Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Viking Saturn Naming Celebration
VIKING really, really, knows how to throw a party!
On June 2, 2023 the newest ship in VIKING’s impressive line-up of 100+ ships was named VIKING Saturn at a ceremony held at Pier 88 on New York City’s Hudson River. During the party, raconteur Chairman Torstein Hagen charmingly recounted the company’s history that he started 25 years ago with his partner “just 2 guys with 2 mobile phones”. Due to his warm sense of humor and Norse background - along with a strong personal commitment and hands-on approach - he is playfully referred to as Thor - Norse god of thunder.
Thor, a graduate of Harvard’s Business School, turned a start up cruise line in just 25 shorts years into one of the top rated cruise lines in the world. Both Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast rate VIKING in the top five world-wide cruise line companies… a remarkable achievement.
VIKING began as Viking River Cruises plying European waterways with Longships specifically engineered for river cruising. By 2015 Ocean going ships were added to the line and the company was renamed Viking Cruises to incorporate its expanded range. By 2020 “Cruises” was dropped from the company logo when expedition ships visiting Antarctic waters were launched and most recently the Mississippi was added to the destination venues. VIKING now explores all seven continents fulfilling Thor’s commitment to make the destination the focus of a cruise with the ships being “the vehicle that enables curious travelers to explore in an elegant and comfortable home base from which they can discover the destination”. His “Exploring the world in comfort” tagline flies in the face of the mainstream cruise industry where the thought is “bigger is better” and the ships are small cities making them, not the destinations, the focus.
As a lover of travel and exploring and learning about new destinations with like-minded people sharing experiences over fine meals and in intimate lounges contusive to conversation, I could not agree more with Thor’s point of view. Having taken several VIKING cruises, with hopefully more to come, I relish the experiences I’ve had and the friends I’ve made.
And as Thor revealed at the party, he is by no means done. Ever forward thinking he has his sights set on the Asian market and is currently offering cruises dedicated to Chinese clientele with Mandarin speaking crews serving Chinese food.
Thor is the face and driving force behind VIKING. His concept of “homey floating vacation homes away from home” dictates the residential, functional and comfortable design standardized in all ships. He revolutionized the standardized pointed front bow of river cruising Longships into a squarish bow for larger stateroom capacity to offer some of the largest cabins available in the industry.
The beautifully appointed Saturn has the latest upgrades in detailing but in keeping with Chairman Hagen’s philosophy for the company, its design, décor and footprint is similar to all the other ships of the line. Scandinavian design with its clean lines, colorful woven textiles and abundant use of wood pay homage to Viking’s Nordic heritage and strong connection to the natural world. Continuity is key to making guests feel comfortable and at home in familiar settings which accounts in great part for the company’s repeat clientele and award winning style.
And while VIKING does not consider itself the top in luxury, the ships all exhibit the bells and whistles necessary for the complete comfort of their guests. All staterooms have balconies - no inside rooms that limit the enjoyment of the passing scenery on a VIKING ship. The staterooms are compact but large enough to include a desktop for a personal computer that converts into a make-up mirror/dressing table that handily contains a set of binoculars for use onboard to help tune into far away details while relaxing on your private balcony or during off-ship excursions. There is lots of storage space; a king sized bed for optimal sleeping; a seating area with a couch for relaxing in the comfort of your stateroom.
The bathroom is sufficiently large with drawers and hooks, fluffy towels and Freyja Collection amenity package. And best of all is the warm welcoming smiles of the crew and staff all Swiss-trained and employed by Viking. There is a genuine desire to please and insure that all guests get personal attention to their needs and expectations. The crew to guest ration is impressive, insuring sterling attention to passenger’s individual desires.
Back at the party and in keeping with VIKING’s copious hospitality, food and drink was plentiful and constant. After pass-around bits and drinks and Thor’s welcoming comments, the crowd gathered on deck to watch as ceremonial Godmother Ann Ziff, chairman of the Metropolitan Opera and dedicated philanthropist, christened the Saturn with Aquavit, instead of the traditional Champaign bottle broken over the hull.
After a delicious and leisurely dinner we returned on deck to be entertained against a glorious New York City skyline.
VIKING has had a long term cultural partner with Ms. Ziff and the Metropolitan Opera and on this special evening guests were treated to a concert by Tor Jaran Apold, Violinist and three gifted singers from the Met: Susanna Phillips, Soprano; Charles Castronovo, Tenor; and Quinn Kelsey, Baritone.Jonathan Kelly was at the piano and Daniell Wurtzel on Air Fountain. The formal evening ended with guests returning to their cabins for a blissful night with dreams of future adventures.
In the morning after a bountiful breakfast we departed the Saturn as it readied to receive guests and depart New York City for a journey of discovery.
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