The six new Viking River Cruises Longships were christened in Amsterdam. // © 2016 Viking River Cruises
Feature image (above): From left: Beryl Gibson, Beth Butzlaff, Michelle Chimko, Lisa Anciaux, Sinéad O’Connell and Jennifer Gasser // © 2016 Viking River Cruises
Travel agents and travel trade partners took the spotlight March 1 as the newly appointed godmothers of six new Viking River Cruises Longships. Assembling at Amsterdam’s waterfront among Viking executives — including Torstein Hagen, chairman and CEO of Viking Cruises — each godmother recited a maritime blessing before helping to break a bottle of champagne over the bow of her respective ship.
Two of these travel trade partners are based in the Western U.S.: Lisa Anciaux, director of travel products for AAA Washington and godmother of Viking Rolf, and Beth Butzlaff, managing director of cruise sales for Virtuoso and godmother of Viking Kadlin.
“Virtuoso has five river cruise companies in our portfolio, and each brings something different,” Butzlaff said. “What Viking offers is an incredible product for a great value. It has really forged the way for the wonderful and growing channel of river cruising.”
The remaining godmothers hail from other parts of the U.S., Canada and the U.K. and include Jennifer Gasser of World Travel Holdings; Michelle Chimko of Alberta Motor Association; Sinéad O’Connell of Vacation.com; and Beryl Gibson of Northumbria Travel Limited.
As some of Viking’s most valued partners, the godmothers were quick to voice their appreciation of the line.
“Viking takes care of its partners,” Anciaux said. “They help us build our business, they look outside the box by going to different territories, they consider what works for us and, as we grow their business, they reward us very well.”
New Longships Tialfi, Alruna, Egil and Vilhjalm will sail the Rhine, Danube and Main rivers; Kadlin and Rolf will cruise the Seine in France; and Osfrid, which was christened separately on March 19, will be assigned to the Douro in Portugal. This brings the total number of Viking’s Longships to 59, including 53 in Europe.
The christening of Viking’s latest additions is yet another testament to the line’s aggressive growth, despite some slowdown that will occur in 2017: During a press conference held prior to the ceremony, Hagen said only two new river cruise ships are scheduled for next year. However, he emphasized the company’s focus on ocean-going ships, including Viking Sea next month and Viking Sky and Viking Sun in 2017.