Viking Star sailing into Greenwich
Update May 15, 2022: (Spoiler alert). On May 15, 2022, Viking hired me as their Ambassador-at-Large. A position that will allow me to sail the world with Viking and share the story of the absolute best ocean and river cruise line in the world. (See Footnotes at end of the article.)
Am I biased? Yes, but biased from experience. Am I honored? Absolutely and ready to embark on the best job in the world. You can now reach me at email@example.com. I hope to meet you on board and hear from you as we explore this wonderful world together.
As you have just launched your sixth ocean-going ship, Viking Jupiter, I hope you won’t mind my sharing a personal note with a few readers. Our past goes back many years and has had its ups and downs.
From the video depiction of the Bayeux Tapestry onboard Viking Star. William the Conquerer “wanted it all” too.
I was kindly invited to Viking’s Amsterdam ceremony in March 2013 where you first broke a world record with the launch and naming of multiple Longship riverboats. I was honored. I was also honored to be on the same riverboat as you, your family, and Lord and Lady Carnarvon. The day after the ceremony your daughter, Karine Hagen, who I admire and who has been my friend for many years, urged me to go have breakfast with you. I hesitated as I did not want to bother you with so many VIPs on board. She pushed me so I sat down beside you. I introduced myself in case you did not remember me and you said,
“Well, are we good enough for you now?”
Clearly, you did remember me and we had some things to discuss.
Viking Longships Christening March 2013 Amsterdam
Let me back up for the readers.
Several years earlier you visited our offices at the Smithsonian Institution. I was overseeing the international portfolio of Smithsonian Journeys and you met with our Director, Amy Kotkin, and me. It was an interesting meeting as you explained your plans to expand your just launched Viking River Cruises. The plans seemed grandiose but you certainly knew cruising and had a vision we had not heard from other cruise lines. However, we decided that at that time, we were not ready to add Viking to our program. End of story? No.
Fast forward four years and here we sat on one of your brand new riverboats and Viking had indeed realized those grandiose plans–perhaps even more than you had imagined–or so I thought.
So what to say?
“Tor, have you seen the movie Pretty Woman?”
I seriously doubted that you had but I was grasping for an analogy.
“Yes, I have,” he said.
“Do you remember the scene when she returns to the store that refused her service, shows them all the bags, and says ‘Big Mistake’? Well, I made a big mistake….clearly.” Silence for a moment and then the shocker.
“Well, I have another favorite line from Pretty Woman”, he said. “Do you remember when Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts he wants her to be his mistress and stay with him?”
“Yes”, I mumbled, wondering where this was going.
“Do you remember her response?”
He repeated it for me……”No thank you…I want it all.”
Well, sir, it is 2019, you have just launched your 6th ocean-going ship and Viking has received more top awards and accolades than I can begin to mention. You are now at the top of that fire escape and Richard Gere (or me) is climbing up offering you flowers. Job well done.
Thank you for inviting me to so many of your naming ceremonies. I have enjoyed sailing around the world on Viking since that breakfast in 2013. Particularly memorable was sailing up the Thames on the Viking Star and watching as you received the keys to Greenwich from the mayor. The Vikings had invaded England, again.
Even if you haven’t forgiven me, you have been very kind, given our history. Where to go from here? I can’t wait to watch. And by the way, I was pleased to see that “Pretty Woman” is one of the movies offered onboard all your ships. Touché.
Jean Newman Glock
Sailing out of Le Havre on board Viking Star
15 thoughts on “Dear Tor, A Letter to Tor Hagen, Chairman and CEO Viking Cruises”
Wonderful story! I love to see progression like this. Our travels together go back a very long way. Now, having tried all the rest, we are excited to be 2 days away from our first Viking Ocean Cruise! Can’t wait to share feedback . Here is to many more !
Our travels do go way back to our college days in Lugano. I hope you have a wonderful Viking Ocean cruise and that maybe I will be on your next one!
Love it!!!! Skol!
I enjoyed reading your gracious post. I think we’ve all had those moments of doubt in a business setting that evolved overtime into magical success stories despite our early dismissal.
In our quest for something different, we did our first Viking River cruise in 2004. 17 cruises later, Viking remains as magical for us as it did in August 2004. I think the test of any organization is how it deals with adversity. The past two years has certainly tested this industry. Viking stood out as a great example of what principled servant leadership can achieve during this period. A great story,
But I have a more personal one. We were in the Viking Sky in March 2019 when it almost ran aground in a bomb cyclone off the coast of Norway. We were ‘ hunkered down’ in the Star Theater for a considerable period of time while the ship was being secured and half the passengers were evacuated by the Norwegian Air Sea Rescue teams. That was the moment for leadership. Tor Hagen did not disappoint.
He flew to Norway to meet with the passengers when the ship was towed into the nearest port. He didn’t hide, he confronted the situation and assured his passengers that he would offer a full accounting and make things right.
900 passengers were re-accommodated on flights and returned home in the most expeditious way, The day after arriving home we received a huge bouquet of flowers from Viking welcoming us home , then a letter from Tor Hagen committing to a full refund of ALL costs for the trip, right down to cab fare to the ship. Then a voucher in addition to the refund for the same amount applicable to a Viking trip of our choice, and, in addition, an all expense paid flight and trip sailing in the maiden voyage of the Viking Mars. In that Marx voyage which he and Karine hosted, they both delivered a stellar presentations on the vision, values, and future aspirations for Viking down the road, The character of Viking and its leadership never stood taller nor differentiated them more as the provider of choice in the luxury cruise industry.
We are booked in our 18th and 19th magical cruise this Fall,
Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. I think your quote, “The character of Viking and its leadership never stood taller or differentiated them more as the provider of choice in the luxury cruise industry,” says it all so well. When things go perfectly both Tor and Karine always want to know, what could we do better. It always starts at the top and I am honored to work for them.
The response to “How was your day, dear?” On a Viking cruise is always, “Fantastic!”
Well said! Everyday is an adventure and we all need more adventure in our lives!
Truly an amazing story. We sailed on the river cruise longship 3 yrs ago and we were hooked! We have cruised many many times before on other lines but none have compared. We can’t go back to them after experiencing Viking. Planned a couple cruises during COVID but had to reschedule because our traveling friends were high risk. Never fear though… we will be back this September for an eastern seaboard ocean cruise. Can’t wait!!
I love the itinerary for the eastern seaboard, and even though I live on the east coast there is so much I haven’t seen and so much to learn. Maybe I will see you onboard!
We have enjoyed cruising with Viking many times. The attention to detail and value offered is beyond anything we could have imagined prior to our first experience with this company. However what has been most impressive is they way they always put safety first during the pandemic. So very nice to see a company face adversity with not just an eye on the bottom line but with concern for their people…crew and passengers. Thank you Viking.
I have also been very impressed. They have set an example for many in always doing the right thing for their guests, crew and staff.
Very nice read! We have been hooked on Viking since 2015, mere amateurs compared to some many others, but hopefully many years to come! When covid paused our scheduled trips, I tuned into viking.tv and became hooked on the personal connection through available Q&A with very accomplished guests. What other cruise companies were able to keep past and future guests engaged in such a manner? Even more impressive was the personal attention Karine took in monitoring and engaging in the whole experience, to the point of reaching out to some regular viewers, both online and in person! We had the pleasure to meet her in Basel last month, a very genuine person!
Thank you for your comment. I too have greatly enjoyed Viking TV and felt it did unify all of us during tough times. Karine is amazing and more so in that her efforts for Viking TV were clearly a labor of love for her Viking “family’, who were spread far and wide.