Cruise Adviser

Viking expands European river fleet by christening seven new Longships

Rebecca Barnes joins Viking River Cruises in Switzerland for the christening of seven innovative Longships set to sail on four different European rivers.

Hundreds of red and white balloons greeted guests attending the naming celebrations of Viking’s seven new river Longships on the Rhine in Basel, Switzerland, last month.

In keeping with a long-standing maritime tradition, the line invited seven loyal employees to step up as godmothers of the ships, including managing director of Viking UK, Wendy Atkin-Smith, who was named as godmother to Viking Sigrun, set to sail the Rhine Getaway itinerary between Basel and Amsterdam.

The other ships – Viking Einar, Viking Sigyn, Viking Tir, Viking Ullur and Viking Vali – will sail Viking’s most popular itineraries on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. The seventh new ship, Viking Helgrim, has been built specifically for the Douro River, bringing the company’s total number of sister ships in Portugal to four.

With eco-friendly hybrid engines producing less vibration for a smoother ride, the 135m Longships include 95 outside staterooms, a sun deck with 360-degree views and shaded seating area, organic herb garden and solar panels, and the Aquavit Terrace and Lounge – an indoor/outdoor viewing area that utilises the often wasted space at the bow of the ship for al fresco dining.

“It is ‘The Viking Difference’ that has made us the leading river cruise line in the world – and has helped river cruise become one of the fastest-growing segments of travel,” says Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking. “As the leader, it is also important that we recognise those who have helped us achieve success. This year I am especially proud to honour members of the Viking family as godmothers of our newest river ships.”

At the press conference, Hagen revealed that two-thirds of Viking’s revenue comes from river cruise and the company is “financially very strong”.

As guests watched the proceedings live in Basel, the five new ships docked in Cochem and Rostock in Germany, and Porto in Portugal, were christened ‘virtually’ by their godmothers via a satellite link.

Instead of the traditional champagne, a bottle of Scandinavian liquor Gammel Opland Aquavit was smashed on the bow of each ship in tribute to Hagen’s mother, Ragnhildt.

The celebrations continued into the night at the Fondation Beyeler museum, where guests viewed an exhibition of works by the young Picasso, followed by dinner and a musical performance by 14-year-old child prodigy Alma Deutscher, a favourite of Hagen’s.

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