Viking River Cruises

THE RAIN STOPPED, clouds parted and a glowing sunset bathed the ancient city of Koblenz, Germany, in light. There, at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers, Viking River Cruises celebrated 20 years and christened its two new Longships for 2017, the Herja and the Hild. The newcomers will sail the Rhine on a new route, Paris to the Swiss Alps. These latest additions mark another year of strong growth for Viking, which now operates 48 Longships. The company launched its third ocean ship, Viking Sky, in February and will add a fourth, Viking Sun, in November, making it the largest small-ship ocean cruise line with the youngest fleet. We sat down with Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, who announced more news for Viking River Cruises and added that it will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River. The new ship named Viking Ra (Hagen decided on the name that day) will begin sailing in March 2018. Hagen eschews the label of “luxury,” saying instead that Viking strives for “understated elegance with great attention to detail” on all the ships. Touting “large bathroom amenity bottles that are easy to open,” he tells the story of the difficulty he once had opening a shampoo bottle in a hotel shower, then goes on to cite the ship’s “heated tile floors and towel racks, and no-fog bathroom mirrors.” The Hild has large, two-door showers and a daylight-lighted bathroom mirror. As for international upheaval around the globe, Hagen’s response is practical. “The Viking motto is ‘Exploring in comfort,’ and we take safety very, very seriously,” he says. “We carry a Norwegian flag when we travel worldwide. At the end of the day, I think it is more interesting to see things than to sit home and be afraid,” he adds. Viking now owns 60 of the docking spaces along the Rhine and its operating destinations include a new river cruise to Ukraine, also scheduled for 2018. “We take great pride in owning and operating our ships. We don’t have partners as we like to be in charge of our own destinations,” Hagen says. Hagen is proud of the design and construction of the Longships as they come with more cabins (95) than other river cruise lines. Additionally, Viking has designed a larger, costlier, asymmetrical ship with stateroom balconies on one side, suites on the other, and a square bow that allows for additional accommodations. “They always put me in the best suite,” says Hagen about the Explorer Suite, which according to him is the largest of any river cruise suites (and the only one to offer room service breakfast). He indicates that the ship’s amenities wouldn’t matter, however, “if our Longships weren’t diesel electric drive, which means the aft of the ship is well-insulated and doesn’t vibrate.” The new Hild doesn’t disappoint. Even though we experienced only a fraction of the 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps tour, it was enough to get a sense Viking’s dedication to service, cuisine and special extras. The Hild’s 39 Veranda staterooms have full-sized, private balconies and ample storage space that help to keep belongings organized and out of sight. The top Sun Deck has a putting green; an organic herb garden, which the chef uses to garnish and flavor dishes; and ample seating space from which guests can watch mountain

goats navigate steeply set vineyards, and view castle ruins standing high on the hills or set within the river itself. As the Hild sailed leisurely past Lorelei Rock on the narrowest part of the Rhine, a lecturer regaled us with the history of the sea and the stories of the legendary maiden, while a classical duo played “Die Lorelei,” one of Germany’s most famous folk songs. Torstein Hagen calls Viking “the thinking person’s cruise,” with destination exploration being the high point. The rain didn’t stop our walking tour of Mainz, of which there are so many highlights that it’s difficult to single out one. The Chagall windows at St. Stephen’s Church — the only such windows in the country — were glowing despite the cloudy weather. A stop at the Gutenberg Museum is an ode to Mainz’s most famous resident, Johanes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press and moveable type and, in the process, changed the world forever. His Gutenberg Bibles, which now number 49 in the world from the original 180, are distinguished by their rich and unique illustrations. Guests can see the bible that Mainz’s mayor promised citizens he would (and did) bring back from a New York City auction, now valued at $20 million. During a stop at Worms and a tour of its famous cathedral and the statue of Martin Luther, we chanced upon an authentically dressed docent who introduced herself as Eva, the wife of a 16th-century bookseller. Eva delivered a monologue about Luther’s visit and asked us, “Did you see Martin Luther arrive this morning?” She was also “selling” his writings. This surprise, authentic moment that transported passengers back in time was created by Viking and was a highlight of the trip. With its popular Christmas market, the opulent opera house Napoleon built for his wife Josephine, and 342 miles of bicycle lanes, one not-to-miss excursion in Strasbourg is the optional “Taste the Best of Alsace” walking tour. Stops include a boulangerie, boutique wine and cheese shops, and the unforgettable Christian, a chocolatier opened in 1960 and now a second-generation patisserie salon known for the world’s rarest chocolates (more than 60 from around the globe) — especially pastries and chocolate drinks favored by Marie Antoinette. These are all crafted by a team of 24 chocolate chefs. It is even heavenlier and more decadent than it sounds. Back on the Hild, sailing down the Rhine, we watched the ever-changing terrain through floor-to-ceiling windows, chatted with new friends over a glass of Alsace Pinot Noir, nibbled on foie gras the chefs sourced that day at the Strasbourg open-air market, and listened to the ship’s resident composer, pianist, and singer, Cezar. At dinner, soft drinks, wine and beer are complimentary, part of the line’s Viking Inclusive Value that also covers the meals themselves, shore excursions and Wi-Fi. “People don’t want to be nickeled and dimed,” says Hagen. Guests can also opt for the beverage package, which, at $20 a day, opens the door to such indulgences as Brunello wine or Glengoyne 21-year-old Highland single malt scotch.

