In the Hot Seat Viking Ocean Cruises' Richard Marnell By Tom Stieghorst / January 26, 2016 Share 1 -- Richard Marnell Viking Ocean Cruises last year launched its first ocean-going ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, on a series of European cruises. Now, Viking is getting ready to introduce a second ship and send its original vessel to North America, where it will do a winter of Caribbean cruising from San Juan in 2016-17. Senior Vice President for Marketing Richard Marnell spoke with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst about Viking Ocean's past, present and future.Q: How have the initial months gone for Viking Ocean Cruises?A: [On the] first few sailings there were obviously some kinks to work out, but they were relatively smooth. From our own onboard surveys we're seeing very good and encouraging quality reports. What people are applauding is the understated elegance, the residential feel, the great bathrooms, king-sized beds, the housekeeping ... and people are quite pleased with our food.There are certainly areas we're focused on improving, but for the beginning, let's say five months of sailing, we're quite pleased at where we are. And we're always looking to improve.Q: When are the next ships coming?A: The Sea will be delivered on March 24, and the Sky is scheduled for delivery in February 2017, and those are both on schedule. Those are adjusted dates, after the initial delays that we experienced.Q: Why are you not basing the Star in Florida for its winter season in 2016-17?A: We want to try to do the Caribbean in a more destination-focused way. Our core itinerary is going to be in and out of San Juan. It avoids the sea days out of Miami and gives us an opportunity to spend time in the West Indies and spend much more port-intensive time than what most vessels are sailing if you're in and out of Florida. The core reason for doing it is we feel we can bring a different perspective to a heavily visited region, to put a Viking spin on it that I think is fitting.Q: What is not working?A: The concept of a singular guest services area has been a struggle. We've modified that, and now shore excursions and reception are separated. Originally, we had been looking at one central place with the tables and chairs in the place we call the Living Room, and operationally that was confusing for guests and wasn't anywhere near as efficient as we needed it to be. Early on, we did have some technical issues with the television system. The technological backbone of the ship, we did have to make some adjustments there. We are having a nautical issue, not a safety issue, with the gangways. The ship is too small for most air bridges, so we have to have a modified way to get on and off the ship. Q: Are the problems with the engine, and with the cracking of the shower stall glass behind you?A: The engine situation shouldn't have happened to begin with, and with the fix it should never happen again. It was a one-off problem, and the showers were, as well. [It happens] when one pushes the envelope a little bit on design and looks to use glass in a way that is different in a stationary house than it is in a moving vessel. We haven't had any issues in some months. All the glass has been replaced. We might look at slight design changes going forward, but from a safety perspective and a utility perspective it's fine.