PHOTO: Viking River Cruises christens Viking Hild and Viking Herja in Koblenz, Germany. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Viking River Cruises officially christened its new Viking Hild and Viking Herja at a festive event in Koblenz, Germany yesterday afternoon and extending through the evening.
The ceremony marks the sixth such launch since 2012, commemorating a staggering total of 48 Longships built in the short period of time. In attendance were Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of parent company Viking Cruises; senior vice president, Karine Hagen, and godmothers Dr. Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg and Debbie Wiseman.
The former christened the Viking Hild, with the latter christening the Viking Herja.
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Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg is the CEO of Weingut Fürst Löwenstein—a winery in Lower Franconia—and fellow steward for Schloss Löwenstein in Kleinheubach, the family’s 1725-built home. As the Longships pass the historic property, Viking presents what it calls a Privileged Access shore excursion for guests to tour the facilities and taste its wines onboard the riverboats and ocean ships.
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Wiseman is an award-winning British composer and conductor whose credits include film and television, as well as Classic FM Live’s Composer in Residence. Viking has commissioned Wiseman to write a new piece of music commemorating the cruise company’s 2017 20th anniversary. She will record it at Abbey Road Studios and premiere it on Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall on April 18, 2017.
“Two decades ago when we started this company, modern river cruising was still unknown to most travelers. Now 20 years later, we are pleased that most travelers know river cruising, and they know Viking as a household name,” said Torstein Hagen, in a release.
“The naming of a new ship by a ceremonial godmother is a sacred maritime tradition. We are honored that the godmothers of our two new Longships are also important partners who will help us deliver thoughtful and enriching experiences for Viking guests this year.”
Now that the two ships have been christened, they are set to begin carrying their first official guests on March 20, 2017. We are currently aboard the Viking Hild for a 5-night preview sailing, and the new vessel exhibits the same innovative Longship design first introduced by the Viking Odin in 2012. Since then, there have been subtle changes, but the efficient layout remains to better accommodate each’s 190 passengers in great comfort and unpretentious style.
A full review of the riverboat is forthcoming.
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The Viking Hild will soon depart on the line’s new Paris-to-the-Swiss Alps itinerary along the Rhine River in the spring, and both the Hild and the Viking Herja will later embark on classic Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway sailings.
Altogether, Viking Cruises operates 60 vessels for its Viking River Cruises brand and three ships for its Viking Ocean Cruises label. While there are options for additional river builds, no more have yet been ordered, but another three ocean ships are set to come online through 2020.
In the meantime, Viking also just announced it has purchased a riverboat for cruises in Egypt; it will be updated with the line’s understated but warm decor to be consistent with the rest of the fleet. That craft will begin operations next March along the Nile. What’s more, the line’s Ukraine ship is set to come back online soon, and the company’s Douro Longships are now fully under the company’s control.
The existing Viking Odin and Viking Freya have also been customized for the China market and will start Mandarin-speaking voyages on March 28, 2017. Additionally, Viking continues to pursue eventual entry into U.S. river cruising along the Mississippi.
When asked about lessons learned from the new ocean ships (for features or programming) to roll back to the riverboats, Torstein Hagen remarked that its expanded dining choice among alternative restaurants at sea provides a good model for how cuisine might be broadened along the river as well. Already, the signature Freyja Collection of toiletries from the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky have replaced the former L’Occitane ones on the Viking Hild and beyond.