A+ A A-

Viking River Cruises revamps its Russian fleet

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: More News

Nearly 15 years ago, Viking River Cruises was established with four Russian river cruise vessels and a company name to honor the Vikings that first traveled by longship to explore Russia’s waterways. Since then, the company has grown to become the world’s leading river cruise line, offering passengers the opportunity to intimately experience destinations across Europe, Asia and Egypt like no other style of travel. As Viking River Cruises prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary next year, the company today announced major enhancements to its Russian offering and a new microsite designed to inspire travelers to experience “the real Russia.”

Following dramatic bow-to-stern renovations, 2012 will mark the complete refurbishment of Viking’s four owned and operated Russian ships that set a new standard as the best river cruise ships in Russia and the only fleet entirely Western-managed. To commemorate the transformations and to honor Viking’s heritage, the ships will be renamed—Viking Rurik, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor. In addition to multiple itinerary updates, new for 2012 is an eight-day program, The Glories of the Hermitage, that features exclusive access and private tours at one of the world’s greatest museums. Also launching is a new microsite, found at, which takes visitors on a video tour of the country through a series of inspiring, behind-the-scenes “webisodes.”

"Of all places in the world, we started in Russia. In fact, the idea for our company was born because my daughter had traveled along the Volga with her mother and grandmother," said Torstein Hagen, Founder and Chairman of Viking River Cruises. "We’re immensely proud of our Russian roots, and we continue to build upon our longstanding relationships and intricate knowledge of this captivating country so that we can share it with new travelers year after year."

Russian ship renovations

Launching in 2012, the renovated Viking Rurik (previously Viking Peterhof) is named after Rurik, the Viking warrior who founded and ruled the area known as Rus – now Russia. Its renovated sister ships – Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor – are named for Rurik’s descendants, the original Russian explorers.

In addition to redefining the interior space to create significantly larger staterooms, Viking Rurik’s full bow-to-stern refurbishment is highlighted by full, private verandas added to all staterooms on the Upper and Middle decks, which house four Suites, two Junior Suites and 60 Veranda Staterooms. The two-room Suites – each 405 square feet – will have separate sleeping and sitting areas, two Sony 26-inch flat-panel televisions, a walk-in closet and a full bathroom with two sinks and a separate bathtub and shower Other in-room amenities for all staterooms include hotel-style beds, a safe and refrigerator plus premium bath products.

Just like its sister ships, Viking Rurik’s public areas such as the restaurant, lounge, library and bar will also be renovated to feature Viking’s signature Scandinavian décor. Other upgraded ship areas include a shaded sun deck and a walk-around open air promenade deck.

2012 itinerary enhancements

All four of Viking’s Russian ships sail the Waterways of the Czars itinerary, traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, or the reverse. The 13-day itinerary features multiple days in each city to tour highlights such as Moscow’s Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral plus St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and Catherine’s Palace. Ports of call along the rivers include Kizhi Island, home to an open air museum of architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl.

For 2012, Viking is introducing a variety of new excursions and services to the Waterways of the Czars itinerary. Along with deep roots in Russia come strong connections with its leading artistic and academic institutions. Leveraging these relationships, on select departures Viking has introduced special performances by musicians from St. Petersburg’s venerable Mariinsky Theatre, as well as a Smithsonian Institution lecture series that explores a variety of topics on Russian history, myths and legends. A similarly exclusive program will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the vast art vaults of the Hermitage Museum. Other new cultural highlights include meeting Red Army veterans at Moscow’s Military Museum, visiting a school where young Russians learn restoration techniques to preserve the country’s architectural heritage, and home-hosted visits in riverside towns such as Uglich or St. Petersburg’s Kommunalkas (communal apartments). New onboard programs and services include Viking’s Concierge Services and Viking’s signature on-deck “A Taste Of…” event, highlighting an authentic selection of Russian cuisine such as Siberian pelmeni (ravioli), traditional borscht and blini.

The new Glories of the Hermitage program, which showcases the Hermitage Museum as a destination unto itself, provides art lovers with special access and private tours by Hermitage scholars. Viking guests also have a privileged opportunity to discover many of the museum’s greatest works, including those displayed at the off-site, state-of-the-art Storage Facility, which is not open to the public.

Online Russian inspiration

With Viking’s new microsite,, online visitors can experience an insider’s tour of Russia, just as Viking passengers do. The site features a series of inspiring video webisodes, hosted by Karine Hagen, daughter of Torstein. Karine has spent more than two decades studying and living in Russia, and in the webisodes, she takes the viewer behind closed doors at the ballet, into the rural home of babushka Nadya and her family, and literally underground at the Hermitage, to explore her favorite Russia, “the real Russia.”

Cunard celebrates first anniversary of historic naming

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: More News

When Her Majesty The Queen named Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth during a spectacular ceremony in Southampton on 11 October 2010 she opened not only a new chapter in the history of Cunard but a new chapter in the history of Cunard Queen Elizabeths – perhaps the most significant ship name in the company's history.

