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Photo from Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking River Cruises is entering the realm of ocean cruising, and they’re doing it in a bold way, using a similar model to their successful river cruising brand.

Launching its first new ocean-going ship – the Viking Star — in May 2015, Viking will be offering all-inclusive fares that include not just mealtime wine, beer and other drinks but free Internet service and, best of all, free shore excursions.

What’s more, port stops will be lengthier than on other ocean-going lines – averaging around 12 hours per port – and will include several overnights per cruise. To make this possible, itineraries will typically be longer than the average cruise, stretching from nine days up to two weeks or more.

And they’ll do it all for lower fares than the luxury all-inclusive lines charge. The Viking Star will carry a maximum of 928 passengers — considered medium-sized (almost compact!) in today’s megaship world – and will be able to enter more ports than the larger ships can. Time in port will also be enhanced by shorter disembarkation and boarding times. More ships will follow in subsequent years.

This is good news for baby boomers, who, I’ve found, are willing to pay for value but dislike feeling ripped off. As one baby boomer frequent cruiser told me, “I’m tired of being nickel-and-dimed to death by cruise lines. Let me know what it’s going to cost me upfront, and I’ll pay it.” This boomer and his wife are also recently retired, enabling them to take advantage of somewhat longer cruises – again, something an increasing number of boomers are ready and eager to do.

Not surprisingly, the typical Viking customer is in his or her 50s and older and able to afford a longer cruise. But instead of luxury pricing, Viking Ocean Cruises plans to opt for similar pricing to premium lines like Oceania and Celebrity. Viking River Cruises has made a success of river cruising, and I fully expect it to make a success of ocean cruising, if it sticks to its current planned model.

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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