Viking to launch ocean cruise line

Rosemary McClure

If you like to cruise – but rubbing elbows with thousands of other tourists makes you crazy -- you might be interested in a couple of new, smaller ships that will sail into the picture in 2014 and 2015.

The new lines are among the first being introduced in the travel industry in nearly a decade.

Viking River Cruises, the industry leader in Europe, will launch Viking Ocean Cruises in 2015. The new Viking Star will cruise to Scandinavia and the Baltic, plus the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

All of the Star’s cabins will have verandas; there will be no interior rooms. And, for people who hate some common cruise ship activities, there’s more good news:

• Shore excursions will be included in the price
• No surcharges at the ship’s specialty restaurants
• No casino
• 12-hour port stops
• No formal nights (meaning no need to wear a tie)

Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, who announced the new line at a Beverly Hills Hilton banquet for 300 guests, was wearing an open shirt because, he said, “I’ve given up on ties.” And he likes passengers to be casual, too.

The new ship, which will be followed by another scheduled to debut in 2016, will hold 928 passengers and will have standard cabins that are 270 square feet.

It will be a coastal European cruiser, “allowing us to visit destinations that we can’t get to now,” said Hagen. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $2,999 per person with discounted airfares from $695 per person.

Viking River Cruises has the largest – and newest-- fleet of ships in Europe. By the end of 2014, it plans to have 20 new river boats in service, including 10 new Viking River Longboats that the company launched in March.

Also launching a new smaller ship is Pearl Seas Cruises, an affiliate of American Cruise Lines. The company’s new 335-foot ship, Pearl Mist, holds 210 passengers and will have its inaugural sailing on June 29, 2014. The ship is currently in Baltimore finishing up its fittings. Legal problems delayed the launch of the Pearl Mist.

The ship’s itineraries will include the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Canadian Maritimes and the Atlantic Coast. The inaugural sailing will be from Baltimore to Halifax, Canada.

Pricing begins at $3,995 per person for a seven-night cruise, according to the website.