Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gene Sloan (USA Today): "Seabournization" of Viking River Cruises: Parts II and III = More Misinformation

I am not sure why Gene Sloan has decided that Viking River Cruises' new ships...and now the cruise experiences...are fairly compared to Seabourn's ships and cruise experience, but it is as if he is being paid to cross-brand these two separate entities...because his comparisons lack accuracy and smack of hyping an inferior brand by using the cache of a superior one.

It is like Cunard claiming it is a luxury brand because it has a number of luxury-associated brands of soaps and other amenities on its ships...while ignore that any semblance of luxury is limited to 10% of its ship.  I mean the Queen and Princess Grill portions of the ship can qualify as a luxury experience, but the overall experience of the entire ship is not luxury; nor is it anything near a luxury experience for 90% of the passengers.  How is that really different than any other cruise line that has a number of nice suites and some speciality dining?  Dunno.

But I digress.  Gene Sloan is clearly reading this blog as he wrote at the start of his Part II, "the new generation of Longships is a quantum leap forward for Viking River Cruises, not only in the hardware component (the ships themselves) but also in the software component (service and dining)."  Now, doesn't that sound incredibly familiar????

So let's jump to the bottom of Part II where he states, "Service on Viking Odin is professional and personable. That said, it does not match the level of Seabourn, which, along with Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, sets a high bar for the service factor."  All I can say is, "Huh?!".

Following on, Mr. Sloan writes,  "Odin features 95 staterooms and suites ranging from 135 square feet, a bit of a squeeze for two I suspect, to 445 square feet, a pair of two-room Explorer Suites". He goes on to state that is Stateroom 201 is 205 square feet including the veranda.  Stop!  Hold Everything!  Seabourn is all suites and on the compared to Odyssey-class ships, the smallest accommodation is about 300 square feet...365 including the veranda.  135 square feet is about the size of a Seabourn suite's  bathroom and closet!

And as for the Odin's veranda, USA Today's cruise guru admits that he can merely step out onto the Odin's veranda.  Meanwhile on Seabourn you not only can lounge on your veranda, you can dine - course by course - on fine linen, china, crystal and silver.  With balconies on river cruises being a new, and welcomed, amenity, why put Viking River Cruise's new ship in a bad light by more than emphasizing its limitations...rather than its growth as a product.

He continues, "Aquavit [the aft open deck area] reminds me of Seabourn Odyssey’s Pool Grill, without the pool, of course".  It is, as on many ships, a very nice open deck with a buffet area.  Seabourn's Patio Grill is a smaller area, midship next to the pools flanked by the Patio Bar on the starboard side and the Patio Grill on the port...serving complete meals (Giant Nigerian Prawns, Steaks, etc., as well as during the day pizza, burgers, salads, etc.).  Someone please explain to me how this is similar...no less how this very nice Viking River Cruise space is not worthy of a compliment of its own.

Continuing on, while Seabourn designed its ships specifically to be more of a Palm Beach hotel style - and done to perfection - Gene Sloan writes, "Much of the emphasis on Odin, in fact, is aimed at harmonizing with nature, not in a Feng Shui sense but in a practical Scandinavian way where the appreciation of nature is, well, natural and abundant....The table settings are particularly attractive and of a Nordic nature...Viking River Cruises is increasingly getting in touch with its inner Viking (and its Norse heritage), thus the simple table settings: colored plates and glasses, fresh flowers and elegant cutlery."  Again, I know - because I was there - Seabourn went with a 100% white format for its modernistic plates and dishware; focusing on shape and function.  (And, ironically, Seabourn eliminated fresh flowers in the dining areas!)

OK.  Why have a written this article?  Is it to criticize Gene Sloan.  To make USA Today angry with me?  To promote Seabourn...yet again?

The reason I wrote this is so that you, the cruising public are not mislead and have the accurate and fair comparisons.  If I was to suggest to you that a Viking River Cruise was anything like a Seabourn cruise and you stepped aboard one of Viking River Cruises' new ships you would be shocked and terribly disappointed.  That is not fair to Viking, which has a very good product.

Now, if you want to compare Odin to some other ships, how about doing it with AmaWaterways new ships or Uniworlds' new S.S. Antoinette?

And now you know why you need a truly high quality travel advisor...like Goldring Travel.