Viking, owners of the world’s largest river cruise fleet, has launched a bold bid to re-stimulate the Australian market with a bumper brochure featuring two year’s of sailings for the first time.
Australians are among the world’s top river cruisers, and before the pandemic pause more than 200,000 headed off to the beautiful waterways of Europe and Asia.
Viking’s Sydney office has received lots of calls after the brochure release. And, according to Viking’s regional Managing Director Michelle Black, interest is strong – particularly in their new Nile fleet.
And, like many other lines, Australians are booking longer cruises – perhaps a reward for making the trip to foreign destinations.
“We are seeing strong sales for both the 2022 and 2023 river cruise seasons. The longer European itineraries are resonating most with Australian consumers, such as our 23-day European Sojourn which has been a big seller over the last few months,” says Ms Black.
“Our latest River Cruises brochure is new in a couple of ways. For the first time we have included two seasons in our brochure – a full 2022 season and a preview of 2023, which allows travel agents and their clients to book further ahead.
“This is a direct recognition both of what the market has been asking for and the demand we have been experiencing.
“It also includes new destinations and our new ships on the Mekong, Mississippi and the Nile, which in today’s climate really is a major commitment from the business and one which I am sure will generate a lot of interest.
“Our new Mississippi product has been included for the first time and is one we are particularly proud of. Cruising the Mississippi has been a long held dream of our Chairman, Torstein Hagen, and the launch of Viking Mississippi in 2022 sees the fruition of that dream and without a doubt will see the start of a new style of cruising in the US.”
Viking has managed to steer its way through the pandemic with an enhanced reputation. It was the first to call a pause for its 70-strong river fleet, and has maintained that position for longest without the chopping and changing which has harmed the reputation of some bigger players.
The company has always maintained that’s because it is privately owned, and can call the shots more quickly.
While European river cruising did make a comeback, the pandemic’s sweeping cases on shore forced operators to call a halt to sailings. The rapid spread of vaccines is sparking cautious optimism.
“Departures for both our river and ocean product have been cancelled through to the end of March 2021. The team has continued to work behind the scenes over this time and we are ready to go once the world is ready.
“We were the first cruise line to temporarily suspend operations on 12 March 2020, and we will only sail again when it is safe to do so,” says Ms Black.
” We will continue to deliver the same high quality product we always have and for which we have been globally acknowledged and awarded many times.
“Obviously the current global situation will require some changes to operations across the entire travel experience, but I believe we are well prepared and ahead of the game in this area.
“Our new Health & Safety Program is one of the most well-researched and comprehensive COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plans in the travel industry at the moment. It involves a range of new protocols and processes, but top-line they will include daily PCR testing for all Viking guests and crew; new air purification technology installed on all our ships; and additional health checks, sanitisation and physical distancing to protect guests and crew at all points of the journey.”
The 2022-2023 River Cruises brochure showcases Viking’s first custom-built vessel in the United States, Viking Mississippi, will be sailing voyages on the Lower and Upper Mississippi, between New Orleans and St. Paul.
A highlight is the new 15-day America’s Great River. Sailing nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River, this incredible journey from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost reaches of the United States retraces the steps of Civil Rights leaders in Memphis; ascends the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; and visits “The Norwegian Valley” in La Crosse.
It costs from AUD$16,995 pp, twin share.
In Asia, the new 80-guest Viking Saigonis featured with a Magnificent Mekong itinerary – a 15-day journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City exploring the cultural treasures of Vietnam and Cambodia with 16 guided tours.
It costs from $6,495 pp, twin share.
Ms Black is particularly excited about the new Nile ship.
“We are very excited about Viking Aton – which actually now gives us four ships on the Nile. Viking Aton which is a sister ship to Viking Osiris, and Viking Ra, all of which we own, and MS Antares which we operate.
“Egypt and the Nile have always been popular with Australians so we expect to see demand for this itinerary in the coming months, especially with the launch offer we have in the market offering savings of up to $2,000 per couple on our 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary.”
What will the experience be like?
“The Viking way of cruising is the perfect choice to cruise destinations like Egypt. We are the Thinking Person’s cruise after all. We focus on destination focussed learning and offering culturally enriching on board and on shore programs – and nowhere is that more suited than to Egypt.”
Viking’s popular ocean vessel, Viking Orion, is scheduled to be back on December 27 to sail Australia and New Zealand.
“We are currently selling our 27 December 2021 departure for the Australia & New Zealand itinerary on Viking Orion. The last few weeks have seen very positive reaction from the market for “closer to home” cruising resulting in a good uplift in sales not only for this departure but the whole season,” says Ms Black.
“As the confidence around local cruising grows, I expect to see these sales pick up further.”