Viking River Cruises Will Now Sail the Nile River

Viking River Cruises has unveiled a new design for a river ship that will sail the Nile River on a new Egypt cruisetour, Pharaohs & Pyramids, that will launch in March 2018.

During the 12-day, Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary, guests will experience Egypt’s cultural treasures in seven destinations. The cruisetour begins with a three-night stay at a first-class hotel in Cairo, where guests can visit iconic sites such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the new Grand Egyptian Museum and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Guests will then fly to Luxor, where they will visit the Temples of Luxor and Karnak before boarding Viking Ra for a 8-day roundtrip cruise on the Nile River to Aswan, featuring Privileged Access to the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens and excursions to the Temple of Khnum in Esna, the Dendera Temple complex in Qena, and a visit to a colorful Nubian village where guests can experience a traditional elementary school. Finally, the journey concludes with a flight back to Cairo for a final night in the historic city.

The newly rebuilt, all-suite Viking Ra will boast 24 staterooms that will exclusively accommodate 48 Viking guests for an intimate cruising experience. Named in honor the Egyptian sun god Ra, Viking Ra’s name also pays homage to the great Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his papyrus-reed boats Ra and Ra II.

Designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including the same interior design team responsible for the award-winning fleet of Viking Longships, Viking Ra will be a state-of-the art ship with the clean, elegant Scandinavian design for which Viking is known blended with local influences like traditional geometric Arabic patterns and terrazzo floors.

Viking Ra will help guests immerse themselves in local surroundings and will feature:

  • All Suite Staterooms: The ship features three suite stateroom categories, each of 291 sq. ft., including 20 Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom. All staterooms include premium amenities such as a hotel-style bed, luxury linens, sofa, private bathroom with shower, air conditioning and flat-screen TVs.
  • Pool and Two Jacuzzis: In addition to two Jacuzzis, the ship features a pool at the back of the ship, allowing guests to swim surrounded by their destination. A sanctuary from the sun is provided by sculptural “sail-shades” inspired by local dhow ships and intricate mashrabiya-influenced screens surrounding the Pool and Sun Deck.
  • Onboard Dining, Bar and Lounge: Dine in The Restaurant, which serves three full meals and a selection of regional and international fare, then head to the clinker-built bar to share a cocktail with friends. During the day, guests can enjoy The Lounge to relax, take in the views through floor-to-ceiling glass doors or hear an informative discussion on the next destination.
  • Spa: Specifically designed for Viking Ra, guests can relax in The Spa offering massage services and a variety of treatments.
  • Enriching Entertainment: Connecting guests to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking’s “thinking person’s cruise.” Instead of casinos and water slides, guests are offered Viking’s Culture Curriculum®, which includes a Nubian evening event on board and a local experience riding a camel. Additionally, Viking’s expert Egyptologist leads all excursions, sharing the archaeological and historical significance of the sites.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, gave the following statement about this new river cruise: “Egypt is one of the most intriguing countries in the world, and it remains a top destination for many of our guests. For two decades, we have led the industry in river cruising with our innovative ship design and itineraries that bring our guests closer to the cultures of the world. We are committed to Egypt, and with the introduction of Viking Ra, we look forward to providing our award-winning service to our guests on the Nile – and to their experiencing this culturally rich region in the Viking way.”

Viking Ocean Cruises Orders Two New Ships

Viking Ocean Cruises is continuing its run of expansion with an order for two new cruise ships, set to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.

The order is part of a memorandum of agreement the cruise line just signed with Fincantieri. The memo also includes an option for two additional cruise ships.

The new ships will be the same size as the current three ships in the line’s ocean fleet: Viking Sea, Viking Star and Viking Sky, which just made its debut in February. The new ships will have a capacity of 930 passengers in 465 all-balcony cabins, and will be the same design as the line’s current ocean ships.

Designed by the same team responsible for Viking’s fleet of river-going Viking Longships, Viking’s ocean ships incorporate details that pay homage to its Nordic heritage. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer options for al fresco dining; huge windows and skylights let in light; and a wrap-around promenade deck is available for strolling. Dining options range from the World Café, which serves global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; to Mamsen’s Norwegian-style deli. The Chef’s Table celebrates cuisines from around the world with multi-course tasting menus and wine parings; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant serves Tuscan and Roman cuisine. With the Kitchen Table experience, guests have an opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the Executive Chef.

