Last updated: 02:07 PM ET, Tue March 24 2015

Viking Names 12 New River Ships in Amsterdam, With More to Come

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Viking Cruises | James Shillinglaw | March 24, 2015

Viking Names 12 New River Ships in Amsterdam, With More to Come

PHOTO: Viking staged another mass naming of 10 Longships and two other vessels in Amsterdam. (Photos by James Shillinglaw)

Viking Cruises, on a rainy March 24 afternoon in Amsterdam, named 10 new 190-passenger Viking Longships and two other 98-passenger vessels designed for the Elbe River. As Viking Chairman Tor Hagen joked: “I’d like to welcome you to Viking’s annual event in Amsterdam.”

Eight Longships, Viking’s patented vessels, were docked in Amsterdam, while two other Longships and the two Elbe ships were moored in the shipyard in Rostock, Germany, where the ships are built. Viking now has a fleet of 40 Longships plus 14 other vessels worldwide for a total of 64 ships. All 10 of Viking’s new Longships will offer itineraries in Europe, including the “Grand European Tour,” “Romantic Danube” and Rhine Getaway” itineraries.

Viking has held mass ship-naming events in Amsterdam for the last four years, with separate ceremonies beamed in by live TV from Rostock. Last year there were separate ceremonies in Amsterdam; Rostock; and Avignon, France.

This year’s event initially appeared to be the last major river ship christening for Viking. But at a press conference shortly before the naming, Hagen announced that his company would introduce six more Longships next year with an option for another 18 such vessels in the future. For the moment, however, Viking will turn its attention to ocean cruising this May when it christens the 930-passenger Viking Star in Bergen on May 17, Norway's Constitution Day.

The most recent river ship-naming event is the culmination of Hagen’s plan to turn Viking into the largest river cruise company in the world with the most innovative and cost-efficient fleet. At the same time, the company also has become the most well-known river cruise line among consumers because of its major television advertising program and its sponsorship of Masterpiece Theater's "Downton Abbey."

For this year's river cruise christening, Viking named 12 of its longest-serving employees as godmothers as follows: Donara Anderson, senior director of operations in Viking's Los Angeles, Viking Skirnir; Clare Armitage, señior operations executive in the U.K. office, Viking Eir; Sinemie Bakker, program director-onboard operations, Viking Astrild; Henrieta Balisova, program director-onboard operations, Viking Vili; Adriana Filkaszova, chief receptionist, onboard operations, Viking Beyla; Jana Hudakova, chief receptionist, onboard operators, Viking Mimir; Miriam Kajuchova, housekeeper, onboard operations, Viking Ve; Karoline Landa, controller and hotel manager, onboard operations, Vikign Lofu; Kornelia Pfeiffenberger, hotel manager, onboard operations, Viking Vidar; Faye Pirie, special cruise consultant, U.K. office, Viking Modi; Julie Rosoff, senior director, marketing services, Los Angeles office, Vikign Mani; and Verona Thiele, concierge, onboard operations, Viking Gefjon.

This is the fourth year in a row that Viking has held a mass christening for its Viking Longships, as well as other vessels sailing European rivers. In 2012, the company christened the first six of its signature vessels, 10 more in 2013, a record 14 in 2014, and 10 this year, for a total of 40 Longships. Viking also christened two new ships for the Douro River, similar to Longships but smaller in size. They also christened ships this year for the Elbe, again smaller vessels that can sail that waterway. All of the Longships have been built by the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock, which is owned by cruise shipbuilding giant Meyer Werft, based in Papenburg, Germany. 

Hagen claims Viking has grown 30 percent per year in each of the last five years, while other river cruise lines have grown at 7-8 percent per year. “We are naming 12 ships here,” he said. “Those 12 are twice as much as all our competitors are doing this year.”

He also maintains that Viking has a 50 percent share of the North American market for river cruises, largely due to the major investments it makes in marketing large investments in marketing. “We are not surprised that river cruising has grown so much, because we are causing it to grow,” Hagen said.

In other news from Viking, Hagen said the line definitely wants to build ships for the Mississippi river cruise market, but the plans unveiled by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this month were a bit premature. “We don't have a building contract yet, and our ducks aren’t all in a row in a yet,” Hagen said. “We think we have a great design” for ships that will be “taller and wider” than what Viking currently offers.

When will those vessels debut and where will they be built? Hagen would only say that they would be introduced before Mardi Gras, “it’s just a question of which year.” He also wouldn’t not commit to those ships being built in Louisiana, saying only that they will constructed in the U.S., which is required by U.S. law.

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