Viking Cruises held an amazing naming ceremony for 12 new vessels that will increase line’s leading share of the quickly growing river cruise segment.
Four of the ships were named at the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock, Germany, while another eight were christened in Amsterdam under drizzling skies. After the eighth bottle of champagne crashed against the side of the 190-passenger Viking Longship, blaring of ship’s horns and fireworks celebrated the occasion.
Prior to the christening ceremony, Viking CEO Torstein Hagen announced the line would order another six river ships scheduled for delivery in 2016. According to Hagen, Viking's 2015 river business was “a little less than expected” and would grow about 10% only, partly because of the 50% drop in demand for Russian river cruises. He also cited the last year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa and terrorism events in Tunisia and Paris for the weaker demand.
Ten of the cruise ships christened at the event are Longships. Two are termed “baby Longships” able to carry 98 guests and built 25% lighter in order to ply the shallow Elbe River in Germany. Their addition brought to 60 the number of river ships currently in Viking’s fleet.
Twelve non-executive employees of Viking served as godmothers for the new ships. Hagen said these were “the godmothers on behalf of everyone working at Viking”.
The event is the 4th consecutive mass naming of Viking ships. Six new river boats were introduced in 2012, ten in 2013, eighteen in 2014. The line holds half of the river cruise market in North America and has spent for promoting its product over $600 million since 2001.
The new vessels will be deployed on the main itineraries of Viking along the Main, Danube and Rhine rivers, except for the two river ships bound for the Elbe.
This year Viking Cruises is entering the ocean cruise business, and over the weekend the line will take delivery of the 930-guest Viking Star. An initial shakedown voyage is planned from April 3 to 11.