VIKING SEA ON SCHEDULE FOR APRIL 2016 DEBUT

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The home waters of Norway beckon for the brand new Viking Sea in 2016

The second of Viking Ocean Cruises’ sextet of cruise ships will make her formal commercial debut on April 3rd, 2016.

Currently nearing completion at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. the 47,000 ton Viking Sea will sail on an inaugural, nine night voyage from Athens through to Venice, with stops in Istanbul, Kusadasi, Kotor, Pula, and Dubrovnik en route.

During her first season, Viking Sea will sail spring and summer Baltic itineraries, before returning to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean at the end of July. From here, she will sail year round to the highlights of Greece, Egypt and Turkey while her sister ship- the already in service Viking Star- redeploys to the Caribbean for a maiden season of cruises based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Those eleven night Caribbean sailings are actually quite port intensive, with a first night spent on board the ship in San Juan, and subsequent calls to Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas, before returning to San Juan. Prices, including flights, transfers and all guided tours, free Wi-Fi and beer and wine with lunch and dinner, as well as free use of all sauna and on board spa facilities, begin at £2,490 per person.

Meanwhile, Viking Sea will sail a mixture of nine. twelve and fourteen night itineraries in Europe on a year round basis. Many of these can be combined to create a truly inclusive, three week adventure.

Of especial note is an advertised, thirty five night Nordic Explorer adventure, taking the ship from Athens all the way through the Mediterranean to Bergen, via the western Mediterranean and coast of Europe, sailing on April 3rd from Athens.

For those interested in her maiden UK arrival, Viking Sea is scheduled to be in Southampton on Thursday, May 5th. First arrival in her home port of Bergen, Norway, will take the form of a two day stay on May 8/9th.

It will be interesting to see how the company markets this second of class ship after the grand splash (pun intentional) created by Viking Star last year. This whole ‘back to the future’ style of cruising that the line strives to offer seems to emphasise a very inclusive kind of understated luxe as opposed to a sensational, fairground ride kind of adrenaline rush.

It remains a fact that, while the first ship of a company is a statement of intent, then the second ship has to cement that reputation and ensure a smooth, onward product progression. In many ways, more is actually riding on Viking Sea than many people have perhaps considered.

That said, there is every reason for optimism. As ever, stay tuned for updates.

VIKING OCEAN CRUISES- ROYAL VIKING LINE MARK TWO?

There is little doubt that the ongoing emergence of Viking Ocean Cruises has absolutely galvanised interest in cruise travel on a scale unseen for many decades. The whole concept has distinctly nostalgic overtones, wrapped in a state of the art modern package, and deliberately marketed to evoke memories of a more exclusive, intimate cruise experience. Simply and unashamedly, the company draws inspiration from an illustrious, very storied predecessor.

in the annals of vanished cruising legends, the Royal Viking Line evokes a level of whimsical nostalgia perhaps equalled only by the equally salubrious French Line. The company was established by Warren Titus in the early 1970’s with one simple aim; to create the most elegant and exclusive cruise experience available to passengers anywhere.

He envisaged, and then delivered, a trio of stunningly elegant sisters, suffused in Scandinavian chic from bow to stern, that would offer spacious accommodation and gracious service at the pinnacle of luxury cruising. Those three sister ships were, of course, the Royal Viking Sea, Royal Viking Star, and Royal Viking Sky.

This tremendous, triumphant trio succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The three sister ships became the collective benchmark for elegant travel, and the first choice of the savvy, sophisticated cruising elite that demanded nothing but the very best. Just as likely to turn up at Tromso as Tahiti, the three sister ships carved out a niche in modern maritime history that every subsequent luxury cruise line- from Crystal to Silversea- has aspired to ever since. They truly were game changers.

The sheer, enduring excellence and elegance of their design is borne out by the fact that all three vessels are still in service for other lines, more than forty years after their original genesis. And, despite no longer being the sybaritic showstoppers that they once were, each of these three wonderful ships is still instantly distinctive as ex-RVL royalty.

Titus emphasised space, splendour, and matchless cuisine and service as the bench marks for his three sisters. And now, like a modern day echo heeding that timeless old call, a new class of vessel is gradually taking shape, echoing those age old standards in a series of new, yet startlingly familiar sister ships.

Viking Ocean Cruises is the long anticipated offshoot of the hugely successful river cruise line. It combines the polished, Scandinavian flair of the original RVL with the best features and attributes of the river cruise experience that Viking has come to dominate to such a large extent.

