The big news last week was the christening of Viking Cruises’ brand-new Viking Sea in London. She’s the largest ship to ever be christened upon the River Thames, and Viking’s second oceangoing ship after Viking Star, which made her debut last year.
But the expansion of Viking’s oceangoing product doesn’t mean that the line has shifted its focus from river cruising. Not one bit. In fact, despite the recent downturn in the European travel market, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen told invited members of the press at a special conference aboard Viking Sea in Greenwich that river cruises remain a top priority for the company.
“On the river cruise side, we have about 50 percent of the North American market share,” said Hagen. “So we can’t really hope for a hell of a lot more than that. I think the consumers deserve some competition, too.”
“We are the leader [in river cruising]. We designed the ships to deliver a very cost-competitive product, and I think the product is very good. And, on the scale of operation, we’re a company that owns and operates the ships ourselves.”
That last bit is important, because not every river cruise line owns and operates its own ships in Europe. In far-flung locales like Asia, it’s more common for cruise lines – including Viking – to wet-lease ships. But Viking is in the unique position of having launched a total of 51 brand-new ships on the waterways of Europe since 2012, and the company is one of the only ones that actually owns and operates its own vessels in Russia.
Still, there have been challenges. “This year, 2016,
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