Working & living on board a Viking river cruise ship
by Daniel Papadimas, Greek Chef & now Manager Recruiter of Viking Cruises, and Stavroula Kitsanou, Workathlon’s Social Media Coordinator
1. Who is Viking, and why work with Viking?
More than 20 years ago, Viking started in Russia with four river ships. Through the years, we have set the standard for what river cruising should be, and today we are the leader that all others follow. In 2015, we took the same small ship, destination-focused experience to the seas and redefined ocean cruising. And after just one year of service, Viking® became the world’s best ocean cruise line. We are a financially stable, dynamically growing company—the largest, most award-winning in the industry—with a fleet of more than 70 river ships and six ocean vessels cruising over 100 itineraries around the world.
As The World’s Leading River Cruise Line®, we are constantly innovating and adding to our fleet each year. This means great opportunities for those who work for us. There is tremendous potential to advance your career, whether on board our ships or in our corporate offices. In addition, more people sail with Viking than any other river cruise line, and we have over 40% of the market share. Our customers are English speaking, and the majority are Americans with an interest in the history and culture of the countries through which we sail. Because our onboard product and service quality levels are high, our customers are typically very satisfied – and this, combined with our gratuity guidelines , means that as an employee on board a Viking ship you can be well rewarded financially.
2. Have you worked on board a Viking river ship before? What is life on boardlike, and what does Viking offer to its employees?
I had the opportunity to work several contracts as an Executive Chef for Viking in the river division before progressing to the role of recruiter. The majority of the river fleet consists of our award-winning Viking Longships® featuring streamlined Scandinavian design and casual elegance. They include state-of-the-art staterooms with full-size verandas boasting the largest suites on Europe’s rivers. The maximum capacity of the Longships is 190 guests and 60 crew members.
Back in 2012, before I started my career in river cruising, I was invited to a Viking assessment center in Greece where I was interviewed along with other applicants. What I learned was that working on board a river ship is different from working on land. For instance, we were told that each ship operates like an individual hotel in a large chain, and you are required to work and live at the same place. From a personal point of view, it was indeed like that, but even better! What I experienced during my early steps working for Viking was astonishing—a small community of approximately 60 employees working in harmony and cooperating daily to deliver the best possible experience to our guests. We all had to share the ship’s premises as we all lived under the same roof, and of course we all had to adapt to the house rules. Crew members are required to share a well-designed and relatively spacious cabin for two, comprised of a bunk bed, shower and toilet, wardrobe, and TV. Additionally, onboard Wi-Fi is free of charge for everyone—guests and crew alike.
Viking offers a competitive compensation package by position. Contracts are either Swiss, French or Portuguese, depending on the operation into which you are placed. Your contract offers you two days off per month and is packed with a generous number of paid holidays: approximately 6–8 weeks’ worth, with some reaching up to ten weeks depending on contract duration. In this industry, you are required to work 7 days a week away from home; therefore, you can take a lot of time off during the season to rest and visit loved ones.
Board and accommodation are included in your gross salary, along with social/health benefits and pension fund payments. On board you have a recreational area, called the crew mess, where you can enjoy a snack, mingle with fellow crew members and take a break. In addition to the crew mess, our ships have a designated crew deck on the Sun Deck where crew members are able to relax and take in some fresh air during their break.
3. What are the values or key factors you seek when hiring a Viking candidate?
We are looking for dedicated, hardworking individuals who are able to commit to working 7 days a week for a period of approximately 6–9 months (including vacation time). You must be trustworthy, flexible and open to working with people from different cultures, plus have a true passion for the hospitality industry. Most of all, you must have an outgoing, friendly and positive attitude.
4. Have you ever regretted leaving Greece?
To this day, I have never regretted my decision to go and work on board away from home. After all, it has been Viking and its leadership that has carved and developed my professional growth and led to some of the most important milestones in my career and life. So, I persevered without giving up and always kept in mind the growth opportunities that Viking has to offer.
As mentioned, at Viking you have approximately 6–8 weeks of paid holidays during which you can go home to visit your loved ones and rest. Interestingly enough, though, each time I went back home I found myself looking forward to getting back on board! With that, I realized that Viking had become my home away from home, as it has for many of my fellow crew members.
5. Speaking of career growth, how fast do you think someone can attain a higher – level position on a ship?
At Viking, we have clear promotion guidelines. Promotions are earned based on performance rather than seniority. After growing through various positions and ranks in the kitchen and eventually reaching the role of Executive Chef, I had the impression that I had hit the rooftop in terms of my career growth with Viking, and so I came to wonder: what is the growth limit at Viking? As I am writing this, I can comfortably confirm that, when working for Viking, there are limitless opportunities to advance in your career.
Although career growth really depends on yourself, leadership and mentorship can, of course, assist you, but are not single players! What makes this specific industry’s growth opportunities more attractive compared to those of a hotel is that you can also grow during the season. Many crew members are given the opportunity to step into their supervisor’s roles during their absence, that absence being either a holiday or a day off. You will be surprised how much you can shine by performing a higher role for a single day, and that shine is what gives you the potential to learn and grow! Statistically speaking, with 70+ river vessels, those numbers speak for themselves and you can observe that, alongside these great numbers, many crew members advance in their careers. Having worked with Viking for 7 years, what I have observed over time is that talent and potential are always acknowledged and harvested to its full capacity.
6. What do you recommend to potential employees who are unfamiliar with working abroad or on a river ship?
Starting your career with Viking is a great and exciting experience. What you should be prepared for is the fact that you will be leaving the comfort of your home to go abroad and live on board a river ship, so you must pack all necessities with you accordingly. Working on board a river ship generally can seem like a big step and change in your daily routine; however, you will find yourself adapting to your new lifestyle quickly. For people with hotel experience in which they were provided with on-site accommodation, it can be a slightly familiar experience, with the difference of sharing a cabin instead of a room. If you are concerned about getting nauseous during sailing, I can assure you that sailing on a river can be so smooth that many times you might not even notice you are moving!
Furthermore, in preparation for this exciting step in your career, know that Viking is renowned for its quality and services, and that’s thanks to the dedicated effort and passionate work of our employees. To better prepare our employees with no ship experience, prior to their assignment Viking invests many of its resources in training programs. For instance, we train our crew for at least one week before they even interact with guests, giving them the opportunity to visit our vessels and perform hands-on duties alongside the resident crew.
7. For people reading this article and interested in starting a career with Viking, how would you recommend they forward their application?
If you are interested in starting a career with Viking, please submit your application by going through our website,vikingcareers.com. There, you will find information about working for Viking, including videos and statements from our crew, and a listing of all open positions in our Career Portal.
We are proud to employ 10,000 of our own crew worldwide—all dedicated to making our guests’ stay the most memorable possible. At Viking, we care about your career as much as you do, and we will give you the training, skills and confidence you need to be the best you can be. In fact, we very much hope that once you have joined us, you will stay with us, just like the 90% of our employees who come back to us—one of the highest retention rates in the industry.
Viking Cruises cooperates with Workathlon, so you may also apply to Viking’s open positions at portal.workathlon.com.
For all readers who are eager to expand and develop their career with Viking, we are looking forward to welcoming you on board one of our ships!