LOS ANGELES - With final preparations underway to extend into ocean cruises in 2015, Viking Cruises is celebrating its popular river cruises as it has again been named "Best River Cruise Line" in the U.S. in Cruise Critic's 7th Annual Editors' Picks Awards. Recognized for the fourth consecutive year by Cruise Critic, the unrivaled experience offered by Viking and continued fleet growth earned the company top marks from Cruise Critic's international team of editors.
"We have our entire team at Viking to thank for once again earning this achievement," said Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen. "As the market and competition continues to grow, we have never lost sight of what we stand for – offering our guests new and unique ways to explore some of the world's best destinations in comfort. Having our hard work and effort recognized by Cruise Critic, a leader in the cruise market, is an ideal way to end another successful year."
"In an expanding river market, Viking continues to reign, thanks in part to exceptional excursions that include exciting and unusual options like truffle hunting and cognac blending," said the editors of Cruise Critic. "The casual Aquavit Terrace, providing a unique indoor-outdoor experience, is a hallmark of the line – which shows no signs of slowing when it comes to growth."
Founded in 1997, Viking was established with four Russian river cruise vessels and a name that honored the Vikings who first traveled by longship to explore Russia's waterways. Today, Viking owns and operates the world's largest fleet of river vessels – 53 – and this honor from Cruise Critic comes amid continually high levels of consumer interest in river cruising. To keep up with the demand, Viking broke a previous world record in March of this year by christening 16 new Viking Longships in one day – a class of ships that was named "Best New River Ships" in the 2012 Cruise Critic's Editors' Picks. This, combined with the christening of two unique river vessels in Porto, Portugal, brought the total number of ships christened in 2014 to 18.
Since entering the North American market in 2000, Viking has continued to set industry standards with best-in-class river cruise ships, award-winning service, outstanding quality and all-inclusive itineraries offered at a competitive price. With a focus on crafting itineraries for guests who have an interest in art, culture, history and exploration, Viking's acclaimed Culture Curriculum spans all manner of activities - from things like onboard language instruction and traditional dance performances, to behind-the-scenes looks at museums and home visits with local families - bringing to life every facet of the destination.
Because Viking is the largest river cruise line, it prides itself on offering the widest array of choices for guests to tailor every aspect of their trip – from sailing and stateroom options, down to a guest's daily itinerary – due in large part to the size of its fleet. Comprehensive guided tours are included each day for those who want to immerse themselves in culture and history, and flexible scheduling options allow guests to sightsee at their own pace. Viking's onboard Program Directors can provide all the information and maps guests need to explore port cities independently, while Viking's complimentary onboard Concierge Service is an industry exclusive and allows guests an unmatched level of vacation personalization. With a vast network of contacts and an intimate understanding of each port city, Viking Concierges can reserve a table at the best restaurant, recommend specialty shops, order theater tickets and even arrange for a private guide and car service.
This top honor comes at a time of increased traveler demand for destination-focused cruises, which Viking is prepared to meet. In 2015, Viking will add 10 new Longships to its fleet and two ships designed specifically for the Elegant Elbe itinerary, doubling the company's capacity on the Elbe River; introduce two new river itineraries, both of which showcase scenic treasures along the Rhine River during the springtime; and celebrate the launch of its new ocean cruises. Developed from the ground up, Viking will bring the principles of its award-winning river cruises to the sea by returning the focus of cruising to the destination. Viking Ocean Cruises will begin sailing in May 2015 with its first vessel - the 930-passenger all-veranda Viking Star - embarking on maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Mediterranean.