|Welcome to Avignon and the 2014 Viking River Cruises World-Record-breaking Christening of 16 Viking Longships! All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
In 2012, there were six. In 2013, 10 more. And now in 2014, in an unprecedented, world-record breaking event that spanned two days but yet only 24 hours in Amsterdam; Avignon, France; and Rostock, Germany; Viking River Cruises christened 16 more Viking Longships for a grand total of 30 new ships in three years! With the recent explosion of the river cruising industry and with Viking's unrivaled marketing savvy, it comes as no surprise that this industry leader who currently enjoys 48 percent market share, fills these ships as quickly as they can build them. And the ceremony was later certified by Guinness World Records as the 'The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company.' If you didn't know, Viking held the previous record for 10 ships launched in a single day in Amsterdam 2013. Let's celebrate in true Viking fashion, the events of the day followed by a show-stopping gala at the Pont du Gard later that evening—an unforgettable inaugural event for all!
|Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen proudly displays his Guinness World Records certificate. Photo: Courtesy of Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Nine Viking Longships were christened in Amsterdam on March 17. Photo: Courtesy of Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Like I said above, this record-breaking event spanned 2 days but yet within one 24-hour period and it all started in Amsterdam with the christening of the first nine of the 16 new vessels. Gathered together on the platform and surrounded by nine award-winning Viking Longships, the godmothers, one by one, christened their ships, "I name you Viking ship name. May your passengers and crew always be safe and may you always have a hand's width of water under your keel." And with the final word of their dedication, came the ceremonial shattering of the Champagne bottles.
|Just one of 16 Champagne bottles christening the Viking Longships. Photo: Courtesy of Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
And the excitement continued into the following day in Avignon, France, where seven more godmothers gathered together up on the Sun Deck to christen the three longships docked in Avignon. Simultaneously the last four were christened via satellite from Rostock, Germany. When the final bottle of Champagne broke against the hull of the last Viking vessel, cannons fired streamers into the air and we all raised a congratulatory toast to Viking Cruises for the successful launch of 16 new ships in a 24-hour period!
|The view from the Sun Decks of the Viking Buri and the Viking Heimdal at the christening event in Avignon. Photo: Courtesy of Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen kicks off the christening event in Avignon, France.|
In Tor's own words:
“Today we mark a new milestone for Viking and for modern river cruising. We are proud to celebrate the arrival of our newest ships, and it is an honor to have each one named by a prominent godmother,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. “River cruising is the fastest-growing segment of travel, and it is in large part because of the enthusiasm of our guests and travel trade partners that we have enjoyed such success.”
|Live from Rostock, Germany, where four more Viking Longships were christened on March 18.|
Although not included in Viking's record but worthy of an honorable mention nonetheless, more Viking Ships were christened in Porto, Portugal, a few days later when two new vessels, specifically built for the distinct features of the Douro River, were launched with two additional godmothers on hand.
The Viking Godmothers
|Tor Hagen holds the Guiness World Records certificate high overhead all 16 godmothers at le Pont du Gard on March 18. Photo: Courtesy of Viking Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Godmother Susie Barrie Christening our Viking Heimdal longship.|
Viking selected prominent women from the travel, food, wine, entertainment, banking and shipping industries to represent all of their ships. Present in a Avignon were: Susie Barrie, Godmother of the Viking Heimdal—the ship I stayed on, is a Master of Wine—one of only 312 in the world—who appears in Viking's latest video highlighting their newest itinerary, "Chateaus, Rivers and Wine." Among her many talents: award-winning author, broadcaster and wine personality; world-renowned singer Mireille Mathieu, Godmother of the Viking Buri; Anne Willan, Godmother of the Viking Hermod, a leading authority on French cooking; Marion Krase, Godmother of the Viking Hlin, is an employee at the Neptun Werft shipyard where the Viking Longships are born; Regula Oderbolz, Godmother of the Viking Idi, is managing director at UBS AG Switzerland and heads Global Trade and Export Finance at the bank; Monica Petitpierre, Godmother of Viking Kvasir, is the wife of CIC Bank’s Cedric Petitpierre, a river-cruise-industry banker; and Laura Pfleumer, Godmother of Viking Kara, is an assistant at UBS AG Switzerland and is responsible for Viking's daily banking.
Here's a short video highlighting all three Viking Longships christenings:
A Night to Remember at le Pont du Gard
|Viking River Cruises logo projected above an ancient grotto at le Pont du Gard.|
Topping off the excitement of the day was a magnificent evening gala staged at the base of the Pont du Gard, a 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct bridge that spans the Gardon river valley. Viking rolled out the red carpet for all those in attendance, and soon after we arrived, we were off exploring the ancient bridge. Inside the tent later that night, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen was presented with the official Guinness World Record certificate, and we were treated to a performance by the legendary Mireille Mathieu. After dinner, we ventured outside for the real show-stopper, a light show projected on the Pont du Gard that transported us back in time to the moment when the Romans first constructed this engineering marvel and then we traveled forward—a most dazzling array of images and animation accompanied by music. The piece de resistance came with the pyrotechnic finale of blazing torches lighting up the bridge and nighttime sky. To say we were all awe-struck would be an understatement! This was over the top!
|Le Pont du Gard at sunset.|
|Viking Cruises rolled out the red carpets for all of us!|
|Inside the tent at le Pont du Gard for presentations, dinner and entertainment.|
|Viking Chairman Tor Hagen with the seven Avignon godmothers.|
|One moment during the epic light and projection show at le Pont du Gard.|
Viking plans to launch even more ships next year, 10 Viking Longships for the rivers Rhine, Main and Danube; followed by two additional ships of slightly different designs for the Elbe River. With 12 in total, it won't be another record breaker but plans change as they've done in the past so who knows with Viking's streak of continued success and unprecedented growth!
Getting to know the Viking Longships
|Viking Buri in Avignon, France, is festooned for the christening event.|
Steeped in Viking culture and craftsmanship, the state-of-the-art Viking Longships are award-winning vessels of patented design. Among the cutting-edge innovations are deck plans themselves in the way the cabins are arranged to allow for greater passenger capacity, energy-efficient hybrid engines, solar panels to harness the sun's energy, the indoor/outdoor Aquavit (Waters of Life) Lounge, and even an herb garden on the Sun Deck.
Each ship accommodates 190 passengers in 95 cabins that include two Explorer Suites aft (largest suites in the river cruise industry), seven Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and French balcony in the bedroom, 39 Veranda Staterooms will full-size verandas, 22 French Balcony Staterooms and Standard rooms at the river's level. In all, you'll enjoy flat-panel TVs, mini refrigerator, both 110- and 220-volt outlets, plenty of storage, comfortable beds and L'Occitane bath products.
You’ll delight in the grandeur of the public spaces, intimate gathering spaces with light Scandinavian finishes throughout. To sum it all up, elegance and efficiency combined with Viking traditions and intimate settings lie at the heart of these magnificent longships!
And now, see for yourself:
- "Chateaux, Rivers and Wine"
- Guided tour through the Viking Longships
- Exploring the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) in Avignon
- Making friends onboard the Viking Longships
- What to do onboard?
Special thanks to Viking River Cruises for including me during their extraordinary record-breaking special event in France. Of course all opinions and thoughts reflected are mine and mine alone. Thank you Viking Cruises!