Port deal indicates Viking's U.S. plans are progressing

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The paddlewheeler America docked at Glascock's Landing in Hannibal, Mo. Photo Credit: Laura Good Buffalo

Viking Cruises, which has been working for years to enter the U.S. river cruise market, has reached an agreement with the city of Hannibal, Mo., for docking on its soon to be renovated riverfront.

City manager Jeff LaGarce says that under the ground lease approved this month, the city will guarantee a docking port for the line whenever a ship is in town. In exchange, Viking will pay the city $1 per passenger.

Still, Viking's entry into the U.S. market is years away. While Viking in 2015 announced plans to try to enter the market by 2017, LaGarce says estimates now are for Viking's maiden voyage to set sail in 2021 or 2022.

Although Viking's plans are a bit dated, he said they currently call for the line to have six ships making 19 excursions each between July 1 and Oct. 31 of each year, for a total of 114 port stops in Hannibal. He said the ships will carry 338 passengers each.

Europe-based Viking has remained tight-lipped about where and when its vessels might be built or when they might sail. The company faces some high barriers to entry as U.S. law requires that ships be built and flagged domestically and staffed by U.S. workers. 

A Viking spokesman said the company continues to work on plans to sail the Mississippi, but it is not prepared to share any additional details about its long-standing efforts to launch river cruise operations in the United States.

LaGarce said Hannibal, the hometown of Mark Twain, is one of two stops Vikings is planning in Missouri. The other is St. Louis.

Hannibal is a city on the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri where writer Mark Twain grew up. Attractions include the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which includes artifacts such as his typewriter and writing desk. It is a popular port call for riverboats.

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