Even as COVID-19 has sidelined all of the company’s cruise and exploration ships around the world, Viking Cruises still has an eye toward the future. On March 30, Viking announced the company will officially begin offering river cruises in the United States on the Mississippi River beginning in 2022. The company’s forthcoming 386-guest ship, to be named the Viking Mississippi, is currently under construction at an Edison Chouest Offshore shipyard in Louisiana.
Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen made the announcement in a video update to the company’s recently launched website, Viking.TV.
“Dear Viking guests, these are truly unusual times, but adversity is also part of life,” Hagen said to start his announcement. “What really matters is how we deal with it.”
Hagen admitted the global impacts of COVID-19 are alarming, but he also said he draws hope from how the world responded to past crises.
“Although it may look dark now, history shows us we will work through this together,” he said.
Hagen went on to offer a five-point update on operations at Viking.
First, Hagen extended the company’s current suspension of sailings through July 1. Guests who have already booked sailings during that time will be able to receive a refund or accept a future cruise voucher equal up to 125 percent of what they have already paid.
Second, Hagen announced that all but 14 Viking guests have been able to return home from cruises that were underway when the suspension took effect. Of those remaining 14 guests, eight are bound for a port in the United Kingdom.
Hagen then expressed his thanks and admiration for the company’s crew members.
“I really thank them, and I’m sure you, our Viking guests, share in that thanks,” he said.
For now, Viking has retained most of its oceangoing ship crew members, while river cruise crews are still in the European offseason.
Fourth, Hagen admitted to longer-than-usual wait times for calls coming in to Viking’s corporate offices. He asked for patience in that regard.
Finally, Hagen announced the new cruise ship, bound for the Mississippi River in 2022.
“You will see, at least, it is an elegant, modern design: no paddle wheels, real or fake, but modern,” he said. “We are very proud of her, as well as our first exploration vessels to Antarctica, the Arctic and, closer to home, the Great Lakes.”
Hagen said the Mississippi River is a waterway that Viking guests have repeatedly asked to ply on a Viking vessel.
“Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us,” he said. “The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”
The Viking Mississippi will feature 193 staterooms—all outside—and a design that draws on the company’s other river cruise vessels. According to the company’s announcement, public spaces aboard the five-deck ship will be familiar to past Viking guests, but reimagined for America’s heartland. Staterooms will range from 268 square feet to 1,024 square feet, and suites will range from 400 square feet to more than 1,000 square feet. Other design features include an Explorer’s Lounge near the bow, a River Café dining venue, an Aquavit Terrace dining space on the top deck and other themed spaces.
The Viking Mississippi will also feature solar panels, LED lighting, expansive windows to maximize natural light and an efficient hybrid propulsion system.
Inaugural sailings in 2022 and 2023 will include an eight-day itinerary between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn.; an eight-day “Heart of the Delta” journey from New Orleans to Memphis, Tenn.; an eight-day trip from New Orleans to Vicksburg, Miss., and back; and a 15-day journey titled “America’s Great River” from New Orleans to St. Paul.
Scheduled ports of call include Baton Rouge, Darrow, New Orleans and St. Francisville (Louisiana); Natchez and Vicksburg (Mississippi); Memphis; Hannibal and St. Louis (Missouri); Burlington, Dubuque and Davenport (Iowa); La Crosse and Red Wing (Wisconsin); and St. Paul.
Caption for photo: Artist’s rendition of the Viking Mississippi (from Viking River Cruises website)