Q – Great site but no ratings of Viking Ocean cruises which our agent promised was the “top line in Europe” with sleek new ships.” Would we be making a mistake to book this line? We’re looking at a Med cruise next August.

A – Luxury Cruise Ratings identifies and evaluates the world’s top ten cruise lines. Viking Cruises is not yet in that category although she well may be going forward. The idea came from Tor Hagen the charismatic Founder of Viking River Cruises who thought he could design a cruise product based on his core beliefs that:

  • Dress should be casual
  • Décor should be Scandinavian Modern
  • Excursions to the major sites should be included in the fare
  • The ships should remain in port as long as possible

The Viking Star with 930 guests was launched in April of 2015.  The Viking Star and Sky will launch next year.

Our advice is to wait and hold. This is a new product with a new crew and it is generally best to book such at sea “experiments” during their second year of operation. Early indications are that this new cruise line will hit a number of consumer hot buttons, particularly the casual dress and additional time in port. But studies show that more sophisticated travelers are put off by a lack of dress rules aboard ship and all lines are now aiming to increase their time in port. The problem with that concept is that while a ship is at sea, drinks, gift shops, and casinos are all generating substantial profits. When a ship is in port, the locals make money but since guests are off the ship, on-board “spend” is greatly reduced. So a cruise ship that has no days at sea and long stays in port would have to charge higher per diems to compensate for the loss in on-board revenues.

Viking River cruises is not a true luxury product but it offers good value and a series of new, contemporary Longboats. People have counted Hagen out before and it has been proven to be a mistake. Give this new line some breathing room, and Viking Cruises may well become a popular alternative in the small, mid-ship market.

Viking is nowhere near to being the “top line in Europe”. We doubt they will ever achieve that distinction. Think 4-stars at best. And August is the worst possible month to travel in the southern Med.