The popularity of river cruising in Europe has seen significant growth over the past few years, and the demand for them has often exceeded the supply. A few river cruise suppliers have added new ships to their fleet, but none have been as proactive as Viking River Cruises.
Viking has truly been innovative, aggressive and strategic with its planning and has accepted the challenge to build enough vessels to meet the demand for these popular European river cruise itineraries.
Viking River Cruises was founded in 1997. From its beginning, the company anticipated the growth in river cruising popularity and planned accordingly. Although, Viking had only 4 vessels in its fleet in 1997; by the year 2000 they had acquired an additional 22 ships by purchasing part of the UK-based KD River Cruises.
In 2009 Viking River Cruises entered a new phase and was ready to build its own ships. The design plan was environmentally focused and featured vessels with hybrid diesel-electric engines. Between 2009 and 2011, 5 new ships were built.
The momentum continued to grow with even bigger plans over the next few years. Viking Longships were introduced in 2012 with six vessels being launched that year.
How long are Longships? They are 443 feet long!
Viking Freya Longship (Built 2012) Sailing Through the Rhine Valley
[By Viking Cruises (Viking Cruises) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons]
And then . . . the biggest year ever! Big enough to set a new Guiness World Record! On March 21, 2013, Viking River Cruises christened 10 new Viking Longships! All 10 of these new vessels sail the wateways in Europe.
In 2014 Viking River Cruises will add an additional 16 vessels bringing the total to 42 ships for European river cruises! All of the 14 new Viking Longships are or will be sailing in Europe this year on the Rhine, Main, Danube, Saone and Rhone Rivers. There will be 2 smaller ships carrying up to 106 passengers that will be sailing the Douro River in Portugal and Spain.
Does the market justify the expansion? You might be surprised how quickly these itineraries fill up. A few of them are almost completely booked through September 2014.
The new ships have been added to the itineraries that have seen the most growth. Some of the vessels will sail on more than one itinerary.
Not surprisingly, most of the new ships will be sailing along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Although there are many other waterways in Europe, these are by far the most popular.
For the 15-day Grand European Tour traveling between Amsterdam and Budapest, 9 new Viking Longships have been added: Viking Alsvin; Viking Bestla; Viking Delling; Viking Eistla; Viking Hlin; Viking Idi; Viking Kara; Viking Kvasir; and Viking Lif.
The 8-day Danube Waltz traveling between Passau and Budapest has added 3 new Viking Longships to its itinerary: Viking Alsvin; Viking Idi; and Viking Lif.
The Viking Delling, Viking Hlin and Viking Kara have been added to the 8-day Romantic Danube itinerary. Travel is between Budapest and Nuremberg.
There have been 4 new Longships added to the 8-day Rhine Getaway itinerary traveling between Amsterdam and Basel. The new Longships include the Viking Bestla, Viking Gullveig, Viking Ingvi, and Viking Kvasir.
A few of the new ships already listed have been included in the seasonal sailings. From March through May, the Viking Delling and the Viking Lif will be sailing on the 10-day Tulips & Windmills cruise between Amsterdam and Antwerp.
And during the winter holidays, the Viking Hlin and Viking Kara will be sailing on the 7-day Heart of Germany cruise between Nuremberg and Frankfurt.
Although river cruises in France are not quite as popular as cruises on the Rhine, Main and Danube, Viking has still seen enough growth to add 3 new Longships to its France itineraries. The Viking Buri, Viking Heimdal and the Viking Hermod, which sail between Chalon-sur-Saone and Avignon, have been added to the 8-day Portraits of France itinerary. And the Viking Hermod also sails on the 15-day France’s Finest itinerary between Paris and Avignon.
In addition to the new ships, there is also a new itinerary that has been added to France. The Viking Forsetti will be sailing along the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers in the Bordeaux Region of France this spring. The 8-day Chateaux, Rivers & Wine cruise is set to travel between Bordeaux and St. Emilion on one of the Viking Longships that was built in 2013.
Even the demand for Douro River cruises in Portugal and Spain has been growing. It’s increased enough that Viking decided to add 2 new ships to the 10-day Portugal’s River of Gold itinerary – the Viking Hemming and Viking Torgil. The new vessels are not Longships, though. Smaller ships are used on the Douro River. Both new ships can carry up to 106 passengers.
In the news? Well, Viking is planning to enter the ocean cruising market in 2015. Beyond that they are most certainly analyzing other potential areas of growth. As they see the need for expansion, they always seem to be prepared to rise to the occasion!
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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.
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