Season startup time again! 2018 zipped by super-fast. I can hardly believe the short time it seemed to take as I traveled the Rhine with the Rhine Getaway itinerary from Amsterdam/Basel/Amsterdam. What a great 7 day cruise that is. Definitely, for those new to Viking cruises, a shorter period on the river is a good warmup for taking the ‘queen’ of the rivers cruise – The Grand European.
I am naturally curious as a person and while I spent only 1 season on the Rhine Getaway Cruise, I definitely could have spent another 5. But I want to learn every river our guests go on. The Rhine, Main and Danube have been rivers I have got to know well.
My 3 seasons on the Grand European leg were perfect for getting in my river miles and learning the routes. So I requested to move operations again and was fortunate enough to be assigned the Moselle/Rhine route with the City of Lights -Paris to Prague itinerary. I am really excited about this
So many guests have questions about the Viking operation and our lifestyle as a crew. The season startup is always a curiosity for our guests with questions like – “How do you all spend the off-season?” For many, the off-season can switch to a position in winter harbor. This is where the fleet is tied up and the ships are maintained.
It is mainly our nautic crew who work the winter months but chefs, cooks, admin staff etc are also present to make sure that things are being taken care of in the winter.
So, all management and crew are beginning to get on their way to the ships in the winter harbor for the season startup. This is an exciting time for all of us. We get to see friends and colleagues after a few months break.
It’s really a good time for us all to exchange stories, ideas and best practices. The river cruising dynamics are intense and all the help we can get from each other is of great value.
This is a time to prepare for the season to come, to get the ships ready for our guests and to hone our skills. The period for season startup is not just restricted to preparing the ship. We are training and refreshing. The purpose is to become the best crews on the river again and again.
On the road again..
As I write this, I am sitting in the business lounge in Johannesburg airport – OR Tambo airport. It is a warm early March summers night outside, and the idea of losing summer for a still cold Europe is not that appealing.
However, I soon get the Euro summer and of course the spring which is amazing.
It was a good break….got to my hometown of Umhlanga Rocks, Durban in South Africa. Got some beach time with my lady and chilled.
Was a great time. Naturally, 4 months off does not really mean I get to do nothing.
Primarily I am a Program Director with Viking river cruises but I also have other business interests that I need to look after – especially when I am off the ship and can focus.
So off-season is spent in pursuit of this and, of course, relaxing and either going someplace for a vacation or staying at home, which essentially is a vacation.
I am fortunate to have the Indian Ocean as my front door with a sea that is warm and a summer that is hot. The beaches are golden brown and the subtropical feel is ideal for that sense of being away from the world for awhile.
Revitalized and looking forward to the Season startup and meeting our guests.
The start of the journey
As I say very often in my writings on this website,: prepare for the unexpected. My flight is with KLM.
I got to the airport 3 hours before my flight. Arriving at 9.30pm for a 11.35pm overnight flight.
I get to the desk and am informed that the flight is delayed 1.5 hours. We are now taking off at 1:05am. Good job KLM!
I know that things happen but how about sending an alert and letting passengers know? I have their app on my phone – there is no excuse.
Customer service is lacking with this airline. I fly with them very often. They drive me crazy.
But then, most airlines are pretty slack with their customer service. I just don’t get it. At Viking and on Ocean, we are all about the customer.
They are the most important aspect to our philosophy. Why on earth can airlines not start to focus on the small acts of customer service kindness and not compound our coach misery with erroneous rubbish like not letting us know what is happening?
Oh, in case you’re confused. I am in the business class lounge but not flying business. I had to pay for the pleasure. Viking do not pay for business and at those prices, neither do I.
Instead I pay for an economy premium seat because I am 6’4 and do not want to sit with my knees under my jawline for 10+ hours.
Fortunately the business lounges at Oliver Tambo airport here in Johannesburg are exceptionally good. I am using the Bidvest lounge.
The food and snacks are great. The refreshments from coffee to sodas are plentiful – for those who drink or smoke, there are facilities for them too. I really do rate this lounge as one of the best I have been in worldwide.
So my demeanor about a delayed flight is actually good. If I am comfortable, have internet, snack on demand and my coffee I am a happy bear.
All good! Ready for my travels back to Europe…
Time to meet the team..Let's find out how the season startup is going to go...
Rob Wheatley has been involved in the media and travel industry since he was 17 years old, starting out in hotel management in the UK. Both a keen writer and communicator, Rob has been a drive time radio host and television personality and moved his career on to the pursuits of travel and adventure, working for many years as a cruise director with major cruise lines. Currently Rob is a Program Director with Viking Cruises.