Viking River Cruises pulls back on U.S. plans

Viking River Cruises’ plans to enter the U.S. market appear to be on hold.

Two Mississippi River communities received statements in the past few weeks from the company saying that talks about building in the U.S. have broken off.

“Viking has terminated current discussions to build vessels in a U.S. shipyard for Mississippi River and U.S. coastal cruising. As details were being refined, it became apparent the economics did not meet Viking’s goals,” said the statement to the cities of Hannibal, Mo., and Fort Madison, Iowa.

A Viking representative would say only, “At this point we do not have any additional details to share, but we continue to work on the Mississippi project.”

“We’re very disappointed,” said Hannibal city manager Jeff LaGarce. “I have to believe they’ll be revisiting this. This would have been a big deal for our community.”

They estimated that the July to October stops by Viking boats would have brought 38,000 visitors annually to the city that already has about 30 cruise calls. “Hannibal’s kind of a neat place to visit,” he said, noting they’re planning to renovate the riverfront.

Viking would have stopped in Fort Madison several times a week for four-hour visits, said city manager David Varley.

Based in Basel, Switzerland, Viking first hinted at its U.S. plans in 2013 soon after American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Co. started regular overnight inland river cruising. In early 2015, Viking, whose 63 vessels cruise waters in Europe, Russia, China and Southeast Asia, said it would launch six Mississippi River vessels over three years starting late this year from a home port of New Orleans.

Viking said its U.S. fleet would meet Jones Act requirements. The 300-passenger vessels, costing $90 million to $100 million each, were to be built at U.S. yards, crewed by U.S. citizens, owned by a Los Angeles-based investment management firm, and time-chartered to Viking “in full compliance with maritime laws,” the company said.

A spokesman for the Port of New Orleans said Friday that the port “has been in contact with Viking River Cruises and the company continues to work on creating its first North American homeport in New Orleans. Port NOLA stands ready to welcome Viking as one of our river cruise partners and offer Viking passengers the unique experience of cruising from the Crescent City.”

About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

1 Comment

  1. “the economics did not meet Viking’s goals” meaning that they would have to pay the crew at least minimum wage, unlike the peanuts that they pay their other riverboat crews.

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