Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises' second ship - the Viking Sea - has officially launched and embarked on its first cruise. It joins and has already met the first ship, the Viking Star, as the cruise line anticipates more orders and an eventual fleet of six vessels. Viking Cruises' ocean and river brands have predominated Europe thus far, and a future beyond is coming.
The first two 47,800-ton, 930-guest sisters made an inaugural rendezvous in Santorini, Greece, posing for a scenic photo-op (seen above) ahead of Viking Sea's maiden voyage. The Viking Star was sailing from Istanbul to Venice as the Sea headed in the other direction towards Turkey to begin the same route.
"It is hard to believe that less than one year ago, we were just setting sail with our first ship, and now we have two sister ships together," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. "It is a proud day, and I am already looking forward to next year when we will have three ships to cross paths."
Now, the Viking Sea has begun its official inaugural cruise from Istanbul and is following in the wake of her sister ship on its way to Italy. After Venice, the new vessel will head out of the Mediterranean towards London, where the ship will be christened on May 5 in the Thames River in Greenwich. She will then start her first season alternating between Baltic and Mediterranean itineraries.
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"Too often in recent years the most talked-about ships have been the biggest ships. It is our view that some cruise lines have focused too much on building bigger ships and not enough on helping guests connect with the destination," said Hagen. "We have created ocean cruises that put the destination at the center of the experience, with smaller ships that are smarter in design. As our second ship sets sail with her first guests we look forward to introducing more travelers to the unique way that Viking does ocean cruising - a style of cruising that was inspired by our experience and success on the rivers."
So, just where will Viking be headed next? We already know the Viking Star will be the first to leave the European continent on its sold-out 15-day "In the Wake of the Vikings" cruise heading from Bergen, Norway on Sept. 18 across to Iceland and Greenland over to Montreal, Canada. From there, the ship will depart on another sold-out voyage, a 13-day Canada/New England itinerary down to New York City, and then come Oct.14, it will leave for San Juan, Puerto Rico on a 15-day journey that's still available.
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From San Juan, the Viking Star will offer a Caribbean season of nine roundtrip 11-day sailings. Staying true to its destination focus, the ship will feature an overnight in the Puerto Rican city before visiting more off-the-beaten-path destinations like Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe and Basseterre, St, Kitts and Nevis. The ship will then return to the Mediterranean on a trans-Atlantic sailing leaving San Juan on Feb. 25, 2017 on a 15-day cruise to Barcelona, Spain.
During Viking Star's time away, Viking Sea will be covering Europe, and already the third Viking Sky will be joining the fleet in early 2017 as well. The fourth, fifth and sixth will then come online in late 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Right now there are no plans for Viking to return to the Caribbean, but with six ships, it stands to reason that at least one of them will eventually be based year-round there. This is especially likely given the river brand's endeavors to launch Mississippi River cruises from New Orleans, Louisiana, where sea cruises could also depart to make a river and ocean combination voyage in the near future.
Competitor Azamara Club Cruises does a fine job of covering a world's worth of itineraries with just its two ships, so once Viking has six ocean vessels, even more international and domestic opportunities will open up. Potential exists for more regular departures from the U.S., perhaps from the west coast to the Mexican Riviera and Alaska seasonally, plus Australasia and even world cruises eventually. Either way, six ships are plenty to cover a whole plethora of worldwide sailings.
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