(3:40 p.m. EDT) -- Continuing its frenetic pace of building new ships, Viking Cruises christened 12 new river vessels in Europe today (March 24), bringing the total number of ships in its fleet to 60.
Torstein Hagen, Viking's founder and chairman, also revealed that the company has six new river vessels on order for 2016, with the option to build more based on demand.
On a rainy afternoon in Amsterdam, the company named 10 new full-sized, 190-passenger Longships and two scaled-down 96-passenger vessels built in the same style as the Longships. The two smaller vessels are customized for the shallow Elbe River, which runs through Germany and the Czech Republic.
In a break with the tradition of having people in the public eye and famous-name godmothers for the ships, this year's godmothers were some of the longest-serving Viking employees. They included Donora Anderson, Senior Director, Operations, and Julie Rosoff, Senior Director, Marketing Services, who both work in the Los Angeles office. It is the first time in the company's history that employees have christened ships, and godmothers for the other 10 ships came from the company's headquarters in Basel and its U.K. office to participate in the simultaneous christening.
Speaking to journalists, Hagen said: "It is always important that we recognize those who have helped us achieve success, and this year I am especially pleased to honor fellow Vikings as godmothers of our newest river vessels."
However, in keeping with Viking's usual custom, all the new ships continue to bear the name of Norwegian gods: Viking Astrild, Beyla, Eir, Gefjon, Lofn, Mani, Mimir, Modi, Skirnir, Ve, Vidar and Vili.
Some 400 guests attended the naming ceremony in Amsterdam, where eight of the identical Longships were moored in front of the city's cruise terminal. Via a live video link the other two Longships and the pair of Elbe vessels -- Astrild and Beyla -- were christened at the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock, Germany, which has built all of the Longships since they were first launched in 2012.
The latest additions to the European fleet follow two unprecedented years which saw Viking break its own Guinness World Record for "the most ships inaugurated in one day by one company" -- 10 in 2013 and 16 last year.
The new ships, which will initially be sold exclusively to the U.S. market, have the Longships' trademark al-fresco Aquavit Terrace and other innovations including environmentally friendly solar panels, organic herb gardens and quiet, energy-efficient hybrid engines. All 10 Longships will sail on Viking's European itineraries, including three of the most popular cruises -- the 14-night Grand European Tour and seven-night Romantic Danube and Rhine Getaway.
This year also sees Viking breaking into the ocean cruise market with the launch of the 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star -- which will set sail with its first passengers on April 11-- a move that has seen the company shorten its name from Viking River Cruises to Viking Cruises.
--By Jeannine Williamson, Cruise Critic contributor