Michelle Black, managing director, Viking Cruises, on board Viking Orion, the ship bound for Sydney.
The brand new Viking Orion is cruising in the Med this week, currently treating guests to its own brand of immersive shore excursion around the Italian coast.
But by the end of the year, she’ll be sailing in our waters – one of the most exciting additions to our homeported fleet in years.
Already, just a few cabins remain for the Orion’s first Australian season from November to March. She will be back for an encore tour in 2019/20, and judging by the amazing growth in the Viking ocean fleet, we can expect even more visits soon.
At just 930 passengers, she may not be the biggest ship to visit our shores. But she’ll be among the newest, and with her own chic brand of Scandinavian design, she certainly stands out.
Viking’s managing director Michelle Black told Cruise Passenger the line has already made some special preparations for her visit Down Under. Like exclusive shore excursions and food offerings.
“On Viking Sun earlier this year, our culinary team (by request) created a special menu just for Australia Day, including a pavlova, and hosted guests together in The Restaurant for an Australia Day party.
“Our chefs are also very accommodating when it comes to food intolerances – one Australian guest regularly had gluten free waffles made especially for her.
“While Viking Sun was in Sydney, the ship’s executive chef worked with Julian Ponteau – the executive chef from The Intercontinental – to create a menu inspired by native Australian ingredients.”
On shore, there are some new tours throughout the region.
“Viking Orion’s guests can take a behind the scenes tour at the opera house, going backstage and through the dressing rooms while hearing stories and secrets about its history.
“They can embrace their spirit of adventure on an exhilarating journey into the Southern Alps of Christchurch by custom-built 4×4 vehicle and jet boat. In Tauranga they can journey off the beaten track to the foothills of the Te Urewera National Park for an authentic Māori experience.
“In Bangkok, guests can immerse themselves in local culture and cuisine on The Kitchen Table tour – Viking Orion’s executive chef will lead guests on an interactive culinary adventure. Together, they’ll handpick ingredients from local markets. Later in the day, they’ll help prepare regional dishes with hands on guidance, before dining on their creations with the ships culinary director.
“It is an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the masters. These excursions are incredibly popular and the dinners often end up going late into the night.”
What else will Australians love?
“Australians will love Viking Orion’s spacious, all veranda staterooms. And many of us are used to cruise lines building bigger and more over the top ships, so our small size and serene Scandinavian spaces puts people at ease.
“We Australians don’t like having to pull out our wallet every time we want something extra. On Orion, guests can dine in five different main dining rooms, as well as extra casual options like the pool grill, and order 24-hour room service. This is all at no extra charge.
“Wine and beer with lunch and dinner are included, and guests can upgrade to the Silver Spirits beverage package for only $20 USD a day – this covers virtually all drinks on board (those under $15 USD). We have a great selection of wines from all over the world – including Australian wines.
“Our guests are also welcome to bring their own wine on board at no extra charge, which is a nice touch.
“There’s a free shore excursion in every port, free unlimited WiFi and all tipping is included. You can have an amazing experience without paying any extra at the end. Australians will also love our Nordic spa – the facilities are complimentary including snow grotto.
“As for active Aussies, we spend more time in port than any other line (an average of 12 hours) and offer a range of outdoor excursions. And if they want to travel child-free, Australians will love our no kids policy!”
So where are Australians booking their Viking experience? The answer may surprise.
“The most popular cruise on board Viking Orion by far is the 23-day North Pacific Passage, from Tokyo to Vancouver or vice versa. An incredible 60 per cent of guests on the first sailing are Australian.
“This cruise has been so popular we released a new sailing for 2019 – there are already 50 per cent of Australians booked on this new sailing. We’ve found this is because Japan, Canada and Russia are all trending right now, so a trip that ticks off all three is a winner.
So what’s next for the fleet that’s growing so fast it’s hard to keep up?
“Our ocean fleet is expanding at a rate that surpasses all of our expectations. Just this year we’ve gone from having our first Viking ship touch down in February, to six new itineraries that visit Australia this year – and the advent of home-porting from Sydney to Auckland in December.
“We’d love to have more ships here catering for the Australian cruising boom so stay tuned.”