Viking Christens 10 Longships and Smashes a World Record!

Today, Viking River Cruises christened an astonishing 10 Viking Longships in a single day - and broke a Guinness World Record! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Today, Viking River Cruises christened an astonishing 10 Viking Longships in a single day – and broke a Guinness World Record! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Today, Viking River Cruises celebrated personal and professional milestones here in Amsterdam that are without equal: ten brand new Viking Longships were christened in a single day, ushering in a new era for both the line and the river cruise industry as a whole.

It’s the story of a man who dared to dream, and who turned that dream into a reality.

Monitors at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam announce the big event. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Monitors at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam announce the big event. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

In the post-christening glow, it seems difficult to believe I did anything else. Viking, however, put together a great morning excursion that whisked guests on their new, specially-branded motorcoaches to Het Schip (The Ship), a stunning architectural example designed in 1920 by Michel de Klerk.

This morning, we set out on a tour of Amsterdam's unique architecture, inlcuding Het Schip. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This morning, we set out on a tour of Amsterdam’s unique architecture, inlcuding Het Schip. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Constructed as affordable, low-income housing, Het Schip was designed to be both an artistic and practical statement. To that end, de Klerk created a building that is almost reminiscent of something Gaudi might have designed on one of his more restrained days. In fact, it’s so fascinating I’m planning to go back during my post-christening stay in Amsterdam later this week.

Central Services: the odd, alternate reality of the in-house post office at Het Schip. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Central Services: the odd, alternate reality of the in-house post office at Het Schip. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Following that, we were treated to a river cruise along Amsterdam’s famous canals, focusing on the more modern architectural examples that lie across the harbour. This scenic journey was capped off with lunch at the Skylounge, located on the 11th floor of the Doubletree Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station. I knew its spectacular views well, having stayed here during my stopover that preceded my journey aboard Viking Freya along the Danube’s Christmas Markets in December.

Enjoying the food (and the view) from the Doubletree Hilton Amsterdam Station this morning, on tour with Viking. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Enjoying the food (and the view) from the Doubletree Hilton Amsterdam Station this morning, on tour with Viking. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The big news today, though, was the christening ceremonies scheduled for 3pm at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam.

Having attended last year’s historic ceremonies in this same spot, I wondered how on earth Viking would ever be able to top last year’s event. The weather certainly wasn’t cooperating; the +15C temperatures of March 2012 were a distant memory compared to the approximate high of +2C that observers braved outdoors in preparation for the big event.

It's Christening Time at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It’s Christening Time at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Being christened today are the following Viking Longships and their respective Norse Gods, with those in bold physical present here in Amsterdam. The remainder were in Rostock, Germany at the Neptun Werft shipyards, where they were christened live via a video uplink.

  • Viking Aegir, Norse God of the Sea
  • Viking Atla, Daughter of Aegir
  • Viking Bragi, God of Music, Eloquence, Poetry and Storytelling
  • Viking Embla, The Mother of the Human Race
  • Viking Forsetti, God of Justice
  • Viking Jarl, The Noble Warrior
  • Viking Rinda, Norse Princess of the Frozen Earth
  • Viking Skadi, Goddess of Winter
  • Viking Tor, God of Thunder, Lightning and Fertility
  • Viking Var, Goddess of Oaths

Viking Odin and Viking Freya also participated in the christening before setting off on their respective sailings.

Vikings serenade the crowd outside before celebrations get under way! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Vikings serenade the crowd outside before celebrations get under way! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The ceremonies began inside Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, where waiters ferried champagne to guests on-hand to witness this historic event. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The ceremonies began inside Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, where waiters ferried champagne to guests on-hand to witness this historic event. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As it turned out, this year’s ceremony was filled with wonderful moments that are appropriately befitting this special occasion. After all ten bottles of Veuve-Cliquot were successfully smashed against their respective hulls with nary a snag, the cascading sounds of the ship’s horns could be heard mixed with fireworks, cannon fire, and the wails of a nearby fireboat that launched water cannons skyrocketing upward.

