Torstein Hagen is expanding his empire – and he’s coming to America.
The enigmatic founder of Viking River Cruises joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and officials from the Port of New Orleans yesterday to announce that Viking has chosen the Big Easy as the homebase for Viking’s first North American operations along the Mississippi River.
Operating from the historic French Quarter, Viking will introduce six new vessels in the United States at an estimated cost of US$100 million per ship. The ships will be owned outright by Tennenbaum Capital Partners of Los Angeles and placed on long-term charter to Viking; an arrangement that isn’t uncommon for many cruise lines and airlines. The new North American itineraries are expected to create an estimated 416 direct jobs for operations and ship crews, and another 368 indirect jobs in the State.
“We’re proud to welcome Viking River Cruises to New Orleans,” said Governor Jindal. “This investment will not only bring great new jobs to our state, but it will also showcase Louisiana and the Mississippi River to the rest of the world. Since its launch in 1997, Viking River Cruises has connected its passengers to Europe and Asia’s most scenic landscapes and cultural landmarks. With today’s announcement, the picturesque Mississippi River and the beauty of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other great cities of the American South will join the list of the company’s journeys as Viking River Cruises launches its first North American cruise. Viking could have chosen another port anywhere in the world, but chose Louisiana because of our state’s outstanding business climate, workforce and port infrastructure.”
“The Viking team is very proud to partner with the State of Louisiana, and we are grateful for the support of Governor Jindal,” said Hagen. “We are excited about the prospect of bringing modern river-cruising to the Mississippi, a river that has been traveled by explorers for centuries. We know our passengers will enjoy the rich history, culture and cuisine of all the great cities and towns along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Paul. Together with our U.S. partners, we take great pride in the economic benefit that river-cruising provides to the regions our guests visit, from the shipbuilders to the local businesses.”
The new ships will be constructed over a period of three years, with the first two ships scheduled to set sail in 2017. Exact details about the ships, their design, accommodations, features, and itineraries have yet to be released. The shipyard is also unknown, except that it will be located in the United States to comply with the Jones Act. Viking has stated that more information, including exact vessel details and itineraries, will be released later this year. The press release put out from Opportunity Louisiana indicated that the ships could hold up to 300 guests apiece, making them slightly larger than the Viking Longships, which carry up to 190.
“We are thrilled by the choice of the Port of New Orleans as Viking’s initial entry into the North American market,” said Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “Viking is one of the premier cruise brands throughout Europe and Asia. Their worldwide reputation underscores New Orleans as a destination city for both international and domestic leisure travelers. The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans has worked with the Viking team for nearly two years to determine the proper venue for the new ships within the port and along the Mississippi River, and we couldn’t be happier to add Viking to the port’s cruise portfolio.”
Stay tuned for more news here on River Cruise Advisor; 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting time to be a Viking!
More information on Viking Cruises’ worldwide itineraries can be found by viewing our company profile here on River Cruise Advisor.