There is about to be a new entrant into the luxury cruise sector- Viking Ocean Cruises. The company inked a deal with the Fincantieri, the Italian shipyard, to build two cruise ships last July. The ships are scheduled to be delivered in 2015 and 2016. But that isn't all. Then in December they announced they had upped the order by two more ships with an option for a fifth vessel. The ships will each be 47,000-gross tons and have capacity for 944 passengers in 472 staterooms.
But that isn't all Viking River is planning. I am currenty sitting upon one of the line's new "Longboat" river boats, a new platform for riverboats the line created featuring true balcony cabins and high-tech design features. For example, this stateroom has bathroom walls that transform from transparent to translucent See the amazing pictures below). Remarkably, in addition to the five ships the line has on order, they also have 18 of these Longboat River Boats on order for delivery in 2013 and 2014.
There just isn't any doubt that despite the economic hard times, this is one cruise line that is riding a crest of success - and is investing its good fortune into its own product.
Viking Ocean may be new as a cruise line, but the people behind it are no strangers to the luxury cruise business. The principals include Torstein Hagen, the current CEO of Viking River Cruises who was also a past CEO of Royal Viking Line - the cruise line that is generally credited with having created the concept of luxury cruise ships starting as far back as 1972.
Notice the similarity in the names; Viking River Cruise and Royal Viking Cruises? That was certainly no accident, as I could see when I took my first river cruise on Viking River back in 1996. I also used to work for Royal Viking Line back in 1983 - like many people I have met over the years who are still in the cruise business, and when I walked aboard my first Viking River boat I could see the obvious similarity; the colors in the wood, carpet and what we mostly used to call "Danish Modern" Scandinavian furniture. It was obvious to me that Viking River was spawned by someone who had Royal Viking blood.
River boat has been riding a crest of success in terms of bookings the last few years - and although it is rarely mentioned, one likely reason is the common traits they share with luxury cruise lines. River boats offer open seating dining with complimentary wine during meals and all the shore excursions included in the cost of the cruise. Lately, river cruises have also started including free stem to stern Wi-Fi Internet access, Right now there is only one luxury cruise line that offers included shore excursions; Regent Seven Seas, another cruise seller that is also having its best year on record.
Without a doubt, the new trend in cruising is going to be "bundling." That means you will have the choice of making your cruise inclusive for drinks, tours, pre-cruise hotels, etc., Whatever you choose to include.
Azamara Cruises also has a new policy of including wine (or beer) with meals during the cruise, and will soon begin to include at least one shore excursion with every cruise. Celebrity Cruises is also talking about future "bundling," as we heard during the introductory cruise of Celebrity Reflection. The travel agents onboard the cruise were all in favor of the idea (especially if they get paid a commisssion on selling the extra services).
Many cruise lines have recently been experimenting with offering "drinks included" packages with every cruise they sell, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Celebrity. The cost is based on a per diem price to the guest of anywhere from $40 to $55 per day.
Most of this newfound interest in "bundling" comes from the obvious success of companies like Regent offering cruise packages that include everything from the typical food and entertainment, to drinks, tours, pre or post-cruise hotels, etc - all in the price of the cruise. The model of pre-paying for various aspects of your cruise, as an option is coming to every cruise at some point.
Would you consider "bundling" different aspects of your cruise? Tell us in our forums.