River cruise behemoth Viking Cruises will start cruising the Mississippi River in August 2022 with a 450’x75’ vessel being built at a shipyard owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, Galliano, La.
The 386-passenger, five-deck Viking Mississippi will sail between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minn., the company, which has 79 vessels operating worldwide, said this week.
Switzerland-based Viking’s plans to enter the booming U.S. market surfaced seven years ago soon after American Cruise Lines (ACL) and American Queen Steamboat Co. started regular overnight inland river cruising.
Both U.S. companies have been steadily increasing their fleets.
ACL, the largest U.S.-flag overnight operator with 12 ships on inland and coastal waters, is on schedule to debut the third in its modern riverboat series, American Jazz, later this year in New Orleans. Two more new ships are due in 2021. American Queen has three vessels and a fourth, American Countess, which was scheduled to be christened in New Orleans this month.
Meanwhile, Viking was pushing ahead with its plans. In late 2015, it said it would launch six Mississippi River vessels over three years starting in late 2017 from a home port of New Orleans. Then in 2017 Viking told river communities that talks about building in the U.S. had broken off. “As details were being refined, it became apparent the economics did not meet Viking’s goals,” said a company statement to Hannibal, Mo., and Fort Madison, Iowa.
A year later, a cruise line representative told the Dubuque, Iowa, city council that by 2027 Viking would have six vessels carrying 103,431 passengers on the Mississippi.
He said Chouest would build and own the vessels and charter them to Viking. The cruise line earlier said that the vessels, costing $90 million to $100 million each, would be built at U.S. yards, crewed by U.S. citizens, owned by an investment management firm, and time-chartered to Viking “in full compliance with maritime laws.”
A Viking spokesman would not comment further on the corporate structure.