In March, Viking River Cruises will take delivery of 12 brand-new river cruise ships. They’ll be christened in a ceremony in the beautiful Port of Amsterdam on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 – and there’s a lot to be excited about with this latest evolution of Viking’s wildly successful Viking Longships.
But with such unprecedented growth, there are bound to be questions. In that vein, here are Five Things You Should Know about the New Viking Longships:
1. They’re Not Identical
With so many Viking Longships plying the waters of Europe, it’s safe to assume that they’re all carbon-copies of each other, right? Wrong. In fact, Viking has been subtly tweaking the design of its Longships from Day One; the changes just aren’t immediately apparent from the outside. How different can each successive Longship be? Have a look at our Viking Longships Comparison we drew up last year – and expect more differences and improvements this year.
2. Two Are Longship-Esque
Ten of the new 2015 Viking Longships are the traditional river cruise vessels that thousands of guests have come to know and love – but did you know that the last two new ships are a completely different design?
Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla begin operations along the (in)famous Elbe River this year. Although remarkably picturesque, these cruise tours that travel from Berlin to Prague and reverse have always presented a number of logistical challenges, from low water to lower bridges. Because of that, most cruise lines operating on the Elbe tend to use smaller, older vessels that have shallower drafts and reduced deck height.
Despite the fact that they’re smaller, Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla will finally bring Longship-style cruising to the Elbe, with modern accomodations and now-expected features like the Aquavit Terrace. If you’ve put off sailing the Elbe due to the average age of the ships on that river, fear not – Viking is here.
3. They Won’t Run Out of Docking Space
The most commonly held misconception with all of this unprecedented expansion is that Europe’s waterways will somehow run out of docking space. If there is an element of truth to that, it’s a small one: Space in the many locks that line stretches of water like the Main-Danube Canal have certainly gotten more competitive. But by and large, most European towns (even the small ones) already have multiple docking stations, and river cruise ships feature the unique ability to dock abreast of each other to maximize docking space in areas with a particularly small pier footprint.
4. Viking’s Explorer Suites Are Still The Biggest
It’s been three full years since the launch of the first Viking Longships, and still no one can touch Viking’s lead on the full-sized suite market. Their massive Explorer Suites – two of which are featured per Longship – are still the largest suites in the European river cruise market, clocking in at a whopping 445 square feet. All of that space gives you a wraparound, stern-facing balcony; separate living and sleeping areas; and one of the most spacious bathrooms we’ve seen on any river cruise ship.
5. It’s Full Steam Ahead at Viking
Last year, Viking launched 18 Longships – a momentous achievement by any account. Not only did Viking best itself on a year-over-year basis, but also broke its own Guinness World Record that Viking first set back in 2013 for the greatest number of ships launched on a single day by a single company.
But don’t assume that because Viking isn’t going three-for-three on the Guinness World Record front that the line is slowing down. Instead, in addition to the 12 river cruise ships that will launch this year, the line is also taking delivery of its first oceangoing cruise ship: Viking Star.
When she sets sail for the first time this spring, it will officially mark the start of Viking’s run to play with the big boys. Viking is going head-to-head with the likes of Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania. Viking has options for more sisters to Viking Star, with a total of three ships slated to launch between now and the end of 2016.
For Viking Cruises, it’s Full Steam Ahead this year.
More about Viking River Cruises can be found by viewing our company profile here on River Cruise Advisor.