Viking officials, crewmembers, VIPs and Godmothers take the stage outside, with everyone opting to brave the cold in exchange for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking officials, crewmembers, VIPs and Godmothers take the stage outside, with everyone opting to brave the cold in exchange for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Christenings were also carried out in Rostock, Germany, where shipbuilder Neptun Werft is based. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Christenings were also carried out in Rostock, Germany, where shipbuilder Neptun Werft is based. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Longship christening also attracted a veritable “who’s-who” of the cruise industry. Respected cruising authority and author Douglas Ward was in attendance, along with editors and journalists from nearly every major web and print-based publication. Bernard Meyer, chairman of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg was here once again, and he delivered a genuine and heartfelt congratulation to Viking River Cruises founder Torstein Hagen that left the room applauding and a few onlookers reaching for their Kleenex.

It Is Done! Water cannons from a nearby fireboat fill the air with water as the sounds of six Viking Longships horns blares across Amsterdam. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It Is Done! Water cannons from a nearby fireboat fill the air with water as the sounds of six Viking Longships horns blares across Amsterdam. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Everyone is here for the Viking Longhsips but in a way, they’re also here for Torstein Hagen. After losing nearly “every penny I had”, according to his own admission, Hagen started over and launched Viking River Cruises in 1997 with four Russian-registered vessels he was able to acquire. Although a veteran of the cruise industry, Hagen tells the story with the sort of humble humility that seems absent from so many corporate chief executives. When the keynote speaker asked Hagen to remain on stage so they could present him with a gift, he replied, “I have already received ten wonderful gifts today.”

Meyer Werft chairman Bernard Meyer gives his heartelt words to Torstein Hagen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Meyer Werft chairman Bernard Meyer gives his heartelt words to Torstein Hagen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

His gift, though, was to be one of lasting immortality: a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to verify that, indeed, Viking River Cruises has earned a spot in history with the award for “Most Cruise Ships Christened in a Single Day by a Single Line.”

The Bar Is Set: An official with Guinness was on hand today to award the title of "Most Cruise Ships Christened in a Single Day" to Viking. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Bar Is Set: An official with Guinness was on hand today to award the title of “Most Cruise Ships Christened in a Single Day” to Viking. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With the harbour crowded with ballon-adorned Viking Longships, it seems the sort of success story that people just aren’t used to hearing about in these negative times we find ourselves living in.

Celebrating not one, but 10, Viking Longship launches: acrobatics performers wow the crowd inside the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Celebrating not one, but 10, Viking Longship launches: acrobatics performers wow the crowd inside the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It is difficult for me to put today into words, because words seem so inadequate to describe what it’s like to witness the dreams of one man come true before your eyes. Like many great men and women, at some point Torstein Hagen had a thought: that river cruising could be done differently. That it could be done better.

Viking River Cruises founder Torstein Hagen takes the stage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking River Cruises founder Torstein Hagen takes the stage. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Unlike most, he didn’t dismiss the thought, or call it impossible. He believed in it fully. Together with the dedicated team at Viking, Neptun Werft, Yran & Storbraaten and every other supplier and financier, that single thought became the impressive reality that lay just beyond the very building we were in.

Torstein Hagen holding up the plaque commemorating the Guinness award. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Torstein Hagen holding up the plaque commemorating the Guinness award. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Each of the Viking Longships re-thought the traditional approach to river cruising. In his speech (which commanded such attention as to be able to hear a pin drop), Hagen explained why the Longships don’t have the small gymnasiums or spas present on other river cruise ships, stating that there was no point to including those features if they wouldn’t be able to bring something new and worthwhile to the table.

Compare As We Dare: to see the dedication the team at Viking put into these Longships, compare this photo of the Lounge aboard the new Viking Bragi with the one below from Viking Aegir. Notice any differences? There's plenty! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Compare As We Dare: to see the dedication the team at Viking put into these Longships, compare this photo of the Lounge aboard the new Viking Bragi with the one below from Viking Aegir. Notice any differences? There’s plenty! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Other Little Changes: Tables and chairs on Viking Bragi replace the cluster of couches aboard previous Longships.

