The big news in river cruising this week is undoubtedly the christening of two of Viking River Cruises’ new Longships. It will be the first chance the public has to lay eyes on the new ships, and we are thrilled and honoured to be attending the christening of Viking Odin. But if you’ve never taken a river cruise before, you might be left scratching your head, wondering why these new ships – twelve in total by 2014 – are causing such buzz.
Here’s what you need to know about these innovative new vessels:
Why are these new Viking Longships such a big deal?
The Longships are important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the launch of six river cruise ships in a single year, for a single line is quite an achievement. Now, Viking has ordered and additional six Longships for launch in 2013. This means that by 2014, they will have added an astonishing twelve ships to their fleet.
Are there enough people interested in river cruising to fill all twelve Longships?
Yes. River cruising has exploded in popularity recently, with many of the most desirable itineraries and ships filling up long before the season gets underway. These new ships will help Viking to offer their passengers more choice and newer ships along the waterways of Europe.
What’s so special about these ships?
There’s a few things that make these ships worth writing home about. First, they represent an entirely new class of ship for the line; that is, they’re not sister-ships to any of the line’s existing ships. They’ve been totally redesigned from the ground up.
Second, they’ve re-thought a lot of the traditional river cruising experience. In order to provide more stateroom choices and actual, full-sized suites, they’ve shifted the main passenger corridor over and rotated the staterooms on the other side, so that they can add larger suites without removing passenger staterooms and decreasing the number of guests. Viking feels it’s such an innovation that they’ve even patented the concept.
But it’s their design that really gets us going. There’s lots of glass windows everywhere, plenty of open deck space, and a renewed focus on dining outdoors. The new Longships also allow Viking to better compete with AmaWaterways and Uniworld, both of which have been steadily turning out more and more impressive vessels each year.
Each Viking Longship boasts solar panels and an organic herb garden. They have energy-efficient engines that are not only quieter, but burn cleaner. And their interiors were designed by Yran & Storbraaten, the Norwegian team responsible for the interior design of ships like Seabourn Odyssey and Disney Fantasy.
Why don’t they just make the ship longer or add more decks?
This is the great constraint of river cruising. Because of the height of the bridges that span Europe’s waterways, these ships are as tall as they can get. In fact, the wheelhouse and everything on the top decks have been designed to collapse and lower to deck height just to allow the ship to squeeze under the tightest bridges. Making river cruise ships longer is also not an option due to the strict length requirements in the locks along the rivers. Think of it as a ship that never leaves the Panama Canal, and you’ll get the idea.
I’m not even sure what a “Viking Odin” is. What do the names mean?
The names of Viking’s new Longships were not picked at random. They are the traditional Norse gods, and their names are remarkably appropriate for what Viking is attempting with these new Longships. The meanings are, in order of launch:
- Odin: Ruler of Asgard, the home of the gods, Odin is associated with wisdom, prophecy and victory.
- Freya: The most renowned of the Norse goddesses, Freya is in charge of love, fertility and battle.
- Njord: The god of the wind and the sea and its riches. He is considered the god of prosperity.
- Idun: The goddess of spring and rejuvenation.
- Aegir: God of the sea and personification of the power of the ocean.
- Embla: Embla was the first human woman, created by Odin. She is the mother of the human race.
Are the Viking Longships good for Viking, or the river cruise industry as a whole?
Both. The Viking Longships are obviously good for Viking River Cruises, as they represent a true advancement and innovation in terms of river cruise ship design. But their launch also stands to benefit the river cruise industry as a whole, since the press that’s afforded an event like this tends to be quite large. Anything that can expose river cruising to a larger audience is always a good thing.
What’s next for Viking?
The biggest news – and possibly the largest step for Viking River Cruises since its inception in 1997 – will be the launch of Viking Ocean Cruises in 2014 and 2015, with two ships already being constructed at STX France. The new ships will hold 888 guests and measure roughly 760 feet in length.
Follow along with us as we travel to Amsterdam to witness the christening of the new Viking Odin on Wednesday, March 21, 2012!