Viking River Cruises, the world leader in the river cruise industry, today released details of its fleet development program, which includes eight new builds and two comprehensive refurbishments: a $250 million commitment over the next three years.
Adding eight new vessels will bring the total number of ships operated by the company to 26, an increase in capacity of more than 40%, thus reinforcing Viking’s position as the world’s largest river cruise line. The first new ship, Viking Prestige, will premier in Europe in 2011. Also making its debut in 2011, Viking Emerald will sail in China as a replacement for Viking Century Sun. Additional European vessels will follow in 2012 and 2013.
“Over the past decade, Viking has established river cruising as a mainstream means of travel,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking River Cruises. “At the same time, we believe that river cruising is still in its infancy, and has tremendous growth potential. Our fleet plans will benefit the industry as a whole, by increasing supply in a marketplace in which demand is exceeding available inventory.”
Since entering the North American market in 2000, Viking River Cruises has continued to set the standard for the industry with best-in-class river cruise ships, award-winning service, outstanding quality and all-inclusive itineraries offered at a competitive price. Today, Viking is the only river cruise company to operate in the five regions of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China and Egypt. It maintains its leadership position with the industry’s highest market share—more than double that of its nearest competitor. The addition of new ships will further build on that margin.
“Innovation, quality and unparalleled service are cornerstones upon which Viking was built,” stated Hagen. “Unlike other river cruise lines, Viking can confidently say that we hire and train all of our own staff aboard our ships, we own many docking locations along Europe’s major rivers and we control every aspect of our product—from nautical and tour planning to service and catering. This is what makes our guests the most satisfied in the industry. We see this consistently confirmed as Viking River Cruises has won virtually all consumer and trade awards—making us the world’s most award-winning river cruise line.”
New ships lead the way to the future
Making its debut in 2011 is Europe’s Viking Prestige, a 189-bed sister ship to the company’s flagship Viking Legend, the industry’s first “green” river cruise vessel which has been extremely favorably received in the marketplace. With the same efficient, hybrid propulsion system, Viking Prestige will use significantly less fuel and provide a smoother, quieter ride than other ships. Viking Prestige will host guests on the company’s popular 8-day Romantic Danube itinerary, sailing from Budapest to Nuremberg. With French balconies on the top two decks, the largest suites on the Danube and the latest amenities—the ship represents the environmentally responsible future of Viking’s European vessels.
In 2004, Viking was the first to have western-operated ships sailing China’s Yangtze River, and the company’s innovative ship design exemplifies the standard in the region. In 2011, Viking will also introduce Viking Emerald, the newest and most elegant ship in China. The 264-guest vessel will feature the largest suites in river cruising—the 840-square-foot Presidential Suites will have separate sitting and sleeping areas, two flat-screen televisions, panoramic windows and a private wrap-around balcony—as well as deluxe 269-square-foot staterooms with hotel-style beds and private balconies. Like Viking Century Sun, Viking Emerald will not only meet, but exceed Western standards: it will feature a state-of-the-art kitchen where Asian and European cuisine will be prepared by a catering staff trained and managed by Viking’s Swiss management team.
Each of the new European ships will feature Viking’s signature décor: sophisticated, understated elegance. Reminiscent of the design philosophy of the storied Royal Viking Line, the concepts have been realized by renowned Norwegian maritime architects Yran & Storbraaten, who also designed ships for Silversea and Seabourn. Viking Prestige, with all-outside staterooms and unobstructed panoramic views throughout, will be built by the Neptun Shipyard in Rostock, Germany, part of the esteemed Meyer Neptun Group.
“While we are proud of Viking’s role in the development of our industry,” continued Mr. Hagen, “as an innovator, we focus on the future, pushing ourselves to an ever-higher level in every aspect of what we do. This multi-year fleet development program reinforces Viking’s commitment to our guests, to our travel agent partners and to an industry that will continue its double-digit growth for years to come.”
Complete refurbishments increase the quality of the fleet
In addition to new ships, Viking River Cruises has announced plans for two complete refurbishments to its existing fleet. Scheduled for completion in 2011, Viking Pakhomov will undergo a full bow-to-stern renovation like those of its Russian sister ships, Viking Surkov and Viking Kirov, relaunched in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The ship will be stripped down to its hull, and rebuilt to satisfy the exacting standards of today’s passengers. It will feature all deluxe staterooms with hotel-style beds, flat-panel televisions and the latest amenities. Public areas, such as the restaurant, lounges, library and bar, will also be completely remodeled with Viking’s signature Scandinavian décor. Viking Surkov, Viking Kirov and Viking Pakhomov are the best ships sailing Russia’s famed Volga, Neva and Svir Rivers between Moscow and St. Petersburg. With the purchase in 1997 of four Russian ships, Viking River Cruises was the first to own vessels in this country. Through these complete refurbishments, Viking renews its commitment to maintaining the highest standards in a region where very few of its competitors even have a presence.
In Europe, Viking Schumann, a ship purpose-built for the Elbe River with a shallow draft and pump-jet engines, will receive bow-to-stern refurbishments to match those of sister ship Viking Fontane for 2010. While all public areas of Viking Schumann, including the restaurant, bar and lounge, will be refurbished, the most substantial changes are planned for stateroom accommodations. On the upper deck, eight 180-square-foot deluxe staterooms are to be created, while all standard staterooms will be upgraded with standard-size beds. The décor throughout the ship will have Viking’s signature sophisticated elegance.
Viking’s all-inclusive pricing features accommodations, all meals, daily guided shore excursions and more. Also, Viking is the only river cruise line to include port charges in the cruise fare.