Thursday, 9 Jul 2020

Viking big splash US with Mississippi river ship

Viking’s long-awaited entry into the domestic river cruise
market will bring not only a new player but also a whole new type of sailing experience.

To be built in Louisiana and set to launch in August 2022,
the Viking Mississippi is the company’s first U.S. river ship and will be the
largest ship plying its storied namesake.

The ship is more like a small ocean vessel than a
traditional river ship. Viking said the Mississippi will have 193 staterooms,
all outside-facing, that can accommodate 386 guests. That’s about double the
capacity of the modern riverboat series of ships introduced in 2018 by American
Cruise Lines, which also sails four traditional paddlewheelers.

The look of Viking’s first U.S. ship

The Viking Mississippi will have 193 all-outside staterooms.
The Viking Mississippi will have 193 all-outside staterooms.
The Aquavit Terrace.
The Bow will be an outdoor seating area at the front of the ship.
Deluxe Veranda accommodations.
The Explorers' Lounge will have floor-to-ceiling windows.
The bedroom in the Explorer Suite.
The Explorer Suite's living room.
The Viking Mississippi's pool deck.
Sitting area and balcony in a Terrace Suite.
A Penthouse Junior Suite on the Viking Mississippi.
The Viking Mississippi will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minn.
Entry to the main restaurant on the Viking Mississippi.

The only other domestic river company, the American Queen
Steamboat Co., sails only paddlewheelers.

The Viking Mississippi will have some of the largest
staterooms in the industry, with seven cabin categories ranging from 268 to
1,024 square feet, all with private balconies, Viking said.

While much larger than its European river ships, which are
limited by bridge heights and narrow locks, Viking said the Viking Mississippi
features the same “clean Scandinavian design as well as public spaces that are
familiar to guests but that have been reimagined for Mississippi River voyages.”

Because of its larger size, it also includes some features
of Viking’s ocean ships, including an Explorers’ Lounge with floor-to-ceiling
windows that open to the Bow, an outdoor seating area at the front of the ship.

Other amenities include an infinity plunge pool, indoor and
outdoor dining options on the sun deck, a “living room” and main dining area on
the first deck and a promenade deck on the lower level that will enable guests
to walk the entire perimeter of the ship, Viking said.

Viking has been quietly working to enter the U.S. domestic
market for years. It had been scheduled to unveil the product to a VIP audience
on April 7 in New Orleans, but like most travel, that was canceled due to the
Covid-19 outbreak. The company instead released a video announcement from its
chairman, Torstein Hagen.

“At a time when many of us are at home, looking for
inspiration to travel in the future, I am pleased to introduce a new, modern
way to explore this great river,” Hagen said. “Our guests are curious
travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they
most want to sail with us. The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of
our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s
history, commerce and culture.”

American Cruise Lines CEO Charles B. Robertson and American
Queen Steamboat Co. CEO John Waggoner have each said there is plenty of room
for a new player on U.S. rivers, which in recent years have seen booming
demand.

“Each player brings something different to the table,”
Robertson said. “[Viking is] introducing a 400-passenger ship more than two
years from now. I expect to be adding four more ships before then. … I like
the smaller boats for everything we do.”

Hagen noted in his video announcement that Viking’s ships
would be nothing like a traditional paddlewheeler. 

“There was a little ding there,” Roberson said. “We love our
paddlewheelers. It’s just one more element in that product diversity. They
offer a different experience, and people still love them.”

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