Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

7 2 INTERV IEW New ships and lifelong dreams Michele Witthaus asks Viking’s Wendy Atkin-Smith what is driving the line’s continuing success as it celebrates its 25th anniversary Over the years, as it has developed from a small river cruise operator to an oceangoing market contender with expedition ambitions, Viking has attained a reputation for having a distinctive personality at the helm. With 2022 set to be one of the brand’s biggest years yet thanks to the launch of many new ships and new itineraries, managing director of Viking UK Wendy AtkinSmith looks at how the chairman of Viking has shaped the brand’s growth. “Our chairman, Torstein Hagen, has been at the helm of Viking since it all began back in 1997 and it was always his vision to offer culturally enriching experiences and an alternative to mainstream cruises – he often refers to Viking as ‘the thinking person’s cruise line’,” says Atkin-Smith. “Torstein always says there is a cruise line for everyone so we have never tried to be all things to all people.” Atkin-Smith believes that the success of Viking can be attributed to the fact that the company has always focused on its core market of culturally curious travellers aged 55 and above, tailoring all of its onboard and onshore products and experiences to this market and their interests. “Viking has always been destination focused, which enables our guests to explore different parts of the world with us. We welcome guests over the age of 18 and we do not have casinos or formal nights so it is really a very different experience. “We started in 1997 with four river ships, so we have continually been adding new destinations and varied itineraries since then, including our popular world cruises. With the recent launch of our expedition voyages, we now cover all seven continents including Antarctica.” Having introduced its first ocean cruise itinerary in 2015, the company has gone from strength to strength in this market sector and took delivery of its seventh ocean ship, Viking Venus, in 2021. This made Viking the largest small-ship travel company in the world. “With two new ocean ships launching this year and another planned for 2023, the speed of our growth into the Viking chairman Torstein Hagen at the Viking Expeditions launch event