The Guinness Book of World Records fascinated me and my brother when we were kids; we’d check each yearly addition out of our local library frequently to pore over feats of strength, longevity, and the various array of oddities. How fun and exciting it has been for me, then to be witness to a new Guinness World Record this past Monday. Viking Cruises was just awarded the Guinness Record for most new ships christened in one day. The Viking Cruises longships christening ceremony was both elegant and joyous. And, if drinking champagne and cheering counts, I could even say I participated in this new world record.
“The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company,” the official name of Viking Cruises’ world record, won’t be broken any time soon: it christened 16 Viking longships in one day! This was achieved masterfully in a multi-phase day-long Viking Cruises longships christening ceremony that spanned three European countries with appropriate fanfare and godmothers helping to break ceremonial bottles of champagne across the bows of the new Viking river cruise longships.
From Amsterdam to Germany to France, the people that designed and built the new longships were on hand to celebrate with the owners and investors, chefs de cuisine and waitstaff — and members of the travel media and travel industry, of course. The Viking Cruises longships christening ceremony has been one of the most egalitarian, joyous industry events in which I have ever participated.
Viking Cruises held the previous record for most ships inaugurated in one day as well, in 2013 for ten new vessels. This year, the sixteen new longships that mark the new world record will be joined in a couple of days by two additional river cruise ships christened in Porto, Portugal.
All of these new Viking river cruise ships will take slow paths through its already popular European itineraries, and all of the ships for the summer of 2014 are already booked to capacity. Viking Cruises is extremely popular! And for good reason; rather than herding passengers on and off the ships like herds of cattle, only to have them reboard the boats and leave before they truly get to know each destination, Viking Cruises stays all day and lets guests either choose small/larger group tours or wander for hours — all day if desired — on their own. This attracts a more culturally curious and more adventurous crowd than do the typical mega-cruise ships.
Viking Cruises has seen double-digit growth every year since its inception seventeen years ago, and currently maintains just under 50% of the market. The company often adds new itineraries; this will be the first year that Viking Cruises takes guests along for trips in France. There are four Viking longships dedicated to river cruise traveling in France this spring and summer, including the one in which I am writing this right now; it will later take passengers on the brand-new Chateaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary in Bordeaux.
As with the other Viking river cruise ships, these new longships take take a maximum of only 190 guests (in 95 staterooms) which makes for more intimate cruising. No one would ever accuse Viking Cruise ships of being “floating hotels,” a maligning comment some make about the mega ships that crowd into popular tourist ports and disrupt the flow of those port cities. Smaller ship cruising is my preferred form of cruise travel for a multitude of reasons, including the more personal staff, the lighter environmental footprint, and feeling like a recognized fellow human (as compared to the aforementioned cattle).
Viking Cruises hits all the right notes for fans of smaller ship cruising. It tops award lists (Conde Nast Traveler, Cruise Critics Editors’ Picks, etc) due, in part, to its destination-focused itineraries. Exploring Avignon with a tour guide and being so well taken care of throughout my stay on the Viking Heimdal has been almost a revelation. Previously, I’d thought that cruise ships could offer one or the other, but not both. Here, all day is spent in port, with passengers being able to stay off the ship all day and enjoy a sense of European life, slower, without rushing from photo opportunity to photo opportunity. Then, on the longships, the beds are incredibly comfortable, there are fridges and flat-screen televisions in each room, plus L’Occitane shower products and other appreciated touches. The meals are high quality without being overly fussy.
The smaller passenger list means that everyone who wants to, quickly gets comfortable with each other and develop a sense of travel camaraderie. That lighter environmental footprint that I appreciate about smaller ships is enhanced, by Viking Cruises, with energy-efficient hybrid engines, onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens. The hybrid engines also reduce vibrations while sailing, for a smoother ride. This is probably a boon for those who get seasick.
The Viking Cruises longships christening ceremony celebration this week, and the world record such christening has according it, was in no way over the top. In fact, knowing the love and care that has gone into each ship, from design and creation to their naming and official christening, I would say that the joyous christening and later evening party were perfect. And so, surely, will be cruise travel experiences on each Viking Cruise itinerary this summer. A perfect cruise vacation in Europe is almost as good as a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
I was invited to the Viking Cruises longships christening ceremony along with many other travel journalists.