For river cruisers in Europe, this will be a year for boning up on stories about Viking gods, goddesses, and heroes.
Viking River Cruises, largest of the many companies that operate long and low vessels on the busy rivers of Europe, is introducing six identical boats this year, all named for famed Vikings.
You might recall that Odin is the god of wisdom, Freya the goddess of love and fertility, Njord the god of wind, Aegir the god of the sea, Idun the goddess of youth and rejuvenation, Embla the mother of the human race.
Vikings Odin (pictured above in Kinderdijk, The Netherlands) and Idun floated out of Amsterdam this weekend on their inaugural voyages.
The new 190-passenger vessels, longer than a U.S. football field, flaunt an innovative modern design that includes a large indoor/outdoor café at the bow (pictured below), heated bathroom floors and sophisticated big screen TVs, 39 cabins with private outdoor balconies, and nine suites – real suites with separate rooms.
In the old world of Europe’s shallow rivers and canals, where new boats may not be wider, higher or lower than the existing ones because of bridges and locks of immovable cement walls, designers managed to introduce outdoor sitting balconies by offsetting center hallways and turning some of the cabins sideways.
The picture below is of the side of Viking Odin with suites on the top cabin deck. You can see two outside sitting balconies, which are from different suites. Each suite has an outside balcony of about three feet wide (room enough for two chairs and cocktail table) and, also facing the outside, a French balcony for its bedroom. The windows on the deck below are from cabins with a French balcony.
The six riverboats – all of which will be floating in Europe by June – were expected to be a big hit in North America, where Viking River Cruises draws 85 percent of its passengers.
According to the cruise line, the six new boats are 88 percent sold out for 2012. So, already it's time to think about Vikings for 2013.
Godmothers to the Viking gods
Vikings Odin and Idun were christened last week, along with Freya and Njord, which remained in the Neptun shipyard undergoing finishing touches in Rostock, Germany. The river cruise line said the occasion was the first in which four vessels were christened at the same time, though the record claim was tarnished slightly by the two missing vessels, visible to the crowd only by satellite television. Most companies wait until their ships are complete for passengers before officially naming them. Freya and Njord will be ready for the rivers in April, the company said. Vessels Aegir and Embla are to join the fleet in June.
All four godmothers to the first four boats, however, were on hand in Amsterdam for the ceremony on Wednesday, March 21, despite the two missing hulls for the traditional splash of champagne.
The godmothers included Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of the PBS Masterpiece series with the hit show “Downton Abbey”; Joanna Lumley, an actress known for her role as Patsy Stone on “Absolutely Fabulous” on British television; Harvard physicist Dr. Lisa Randall, author of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World”; and Gail Wiswedel, of Saugatuck, Michigan, reported to be Viking’s most traveled passenger with 11 river cruises.
The new vessels will sail this year on cruises of 8-15 days. They are 443 feet long, with three cabin decks and an open deck on top, a restaurant that can accommodate all passengers at dinner, and a lounge that opens to the indoor/outdoor café at the bow.
Viking River Cruises has announced six more river vessels for 2013 and has an option to build six more for 2014. For additional information, contact Viking River Cruises at 877‑668‑4546.
More Viking gods to consider:
Viking River Cruises, which was founded in Russia, has renamed its four vessels on Russian rivers in honor of the Rurikid Dynasty, begun by Viking leaders and in charge of Russia for 700 years. Vikings Rurik, his brother Truvor, son Ingvar, and hero Helgi each have a Russian story to tell.