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 www.TheRealRussia.com, 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, www.TheRealRussia.com, 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.”