Vikings drum at the Viking River Inaugural ceremony in Amsterdam
If you have not yet heard, Viking River Cruises is on a roll. One could say they are "rolling on the rivers." In fact, according to recent statements made by the company CEO, Tor Hagen, Viking River will soon be rolling on more than its current slate of mainly European rivers. The company is headed to America to start rolling on the Mighty Mississippi and its tributaries.
Hagen let the announcement drop somewhat casually during an impromptu press conference on the Viking Embla last week. He said that the company hopes to build an American-based vessel and start selling cruises on the Mississippi sometime in 2015.
Viking River reportedly plans to build a brand new boat to operate on the Mississippi River, which will be a departure in style from the two U.S.-based companies already operating Mississippi riverboats where the boats are replicas of traditional early-American Paddle-wheel Steamers. The Viking River vessel will be long and low, similar to the company's latest design for European sightseeing boats which it calls its "Longships."
Since the Mississippi vessel will be built in a U.S. yard it will also need to have a U.S. crew, per U.S. regulations governing vessels operating in U.S. waters. Viking River is considering a number of U.S. yards to build the ship.
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Viking - Rolling on the - River Cruises
Viking River is on a roll - growing by leaps and bounds rather than the normally slow and steady pace common in the cruise industry. In 2012 the company unveiled four boats of this newly created Longship design. Then just last week in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the company officially named 10 new vessels of the same "Longship" class. Now the company has plans to introduce eight more in 2014.
Viking's Longships were designed by the highly recognized and honored maritime architects Yran & Storbraaten; the team behind the Disney Dream and the Yachts of Seabourn. The new Viking River boats are modeled upon the long and graceful design of ancient Scandinavian vessels. The name of each vessel also comes from key members of the Norse pantheon.
Torstein Hagen, Chairman and CEO of Viking River Cruises, said, "We were the first to introduce hotel-style beds in Russia, the first to design purpose-built ships to navigate the Elbe, the first to introduce hybrid engines that deliver a quieter and more peaceful experience to guests with Viking Legend and the first to operate Western-style ships on China's Yangtze, amongst many other firsts." In 2015, they will be the first to introduce true 21 st century river cruise boats to the Mississippi.
The success of Viking River reflects the new popularity of river cruising - the fastest growing segment in the cruise industry where the number of European River cruise vessels has increased substantially in the last decade, because of Viking River and a number of other cruise lines like Avalon, AmaWaterways and Uniworld, growing quickly in Europe.
Meanwhile, cruising on the rivers of America had virtually disappeared between 2008 and 2011. It was not until a group of investors found and remade the American Queen, the largest paddle-wheel steamboat ever made, buying it from the U.S. Government and spending some $25-million on upgrades to the exterior and mechanical functions that the Mississippi River cruising was able to return in 2012. The revived American Queen was soon followed by a competitor; American Cruise Line, which introduced its own brand-new cruise vessel, Queen of the Mississippi, later on in 2012, as a faster yet smaller version of a traditional American Steamboat - but in this case assisted by standard propellers.
The boats that Viking River plans to bring to America will not be of the traditional American steamboat style, but will rather be based on the new Longships design.
About the Longships:
Each of the new Viking Longships is 443 feet (135 meters) long, and feature 95 staterooms per ship. Representing a $120 million investment, each of the new ships will boast key innovations such as:
· Two Explorer Suites, which will be the largest river cruise suites in Europe at 445 square feet, each featuring a separate living room, bedroom, bathroom and private wraparound veranda, offering 270-degree views.
· Seven 270-square-foot Veranda Suites with full-size verandas in the living room and French balconies in the bedroom.
· 39 Veranda Staterooms with full-size verandas at 205 square feet.
· Sustainability upgrades such as energy-efficient hybrid engines, solar panels and an onboard organic herb garden.
· A new all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace that reinvents the lounge by bringing the outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
· Al fresco dining areas on the Upper deck, adjacent to the lounge to present more dining choices to guests.
Hagen revealed the news of the plan to start American River cruise on March 23rd, a day after Viking River named 10 new Viking Longships in Amsterdam. The company hoped to set a Guinness World Book record for christening 10 vessels on the same day , the Guinness officials put the record at eight ships, since two of the 10 Viking River vessels were technically already in service.
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