ONBOARD THE VIKING HEIMDAL — Viking Cruises last week named 18 cruise ships in three ceremonies in five days, setting a Guinness world record in the process and expanding the line's river fleet to 52.
A whirlwind week included a nine-ship christening ceremony in Amsterdam and a festive ceremony in Avignon, France, where godmothers blessed three ships on hand and four vessels via video linkup to the shipyard in Rostock, Germany.
Those ships were christened in a 24-hour period, eclipsing Viking's previous Guinness World Record for "most ships inaugurated in one day by one company." (The line's Guinness record had stood at 10 namings in a single day, set last year.)
Three days later, two additional Viking river ships were christened in Porto, Portugal.
Seven women representing the North American travel trade were chosen to be godmothers, a decision that Viking said recognized "the travel trade's contribution to the growth of the river cruise industry."
Viking is growing quickly on the Continent; all its new Longships will operate on European waterways. It will launch 12 vessels in 2015: 10 of its 190-passenger Longships and two slightly smaller designs destined for the Elbe River, which flows through the Czech Republic and Germany.
In addition, the company is about to break into blue-water cruising. It has two oceangoing ships under construction, two orders contingent on financing and options for two more.
Executives said they were still bullish on Mississippi River cruising, but they wouldn't have a vessel in the U.S. for 2015.
"We have come far," Chairman Torstein Hagen said of possible Mississippi cruising. "We have come very far. We have not yet pressed the button."