Alan Lam reports
On 23 March, at the float-out ceremony of its latest newbuilding, Viking Sky, Viking Ocean Cruises confirmed that it had three more ships due from Fincantieri at Ancona, slated for delivery in late 2017, 2018 and 2020.
According to the company’s chairman and founder, Torstein Hagen, speaking on board Viking Star, Viking Ocean Cruises could grow its fleet to 10 vessels within the next five years. “We have options for up to six ocean ships,” he said, without mincing his words.
“Then our idea is to hopefully build two ships a year every year thereafter. I think we have proved that we know exactly what the customers want. We placed orders when nobody else had the balls to do it. We are in a very strong financial position.”
All the ships, dabbed as the “Venice class”, will have the capacity to carry 930 passengers each.
Hagen indicated that Viking Ocean would look to South America and Asia, particularly Singapore and Hong Kong, as possible destinations for the new ships, without ruling out the possibility of a world cruise and expedition cruises to Antarctica; but he ruled out any plan to expand into new source markets beyond the U.S.A., U.K., and Australia, and remained confident that demand from these sources would be sufficient to meet the extended capacity.
“Ocean cruise lines do not manage to operate small ships economically,” said Hagen. “We have the benefit that we are a river cruise line, so we are cost-conscious and space-conscious. Our competitors won’t only be Oceania and Azamara, they will be other big cruise lines like Holland America Line. We have designed a ship that can offer this product at a very competitive price.”