Torstein Hagen, the chairman of Viking Cruises, was today honoured for his outstanding contribution to the cruise industry at the Cruise International awards.
Since Mr Hagen set up the line in 1997, Viking has grown to a fleet of 35 river ships and is launching its first ocean-going vessel next year.
Its widespread TV advertising campaign in Britain last year, including sponsoring popular programmes such as Downton Abbey, raised the whole profile of river cruising. Now Viking is about to shake up the seafaring side of the industry with a small ship that boasts the same standard of luxury, food, elegance and overnight stays in port.
From humble beginnings, Viking has become the market leader in river cruising through ambitious expansion, growing up to 35 per cent a year and launching as many as 14 longships in one day with godmothers including Great British Bake Off’s Mary Berry.
It employs around 2,000 people and offers more than 4,300 berths on 25 itineraries lasting from eight to 23 days with destinations including Europe, Russia, China, south-east Asia and Egypt. Fares include wifi, drinks with meals and shore excursions.
Mr Hagen, a Norwegian who now lives in California, holds a physics degree from his home country as well as an MBA from Harvard. He previously served as chief executive of Royal Viking Line and sat on the board of Holland America and Kloster Cruise.
He began Viking Cruises 17 years ago by buying four ships and river operations in Russia. In 2000 the company took over Europe’s KD River Cruises, with its docking sites in key cities, and expanded into America.
It is now looking forward to launching its first ocean-going vessel, Viking Star, which will sail itineraries in Scandinavia, the Baltic and Mediterranean. The ship will have a private balcony with every stateroom, a choice of restaurants, an infinity pool, spa and piano bar. Being small, with only 928 guests, it will be able to squeeze into smaller ports, maintaining Viking’s reputation for giving its passengers an exclusive experience.
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