Queen Elizabeth officially entered service on 12 October 2010, and since then the third ship to bear this proud name has sailed 124,375 nautical miles. Her first year has also seen her carry 52,600 guests, many of whom enjoyed the experience so much that they have travelled several times with the ship already on 28 voyages to 107 different ports. She has transited both the Suez and Panama Canals, undertaken one World Voyage and 600 of her 1,000 crew currently on board were part of the delivery team. Queen Elizabeth will spend 11 October at sea and a celebratory Dinner will be held on board.

The naming by The Queen was even more significant as Her Majesty was the only person able to claim presence at the launch of all three Elizabeths! She accompanied her mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, to the launch of the first Queen Elizabeth in 1938 and The Queen launched QE2 in 1967.

Queen Elizabeth has also become one of the most celebrated ships to be introduced in recent years and has quickly established herself in the Cunard fleet continuing in style the line's traditions established nearly 170 years ago.

"Who could forget the magnificent spectacle in Southampton last year when The Queen graciously named our new liner – the second largest Cunarder ever built? A truly memorable occasion for all of us at Cunard and around the world, and one still talked about today," said Peter Shanks, president, Cunard Line.

"Queen Elizabeth has established herself as a firm favourite and I am very proud of both the ship and her crew," Shanks added.

FCCA Cruise Conference and Trade Show closes in San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: More News

The FCCA Cruise Conference and Trade Show closed on Thursday night, with attendees and an overwhelming sense of success and achievement still lingering. A thousand professionals from the cruise industry and cruise destinations' private and public sectors must now find their ways to their various homes and home countries.

They will have plenty to ponder during their trips, as the four-day conference sessions engaged the attendees with one-on-one meetings with nearly 100 cruise executives from various departments, such as operations, purchasing, marketing and shore excursions and even the presidents and CEO's; workshops that provided insight into the cruise industry, shore excursion operations and targeting of the cruise lines and marketing from those executive and the cruise lines' presidents and CEO's; and evening functions that brought attendees together to foster communications between them and the cruise executives.

The Trade Show also will loom on the minds of all attendees, as it combined awing, creative booths with innovative and varying products, from ATV and zip line tours to t-shirts and smoothies to destinations' tourism departments and grand companies, like Aon Risk Management. The FCCA Trade Show displayed its specialization of delivering the attention of this elite audience of decision makers throughout the cruise industry to all those exhibiting and allowing for the best chance to get noticed in a setting where the executives are already considering taking on new business, fostering existing business and imparting knowledge on what the lines look for in products, shore excursions, port operations and destinations/infrastructure. This is why this year's FCCA Trade Show surpassed all of its predecessors in size and exhibits, with over 100 companies represented on the trade show floor.

The FCCA Conference and Trade Show again showed that it provides the best chance for entities doing business or wishing to do business with the cruise industry to increase their contact base with the cruise executives in attendance so that  they can present their destination or product and learn what the cruise lines look for in shore excursions, products, services, destinations and ports of call. As  per usual, it helped attendees establish a clear vision that will map the road to success in future dealings with the cruise industry.

The FCCA prides itself in bringing together the private and public sectors from  and the cruise industry. It is a symbiotic relationship between them; the more that the destinations and companies progress and learn about the industry, the more that the industry is able to grow and thrive. The FCCA promotes this mutually beneficial connection in most of its operations.

Largest ever FCCA Trade Show opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: More News

Tuesday night marked the opening of the largest ever FCCA Trade Show, taking place in San Juan, Puerto Rico in conjunction with the FCCA Conference. Over 100 companies are represented on the trade show floor, which will see exposure from the prestigious audience of cruise line decision makers and prominent professionals throughout the industry and cruise destinations' private and public sectors.

The FCCA Trade Show is specialized by offering publicity from this exclusive crowd in a setting focused on doing business with the cruise industry, where the nearly 100 cruise executives, presidents and CEOs in attendance are interested in taking on new business, fostering existing business and grant insight on what the lines look for in terms of products, shore excursions, port operations and destination development/infrastructure.

This focus leads to a great diversity of trade show exhibits, from ATV and zip line tours and customized products, like t-shirts and compact knapsacks, to countries' tourism departments and companies like Aon Risk Management. Anyone doing business or wanting to do business with the cruise industry has a chance of targeting some of the most important decision makers in the industry.

One of the new features-specialized pavilions-were designed for destinations to  come together as one entity to display their numerous destination products, along with larger companies that wanted increased prominence and have led to this being the largest FCCA Trade Show yet.

Former Thomson Cruises head David Selby sets up Travelyields

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen
  • Category: More News

David Selby, who until recently headed Thomson Cruises in the UK, has set up a new company called Travelyields. The company specialises in consultancy on strategic and commercial development plus product innovation and delivery and staff motivation. Selby has previously worked within Yield Management, Planning, Development and Marketing and Event Management environments.