Viking Denies It Is Abandoning Mississippi River Cruising Plans

Several news sources claimed over the second weekend in December that Viking River Cruises is abandoning its plans to offer cruises on U.S. rivers aboard European-style longboats, but the company is denying the reports and says it is still pursuing its plans to operate on the Mississippi River and other U.S. rivers.

An online publication servicing the cruise market called reported December 11 that Viking had responded to a query by saying it had terminated discussions to build vessels in a U.S. shipyard for Mississippi River cruising. The article’s author claimed that the statement also read that “it had become apparent the economics didn’t meet Viking’s goals.” The article blamed the Jones Act, which requires that vessels traveling between U.S. ports be built in the U.S. and crewed by Americans, and implied that Viking was seeking an exemption from the act.

The story was picked up by several other sources, including the libertarian magazine Reason, which blamed U.S. protectionism for the obstacles facing Viking.

The Reason article pointed out that it is not the Jones Act, but an earlier law, the Passenger Vessel Act passed in 1886 under President Grover Cleveland, that restricts passenger vessel traffic between U.S. ports to American-built and -crewed vessels, in the same way that the 1920 Jones Act was later to do for cargo carriers.

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The Hannibal (Mo.) Herald-Whig wrote only that the company was “putting on hold” its river plans, but its headline read, “Viking Halts Plans To Offer Cruises On Mississippi River.” The December 12 article quoted Hannibal officials as saying Viking’s plans would have added 38,000 cruise visitors to the riverside town each year. In Viking’s initial announcement of its Mississippi River plans in 2013, the company said it would have the boats cruising by 2020.

After being contacted by The Waterways Journal, a Viking representative had this to say: “At this point, we do not have any additional details to share, but we continue to work on the Mississippi project.”

Viking is a relatively new company, having been formed in 1997 when it bought four Russian cruise ships. It rapidly moved into the cruise market in several countries. It operates river cruises in several countries in Europe, as well as ocean-going cruise vessels in Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Egypt and from U.S. ports.