Viking Mississippi River Plans Poised to Move Forward

Originally published October 1, 2018.


Viking River Cruises is moving forward with its ambitious plan to enter the U.S. river market, according to a company presentation made in front of the Dubuque, Iowa, City Council in September.

The Torstein Hagen-led brand essentially dominates the European river market with an estimated 49 percent market share, and will have a fleet of 16 930-guest ocean ships in service by 2027, as well as two additional expedition vessels as the company continues to rapidly gain market share.

After announcing its plan to enter the U.S. river market in 2015, Viking has been quiet, but now company consultants are pounding the pavement along the banks of the Mississippi River.

A potential start-up with ships in service could happen as soon as 2021, according to a presentation.

“We have a brand and existing customer base who are river cruisers and our past passengers are asking for the Mississippi River,” said David Simmons of Viking Cruise Lines in his presentation to the Dubuque, Iowa, City Council.

The presentation said the Mississippi River market was “well underserved,” with Simmons in Dubuque to pitch the city in adding berth space in the form of a small floating dock (steiger), similar to what is used in Europe.

“We are looking to participate in building this with the city,” Simmons said. “At the end of the day we want it to be a win-win.”

By 2027, Viking is hoping to carry just over 100,000 guests on the Mississippi, which would be well up from an estimated 50,599 on the river today, according to the company’s presentation.

“By 2027 our plan is to have six vessels,” Simmons added.

Early deployment plans include round-trip New Orleans sailings, New Orleans to Memphis, and St. Louis to St. Paul; all are seven-day voyages.

The five-deck ship is being described as a “long-ship on steroids,” although renderings were blocked from public view. All staterooms will offer balcony accommodations. The aft of the vessel will feature an infinity pool while the bow of the ship will have ramps to easily land passengers.

Simmons said he had been working with Viking for seven years on the Mississippi program.

Among the challenges has been the Jones Act, as Viking remains a foreign company with headquarters in Switzerland.

Thus, the vessels will be built and owned by the shipyard, Edison Chouest. The ships will then be chartered to Viking.

Dubuque currently receives calls from American Cruise Line and American Queen Steamboat Company at the American Trust Rivers Edge Plaza.