Like countless others, I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey, the period drama detailing the lives and loves of the aristocratic Crawley family and their household staff. Season (or series as they say in Britain) three debuts this evening on PBS' Masterpiece.
Unlike a number of my friends, I resisted the temptation to watch season three online last spring when it aired in the UK. I decided to wait with my fellow Yanks.
Tonight's premiere will no doubt make a huge splash, which is great news for public television. It's also great news for river cruising.
In what will go down as one of the shrewdest marketing decisions in the cruise industry, Viking River Cruises returns as a sponsor of Masterpiece Theater. That means millions of fans will once again witness those beautifully photographed commercials, complete with British-accented narrator expounding the wonders of river cruising.
I can't tell you how many people have asked me about river cruising after seeing those Viking spots. The fact that Viking will introduce a whopping 18 new Longships in the next two years speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the ads. In fact, I've had executives from other river cruise lines express gratitude for the ads. Awareness of river cruising in general has gone through the roof. And, that's great for all lines, and the coattails they are happy to follow.
Viking still does have the edge in Downton-related marketing, however. It announced recently a new Oxford & Highclere Castle land excursion program that will take guests to the real setting for Downton Abbey.
The three-night extension is available either pre or post-cruise on Viking's Cities of Light or Paris & the Heart of Normandy itineraries. Highlights include a champagne welcome and exclusive tour co-created with the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. They're the present-day owners of Highclere, otherwise known as Downton.
And, they're perhaps riding the biggest coattails of all.
Photos courtesy Viking River Cruises