Who Set The Bar For The Viking Star?

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 Torstein Hagenshould 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 viking-star-manfredisinteresting 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 bathroomreturn 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.

viking-star-wakeAs 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.

Viking River Flows Into The Ocean

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep!   Please stand by for another “Hear It Here First” announcement.  This is NOT a test of the Travel By Terry breaking travel news alert system.

Some of you may know that Viking River Cruises has clearly established itself as the indisputable master of the world’s great rivers.  Today they have announced their plans to let some of that remarkable success flow directly into the Seven Seas.  OK, maybe not seven right away but at least a couple.   Travel Weekly has a great article this morning about Viking’s plans to launch their first ocean-going vessel, the Viking Star, in May of 2015.

Viking Star rendering exteriorThe initial voyages will ply the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.  It will fit into the mid-size category with 928 passengers.  One thing that should set it apart from its competitors in this market is the fact that shore excursions and beer and wine with lunch and dinner will be included.

Viking Star interior rendering  Viking Star pool rendering

“Another unusual feature will be a ‘snow grotto’ in the spa in which ‘snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air,’ according to a Viking description,” reports Travel Weekly.   To learn more, I  encourage you to visited our branded Viking Cruises site and click on Viking Oceans tab at the top.

When your friends ask if you have heard that Viking has just entered the world of ocean cruising, I suggest you give them a dismissive look and a roll of the eyes and simply respond, “Please!  I follow Travel By Terry.  I heard about that eons ago!”

River Cruising: A Languid Stroll Down Liquid Highways (3)

Well, I’ll be hogtied and hornswoggled!

If you are not from Texas (my condolences) and haven’t the foggiest notion what I am talking about, here is a helpful explanation from the Urban Dictionary, “Obviously refers to cowboys roping and throwing calfs or cows, securing the rope to the saddle horn (hornswoggled) and tying three of their legs together with the ‘pigging string’.”

Calf Roping

Of course, I am using the phrase metaphorically of my shock and awe. Having guest posted for IgoUgo once, they actually want me back for an encore.  Go figure.  I have always wondered what a second date would feel like and now I have a chance to find out.

This is the third in my series of posts about my own Viking river cruise.  Over at IgoUgo IViking Elbe River am calling the post The Genius of River Cruising. If you are a regular reader, you should know the drill.  I am going to lead you by the hand through cyberspace over to their site where you can read my third installment in this riveting series (my words).  All you have to do is click here.  Wait!  Wait!

Before you go, I trust you haven’t forgotten our one inviolable rule:  You go over to IgoUgo to browse, you always come back home to Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel to book!  OK, now you can click here.

Maui On The Move: Travel Trends According To You

Each fall, Travel Leaders Group conducts a survey of travel agents across the United States called, appropriately enough, the Fall Travel Trends Survey.  Travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents are asked which destinations are trendingTravel Leaders Fall Travel Trends Survey upward in the months immediately ahead.  What should make this survey of particular interest to you is that the agencies are asked to base their answers not on speculation, personal preference or even yours truly’s highly sought after and quickly discarded opinion but on actual forward bookings.

According to the news release of September 4th, “This survey was conducted by Travel Leaders Group from July 30 – August 23, 2012, and includes responses from 871 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents from the flagship Travel Leaders brand, along with – for the first time ever – those affiliated with Travel Leaders Group’s Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com units.”  What this means is that this year’s survey is based on a much broader sampling than in the past and thus is even more authoritative than ever!

You can read the entire survey here but I thought I would share a few highlights for those of you who live in mortal dread of inadvertently booking a vacation insufficiently “hot” (in the popular, not the climatological sense) to render your in-laws and nosy neighbors overwrought with envy.  I mean, what is the point of a great vacation if you can’t tantalize friends and taunt enemies, right?

Maui wavesIf that is your objective, than you’d better be planning to motor over to Maui (figuratively speaking, of course. I don’t recommend you try it literally.)  Here is an interesting little tidbit.  In last year’s survey, Maui was the top recommended domestic destination.  Apparently, a lot of you were paying attention to your trusted travel advisors, always a sound practice, because this year Maui jumped three spots to number two on the hit parade, a close second to Las Vegas.

For the serious jet setters among you, what does the international scene look like?  If the survey were a flower garden (never mind the fact that you would need a trowel to fill it out), Caribbean cruising and Cancun would be classified perennials.   Nonetheless, the survey did offer a couple of surprises.  Mediterranean cruising rose (pun intended) to number three on the list and European River cruising blossomed (that’s it, I promise) into the top ten.

That last result is not the least surprising to those of us who ply the travel trade.  River cruising, whether in Europe, China or Vietnam, is experiencing a boom.  I took a Rhine River cruise a while back and it was one of the best vacations I ever experienced.  Not to worry, I plan to post about it very soon.  As a quick aside, it is strange once you start blogging how you no longer have personal experiences, you only have potential blog posts!

I encourage you take a moment and read the entire Fall Travel Trends Survey news release.  You can peruse the entire domestic and international top ten list,  discover the average cost of airfares to various popular vacation destinations and even take a behind-the-scenes peek at the level of optimism we in the travel industry harbor going forward.

This is the most authoritative survey of its kind in the industry, exactly what you would expect from the Travel Leaders, the industry leading travel company.  That didn’t sound self-serving, did it?