AMSTERDAM – Viking River Cruises' much-anticipated 190-passenger "longships" made their debut at a four-ship christening event on March 21.
Noting the vessels’ contemporary design and special features, agents at the christening said the ships will have strong appeal for a younger demographic
Travel Market Report asked agents at the event about how the ships are likely to go over with clients.
What do you like most about the design changes in Viking’s new river ships?
"It's a more modern feel (than the earlier Viking ships) – beautiful blond woods, earth tones. The dining room is exquisite. I love the idea of an herb garden onboard (on the top deck); that's just a great thing. The cabins seem more roomy, but mostly I love the decor and the fact it's modern and contemporary." – Carol Alexander, franchise owner, Cruise Planners/American Express, Hallandale, Fla.
"The longships seem so much more spacious. The light colors bring that out." – Lisa Anciaux, CTC, director of travel products, AAA Washington, Bellevue, Wash.
"I love the way the mirrors in the suite vanities are lighted. A woman must have thought of that." – Vicky Garcia, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Cruise Planners/American Express
"The extra outdoor space and the balconies. The clean lines, airy contemporary decor." – Christina Cooper, president, Willamette International Travel, Portland, Ore.
"More room outside. And the Aquavit Terrace (the al fresco dining area) is fabulous." – Sue Knops, VIP World Travel, Sarasota, Fla., Ensemble Travel Group
"It seems more contemporary but it's still basically the same size and welcoming atmosphere as the older ships.” – Joel Higgins, CTC, president, Higgins Travel Leaders, Eau Claire, Wis.
Who do you see as the target market for the Viking longships?
"I'd sell age 40 and up. A lot of baby boomers have the money to do this and want something unique and different. They have done the big ships and they want a more relaxed vacation from their hectic world." – Lisa Anciaux
"I think there will be a new demographic. The look and feel is very W Hotel. There's already peaked interest in river cruising, but that this both looks and feels new is great. It's a younger feeling atmosphere." – Vicky Garcia
"These ships will definitely draw a younger group, 40- to 50-year olds." – Christina Cooper
"These ships will appeal to a younger crowd. The demographic has gotten lower, and five years from now will be even lower. Sixty to 75 (years old) and up will go down to 50 or 55, or maybe younger. These ships will appeal to older travelers too, but being contemporary in design they will attract even younger folks." – Joel Higgins
What's the key selling feature for these new ships?
"It depends a lot on whether the client has been on a river cruise before. You can do a comparison of this ship, how on this ship you have a new, modern decor, laid out beautifully.” – Carol Alexander
"Balcony cabins are huge, and I love that there's full balconies with furniture and not just French balconies. Cruisers are used to full balconies.” – Vicky Garcia
"The (two) Explorer Suites will appeal to people who have done Silversea and Seabourn. They have a real separation of the bedroom – and a real living room and a balcony off the living room where you can entertain friends." – Christina Cooper
"The ships are gorgeous, obviously, but if you don't have the service you don't have the full experience, and Viking gives you that. The crew is a highlight." – Lisa Anciaux
"The elevator is a huge selling point." – Christina Cooper
What's the big wow of these ships?
"When you walk on, you just kind of go, 'Oh, this is really beautiful.'" – Carol Alexander
"The balconies for sure. When you're on the Danube or passing wine country and lavender fields in France, it's going to be gorgeous. St. Petersburg coming into view, fabulous.” – Lisa Anciaux
"This ship uses glass, open-air, great lighting. The bar is nice, and the dance floor in the lounge is a great addition." – Vicky Garcia
"The entrance to the dining room is stunning. The atrium is chic, elegant, nothing too fancy but very modern, sleek, as if you're walking into a nice hotel." – Sue Knops
Will these new ships be an easy sell?
"Some of my Viking cruisers want tradition and may not embrace the newer ships as quickly. Some find a comfort zone with the original ships. I love the new ships, but I'm not sure they're right for every river cruiser."– Christina Cooper
"With veranda cabins, they are going to sell out quickly.” – Lisa Anciaux
"Viking won’t have any trouble filling these ships. You can sell to people who do land-based vacations as something different."– Joel Higgins
"Some clients love Viking and will be so happy to buy a new ship, and they're going to go for the balconies." – Sue Knops
What is the repeat sales potential for the Viking longships?
"When someone discovers river cruising, they want to repeat. They might start with the Danube or Viking's Grand Europe (14 days) and then do China and then maybe Russia. Sometimes they do four cruises.” – Lisa Anciaux
"A lot of customers come back a second or third time. It's huge, which is why they are building all these ships.” – Joel Higgins