River cruise giant Viking’s move into ocean cruising became official late Thursday as the company unveiled details of a new line to be called Viking Ocean Cruises.
“It is our view that in the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail,” Hagen said. “With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary and ship design; privileged-access excursions; and on-board experiences to make destinations the true focus.”
Viking has ordered two 928-passenger ships for the new line and has conditional orders and options for up to four more. Hagen on Thursday said the first of the 47,800-ton vessels will begin sailing in May 2015 and be called Viking Star. It’ll sail maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, he said.
Viking is a leader in river cruising but until now has not operated ocean cruises. The company’s fast-growing Viking River Cruises line operates more than 30 vessels, including 10 new ships unveiled in March at a record-setting event in Amsterdam. The company has 12 more river ships on order for 2014.
Viking Ocean Cruises will be the first major new ocean line to debut in nearly a decade and enters an arena dominated by a handful of big players such as Miami-based Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises. Carnival Corp. owns 10 brands that offer ocean cruises including Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Seabourn, and accounts for nearly half of the worldwide ocean cruise business. Royal Caribbean owns five ocean cruise brands including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara.
Viking Ocean Cruises likely will compete most directly with Azamara, which operates two upscale, 710-passenger ships, and Oceania Cruises, which has four upscale ships that carry from 684 to 1,250 passengers.
As you may well know, I have a real soft spot for luxury cruising. They may not be cheap although they do often offer really good value for money but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. I’m hoping that this new line doesn’t overprice themselves but rather helps to bring down the price of all the others by offering more competition.
We will just have to wait and see.