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On a surprisingly beautiful day in May in Greenwich, England, Karine Hagen, senior vice president of product for Viking Cruises, along with goddaughter Maya Asimus Minbergh and yellow Labrador Finse, christened the second Viking Ocean Cruises ship, Viking Sea. The blessing was recited simultaneously by Hagen, the ship’s godmother, and the self-possessed Minbergh, with Finse, who stars in Hagen’s series of children’s travel books, by their side.
The christening on the Thames River of the 930-guest Viking Sea capitalized on England’s history with the Vikings, who raided and settled there from the 9th century with fleets as large as 350 ships. Eventually, parts of England were under Anglo-Saxon rule, as well as under Danelaw (Viking) authority, and many traces of Viking occupation remain. The ribbon cutting to release Viking Sea’s christening bottle was accomplished with a replica of a historic Viking Axe — one of seven found near London Bridge — and presented by Norwegian Geir Magne Rovik, who looked as though he had just stepped out of a Viking saga. Describing the axe as a symbol of success and power for the Vikings, Rovik expressed the hope that it will be a symbol of success and power for Viking Cruises.
The axe wasn’t the only unorthodox touch in what was a tender, familial ceremony. In place of conventional dress clothing and a hat, Hagen wore a colorful “bunad,” Norway's national costume. And although champagne flowed freely in guests’ glasses, the bottle that was smashed to christen the ship was Gammel Opland Aquavit, the favorite of Hagen’s grandmother, Mamsen, who is also honored with the intimate onboard restaurant that bears her name and serves her recipes.
“I know she would be incredibly proud of the company you built, Papa,” Karine said to her father, Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises’ chairman and founder.
It was perhaps unusual to find a beautiful Labrador relaxing in a cruise ship atrium, but Finse’s mother, Bella, was in also attendance, with her owner, Lady Carnarvon, from Highclere Castle, the real-life setting featured in television series “Downton Abbey” — a relationship that developed after Viking’s sponsorship of the series.
Norwegian entertainment was provided, from an exquisite solo violinist to a choir from Norwegian Seaman's Mission, then fireworks lit the ship and the banks.
“Today is a proud day for our Viking family,” Torstein Hagen said. “London is one of my favorite cities, and Greenwich is a significant port for Viking. We look forward to bringing more guests here this spring and in future years”
“Our ships are built for exploration; they are vessels that help our guests spend more time immersed in and surrounded by their destination,” he added. “With the arrival of our second ship — and with four more sister ships on the way — we are focused on introducing travelers to the Viking way of destination-centered cruising, a unique style that was inspired by our success on the rivers.”