Other Little Changes: Tables and chairs on Viking Bragi replace the cluster of couches aboard previous Longships.

Ditto for the lack of a specialty restaurant onboard: the food in the main restaurant is designed to be “the best there is.” To him, the idea of a specialty restaurant is wasted if the food in the main dining room exceeds expectations. It’s rationale that makes perfect sense, particularly here on the rivers where the ship’s physical dimensions are severely restricted.

With the Longships, Viking began the trend of bucking the "norm" in the industry, like the addition of 40-inch Sony Bravia televisions in all staterooms. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With the Longships, Viking began the trend of bucking the “norm” in the industry, like the addition of 40-inch Sony Bravia televisions in all staterooms. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Perhaps that’s what makes these ships special. I see a lot of the old-world shipping magnate in Mr. Hagen: always tweaking, always tinkering; constantly looking for a way to improve his existing product and make it that much better for the next ship to greet the water at Neptun Werft.

Since my first experience aboard Viking Odin last year, I have found the Longships to be warm, welcoming, and immensely comfortable. Staffed by a dedicated crew who hail from around the world, there’s an ambiance here that is relaxed, yet refined.

The remains of a good bottle of Veuve Cliquot on Viking Skadi's bow. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The remains of a good bottle of Veuve Cliquot on Viking Skadi’s bow. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

We also learned that out of 50,000 approximate berths on the new Longships available throughout the year, just a few thousand are left open for sale for the 2013 river cruise season. This means they’re not just beautiful; the Viking Longships are also financially viable, too. It’s a fact made all the more impressive when you stop to consider that the very first Longships have only been in operation for a year tomorrow. Today, they sail eight separate itineraries for Viking: the Grand European Tour; Rhine Getaway; Romantic Danube; Danube Waltz; Passage to Eastern Europe; Tulips & Windmills; Portraits of Southern France; and Chateaux, Rivers and Wine.

One man. One dream. 16 realities – and counting.

Today's spectacular ceremony as seen from above. Courtesy of Viking River Cruises.

Today’s spectacular ceremony as seen from above. Courtesy of Viking River Cruises.

Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow as we continue our stay abaord Viking River Cruises’ beautiful Viking Aegir as we explore Amsterdam, Hoorn and this stunning vessel! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

4 Responses to Viking Longships 2013 Live Voyage Report – Day 2

  1. Kim says:

    Absolutely amazing, what you got to experience today is something you will never forget. Just reading the details of what happened today made me feel like I was there. You have written it in such a way that you feel like “I” was part if it as well. The quote you put at the end “one man,one dream, 16 realities” it is absolutely moving and amazing.

  2. carol mouat says:

    We just went on the Grand Europeon tour and were very disappointed. The trip started out with a mechanical failure the first day which took a number of days to repair. We were taken on buses daily to the various cities and for most of the 15 days the sundeck was closed. So much for river cruising! We saw a limited amount of the river. If we wanted a bus tour of the rhine-main we would have signed up for one. Viking clearly does not understand what they need to do to satisfy the need of higher end clients.

  3. Edward Gimbrere says:

    We are due to sail the 7-day Rhine cruise this July. Reading about Carol Mouat’s unhappy experience is hardly reassuring, but what really concerns me is that Viking do not appear to have bothered to reply and seek to explain what happened or, more importantly, what remedial actions they propose to implement ,to avoid a repetition of what sounds like quite a disastrous trip. I hope that this is not indicative of a company that has become so large that it suffers from institutional complacency and no longer cares about its reputation or it’s customers.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Hi Edward,

      I think, like any company – or trip – you’re going to have people who have a negative experience. I wouldn’t categorize Viking as either uncaring or complacent, however, and there’s a lot that we don’t know about the reader’s comment. People have similar complaints when the water levels become too high, or too low. My site isn’t the forum for Viking to respond; Carol needs to seek out the proper channels to resolve her complaint to her satisfaction, and I sincerely hope she has. I do hope you enjoy your Rhine cruise this July; it is a spectacular part of Europe to be in during the summer months!

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