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Viking River Cruises, which announced all-inclusive pricing with no NCFs earlier this year, is in the process of launching the other half of its comprehensive business strategy — a $250 million investment in what Richard Marnell, senior vice president of marketing, called “an increase in our global footprint.”
The plan calls for both a larger fleet and an expansion into more regions.
“We want to continue the competitive advantage of operating worldwide,” Marnell said.
He said that Viking would also add capacity in key areas. The three-year program includes eight newbuilds and two comprehensive refurbishments. The eight new vessels will bring the total number of ships operated by the company to 26, an increase in capacity of more than 40 percent.
Among them is the new Viking Prestige, which premiers in Europe in 2011 as a 189-bed sistership to the Viking Legend. Like the Legend, the Prestige will feature the same efficient hybrid propulsion system that uses significantly less fuel and provides a smoother, quieter ride; she will sail the eight-day Romantic Danube itinerary from Budapest, Hungary to Nuremberg, Germany.
The new 264-guest Viking Emerald will replace Viking Century Sun in China in 2011. It features 840-square-foot Presidential Suites with two flat-screen televisions, panoramic windows and a private wraparound balcony, as well as deluxe 269-square-foot staterooms with hotel-style beds and private balconies.
In addition, next year will see completion of a full bow-to-stern renovation for Viking Pakhomov, similar to those carried out on its Russian sister ships, Viking Surkov and Viking Kirov. The ship will be rebuilt to feature all deluxe staterooms with hotel-style beds and flat-panel televisions; the ship’s restaurant, lounges, library and bar will also be completely remodeled.
In Europe, the Viking Schumann, purpose-built for the Elbe River with a shallow draft and pump-jet engines, will also receive extensive refurbishments like its sistership, Viking Fontane for 2010. On the upper deck, eight 180-square-foot deluxe staterooms will be added, while all standard staterooms will be upgraded with standard-size beds.
Even with the recent dramatic rise in popularity of river cruising, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen believes the segment 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,” Hagen said.
Additional ship details and deck plans, itinerary information, dates and pricing as well as travel agent benefits are available on the company’s travel agent portal at VikingRiverCruises.com/Agents.