Viking Orion arrives in Darwin tomorrow (Tuesday) ahead of a much-anticipated debut season in Australia. Here, Michelle Black, Viking’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, reveals what this means for the Aussie market and the company’s future Down Under.
Having Viking Orion home porting in Australia must be very exciting?
It is a golden opportunity for us and it will be our biggest marketing channel for the year. Brochures and videos can only do so much and you can’t beat actually having the ship here. We’ve had about 3,000 agents register for a ship inspection over the next three months, which is quite phenomenal.
Everybody seems to love our ocean product. We had Viking Sun down here in February and that was the first time a Viking ship had been in Australian waters. I think we blew the market away. I don’t think the expectation was there for the quality of ship that we were able to showcase.
Orion’s arrival is a clear commitment to this market. How important is Australia to Viking?
Super important. Our key source markets are English-speaking markets such as America, the UK and Australia. Obviously Australians love to cruise and there are a lot of people jumping on ships from here. I predict Australia will be the second biggest source market to the U.S. by the end of next year for ocean.
We’ve had tremendous growth here in the last two years and we don’t see that momentum slowing, we only see it continuing. Having Orion here is only going to add to the awareness in the industry.
Tell us a little bit about Orion.
She’s a brand new ship so will still have that new ship smell. Because of the use of leather throughout the ship she does have a lovely fragrance. We also have a planetarium, which is unique to her, and is a tribute to Anna Fisher, one of the first female NASA astronauts, who is also her Godmother. It has been highly popular with our guests and we also have a resident astronomer onboard.
For those who haven’t sampled a Viking ocean cruise, what can they expect?
Our Chairman, Torstein Hagen, and his team did an incredible job in designing the ships. They are all sister ships so they’re identical and have got an incredible feeling of serenity about them.
What I particularly like is that they chose not to go with a typical ship design company – they chose hotel designers instead and I think that’s really evident when you step onboard and feel instantly that it’s not like a typical cruise ship.
Yet you don’t position yourselves as ‘luxury’ cruising?
We didn’t build these ships to compete in the luxury sector. We built them to suit our river cruise guests and potential new guests and to replicate a similar experience to river cruising. We wanted to create our own space in the market and I think we’ve done an exceptional job of that.
What is coming up on the horizon for Viking?
Our sixth ocean ship, Viking Jupiter, comes out in February and then we’ve got a bit of a gap between her and number seven.
But due to the demand for our ocean product globally we are seeing some sailings in 2019/2020 already full so our message to agents and consumers is to buy early. We’ve got much more to come so watch this space.
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