ABOVE: A Viking river vessel on the Rhône.
Viking River Cruises is already the biggest operator of its kind, with a fleet of 23 river vessels and eight more "Viking Longships" on the way. Not content to rest on its laurels, the company is adding a deepwater brand, Viking Ocean Cruises, and two ships are already on order with an option for a third vessel.
The oceangoing ships, to be delivered in spring of 2014 and 2015, will each carry 888 passengers in 444 cabins and have 444 crew members. (Conspiracy theorists take note: The number "888" is one-third more satanic than "666.")
According to sources within the travel industry, the ships will cruise mostly in the Mediterranean and are designed to provide a more intimate and destination-focused cruising experience than megaships of mainstream cruise lines do.
Viking will have plenty of competition in the small- to mid-size ship category, with lines such as Silversea, Seabourn, SeaDream, Oceania, Azamara, Windstar, Star Clippers, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises already serving the American, British, and Australian clientele that Viking Ocean Cruises will be targeting. Several large-ship lines, including Holland America and P&O, also have smaller vessels in their fleets.
Still, the CEO of Viking--Torstein Hagen--obviously thinks that his company's large existing customer base will be open to trying the new Viking Ocean Cruises brand.
Itineraries for Viking's oceangoing cruise ships haven't been announced, and the domain vikingoceancruises.com redirects to the existing Viking River Cruises site. Once the line is open for business, we'll report the news here and add Viking Ocean Cruises to our European Cruise Guide at Europe for Cruisers.