Viking River Cruises, a global corporation based in the United States, was established in 1997 by a Scandinavian and Dutch consortium with the purchase of four Russian ships. The following year, additional ships were purchased and the company continued to cater to European passengers. Viking River Cruises expanded into the American market in 2002, establishing U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, California. As a result of additional purchases and new builds, today Viking River Cruises operates a fleet of 31 ships with nearly 5,000 berths.
In the mid-1990s, the company’s co-founder and chairman, Torstein Hagen, took a river cruise through Russia and decided to create a river cruising company so that others could enjoy similar experiences. Educated at Norwegian Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School, Mr. Hagen was formerly CEO of Royal Viking Line, and has also served on the boards of Holland America Line and Kloster Cruise Ltd. The company’s Board of Directors includes prominent investors and financial leaders with background in the cruising and shipping industries.
The company started with the purchase of four Russian vessels in 1997. Then, in 2000, Viking purchased Europe’s KD River Cruises (“K” for Köln, “D” for Düsseldorf), founded in 1827. KD retained its Rhine Line passenger ferries, scheduled services and day-excursion operations. The combined fleet amounted to 26 river cruise vessels accommodating approximately 4,200 passengers, resulting in Viking becoming the largest fleet of river cruise vessels in the world. The takeover included the landing stages (docks), an extremely valuable asset—Viking owns docks in more European cities than it stops in, ensuring prime docking locations for easy passenger access and the ability to walk directly into town in many ports, while sailing past other ports without stopping.
The company expanded into China in April 2004 with Yangtze River cruises that also include hotel stays in various cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
The company’s latest acquisition, in 2006, was the UK river cruise specialist Travel Renaissance which is now known as Viking River Cruises in the UK and on May 17, 2013 the company announced the launch of Viking Ocean Cruises with sailing aboard its first ship, Viking Star, starting in May 2015.
Viking Cruises ‘Viking Neptune’ cruise ship