Viking River Cruises reportedly plans to build a new ship to operate on the Mississippi River, which will be the company’s first vessel on U.S. The news was first reported in Seatrade Insider and was confirmed to Travel Pulse by a Viking River spokesman.
Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River, told Seatrade Insider that the Mississippi vessel would be similar to the contemporary Viking Longships that the company is now launching on European rivers, instead of the paddlewheeler boats that are currently operating on the Mississippi. Viking Longships carry up to 190 passengers and cater to the 55-plus market. They have a unique design that maximizes space throughout. The Mississippi vessel will reportedly be built in a U.S. yard and will enter service in 2015. It also would 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.
Two companies currently offer sailings on the Mississippi – American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines. Both operate paddlewheel vessels and both plan to expand their fleets. But Viking River would not be the first to sail a non-paddlewheel boat on the Mississippi. RiverBarge Excursions Lines operated a vessel on the river until 2008, when the company ceased operations.
Seatrade Insider also reported that Viking River has acquired another Russian riverboat that will begin operations for Viking in 2014. The new ship is the sister of a vessel that already operates in the fleet and refurbishments will begin immediately.
Hagen revealed the news to Seatrade Insider a day after Viking River christened 10 new Viking Longships in Amsterdam, a record now officially recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records. Guinness, however, put the record at eight ships, since two of the 10 Viking River vessels actually began operating last fall.