It could have been a disaster. Cristina Giocomini and her husband Robert Savin were on the trip of a lifetime – a 118-night cruise from Los Angeles to London.
It was their very first Viking cruise.
It was also a special occasion for the couple, who were aboard the Viking Sun to celebrate Robert’s 60th birthday. They had plans for a special night in Portugal – sipping Verdelho and enjoying a feast under the warm Mediterranean night skies.
The Sydney-based travel veterans had cruised with a number of different lines like Cunard, Celebrity, Holland America and P&O. The Viking Sun was their first small ship.
Then along came coronavirus, and the cruise had to be cut short. Instead of celebrating in Portugal, the couple bought Portuguese chicken and tarts from Sydney’s inner suburb of Petersham and feasted at home.
But instead of being disappointed, the amazing crew and the way the line treated them has left the couple with only happy memories – and a determination to get back on board and do it all again.
“What attracted us to the line, after having cruised mainly larger ships, is the size and the Viking difference. There is no photography, no casinos, no kids and it’s a real thinking person’s cruise.
“There’s only a small number of people onboard – 900 compared to some of the other lines.”
Importantly at a time when many big ship cruisers are looking for smaller ships with more room so you can sometimes maintain a discreet distance, Viking’s modern fleet has all the space you need.
A survey of almost 2,500 Cruise Passenger readers recorded a massive swing away from the big ships, with 51% saying in future they will look for smaller, more luxurious lines. Under 1,000 passengers was their demand. Deluxe Viking Ocean ships all carry 930 clients.
“You feel a real sense in space,” says Cristina. “Not just in your suite or stateroom, but in the public areas. And this is something that, I think, will be incredibly important for cruising in the future.”
A magnificent crew
The couple have only happy memories of their experience – largely thanks to Viking’s magnificent crew.
“We had a wonderful cruise. The Viking crew were unbelievably accommodating,” Cristina told Cruise Passenger.
Cristina and Robert, both former employees with Qantas before retiring three years ago, met in the sky on a long-haul flight from Sydney to Rome, and fell in love. She was a stewardess and he was a pilot.
“Working in the travel industry for three decades, we understand customer service and what it takes to make a travel experience exceptional.
“And that’s what we felt the crew aboard the Viking Sun provided us. They were quick on their feet. The crew kept us entertained, they kept us up-to-date,” she said.
Next Viking adventure
Cristina said they were looking forward to passing through the Suez Canal and exploring India and Egypt in the future.
“When we can resume cruising, we will finish the cruise where we left off. And we’re looking at other cruises with Viking like the new Mississippi River itinerary in 2022.
“We are definitely converted. Not just because of the elegance and sophistication of the ship, the food, the shore excursions, but also the crew. They just go above and beyond and given the circumstances that we were all in, they handled the situation seamlessly,” she said.
“While we didn’t make it to Portugal, we celebrated Robert’s birthday with some Portuguese chicken and tarts from Petersham in Sydney and recreated our first date in isolation.”
Like Cristina and Robert, Roger and David made the switch to Viking ocean in 2015, the first year the company started sailing the high seas. The couple, who had cruised with Viking river previously, said the size of the ocean faring vessels and Scandinavian aesthetic is what attracted them to continue cruising with the line.
The keen sailors have done three world cruises, chalking up around 500 days on both Viking river and ocean ships.
“Viking’s service is impeccable, and the food is of a very high standard, plus they offer good onboard education enrichment sessions on a variety of topics. Viking has a non-pretentious air about it. Previously, we have cruised with P&O, Holland America, Princess and Orion expedition ships,” they said.
“While on board, we don’t feel pushed to wear a suit and bowtie, just dress smartly and dine at the restaurants. We never feel we have to put our hand in our pocket on Viking. We pay once and it is all included, there is no extra charge for little things like coffee, drinks and restaurants.
“There is plenty of space onboard the ships and the lounges only have a few people there at a time.”
Like many devout travellers, Roger and David are still dreaming of their next adventure. The couple, who spend half the year abroad and half in Australia, have plans to depart on the Viking Sun in February 2021 for a 100-day cruise.
“Our four back to back Viking river cruises which were planned for end 2020 are rescheduled for 2021. One of them is in Portugal on the Douro and three Christmas market river cruises which I’m very excited for as I’ve heard that the winter Christmas markets are absolutely delightful,” said Roger.
“David wants to go on Viking’s inaugural Arctic and Antarctic sailings. The virus is not going to stop us, we love cruising and travelling, and we will continue to do so for a long time.”