(9 a.m. AEST) -- In Australia, Viking is known for European river cruising, but with its newly built ocean ships heading down under, the locals have a noticeably different cruise line to consider.
“Most cruise lines tell you what they’ve got; Viking tells you what we haven’t got,” said Matt Grimes, Viking Cruises’ executive director of itinerary development. “We haven’t got kids, casinos, photographers or stuffy formal nights. Sometimes less is more.”
What Viking does include is free Wi-fi; a free shore excursion in every port; all food (no extra charge for specialty restaurants or Chef’s Table); beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; room service; and use of the facilities in the Nordic spa.
“I don’t feel there is another vessel offering such a great value proposition in Australia,” Grimes told Cruise Critic.
The line’s first local cruise is a 16-night Bali to Sydney repositioning on the brand new 930-passenger Viking Spirit (to be built next year), departing 30 November 2018, which has been mostly booked by Australians. Another big seller with Aussies is the 14-night Hong Kong to Tokyo cruise and a unique voyage from Japan to Alaska. Bookings for the Sydney to New Zealand itineraries have largely come from Americans and British and “only a handful of Australians”, Grimes said.
Another key difference is the longer time spent in each port. Viking Spirit will dock overnight in Sydney, Auckland and Darwin, stay until 11pm in Cairns and until 6pm in other ports.
“We don’t have the mass rush to embark passengers and then sail off at 4pm like our mainstream competitors,” Grimes said. “We recognise Sydney has as much to do after dark as it does during the day, so we have overnight calls on turnaround day so you don’t only see the airport and the Overseas Passenger Terminal.”
These extended stays are a big investment for the cruise line, but Grime said it’s worth it to give people extra time to explore the destination.
“Australia is not a cheap place to do business and the Australian dollar is quite strong compared to the US dollar. Due to the lack of berths, it’s approaching a monopoly in some ports; consequently the charges are high,” he said, giving Sydney and Newcastle as prime examples. “But we have already committed to at least two years in Australia and New Zealand and I believe we’re here to stay.”
Ahead of its inaugural season from December 2018 to March 2019 summer, the line’s other ship, Viking Sun, visits Sydney for one night on 10 February 2018 as part of its 141-day world cruise.