Viking christened 10 ships in one day. // © 2013 Viking River Cruises
It’s one thing to hear about Viking River Cruises’ expansion and a very different thing to see a fleet of Viking Longships lined up, yard after yard, at the waterside in Amsterdam, each one wreathed and decorated with red and white balloons.
The Vikings used their ship design accomplishments to dominate their regions and, clearly, Torstein Hagen, Viking’s chairman and CEO, intends to do the same. Viking broke the world record for the number of ships christened by one company on one day, with 10 ships named on March 20, and Hagen has said that the company will have 20 of the 190-passenger Longships by 2020. The Longships, unveiled last year, have not changed noticeably in design, but there are alterations in decor — more wood and less marble make the rooms quieter and visually warmer.
The ship’s hybrid engines have also made the cruise quieter, which is a key factor in allowing Viking to use the whole ship more freely, without having to work around heavy vibration and engine noise in the aft area. This has made it possible for the line to build more large staterooms and true suites while keeping pricing around 15 percent lower than the competition, according to Hagen.
At the heart of the patent-pending design is a one-meter shift of the interior corridor to one side of center. By adding a pivoted floor plan for some staterooms, Viking could place 205-square-foot staterooms with verandas on one side of the corridor and 270-square-foot veranda suites with both French and step-out balconies on the other. Each Longship also has two 445-square-foot Explorer Suites, with a separate living room, bedroom and private wraparound veranda, offering 270-degree views. The seven, two-room Veranda Suites have a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom, and there are 39 Veranda Staterooms and 22 French Balcony Staterooms on each Longship.
Stateroom amenities include heated bathroom floors and mirrors, Sony high-definition televisions and L’Occitane bath products, generously sized safes, adjustable showerheads and enough drawer and closet space to make stays comfortable. Guests can even leave their adapters behind, as Viking has installed 110-volt outlets.
Entertainment systems in the rooms provide a selection of music, television, education and movies, and the constant supply of specialty teas, coffees and cookies outside the lounge is available at all times.
Solar panels are installed on the top deck along with an herb garden, an environmental step forward but also a source of fresh ingredients for the chef and even for decoration: lunchtime tables were centered with pots of vivid green basil set in olive wood planters. Cold appetizers, a salad bar and a pasta station are buffet style, with a selection of entrees and desserts with complimentary wines and other beverages. Dinner features table service, with an imaginative selection of appetizers, soups, entrees and dessert dishes. Breakfasts mix table service, custom preparation stations and buffet offerings.
In addition to the single-seating dining room, the Longships have very attractive indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terraces for drinks and lighter meals, with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
Designed by Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbratten, who have created newbuilds for Cunard, Disney, Seabourn and other lines, Viking ships are light and airy, with glass walls and ceilings and light and gauzy fabrics. Light is a key design factor; even at night, diffused ceiling light in staterooms and frosted glass interior doors open the space. The effect is reminiscent of the new breed of Seabourn ships, giving a clean and spacious feeling.
In addition to its design innovations, Viking has proven itself agent-friendly, instituting a policy of paying commission on everything they sell, with no non-commissionables, including port charges. The company is supporting the largest fleet in river cruising with a heavy advertising campaign that has made the whole sector of the cruise industry far more visible to the consumer.
The Longships are fanning out in Europe, including the 10-day Tulips & Windmills, eight-day Romantic Danube, 15-day Grand European Tour and eight-day Danube Waltz. The two newest ships, Viking Jarl and Viking Atla, will also host guests on the eight-day Rhine Getaway cruise sailing from Amsterdam to Basel.