Cruise ships are getting bigger, and the ships are becoming as alluring and integral to the experience as the destinations they visit. But for one cruise line, this trend is going the wrong way.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Matt Grimes, Viking Cruises’ Executive Director, Itinerary Development, Nautical & Technical Operations, said the company wants this trend pushed back in the opposite direction.
Quizzed on what the biggest trends in the cruise industry are, Grimes said the “ever increasing ship size in the mass market, which leads to the ship becoming the destination rather than the destinations themselves.
“Viking is working hard to reverse this trend by building smaller ships with destination rich itineraries and more time spent in port, often up to 12 hours.”
Grimes added that for Viking, the main priority remains “to allow our guests to explore the world in comfort at a reasonable price,” with a distinct focus on the destinations they visit.
But that doesn’t mean on-ship experiences need to be banal, with Grimes adding, “We offer a fantastic value proposition for the guests.
“[These include] all verandah suites and staterooms, free Wi-Fi, no speciality dining cover charges, premium beer, wine and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner, all tips and gratuities, complimentary access to the spa and a free shore excursion in every port.
“We also pride ourselves on what we don’t have, such as casinos and formal nights, and no children on board.”
As for getting this product out there, Grimes confirmed travel agents are vital to success.
“Travel agents play a huge role in building the cruise industry,” he said.
“And because of this Viking is currently undertaking a number of agent training events around the country to help educate the industry on our extensive ocean product.
In terms of the big challenges looming over the cruise industry, it was no surprise to hear Grimes admit the lack of capacity down under was a big hurdle.
“In the context of Australia, [the biggest challenge is] congestion,” Grimes told TW.
“There is a severe lack of berths in the major ports and it has been difficult to find berths on the days wanted.”
This hurdle continues to be a hot topic in the global cruise industry, with major cruise lines criticising Australia’s slow infrastructure progress, not to mention the constant bickering over the options – from Garden Island (despite navy pushback) to the controversial double-stacking at Overseas Passenger Terminal (that no one appears to want).
And as for how Viking keeps guests excited about its products, Grimes said it was about making the cruise more than just sitting on a floating vessel.
“We engage with guests right from the moment they book with useful information about their upcoming cruise through email and video,” he said.
“Whilst on board guests can attend numerous lectures to help them understand and appreciate the regions through which they are cruising.”