AVIGNON, France -- Viking River Cruises this week broke a new Guinness World Record, christening 16 contemporary ships in a 24-hour period, with ceremonies in Amsterdam, Germany and France.
Travel agency representatives served as godmothers to seven of the 190-passenger "longships.”
The fast-growing company will have 52 ships cruising in 2014. Two 106-passenger ships representing a new class of vessel will also be christened Friday in Porto, Portugal.
Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said he was proud the cruise line broke its own record – set last year – but not to expect the same next year. In 2015, Viking plans to launch 10 longships plus two smaller ships that will cruise the Elbe.
The "longship” moniker is a tribute to Viking ships of yore, with all the ships named for Nordic gods and heroes.
The first of this week's christening ceremonies was held pier-side in Amsterdam on Monday for nine ships, including two that began service late last year.
Kathryn Mazza-Burney, executive vice president of TRAVELSAVERS, was honored as one of the godmothers.
"It's absolutely incredible. It is such an honor to christen the Viking Baldur on behalf of the entire American Marketing Group," Mazza-Burney said.
The other travel agency representatives who christened the ships in Amsterdam were Vicky Garcia of Cruise Planners-American Express (Viking Magni); Sarah Henshall of AAA Carolinas (Viking Lif), Geraldine Ree of Expedia CruiseShipCenters (Viking Eistla), Anne Morgan Scully of McCabe World Travel (Viking Ingvi), Hanh Haley, partner of Travel Leaders' founder, and chairman Michael Batt (Viking Gullveig) and Pam Young of Travel Leaders Franchise Group (Viking Bestla).
The travel professionals and officials later flew to France on private jets to attend naming ceremonies held for seven additional ships: three festooned with red and white balloons and docked on the Rhone River in Avignon, and another four christened at the Neptune shipyard in Rostock, Germany with a satellite feed of the shipyard celebration shown in Avignon.
Large market share
With the addition of the new ships, the 17-year-old cruise line now represents 48% of the river cruise market, said Hagen. Viking has built 30 ships in three years.
Nearly all of the line’s capacity is sold out through October, Hagen added.
An exception is in the Ukraine, where Viking is scheduled to have a ship beginning in May. So far there have been no changes made to the itinerary.
The choice of France as a location for the main christening ceremony was no coincidence. Viking has longships in France for the first time this year and is launching a new Bordeaux itinerary.
Viking also has its longships cruising the popular Rhine and Danube Rivers, among other waterways.
The ships feature surprisingly hip environs including 39 cabins and nine two-room suites with real balconies, two 445-square-foot Explorer Suites, an expansive sun deck with organic herb garden and a casual indoor/outdoor dining venue, Aquavit Terrace.
Modern Scandinavian decor makes the ships look more like W Hotels than the stodgy river ships of old.
The square-nosed ships also have a bunch of "green" advances including hybrid engines providing a cleaner and quieter side, and solar panels that help fuel the engines.
The 106-passenger ships to be christened in Portugal later this week have many of the same features as the "longships," including an Aquavit Terrace and cabins and suites with real balconies – plus the addition of a whirlpool on the sun deck, added because of the warmer climate.
Viking is also set to launch its first ocean ship, the 928-passenger Viking Star, in May 2015.