Just in time for Christmas, the STX France shipyard at St. Nazaire received a gift in the form of orders for a pair of 40,000 gross ton cruise ships to be constructed for a new operator, Viking Ocean Cruises. The company is a division of Viking River Cruises which is the largest river cruise company in Europe as well as offering voyages to a variety of other destinations, with a current fleet of 23 vessels and 8 more river cruisers on order. Norwegian, Torstein Hagen is chairman of the Basel, Switzerland based riverboat company, and has formerly held executive positions with Royal Viking Line as well as being on the boards of Kloster Cruise and Holland America Line when it was still a family-run company.
Among the most modern river vessels Viking River will introduce four new boats in 2012 in a class that includes the VIKING ODIN, seen in this rendering on the Danube River. Courtesy of www.VikingRiverCruises.com
The new ships will be delivered in the Spring of 2014 and Spring 2015. There is also an option for a third vessel. Construction on the first unnamed ship will begin in the fall of 2012. Each vessel will carry 888 passengers and 444 crew for an outstanding 1:2 crew to passenger ratio. They will be 754 feet, 7 inches in length (230 meters) with a beam of 86 feet, 11 inches (26.5 meters). The ships are described as destination oriented, targeting the English-speaking luxury market with passengers sourced from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The cross-over appeal between the river vessels and the ocean vessels should eventually provide the company with a steady base of past passengers.
The newbuildings are code-named “Project Odin,” a mythological Norwegian god and interestingly the name of one of four new riverboats entering service in 2012 for Viking River Cruises. Those are the VIKING AEGIR, VIKING EMBLA, VIKING FREYA and VIKING ODIN, with each vessel having a length of 443 feet and carrying 190 guests in relatively luxurious suites and staterooms by current riverboat standards including full verandas or French balconies. The ocean-going cruise ships will be smaller than the latest ships built by Oceania Cruises for a similar clientele. The closest equivalent vessel in service, both in terms of size and passengers, is Holland America Line’s PRINSENDAM built in 1988 for Royal Viking Line, which today carries 835 passengers with a gross tonnage of 38,100 tons. That ship was built as the ROYAL VIKING SUN (later SEABOURN SUN) during Mr. Hagen’s tenure with the highly regarded Royal Viking Line. Other major shipping figures from Scandinavia are also said to be involved in the new Viking Ocean Cruises.