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Hagen: Viking not giving up on its Mississippi River dreams

Hagen: Viking not giving up on its Mississippi River dreams
Viking Cruises still has Mississippi River ambitions but Torstein Hagen won't put a year on the launch date any longer—he only quips that the introduction will be 'before Mardi Gras.'

Early this year, the company had told Seatrade Cruise Review its projected inaugural season for the Mississippi was set back to 2018. That's now looking like a best-case scenario.

In early 2015, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Viking planned to build six vessels for the Mississippi over the next three years, with a first pair to launch in late 2017. The governor's office said talks with Viking River Cruises had begun in November 2013.

On Thursday in the UK aboard his new ocean ship, Viking Sea, Hagen noted there are considerable challenges to launching a US-flag operation—'particularly problems with my passport,' as he put it.

Jones Act regulations require a domestic US shipping operation to have majority US ownership, and Hagen is Norwegian.

The company continues to weigh its alternatives.

Also, Viking envisions an innovative vessel design, and though Hagen didn't mention anything about cost, Gov. Jindal's office in early 2015 had estimated a range of $90m to $100m per boat. That's considerably more than river vessels cost to build in Europe.  

But there's demand for US river cruises. According to Viking's market research and its call center personnel, 'Everyone wants to go to the Mississippi,' Hagen said.

'We haven't given up hope yet, and we won't,' he added.