Is Viking The Carnival Of River Cruising? We Sure Hope So

“…we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill, and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky.”

When Viking River Cruises rolled out their revolutionary longships, the world of cruise vacations took notice; this was something different.  Utilizing every possible square inch of space, limited in height and width, the Viking longship design had no room for top deck attractions or a multitude of onboard venues of any kind.  No spa, fitness center, showroom, casino or childrens play area.  Initially, critics had a hard time understanding what Vikings were doing on the rivers of the world and lamented the loss of such features, some common on the existing ships of other river cruise lines.  Said to be ‘cramming as many cabins as possible on to a river ship’ with a negative tone, Viking had been unofficially tagged ‘the Carnival of river cruising‘ also in a negative tone…until they grew, exponentially.

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Where They Came From
Targeting what Viking tags “culturally curious” travelers with a focus on the amazing places that could be visited by river, Viking longships filled fast.  We went to Amsterdam in 2012 as Viking christened 4 ships in one day, an impressive accomplishment eclipsed in the spring of  2013 as another 10 ships were launched earning Viking a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.  2014 saw Viking launch 18 more ships, breaking their own Guinness record.  2015 will bring more longships too as the line sails toward a goal of 100 ships by 2017, continuing to open up a new world of travel to many who might not have otherwise experienced it.

By river, Viking has made experiencing Europe, Asia, Russia and Egypt easy. On any given Viking river cruise one does not have search far to find those who have traveled the world by land, commenting on how much easier it is to do with Viking.

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Visionary Leaders Forge A New World
In a very good way, the path of Viking River Cruises parallels that of a young Carnival Cruise Lines. Visionary Ted Arison founded Carnival Cruise Lines in 1972, taking ocean cruising from travel said to be designed for ‘the newlywed or nearly dead’ to an affordable travel option with broad appeal.  Soon, the clearly defined and unique Fun Ship product made Carnival the most popular cruise line in the world, a title that still holds today.

Norwegian-born Viking chairman Torstein Hagan shares a similar history dating back to 1972 as CEO of Royal Viking Line.  In 1997, Hagan founded Viking River Cruises which has grown to be the world’s leading river cruise line.  Still, anyone with enough capital can build a bunch of ships, revolutionary or not.  More impressive, Viking River Cruises has earned the interest of travelers by offering an experience that taps the spirit of exploration for which ancient Vikings are well-known.

Early on, Hagan defined ocean cruising as a ‘drinking man’s cruise’, declaring river cruising to be a ‘thinking man’s cruise’, clearly targeting well-traveled, affluent North Americans, Canadians and Australians.  Other cruise lines took notice.  Today we already see Hagan’s influence as ocean cruise lines focus more on destinations; something the ancient Vikings who explored much of the planet knew about all too well.

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We’re Supposed To Be Explorers
The quote above comes from an episode of dramatic television series The West Wing, set primarily in the west wing of the White House.  In one of my favorite episodes, NASA’s Galileo V probe is scheduled to land on Mars but having technical difficulties.  When asked why it was necessary need to spend $millions going to Mars when we already went to the moon, deputy press secretary Sam Seabourn (Rob Lowe) explains “because it’s next,” noting “The history of  man is hung on the timeline of exploration, and this is what’s next.”

Fearless Vikings are poised on the dawn of a new age in ocean cruising, taking the core elements of their popular river product to sea with Viking Oceans which debuts in May.  It’s ‘what’s next’ for Viking Cruises and new Viking Star looks to be a ship that could define some of what we might see on other lines in the future.


Stay Tuned
Join us as we too explore, taking a detailed look at new Viking Oceans, set to debut in Bergen, Norway as Viking Star is launched.  Check back each Monday between now and May 17 when Viking Star is christened by Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen, and godmother to revolutionary new ship.

Learn More Right Now-
Want to know more about Viking Star?  This video nails that desire very nicely:

 Photos- Chris Owen