I’ve just returned from a ‘shakedown’ cruise on the liner, Viking Sky. For those who don’t know – and I didn’t – a shakedown is when a ship is tested on its first run with passengers. Mary and I were among the guests of Tors Hagen, the dynamic owner of the Viking Line, and we, like his other guests, were asked to report on the things we liked and didn’t like. This just happened to come at a time when Viking has been voted the most popular line in the cruise business. I think the only statistic you need to know is that 92% of his staff on board ship remain with the company, and they are certainly among the best I’ve ever experienced.
I have reported in the past on river cruises, and find it remarkable that this company can excel in both forms of travel. Some of the great bonuses Mr Hagen has introduced, and I’m sure other companies will have to follow, is that there’s no charge for WiFi, laundry, or for wine at lunch or dinner, and no children under the age of 18 are allowed, and there are no unnecessary tannoy announcements. Of course, I’m biased as we had a glorious free trip, but it would be churlish to deny that our cabin, the food, and the courteous staff were not exceptional, even if the shore cruises could be improved upon and the on-board entertainment was at times a little patchy. Overall, a quite remarkable 10 days between Venice and Rome, and among the best holidays Mary and I have ever been on. We will certainly be travelling with Viking again. They already have three ocean liners, and three more are currently being built. He’s found a winning formula, and I wish him luck with their new venture.