(12 p.m. EST) -- Viking River Cruises has bought an Egyptian ship that will be revamped for Nile River cruises, with itineraries to begin in March 2018.
The ship, tentatively named Viking Ra, will have 24 suites, carry 48 passengers and boast an infinity-esque pool on the top deck. It's an existing vessel that "we will bring up to Viking standard," Viking CEO Torstein Hagen said at a press conference in Koblenz, Germany.
The current design plans show a ship that will have the same Scandinavian influences that have proven popular with passengers on Viking's river and ocean ships. "It's a blend of the best of the ocean and rivers," said Richard Marnell, Viking's Senior Vice President of Marketing.
Viking already sells Nile cruises that visit Lake Nasser using chartered vessels. Viking Ra will replace those ships and only sail the Nile portion from Luxor, Marnell said.
A Nile River cruise is a staple on vacation bucket lists, one that has unfortunately suffered in recent years due to political uncertainty. Viking sees the area as an opportunity. "The intent here is to grow Egypt" and possibly have a small fleet, Marnell said. "We hope we're early."
At the press conference, Marnell and Hagen discussed some of Viking's other destinations. Four of the Viking's five Russia ships are currently operating, and the line is seeing steady demand, Hagen said. "Maybe we'll have five next year."
The company is also planning to put Sineus, Viking's Dnieper River ship, back into operation in the Ukraine for 2018, Hagen said.
The Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (Burma) is one destination where Viking has pulled out. "We were unable to deliver a consistent Viking experience," Marnell said, noting fluctuating water levels. The same can be said for the Po (in Italy).
And what about the Mississippi River? Viking has made no secret of its interest, but there's still no definite date, Hagen said. "After Mardi Gras," he joked, purposely leaving out the year.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor