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Viking River Cruises, which has expanded at an unprecedented rate, is upping the ante even further. The company announced in September that it is increasing its order for Longships in 2014 from 12 to 14 vessels. Viking cited unprecedented consumer demand as the driving force behind the decision and said it is placing the 14 new ships on its most popular itineraries in Europe. By the end of next year, the line will have introduced a total of 30 new ships in a three-year period.
“We are working hard to match supply with demand, and with these new builds, we have the best designed, newest and most extensive offer of ships on the rivers — more than double all our competitors combined,” said chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen. “More than ever, travelers want experiences that bring them closer to the destination, which is why we continue to design ships and itineraries with destinations and enrichment as the focus.”
According to CLIA research released in January, river cruising has been growing at an average annual rate of approximately nine percent. Within this segment, Viking has seen an average growth of 22 percent per year.
In March, the line set a world record with the inauguration of 10 new Longships for the 2013 sailing season, in a first-of-its-kind simultaneous christening ceremony in Amsterdam. The company now reports its most successful season yet, with more than 90 percent of all available staterooms sold during the spring and summer months and record sales for the holiday sailings.
Viking’s Longship design was created by Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbratten, who have created newbuilds for Seabourn, Cunard and Disney, among others, and the ambience onboard is very close to that of the most recent Seabourn ships — exceptionally light and airy.
Features such as multiple dining venues are very popular, and the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace with its retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors is a real magnet for guests, who enjoy drinks and very inventive light fare from pasta to salads and breads.
By dramatically reducing noise and vibration with hybrid engines, Viking is able to use more areas of the ship for accommodations. The 190 passengers on Viking’s Longships have the benefit of a patented design that shifts the interior hallway a meter off center and pivots the floor plan for some of the staterooms. This allows the ships to have 205-square-foot staterooms with verandas as well as seven 270-square-foot veranda suites that have two rooms each, with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom.
Each Longship also has two 445-square-foot Explorer Suites, with a separate living room, bedroom and wraparound veranda. In addition, there are 39 Veranda Staterooms and 22 French Balcony Staterooms on each Longship. Stateroom amenities include heated bathroom floors, Sony high-definition televisions and L’Occitane bath products. In-room entertainment systems offer music, enrichment, movies and television.
Additionally, all Longships have green features such as onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens that supply the tables in the open seating main dining rooms.
Hagen has stated that he expects to have 100 river ships in service by 2020, a goal that includes bringing a larger, five-deck version of the Longship design carrying 340-passengers to the Mississippi. Current operations include river cruises in Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt.
The company is also expanding into seagoing cruising with its first luxury newbuild, the 928-passenger Viking Star, scheduled to begin operation in April as the first vessel of the new Viking Ocean Cruises line. Viking has a sister ship scheduled for 2016, and there are six more similar vessels in the pipeline.