Q: You plan the itineraries for Viking’s ocean cruises. How hard a task is that?
A: It is the best job in the world because you basically get to design other people’s holidays and some of the time you get to go and test them beforehand, so I’m very fortunate in that regard. The challenge we have, especially in a region like Australia, is that there are so many good places to go, how do you decide which ones to cull?
Q: What criteria do you need to meet before deciding where to take your ships?
A: Safety is always the first consideration and then we ask whether it’s safe to go at that particular time of year. Then, of course, it has to be what is there to do there? And the biggest criteria there hinges around our included shore excursion program. There are wonderful places all over the world where we can safely take our ships, but there might only be three tour buses and two guides, so how do you get 800 people on an included tour in a 10-hour port stay? So, unfortunately, some really wonderful places fall by the wayside.
Q: What’s coming up that you’re particularly looking forward to?
A: What’s really exciting for me is our ‘In Search of the Northern Lights’ voyages from London to Bergen going into the Arctic Circle in January, February and March. At that time of year it’s permanently dark, there’s still snow on the ground and you get a chance to look for the Northern Lights. It’s only really been offered to UK consumers before so we are the first major U.S. line to offer it. It is just a fantastic place to go and the experience is breathtaking.
Q: And you’ll have Viking Orion here in Australia in December next year.
A: I am so excited about this. It’s not just great for Viking but it’s great for the local consumer because I think we will see some Australians maybe trying a cruise with Viking from here because they don’t want to make the trip to Europe. It’s a ‘try before you buy’ and then they’ll travel further to see us in the Northern Hemisphere.
Q: What would you say to those who haven’t tried your product?
A: If you look at what you get, I think we genuinely have the best value proposition in the industry. Things like the included excursions, no charge for wine and beer at lunch and dinner, no formal nights, free Wi-Fi, no cover charge at our speciality restaurants. We reckon we’ve included for free all the things that people really want and left out the things that people aren’t so keen on.
Q: If that first season goes well, do you expect Australia to be a regular destination?
A: Absolutely. We are very well sold on that first season and are soon to put on sale the following season. We are not an occasional visitor – we intend to have a future here in Australia. I am full of optimism and excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead of us in Australia.
IN VIKING NEWS JUST IN, the luxury cruise line has announced cruise extensions to its new 2018 15-day Australia & New Zealand ocean itinerary, with just three months to go until it makes its debut down under.
Featuring nine guided tours in Australia and NZ, the 15-day cruise sails between December 2018 and February 2019 and is priced from $8,295 per person. But if you book before 31 December 2017, you'll save $1,000 per couple.
Details of the extension are:
The Best of Australia – guests can explore the bustling city of Melbourne, filled with inviting coffee shops, charming architecture and public gardens. In Alice Springs, they will meet the indigenous people of the Warlpiri tribe and learn about their culture. Staying at Sails in the Desert resort (or similar), guests will marvel at the changing colours of Uluru at sunset. Priced from $5,339 per person.
Port Douglas & the Great Barrier Reef- lets guests discover the breathtaking natural wonders of Port Douglas, including the Daintree National Park and the Great Barrier Reef. Priced from $2,269 per person.
Auckland & Tongariro National Park - guests explore the natural beauty of Auckland’s Waiheke Island and enjoy a delicious garden-to-table menu during lunch at Cable Bay Vineyard. They may take a guided hike between the Ngauruhoe and Tongariro volcanoes, among a complex of multi-coloured volcanic craters, emerald lakes and mountain springs. Priced from $3,469 per person.