Third Oceangoing Ship Is One of Two to Launch this Year

Viking Sky in Tromso, Norway on June 22, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

On Thursday, June 22, 2017, Viking Cruises’ Viking Sky was christened in a pierside ceremony in Tromsø, Norway. Celebrated by guests onboard Viking Sky and by the townspeople of this arctic city, the christening also marks a major milestone in the history of Viking Cruises.

Founded in 1997 by Torstein Hagen, Viking celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year. During that time, it has grown from a small upstart river cruise line operating in Russia into the largest river cruise line in the world, with over 50 of its trendsetting Viking Longships on the rivers of Europe today.

Back in 2013, Viking unveiled another dream: a fleet of oceangoing passenger ships that would bring river cruise style amenities to the world of cruising. Years before, Tor Hagen had started polling the line’s repeat river guests, asking a single question: if we offered ocean cruises, would you book? The response was positive, and plans were immediately drawn up for a fleet of identical sister-ships.

Willed Into Reality: Viking’s third oceangoing ship is one of two that will launch this year – Viking’s 20th Anniversary. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The result was the 930-guest Viking Star, which entered service in 2015. The first ship in any new class is notoriously troublesome; something is always overlooked. Viking Star, however, was about as perfect as a new ship could get. Like the Viking Longships, she was also accurate: renderings compared extremely well to the actual finished product (which isn’t always the case), and the ship displayed the same beautiful Scandinavian elegance that Viking had developed for its river cruise vessels.

The Living Room atrium lobby, Deck 1, aboard Viking Sky. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Like her sisters, everything onboard Viking Sky is well thought-out, from her gorgeous midships swimming pool…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…to nightly live music in the two-story Explorer’s Lounge on Decks 7 and 8 forward. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Viking Sky is a true feast for the senses. Note the LED backdrop on the atrium, with rotating photos of tomorrow’s port of call. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Viking also resisted the pressure to do what every other cruise line was doing. Viking Star had wide, expansive decks; a wraparound promenade deck; an infinity pool. She gave up a noisy casino in favour of relaxed public spaces filled with books and Nordic art. She eschewed the usual brand-name shops in favour of European and Scandinavian ones. Even her spa isn’t run by the usual suspects (Steiner and Canyon Ranch); it’s operated by LivNordic.

Last year, Viking Sea, the line’s second oceangoing ship, was christened in Greenwich, England, on the River Thames. And today, Viking Sky was officially welcomed into the fleet, christened by Godmother Marit Barstad, sister of Viking’s founder and Chairman, Torstein Hagen.

A huge crowd turned out to see Viking Sky christened in Tromso – and the sun came out at the right moment, too. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

“This is a special time of year in Norway – these are the days of the midnight sun and the perfect backdrop for a celebration. All of our ships proudly carry the Norwegian flag, and it is an especially proud day to officially welcome our new ship in Tromsø, the arctic capital of the world,” said Hagen. “Vikings were explorers, and our ships are built with their spirit of exploration in mind. We design every aspect of our ships and cruises so that our guests can spend more time immersed in their destination. Scandinavia is Viking territory, but as we continue to expand our fleet, we also look forward to introducing new travelers to the Viking way of travel around the world.”

Chairman Torstein Hagen. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Godmother Marit Barstad. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

How far away it all seems from that ballroom at the Beverly Hilton back in 2013, where Hagen smiled at the audience and coyly introduced his plans for an oceangoing ship. “Why don’t we give it a try?” he asked the audience. The crowd of media and travel partners went wild.

With each new ship that is added to the fleet, Viking is able to expand its cruising footprint. In the next few years, you’ll be able to cruise to Alaska, Asia, Australia, Cuba, India, Panama, and even the Middle East on a Viking ocean ship.

As a full-blown orchestra plays..Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the bottle of Gammal Opland aquavit smashes against Viking Sky’s hull. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

You’ll also be able to spend cruise further and longer with Viking. This winter, the line is offering its first-ever World Cruise; a spectacular 141-day voyage from Miami to London. That may very well be my ultimate fantasy voyage. Apparently, it was for a lot of other folks, too: the space on this massive journey sold rapidly.

It’s no stretch to say Viking has put the ocean back in ocean cruising. In an age where ships launch with increasingly-gimmicky features or carry as many passengers as a small town, Viking has gone its own way. It became the leader in an industry it was new to; the line that others aspire to be. It did so by staying true to its roots, its heritage, and by intertwining the Hagen family history into these ships.

While Tromso locals (and yours truly) mill about pierside…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Viking Sky sets out for Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Viking Sky continues that tradition. Later this year, Viking will welcome a fourth oceangoing ship – Viking Sun – into its fleet. Viking Spirit will follow in 2018, and three as-yet-unnamed sister ships are on order, estimated to enter service in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Viking Sky sailed off into the Midnight Sun this evening, bound for Honningsvag, Norway. In my five days onboard since joining in Bergen on Saturday, I’ve found a cruise experience that is consistent with my past voyages with Viking, both on the rivers and the oceans. Soothing and restorative, it is particularly immersive in this part of the world, with Viking’s Scandinavian heritage on full display.

I had to disembark today, in order to meet another commitment next week. It’s sad to leave a ship and an experience so comfortable and enjoyable – but the breathtaking views of Viking Sky departing Tromsø, just as the sun made its first appearance in days, will stay with me forever.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our full Voyage Report from Viking Cruises’ Viking Sky Christening Voyage will begin next week. Follow along with our latest cruise adventures on Twitter: @deckchairblog.

 

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