By Teresa Ooi in Paris

In an incredible display of chutzpah in the week cruising was red-lighted in Australia, Viking officially launched EIGHT new ships to the world’s biggest river fleet.

In a glittering celebration not seen since the pandemic paralysed cruising, Viking’s chair Torstein Hagen said COVID is “really behind us as Viking Cruises powers ahead with an expected growth rate of 47 per cent in 2023 compared to 2019”.

Hagen, who holds a Guinness Book of Records for launching the most ships in one day, lived up to his reputation this day.

The naming event was executed by connecting the new ships via satellite across two European cities: Paris and Amsterdam.

The Viking Fjorgyn, Viking Kari, Viking Radgrid and Viking Skaga were docked in Paris at the Port de Grenelle, where they were named by their godmothers.

The other four ships – Viking Egdir, Viking Gersemi, Viking Gymir and Viking Hervor  were docked in Amsterdam and named by their godmothers, who also joined the celebration in Paris.

In keeping with another maritime tradition, a bottle of Gammel Opland aquavit was broken on the bow of each new ship.

Viking, which started in Russia with four ships, now has an 80-strong fleet of river, ocean and expedition ships.

Ironically, the Ukraine war sparked by Russia is seem by Hagen is the only obstacle to his line’s 25 year history of beating opponents in the cruise industry.

“We have a nice platform from river to ocean and after five years, we have a ship in the Mississippi River which is already sold out,” he said at a press conference prior to the naming ceremony.

Viking has also just launched the new Polar class Viking Octanis and Viking Polaris to take curious passengers to the Antarctica.

There will be two new ships for the Nile in 2022 and 2023 and a new river ship to be launched on the mighty Mekong River in August 2022.

In Australia, Viking will for the first time send two ships, Viking Orion and Viking Mars in November this year to sail 14-day itineraries from Sydney to New Zealand and vice versa.

While there are no immediate plans to send more ships, Hagen said that if there is sufficient demand, “we will come.”

From 1 April, he said that Viking plans to stop insisting all guests have to wear masks while on board. Crew will continue to do so.

Both passengers and crew will continue to be tested every day because “we like to err on the conservative side.

“We cannot prevent people from bringing the virus on board, but we can prevent the spread of the virus on board.”

The naming ceremony was marked by an eclectic mix of Godmothers – one just a teen.

Alma Deutscher, Godmother of Viking Gymir, is a musical phenomenon, Alma captivates the classical world as a violinist, pianist, composer and conductor, and at just 17 years old, was hailed as the “new Mozart”.

This year Viking will offer guests a Privileged Access performance led by Alma Deutscher at Vienna’s illustrious Wiener Konzerthaus. She will conduct the historic Strauss Capelle orchestra and perform the music of Mozart, the waltzes of Strauss on the violin and her own compositions.

Building on Viking’s offerings in Paris and the four new Viking Longships sailing the Seine River, the company has announced today a new post-trip extension entitled Paris: A Culinary Experience that will explore the cuisine of the French capital.

Available beginning in 2023 for guests sailing on the 8-day Paris & the Heart of Normandy itinerary, the new extension allows guests to immerse themselves in the culinary history of Paris and taste the gastronomic delights the city has to offer.

Additionally, Viking has announced a new holiday sailing, the 8-day Christmas on the Seine, sailing roundtrip from Paris. Available during the holiday season beginning in 2022, guests will sail through Normandy’s snow-covered countryside while enjoying the festive Christmas markets. Guests can select from holiday-centric shore excursions such as baking homemade gingerbread at the 850-year-old Abbaye du Valasse or attending a festive Christmas ornament making workshop in Rouen. Onboard, guests will enjoy special holiday-themed festivities, including regional dining specialties, seasonal treats and more.