(11:35 a.m. EST) -- Amidst a dramatic backdrop of glittery skyscrapers and the famous Oriental Pearl Tower, the fourth of Viking's ocean cruise ships -- Viking Sun -- was officially named by godmother Mrs. Yi Lou, Vice President of China Merchant Bank Financial Leasing.
The crack of the line's traditional bottle of Norwegian aquavit along with the ceremony of a Viking performer that attends all of the ocean ship christenings and Chinese dancers, marked yet another of the brand's milestones.
Viking Sun is the first ocean ship to be christened so centrally on The Bund, Shanghai's famous waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River and is the first time a Viking ship has called at a China ocean ship. This is especially significant since Viking is committed to the Chinese market and does strong business bringing Chinese travelers to its European river ships: Six of its European river ships feature a dedicated Mandarin-speaking crew, special Chinese menus, and tours geared around Chinese traveler interests.
The 47,800-ton, 930-passenger Viking Sun looked resplendent in the lights of its inaugural party, as it dominated the scene along The Bund for the evening. In the crowd were invited guests, local dignitaries, and curious passengers in the middle of a 141-day World Cruise from Miami to London (all 435 cabins were sold out). The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Chinese operatic tenor Dai Yuqiang, and Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø performed for the crowd as an impressive light show was displayed against the backdrop of the ship.
"We care deeply about tourism in China, and we have been bringing river cruise guests here since 2004," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. "We look forward to introducing thousands of new travelers to the cultural treasures in Shanghai and throughout China."
Viking Ocean Cruises officially launched in 2015 with Viking Star, which immediately was lauded with numerous awards and honors. Viking Sea followed in 2016, and Viking Sky launched last year. The trio took the top three honors in the small-midship category of the 2018 Cruise Critic's Cruisers' Choice Awards.
All of Viking's ocean and river ships are designed with the same contemporary Nordic style seen in the furnishings, artwork, and overall framework. Hagen notes that the company is keen on copying the same popular formula for its ships, which has benefits like better cost negotiation with designers and crew familiarity.
"Why should we change a winning game?" he said.
Viking Sun is almost identical to its siblings, but it will have a slightly different mission as the primary ship dedicated to operating Viking Cruises' World Cruises. Following the naming ceremony, the ship will set sail throughout southeast Asia and India before continuing the Red Sea, Suez Canal, and Mediterranean Sea toward London.
Viking is continuing its rapid growth, both on the oceans and rivers, where it remains the largest in the industry. In June, Viking Orion will launch, followed by Viking Jupiter in 2019 when the company will become the largest small ship ocean cruise line. By 2027, Viking's ocean fleet will reach 16. In 2019, another seven Longships will join the river fleet.
--By Ramsey Qubein, Cruise Critic contributor