Viking Hild and Viking Herja are Viking River Cruises’ newest ships. // © 2017 Viking River Cruises
Feature image (above): Viking executives, such as Torstein Hagen (third from right), were in attendance at the inauguration of Viking’s new Longships. // © 2017 Viking River Cruises
On March 7 in Koblenz, Germany, Viking River Cruises celebrated its 20th year in business with a christening ceremony for its newest Longships, Viking Hild and Viking Herja. Media sailing a special abbreviated cruise on Hild joined Viking executives, investors and financiers for the ceremony and following evening celebration on the Deutsches Eck, a headland where the Mosel River joins the Rhine River.
Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises, was joined onstage for the christening by Bernard Meyer, managing director for the Neptun Werft shipyard, builder of the Longships; Princess Stephanie Lowenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg and Debbie Wiseman, the godmothers of the ships; and their respective ship captains.
“Two decades ago when we started this company, modern river cruising was still unknown to most travelers,” Hagen said. “Now, 20 years later, we are pleased that most travelers know river cruising, and they know Viking as a household name. The naming of a new ship by a ceremonial godmother is a sacred maritime tradition. We are honored that the godmothers of our two new Longships are also important partners who will help us deliver thoughtful and enriching experiences for Viking guests this year.”
The launch of the 190-passenger ships brings Viking’s Longship count to 48, for a total of 64 river ships.
While the champagne bottle for Herja crashed into the ship and was met with loud cheers, the bottle for Hild did not break upon first hit and had to be manually smashed by a crewmember. However, the snafu put no damper on the evening celebration, which was held in a pop-up venue on the Deutsches Eck complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, chandeliers, multiple stages and LED screens. Attendees enjoyed a four-course dinner and a theater show, then were escorted via mini-train to a gondola above the Rhine to view a spectacular fireworks show that illuminated Koblenz.
This spring, Hild will take cruises along the Rhine on Viking’s new Paris to the Swiss Alps itinerary, and later this year, both Hild and Herja will sail the Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway itineraries, which are passenger favorites.
Lowenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, godmother to Hild, is the CEO of Weingut Furst Lowenstein, a family-owned winery in the German region of Franconia. She is also a steward for Schloss Lowenstein, her family’s ancestral castle located nearby. In partnership with Lowenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, Viking has created a Privileged Access excursion for guests to tour the estate and winery, and Furst Lowenstein wine is on offer to cruisers on both Viking’s river and ocean sailings. Additionally, guests sailing on Viking Longships on the Main River will sail past Schloss Lowenstein.
Meanwhile, Wiseman, godmother to Herja, is an award-winning British composer and conductor, as well as composer in residence for Classic FM Live, a popular U.K. independent national radio station. For its 20th anniversary, Viking commissioned Wiseman to compose a new signature piece of music, which will be recorded at Abbey Road Studios and premiere on Classic FM Live at London’s Royal Albert Hall on April 18.
In addition to its river fleet, Viking operates three ocean-going ships and will introduce a fourth, Viking Sun, in November. During a press conference before the christening, Hagen noted that by 2020, the quick-growing line will be the largest small-ship ocean cruise line and have the youngest fleet, a claim it will be able to retain for quite some time.