Skift Take

Cruise customers, who are shrugging off the recent Viking Sky dramas, seem to be a hardy bunch. Advisors have been spared a flood of cancellations, and it looks like business as usual for cruising.

The recent dramatic rescue of hundreds of passengers from a stricken cruise ship off the coast of Norway is unlikely to curb traveler enthusiasm for cruising.

Almost 500 of the 1,373 people on board the Viking Sky were airlifted to safety after the March 23 incident in which the vessel suffered a complete engine shutdown in a storm in Hustadvika, off the coast between Molde and Kristiansund in Norway.

The dramatic breakdown and rescue was shown widely on television and streamed live on social media worldwide.

Viking Cruises quickly cancelled the next planned sailing of the Viking Sky, which was due to depart from Tilbury, England.

In a statement on its website, Viking said: “The next sailing, Scandinavia & the Kiel Canal, which was scheduled to embark on March 27th has been cancelled, and guests and their travel agents have been contacted directly. We do not anticipate any additional cancellations at this time.”

No Backlash

While there were some media reports of heightened concerns, travel advisors report not seeing a backlash against the cruise company or cruising in general.

Tom Barker, president of Houston, Texas-based specialist agency CruiseCenter, told Skift that people are mentioning the incident, but are “not overly concerned.”

His agency has had no cancellations or drop in interest in ocean cruising, nor in Viking itself. “I have over a million dollars’ worth of bookings personally and no cancellations yet,” he said.

Putting the rescue into perspective, Barker said “it is far less tragic than Costa Concordia where lives were lost”. He was referring to the 2012 grounding and partial sinking of the Costa Concordia on the western coast of Italy, which resulted in 32 fatalities.

Similarly, Australia’s Flight Centre travel group, with an extensive cruise business, “is not seeing any real impact at this stage”, according to spokesman Haydn Long.

“I think customers generally accept that this is a very good offering and what took place was unusual.

“It’s still fairly early, but people are not voicing concerns to us and we’re not expecting any noticeable shift away from cruising,” he added.

Long explained that cruising remains “hugely popular” and the customers tend to be highly experienced travelers “who probably recognize that while it’s generally going to be smooth sailing, Mother Nature issues can sometimes have an impact”.

Flight Centre has had some customers affected by the near-term cancellations, but these have generally been re-accommodated, often onto other Viking cruises, according to Long.

Not Deterred

In the wake of last week’s drama, even some travelers directly involved have not been deterred from cruising. One of the rescued passengers posted on the Cruise Critic forum: “I really enjoyed the (Viking) Sky and, up to the unfortunate incident of Saturday, loved this cruise.

“I’d say I’m up for more—even on the Sky. Would have no problems going on her again and am saddened to have lost the rest of the itinerary plus the London extension,” the passenger wrote. “Cruising is something I’ve been enjoying over the years, and so won’t let this stop me.”

Another seasoned cruiser posted: “I’m booked on the April 16 sailing Amsterdam to Copenhagen and nothing I have seen or heard would deter me from taking this cruise. I’m really looking forward to it!”

And yet another wrote: “I am a very happy Viking customer and nothing in this incident has convinced me to cancel next year’s world cruise.”

The Association of British Travel Agents has also not seen any negative repercussions after last week’s incident.

“ABTA has not received any calls from concerned consumers following the Viking Sky incident,” a spokesperson confirmed. “The safety and well-being of customers is a priority for all sectors of the travel industry and the cruise industry has to operate to strict maritime rules.”

In a statement, Cruise Lines International Association said it was “pleased to see the ship back in dock, and that passengers and crew are safe”.

“A cruise holiday is one of the safest forms of travel, and the safety of passengers and crew is the top priority of cruise lines,” a spokesperson added. “Cruise ships today are the safest that ever sailed, due to the stringent rules and regulations that govern their design, and technological innovations that make cruise ships leaders in operational stewardship.”

No Concessions

Viking has not announced any concession to passengers who choose to cancel their journeys due to concerns after last week’s events.

The line’s cancellation policy sees passengers forfeiting 100 percent of their fare if they cancel less than two months before departure. If they cancel two to four months beforehand, they lose half of their fares.


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Tags: abta, flight centre, travel advisor innovation report, travel advisors, travel agents

Photo credit: Some of the remaining passengers look out as the cruise ship Viking Sky arrives at port off Molde, Norway, Sunday March 24, 2019, after having problems and issuing a Mayday call on Saturday in heavy seas off Norway's western coast. Rescue helicopters took more than 475 passengers from a cruise ship that got stranded off Norway's western coast in bad weather before the vessel departed for a nearby port under escort and with nearly 900 people still on board, the ship's owner said Sunday. Svein Ove Ekornesvag / Associated Press

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