Viking Cruises’ first ocean cruises in 2015 are nearly all sold out due to the growing awareness of the brand from television adverts, Cruise News has been told.
Neil Barclay, head of sales at Viking told Cruise News that its 2016 sailings for the ocean product are also selling well.
Its first new-build ocean ship will launch in May 2015 with itineraries in the Fjords and Europe, with its most popular including Bergen to Stockholm and Istanbul to Venice sailings.
Its early ocean success comes off the back of phenomenal growth for its river cruise operation, which will see 14 new ships be introduced next year to avoid turning away business.
By sponsoring parts of ITV3 and then moving onto ITV1’s Mystery Drama productions, the cruise line has been able to put its name in front of up to 10 million at a time. It is a partnership Barclay expects to continue into next year and some could argue has introduced the concept of river cruises to the UK consumer.
“We are getting people [interested] who have thought about river cruising and even those who haven’t thought about it but have taken land-based tours. They have seen it [river cruising] is relaxing; they get to see these great places and that there are good lead in prices so it’s good value for money,” said Barclay. “Viking is a household name now and the level of knowledge about the product is up. Many don’t want endless days at sea and we are close to all-inclusive offering visiting a new port each day. Our cruises aren’t about the ships; we attract those who care more about the destination.”
To cope with demand Viking is introducing 14 new ships from March 2014, on top of the 10 it added in 2013 which set a Guinness World Record for the number of ship launches in one day.
Next year’s will be more low key but is nevertheless a significant investment. Rumours of more ships to be added in 2015 are also now circulating.
All the ships will be placed on rivers such as the Douro, Rhine and Rhone which are already performing well.
Barclay urged travel agents to take advantage of the television advertising and capitalise on the name with ‘as seen on TV’ posters.
Enhanced trade strategy
Viking Cruises will implement several new initiatives next year to support the UK travel trade.
As trade sales for the cruise line have grown the company has taken on a new trade sales executive who will visit travel agents, host webinars and help revamp its training programme.
This will cover both Viking’s river and new ocean programme and will be live from 1 February. With ships so full it struggles to hold overnight fams, but will treat agents to days on the ships when possible.
The cruise line will also be expanding its call centre to 31 reservation agents, a significant increase on the six it had four years ago. This will include a dedicated ocean team.
The cruise line is also paying the same commission for its river and ocean cruises, paying no less than 10%.