A Norwegian cruise line best known for its extensive offerings in the river cruise market made its first call in Seward on Tuesday as part of its growing ocean cruise offerings. The cruise vessel Orion of Viking Cruises will remain in Seward for three days total, affording its departing and incoming passengers more time to visit Seward.
Captain Richard Svadmark welcomed a delegation from the City of Seward, Chamber of Commerce and Alaska Railroad on board the 930-passenger ship Tuesday morning for the customary plaque exchange, in which local officials exchange gifts with the boat’s commanding officer. Viking Cruises Representative Michael Coleman then led the delegation on a tour of the Orion.
“Captain, we didn’t get cheated today,” Coleman joked when he introduced the fifteen-person delegation to the Capt. Svadmark. “Half the town came out to see us.”
Viking first expanded into the ocean cruise sector in 2015, Coleman said. Viking has over 70 ships dedicated to river cruises worldwide, and has already brought six online for ocean operations.
“We were supposed to have three ships,” Coleman said. “Now we have six, in the next decade we are building ten more.”
Viking Cruises is a closely held family firm worth billions of dollars. Founder Tor Hagen still owns three quarters of the $3.4 billion company, according to Forbes. The company got its start in the 1950s with four boats operating in the Russian market.
Viking’s six ocean-going vessels have all been designed to be identical, Coleman told the delegation, a feature that proved surprisingly popular.
“The piano in the atrium is identical on every ship,” Coleman said, addressing the group assembled around a Steinway. “The procedures, the policies – it’s all identical.”
Mayor David Squires asked how long one might have to wait for a spot onboard one of Viking’s ocean boats.
“As the sales guy on these ships, I can tell you we’re sold out all the time,” he said, working his way up to the answer.