River Cruising Sees Historic Achievement in Amsterdam

March 20, 2013

(2:20 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise line chiefs are prone to exaggeration when christening new ships, but Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking River Cruises, can legitimately make this claim Wednesday: “This is a quantum leap in cruising.”

At a historic naming ceremony, held in Amsterdam, Viking River Cruises inaugurated so many new ships into its fleet (eight!) that it was presented with a Guinness World Records nod. The fastest-growing river cruise line goes into history for having the “most ships inaugurated in one day by one company.”

Actually, in total, 10 ships were officially welcomed into the Norse-themed fleet (it was a delayed naming for two of them, which debuted last summer, and Guinness did not include them in its calculations). The all-identical, 190-passenger ships are part of Viking's innovative Longships series, which saw six new vessels introduced in 2012 (Take a tour of Viking Odin here). These, along with today's 10 and next year's planned 12 ships, contribute to the cruise line's stature as the industry leader in the dynamic river cruising niche. It's what Hagen, who created the company in 1997, describes as “phenomenal growth. We build as many ships in one year as our competitors have in total!”

Making the introduction of 10 ships -- with their requisite 10 godmothers -- was quite a logistical challenge. Only four of the 2013 crop of riverboats was actually present in Amsterdam; the other six, in varying stages of completion, were still at the Neptun Werft shipyard in Germany. All godmothers, who represented different destinations on Europe's rivers, were on hand in Amsterdam to cut the cord that permitted the Champagne bottle to fly through the air. And they all intoned river's charming benediction, “may you always have a hand's width of water under your keel.” Via live video streamed from Neptun Werft, guests at the ceremony could watch as each vessel there (including two in a drydock hanger), performed the Champagne rite of passage.

The only logistical challenge that mattered Wednesday was whether the bottle of Champagne would successfully be smashed against a ship's hull. With 10 rites-of-passage to get through it could almost be considered another world record that all 10 actually did break on the first try.

Viking River, which has a 35-ship river fleet, offers cruises on the waterways of Europe, Russia, Egypt's Nile and Asia. Highlights of the line's innovative Longships class of vessels, first introduced last year, include the Aquavit Terrace, an indoor-outdoor viewing area, genuine two-room suites (a rarity in river ship design) and the industry's highest ration of cabins with balconies. With an eye toward the environment, Longships all have organic herb gardens onboard along with solar panels and energy-efficient hybrid engines.

Viking's Longships class was named 2012's “best new river ship” in Cruise Critic's Editors' Picks.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor In Chief