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Viking River to refurbish, rename Russia fleet, enhance programs

Viking River to refurbish, rename Russia fleet, enhance programs

Viking River Cruises, which established itself nearly 15 years ago with four Russian river vessels, outlined major enhancements to its Russia offering and a new microsite aimed at inspiring travelers to experience ‘the real Russia.’

Following bow-to-stern renovations, 2012 will mark the complete refurbishment of Viking’s four owned and Western-operated Russian ships. The vessels will be renamed Viking Rurik, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor.

In addition to multiple itinerary updates, new for 2012 is an eight-day program, ‘The Glories of the Hermitage,’ that features exclusive access and private tours at one of the world’s greatest museums.

The new microsite, www.TheRealRussia.com, went live with a video tour of the country through a series of behind-the-scenes webisodes. These are hosted by Karine Hagen, who has spent more than two decades studying and living in Russia. She is the daughter of company founder and chairman Torstein Hagen.

‘The idea for our company was born because my daughter had traveled along the Volga with her mother and grandmother,’ he said. Hagen also expressed immense pride in the line’s Russian roots and said Viking River will continue to build on its longstanding relationships and knowledge of the country.

Launching in 2012, the renovated Viking Rurik (ex Viking Peterhof) is named after Rurik, the Viking warrior who founded and ruled the area known as Rus—now Russia. Its renovated sister ships—Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor—are named for Rurik’s descendants, the original Russian explorers.

In addition to redefining the interior space to create significantly larger staterooms, Viking Rurik’s bow-to-stern refurbishment is highlighted by full, private verandas added to all staterooms on the Upper and Middle decks, which house four suites, two junior suites and 60 veranda staterooms. The two-room suites, each 405sq ft, will have separate sleeping and sitting areas, two Sony 26-inch flat-panel televisions, a walk-in closet and a full bathroom with two sinks and a separate tub and shower.

Other in-room amenities for all staterooms include hotel-style beds, a safe and refrigerator plus premium bath products.

Like its sister ships, Viking Rurik’s public areas such as the restaurant, lounge, library and bar will also be renovated with Viking’s signature Scandinavian décor. Other upgraded areas include a shaded sun deck and a walk-around open air promenade deck.

All four of Viking’s Russian ships sail the ‘Waterways of the Czars’ itinerary between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The 13-day program features multiple days in each city to tour highlights such as Moscow’s Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral plus St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and Catherine’s Palace. Ports include Kizhi Island, home to an open air museum of architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl.

For 2012, Viking will introduce new excursions and services to the itinerary. Select departures will feature special performances by musicians from St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, as well as a Smithsonian Institution lecture series that explores topics on Russian history, myths and legends. A similarly exclusive program will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the vast art vaults of the Hermitage.

Other new cultural highlights include meeting Red Army veterans at Moscow’s Military Museum, visiting a school where young Russians learn restoration techniques to preserve the country’s architectural heritage, and home-hosted visits in riverside towns such as Uglich or St. Petersburg’s Kommunalkas (communal apartments).

New on-board programs and services include Viking’s Concierge Services and ‘A Taste Of…’ event highlighting Russian dishes such as Siberian pelmeni (ravioli), traditional borscht and blini.

The new ‘Glories of the Hermitage’ program, which showcases the famous museum, gives special access and private tours by Hermitage scholars.

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