The announcement follows a run of recent expansion for the cruise line. In addition to the February launch of Viking Sky, Viking Ocean Cruises is set to launch its fourth ship, Viking Sun, this November. On the river side, Viking River Cruises just christened two new Longships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, in Koblenz, Germany, last month. Also coming up for the river cruise line is new cruises on the Nile set for 2018 onboard the Viking Ra.

In terms of onboard experiences, the line just launched a new Viking Resident Historian program onboard the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, aimed at providing guests with an onboard educational experience tailored to their itinerary.

Viking Christens Two New Ships

Last month Viking River Cruises celebrated 20 years and christened its only two new Longships of 2017, the Herja and Hild, in Koblenz, Germany. Travel Agent was at the event with a look at what’s next for the river cruise line.

The new ships will sail the Rhine on a new route, Paris to the Swiss Alps. At the event, as curious Koblenz residents looked on, guests strolled between velvet ropes and down a red carpet to an orchestra playing below the grand equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I at the famous confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. Decorated with white and red balloons, the Herja and Hild were stationed behind a tented podium, as the staff cheered on the celebrations. Regional 2013 Riesling flowed from the estate of Viking Hild godmother, Dr. Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, who serves as CEO of Weingut Fürst Löwentein, a family-owned winery in Lower Franconia. Incidentally, her family’s ancestral home, built in 1725, is a Privileged Access stop on a Viking cruise.

The christening festivities continued with music and a four-course dinner within a glass-walled, chandelier-filled, Viking-crafted, pop-up event space on the closest point to the Rhine/Mosel rivers, followed by a surprise nighttime cable car adventure (a first in Koblenz history) toward the hilltop Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, where white-gloved waiters poured magnums of champagne as guests were suspended over the Rhine to watch a fireworks show below.

The christening of two new Longships marks another year of growth for Viking, with a total of 48 Longships to date. The company launched its third ocean ship, Viking Sky, in February and will add a fourth ocean ship, Viking Sun, in November.

We sat down with Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, who announced more news for Viking River Cruises and added that it will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River. The new ship, named Viking Ra, (he decided on the name that day) will begin sailing March 2018.

While Hagen eschews the label of “luxury,” he does admit, “We are understated elegance with great attention to detail” on all the ships. Touting “large bathroom amenity bottles that are easy to open,” he tells the story of the time had to open a shampoo bottle while he was wearing glasses and reading in a hotel shower, then goes on to cite the ship’s “heated tile floors and towel racks, and no-fog bathroom mirrors.” The Hild has large, two-door showers and a daylight-lighted bathroom mirror, which, any woman will tell you, is the greatest invention of late.

As for international upheaval around the globe, Hagen’s response is practical. “The Viking motto is ‘Exploring in comfort,’ and we take safety very, very seriously,” he says.

“We carry a Norwegian flag when we travel worldwide. At the end of the day, I think it is more interesting to see things than to sit home and be afraid,” he adds.

Viking now owns 60 of the docking spaces along the Rhine and its operating destinations include a new river cruise to Ukraine, also scheduled for 2018. “We take great pride in owning and operating our ships. We don’t have partners as we like to be in charge of our own destinations,” Hagen notes.

Hagen is proud of the design and construction of the Longships as they come with more number of cabins —190 versus 160 on other cruise lines. Additionally, Viking has designed a larger, costlier ship with stateroom balconies on one side, suites on the other, a square bow that allows additional cabins, and three decks of usable space, as well as a smart, asymmetrical Viking-patented design. “They always put me in the best suite,” says Hagen about the Explorer Suite, which according to him is the largest of any river cruise suites (and the only one to offer room service breakfast). “But that [ship amenities] wouldn’t work if our Longships weren’t diesel electric drive, which means the aft of the ship is well-insulated and doesn’t vibrate.”

The new Hild doesn’t disappoint. Even though we experienced a fraction of the 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps tour, it was enough to get a sense Viking’s dedication to service, cuisine and special extras. The Hild’s 39 Veranda staterooms, which Hagen describes as “the largest deluxe staterooms afloat on Europe’s rivers,” have full-sized, private balconies and ample storage space that help in keeping belongings organized and out of sight. The top Sun Deck has a putting green; an organic herb garden, which the chef uses to garnish and flavor dishes; and ample seating space from which guests can watch mountain goats navigate steeply set vineyards, and view castle ruins standing high on the hills or set within the river itself.

As the Hild sailed past the famous Lorelei Rock on the narrowest part of the Rhine, a lecturer regaled us with the history of the sea and the stories of the legendary maiden, while a classical duo played Die Lorelei, arguably one of Germany’s most famous folk songs.

