involved somewhere. (Sometimes I stun myself with my own profundity. Or, some would say, I just have a born knack for stating the bleedin’ obvious.) Either way, bear with me. Where I am headed with this should be clear soon enough.
I just stepped off the Viking Star after sailing from New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Why that particular itinerary? Faithful reader, do you really need to ask? I was invited, of course. (I would sail through the Straits of Malacca during a typhoon, an outbreak of both rickets and/or scurvy plus a worldwide pirate convention if they offered free lobster and imported wine.) I came away from that glorious experience with the distinct impression that she is a ship dripping . . . in salt water, of course . . . with buckets of personality.
Since this particular re-positioning cruise was teeming with way more travel agents than should ever be allowed to congregate in one confined space, we were graced with the presence of many Viking Cruise dignitaries even including the impressive and charmingly impish Torstein Hagen himself, the founder, chairman and CEO of Viking Cruises.
A very short way into his illuminating presentation, it struck me like a thunderbolt that, not just the ship but the entire Viking enterprise, is a reflection of his alluring personality and values. The same should be said of his daughter Karine, whose style and touch are also seen everywhere. Can you even imagine Apple Computers without Steve Jobs or Microsoft without Bill Gates? Minus their respective inputs, these two enterprises would not just be radically different but likely not even exist.
Listening to Tors speak . . . I feel comfortable calling him that even though the extent of our personal relationship consists of his almost making eye contact with me seated in the twelfth row of the theater . . . I began to take mental note of the manifold ways Tors has left his imprint and imprimatur upon the new fleet of ocean-going vessels, including the Viking Star. Let me quickly share just three examples.
Priorities From A New Perspective
I was intrigued by Tor’s take on priorities. He pointed out that it consists not so much in selecting as eliminating. Since time and resources are always finite, the place to begin is to decide what you are not going to include. The Viking ocean cruise philosophy is defined as much by what is not included as what is. Tors knows his customer down to which side of the head they part their hair. Here are a few things you won’t find on the Viking Star and why:
- Casino – It makes no sense for a small ship (under 1000 passengers) to try to be Vegas at Sea. If gambling is your thing, they do stop in Monte Carlo.
- No children under 18. The Viking customers typically love their own grandkids, just not other people’s.
- No charge for beer and wine at lunch and dinner. OK, this hardly needs a staunch defense.
- No charge for wifi. Nor does this.
- No charge for alternative restaurants. We’re on a roll here.
- No bumper cars, rock climbing walls, etc. Tors likes to point out that his ships are not meant to be confused with amusement parks. That’s why they are sometimes called “The Thinking Person’s Cruise.”
Posh But Not Osh (as in Ostentatious)
There are other cruise lines that specialize in the opulent. I understand there is one where you need a hand-written letter of recommendation from your bishop just to board. I found it interesting that Tors does not even like the word luxury. What he does like to provide is incredible quality at prices that don’t require cashing in your 401K, or in my case, my .01K. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.
- Restaurant Philosophy – Other ships have specialty restaurants normally available for an upcharge. Viking prefers to call them “alternative restaurants” because they are insistent that the quality of the food in the main dining room, called unsurprisingly “The Restaurant”, be on exactly the same par as the alternative restaurants.
- The Destination is the Destination – Some of the large ships have more amusements than your average theme park. Thus they have coined the saying that “the ship is the destination.” The typical Viking customer is a traveler not a tourist. G. K. Chesterton explains the distinction, ““The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” Viking customers board with full suitcases, open minds and wide eyes.
The Devil Is In The Details
I mentioned to someone on the cruise that I could write an entire blog post just about the bathroom. To prove it, here at least is a section devoted to the potty. Check out these brilliant features:
- Heated floors in the bathroom. When you get up during the night, no one wants to return to bed with cold tootsies!
- Incredible shower heads, volume pressure and separate handles for volume and temperature.
- No-fog mirrors.
- Amenities (shampoo, conditioner and lotion) in rational quantities and readable labels.
- In the public bathrooms, birds serenely chirping away overhead. OK, not real ones but recordings of real ones. They even have Norwegian accents.
- Also in the public bathrooms, actual cloths for drying your hands and hand creme for re-moisturizing.
- In the spa locker rooms, instant swim suit dryers. Seriously!
I bring this up just to illustrate that this meticulous attention to detail permeates the entire vessel. I could easily build similar lists regarding the spa, dining, etc.
As we sadly leave the Caribbean Sea in our wake, I would like to close with this observation. Booking a cruise, from the travel agent’s point of view, is a little like matchmaking. In a marriage, the couple’s chances at future happiness are enhanced the more the groom knows about the bride and vice versa. Matching the right person with the right cruise line has many parallels.
I can tell you from my experience of the past week that Viking builds their ocean ships based on twenty years of river ship experience. They know their customers as well as anyone in the industry and tailor their product precisely for that customer.
My hope is, having read this blog, you will understand better whether you are that perfect Viking ocean cruise customer and are ready for one of our master matchmakers to craft you a cruise experience made in heaven.