Leaving the port of Le Havre, France onboard Viking Sea.
Returning to my cabin after another exciting Viking Cruises‘ christening in Koblenz, Germany, I found a letter, asking if I would consider being interviewed. I emailed the Viking video team that I would be happy to share my thoughts on Viking and cruising. (This is the team that makes the gorgeous “doors opening” videos you enjoy on Masterpiece Theater. Perhaps they could make me presentable.)
Koblenz, Germany The Golden Hour christening of two more Viking Longships
Sitting in the Lounge on the brand new Viking Hild early the next morning, I was trying to gather my thoughts and formulate some answers for possible questions. As readers of this blog know, I am a fan of Viking and have been friends with the CEO Tor Hagen and his daughter Karine for over 15 years, so full disclosure, but I also enjoy many other excellent luxury cruise lines.
As with most interviews I do, particularly on camera ones that can’t be added to, my better answers came to me after the cameras are off. So I wanted to share them here. If you have cruised with Viking, I hope you will share your own answers as well.
- ” How do you feel when you first board a Viking River or Ocean ship?” My answer on camera was a mix of technical and dull observations. I said I felt “comfortable”, that I liked the expert layout of the cabins so I could immediately unpack and make myself at home. I spoke of plugs (dull), storage space (very dull) etc.
What I meant to say was excitement. The real and potential traumas of air travel were over and the adventure was about to begin. I am thinking “Impress me”. And they do. I unpack and relax in the knowledge that Viking was about to deliver the sites I expected to see and many experiences I never dreamed possible.
“Comfortable?” Yes. Also surrounded by the destination. Immersion in the view, in the restaurant, in the library, in onboard lectures and in my cabin with destination specific movies. (I watched Bridge of Spies in Germany and highly recommend it.)
“Impressed”. Alone at the new Faberge Museum in the exquisite Shuvalov Mansion in St. Petersburg, Russia
“Impressed”. I never knew about the Chagall windows at St. Stephens Catholic Church in Mainz, Germany. Donated by the artist as a symbol of healing after WWII.
Did I mention that size matters? Up close and personal even on Viking’s Ocean Ships. Cruising the Seine on Viking Star.
2. “What do you like about Viking Cruises?” My answer was only half of what I meant to say, and clouded by too technical descriptions. I said that I like that Viking owns 60 docks along the rivers in Europe. Technical, but important, particularly to anyone who has been on ships that disembarked on muddy slopes or rafted 10 deep.
But my “real” answer should have been, that because Viking owns so many of their own docks, you are assured of immediate, comfortable access to the ports and cities that you purchased your trip to see. And travel is all about access. Full stop. I did mention access sometime later, but it belongs front and center.
In Russia, where the whole Viking story began 20 years ago, they know the top curators at the Hermitage, the owners of the finest restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg and when the sign on the new Faberge Museum says closed, it doesn’t mean you if you are with Viking. The guides I have met on Viking trips are now my closest friends, not just guides but scholars. They are friends with all the Viking staff, not just guides assigned to your group at the last minute. Viking’s reputation, friendships and volume of travelers make access to the best guides a given.
Sometimes viewing the iconic sites is best from new perspectives. My Viking guide in Russia took me around the Catherine Palace to this view. Magic.
3. “Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences with Viking?” Softball question I should have aced with clever repartee, but I didn’t.
What I meant to say was that I cruise to explore and for access I can’t get on my own. I also value my comfort and Viking makes them all possible. Access I discuss above and comfort they make possible by insuring the onboard experience is not just comfortable, but luxurious. Luxurious in perfect design and attention to detail. If you notice, Viking does not use the word “luxury” in their promotions. They should. Excessive humility or clever “exceed their expectations”, they are a luxury line, both river and ocean.
The “Winter Garden” space on their three ocean going ships is my favorite spot at sea on any ship. A perfect summer porch that reminds me of my southern roots, even if it is fully Norwegian in design.
I am not alone loving the “Nouveau Nordic” design onboard. House and Garden agrees.
So much more I will think to add later, but these unspoken answers were bothering me so I thought I would share. I know I sound like a paid sponsor, but I am not. I enjoy many other cruise lines and have shared great experiences onboard others in this blog. This article is about why I like Viking for my explorations and why I will be onboard again as soon as possible.