ABOARD THE VIKING STAR – We have all heard the adage, “Happy wife, happy life.” (Gotta admit, I’ve always liked that one.) But in cruising, the more appropriate saying is “Happy crew, happy ship.”
And the Viking Star is one happy ship.
In all my years of cruising, I don’t think I have ever encountered a staff as upbeat as the one onboard this new vessel. All 430 of them. Everyone is always smiling. Each and every staffer says hello when they meet or pass you on the ship. They are always willing to help or answer any question. They don’t pass the buck or indicate that it’s not their job. Every one, from deck hand to captain, is always in “can-do” mode.
And everyone I encountered spoke excellent English. Pretty amazing when you think of it.
One immediately notices that supervisors pitch in everywhere to make the ship run smoothly. A personal example: I was in the buffet at lunch and was walking to my table with a couple of small plates in hand when I encountered a restaurant manager (three stripes on the sleeve!) and someone with him who was obviously from HQ, but not in uniform. This fellow immediately jumped forward, offering to carry my plates. What a way to set an example for the crew.
It appears that when starting their ocean cruise line last year Viking skimmed the best workers from a lot of other companies. Almost every crew member I spoke with indicated that they had worked for at least one other line and many had experience on two or three. That depth of knowledge is invaluable and makes it a lot easier to train new crew members as Viking adds ships to its fleet.
For example, assistant cruise director Elmer worked 10 years for Disney Cruises and another eight for Royal Caribbean. Our favorite bartender Igor worked for many years on Seabourn. Bar waitress Natasha began her career at sea on Princess (and we think she is so good that we hope she gets promoted.) And so it goes. Some worked for Oceania, others for Norwegian.
A great many are from Indonesia or Balkan countries like Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia but mixed in are Filipinos, Swedes and other nationalities. Most of the officers are Norwegian – no surprise there. And the entertainers were mostly American, as was Aaron, the cruise director.
Like the ship itself, each staffer is immaculately groomed, with fresh uniforms, neat hair and subtle makeup for the ladies.
When asked, several indicated they really are happy: “I like it here, it’s nice.” “Nice crowd.” “Nice ship.” “They are very good to us.” “They have good training.” “They give us more time off in port.”
Kudos to Viking for accomplishing this in such a young company. I have included a few photos here of some of the folks who made our trip special. I easily could have added a dozen more.