Again, the company decided on a trio of congenial, compatible sister ships. The first of these- the 48,000 ton Viking Star- entered service last year, to reams of critical acclaim from passengers and travel trade alike.

Just the appearance of the ship drew awed gasps from the not easily impressed. There it was once again- that graceful, sharply raked prow that had been the trademark of the Titus trio, and the single proud funnel, placed just aft of midships. The hull- as brilliantly white as an Arctic glacier- hinted at the cool, pristine perfection of those classically styled Scandinavian interiors. In almost every respect, Viking Star is a graceful, beautifully executed nod to her three predecessors.

Next year will see a pair of sister ships- Viking Sea and Viking Star- that will round out the initial fleet (though there is an option for a fourth vessel in the class). Between them, this trio of vessels will take passengers ‘back to the future’ with a kind of intimate, endearing twist of the old days. In so many ways, this is Royal Viking 2.0.

And yet….

This new trio of ships offers a natural, luxurious progression from those 1970’s built ships that makes them as salubrious and state of the art as can be. Every single cabin- and even the smallest measures in at a capacious 270 square feet- comes with its own private balcony. In the old RVL days, balconies on cruise ships were almost non existent.

The symmetry between Royal Viking of old and Viking Ocean of new is hardly a happy accident. Viking CEO, Torstein Hagen, was actually the CEO of Royal Viking Line between 1980 and 1984.

In a mirror image of their river going siblings, the Viking Ocean trio will also offer a full, complimentary range of shore excursions, and many overnight stays in ‘greatest hits’ ports such as Bergen and Barcelona. This is intended to make them fully competitive with the likes of Azamara Club Voyages and Oceania- lines that Viking Ocean will inevitably be compared to.

Viking Ocean will also offer complimentary beer and wine with both lunch and dinner- just like the river boats and another rival operator, Voyages to Antiquity. This is not quite the fully inclusive largesse of, say, Regent or Seadream and, if the line is to really raise it’s game, then fully all inclusive is a must do. For now, this is not the case.

Viking chairmen, Torstein Hagen, has been smart enough to conceive a trio of classically cool, state of the art vessels that are already garnering a tidal wave of attention in the travel industry. Like their RVL predecessors, they emphasise superb food and personal service in casually spectacular surroundings.

But these ‘new’ Vikings offer a whole range of indoor and alfresco dining options that the old RVL trio never did. This is not so much revolution, more the evolution of a classically elegant kind of style and service.

All things in, Viking Ocean is a very alluring prospect; a kind of ‘less is more’ sense of enhanced elegance, shorn of casinos, rock climbing walls and roller rinks, and instead suffused in a cocoon of expansive style and space, in ships that are large enough to be eminently seaworthy, and yet still remaining intimate enough to make fast in the smaller, more exclusive ports that their larger competitors will be obliged to sail past.

Something old, something new, on an ocean that remains eternally blue. A subtle revival and the ageless thrills of a stylish arrival. Hagen is clearly onto something here.

The question is; will anybody else follow in his wake?

From Greenland to Genoa, Viking Ocean Cruises is ushering in a new kind of ocean going exploration.

From Greenland to Genoa, Viking Ocean Cruises is ushering in a new kind of ocean going exploration.

VIKING STAR HANDED OVER AT FINCANTIERI

In a low key but none the less auspicious ceremony, the brand new 47,800 ton. 930 passenger Viking Star was handed over to her owners, Viking Ocean Cruises, by the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy on Saturday, March 28th.

The yard- itself said to be on the verge of taking over the rival STX yard at Saint Nazaire- delivered the first of three confirmed orders for the premium grade company that has come to dominate European river cruising. Two sister ships of the same size and class- Viking Sky and Viking Sea- are due to debut in 2016, and the company also has an option for a fourth ship in the same class.

The ship- very much aimed at a classic style of cruising that emphasises in depth destination visits and on board hospitality rather than gimmicks and glitz- will make a series of shakedown cruises before being finally named in Oslo, Norway, on May 17th- Norwegian Constitution Day.

The advent of Viking Star is hugely symbolic, and redolent with memories of the old Royal Viking Line of the 1970’s and 80’s. Firmly ensconced in the intimate, small ship category, Viking Star will offer free beer and wine with dinner, making the product wholly compatible in terms of value with the river cruise fleet.

I’ll be looking in depth at this new, very special ship as more details become available. As always, stay tuned.