I always find myself saying, “This ship’s crew is incredible.” For those who know me, I’m a pretty positive person, so it really isn’t a shock that even a slightly above average crew would elicit that level of praise from me. However, until my sailing aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Lif, I now realize I had no concept of a truly incredible crew.
I first saw the Viking Lif from the window of my Uber as the car approached the dock in Amsterdam. I won’t lie, the size of the ship caught my attention and I wondered how the next two weeks would play out on such an intimate ship. The car soon came to a stop and I jumped out, excited to explore my ship. Turning around to grab my bags, I heard someone yell from the ship behind me, “Happy birthday, Mike!” This was the moment I met Leonard Miron, Viking Lif’s Program Director. He ran down the gangway and again wished me a happy birthday, introducing himself, and quickly whisking me up the gangway onboard. I couldn’t help but laugh a little, considering the sheer excitement Leonard was emitting – a level of excitement and energy that carried our ship through two weeks of Europe. From day one, Leonard, who is essentially the life and soul of Viking Lif’s onboard and onshore experience, was spilling over with enthusiasm and charm. Whether he was leading the daily briefing, escorting a tour group ashore, eating lunch with guests, or throwing the best cruise ship party I’ve ever been to (more on that in the future), Leonard’s passion and drive for his guests never wavered. It was obvious he poured all of his time and energy into ensuring each guest was having the best vacation of their lives, making sure everyone had a tour to participate in, or, in my case, checking to make sure I woke up at the correct time for the walking tour. I don’t know how he did it, because I don’t know many, if any, cruise directors that could do what he does every day.
And it didn’t end with Leonard. In my first hour onboard, I met Ivan, Viking Lif’s Barchef in the Viking Lounge. I remember him introducing himself as “Ivan the Terrible,” however he is certainly one of Viking’s best. Over the two weeks, Ivan and I would talk in the bar about our ports of call, the politics of Europe and America, Viking’s new ocean ships, and, of course, his bar. I remember just sitting there one day asking him about the different glass types and different drinks they serve at the bar. Ivan responded with some of the most detailed explanations of why certain glasses are used for certain drinks and why some drinks are more popular on certain itineraries. Some of the answers were way over my head, but even for the answers I didn’t quite understand, I was seriously impressed at his dedication and devotion to his career. For me, when someone shows that kind of passion, that speaks to me. Ivan showed me that this just isn’t a job for him, that serving his guests is his passion. And that is exactly what Viking is doing – recruiting the best people with the most passion.
As we sailed on, I continued to find this passion in each crew member I met and quickly found out this “passion for Lif” starts at the top. Leaders don’t direct, they lead, and Viking Lif’s Hotel Manager, Jerone, or Jerry, is a leader. On many cruise ships, you’ll never see the Hotel Manager, save for maybe an event or two, but Jerry was one of the most visible and engaged Hotel Managers I have met on the seven seas. I w
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