As Torstein Hagen likes to point out, Viking is “the thinking person’s cruise,” with destination exploration being the undisputed highpoint. The rain didn’t stop our walking tour of Mainz, of which there are so many highlights that it’s difficult to single out one highpoint. The Chagall windows at St. Stephen’s Church were glowing amidst the dreary weather, as though sparkling with the knowledge of being the only such windows in the country. A stop at the Gutenberg Museum is an ode to Mainz’s most famous resident, Johanes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press and moveable type and, in the process, changed the world forever. His Gutenberg Bibles, which now number 49 in the world from the original 180, at one time cost as much as a small house. The Gutenberg Bibles are distinguished from the other Bibles by their rich and unique illustrations. Guests can see the bible Mainz’s mayor promised citizens he would bring back from a New York auction, now valued at $20 million. With works of art such as this, the museum’s contents will be appreciated by every bibliophile.

A stop at Worms and a tour of its famous cathedral and the statue of Martin Luther, a seminal figure in Protestant Reformation, led to a delightful moment, as we chanced upon an authentically dressed “Eva,” who introduced herself as the wife of a 1500s bookseller. She, in complete character, delivered a monologue about Luther’s visit and asked us, “Did you see Martin Luther arrive this morning?” and was “selling” his writings.

With its renowned Christmas market, the opulent opera house Napoleon built for his wife Josephine, and 342 miles of bicycle lanes, one excursion in Strasbourg is the optional “Taste the Best of Alsace” walking tour. Stops include a boulangerie, boutique wine and cheese shops, and Christian, a chocolatier opened in 1960 and now a second-generation patisserie salon known for the world’s rarest chocolates (more than 60 from around the globe) — especially pastries and chocolate drinks favored by Marie Antoinette — crafted by a total of 24 chocolate chefs. It is even heavenlier and more decadent than it sounds.

And once again, you’re on the Hild, sailing down the Rhine, watching the ever-changing terrain from floor-to-ceiling windows, chatting with new friends over a glass of Alsace Pinot Noir, nibbling on foie gras the chefs sourced that day at the Strasbourg open-air market, and listening to Hild’s resident composer, pianist, and singer, Cezar, who keeps the music mellow (think Michael Bublé, Elton John, Frank Sinatra) or upbeat (including dance favorites until 5 a.m., after the christening) for passengers who will truly look forward to seeing him every evening.

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Viking Debuts Two New Ships

 

(the following article was recently published in USA Today)

KOBLENZ, Germany — At the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Germany, near the French border, Viking River Cruises on Tuesday debuted its latest river cruise ships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, just below an imposing fortress dating to the 12th century.

The two vessels, patterned from the same mold that the line introduced in 2012, were christened by a pair of godmothers for the occasion.

Rainy skies gave way to a brief bout of late afternoon sunshine as the event started, just long enough for award-winning British composer and conductor Debbie Wiseman to let loose a ceremonial bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne on Viking Herja. It crashed efficiently against the bow of the ship.

Viking Hild’s godmother, Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, cut the cord to a bottle poised to smash against that vessel, but not a drop was spilled on the first try. A crew member climbed outside the railing to hoist the bottle again, and on the second try the bubbly splashed on cue.

The 190-passenger Viking Herja and Viking Hild are of the “longship” design that Viking unveiled in 2012. The longships feature some of the largest suites on river ships in Europe, as well as cabins with balconies, made possible by offsetting the main corridors. In just six years, 48 Viking longships have been built — an unprecedented number in the history of river cruising (scroll through the carousel below for a deck-by-deck look at a Viking longship).

Viking Hild will begin sailing the Rhine River this spring on a new Paris-to-the-Swiss Alps itinerary. Later this year both new ships will sail Viking’s Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway itineraries.

This year also marks Viking River Cruises’ 20th anniversary. While best known for its European river cruises, in 2015 the company started a line of ocean cruise ships. The third ship for that line, Viking Sky, launched just last month and an identical fourth ship, Viking Sun, arrives in November. Two more ocean-going ships are on order and will arrive in 2018 and 2019.

“By 2020 we will be the largest small-ship ocean cruise line and we will have the youngest fleet,” Viking’s founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said at a press conference Tuesday aboard Viking Hild. “That is a claim we will be able to make for many years.”

However, no new orders for river ships were announced on Tuesday.

“Our growth has continued, but we’re slowing down on the rivers,” Hagen said.

Hagen did reveal that Viking has acquired an existing river ship in Egypt — the ink was still drying on the deal, he said. Hagen said the ship would be extensively refurbished and will “feel at home” to Viking regulars. The ship was tentatively named Viking Ra, after the ancient Egyptian sun god.

“One thing the Vikings have in common with Egyptians is that we have many gods,” added Hagen. “Maybe we’ll have several ships in Egypt.”