When Viking Sun was baptized in March to great fanfare, the big revelation was not so much the influence Viking had on small ships in shipping, but its strong connection with China.
Viking – yes, this Viking – is best known for his river boats in Europe. What you probably did not know: This year, Viking offers 100 cruises on the Rhine and Danube exclusively for Chinese travelers. Mandarin is the official language on board.
"We believe in the Chinese market," said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking. He said he expects that Chinese travelers will eventually make up half of his European river cruise market.
Viking's history with China begins in 2004, when it operated river cruises on the Yangtze River.
The Chinese connection deepened at China Merchants Bank Financial Leasing financed the construction of the Viking Sun with 930 passengers, Viking's fourth small ship, since the 201
The baptism took place slightly more than halfway of a sold-out 141-day world cruise. It started in mid-December in Miami and ends in May in London. The ship will spend the summer in the Baltic and Northern Europe and end the year in the Mediterranean. An eight-day route to the Western Mediterranean starts at $ 1,999 per person. The 128-day World Cruise 2019? $ 49,995 per person
A fifth ship, Viking Orion, will launch in July. When Viking Jupiter enters the fleet in 2019, Viking becomes the largest cruise line for small ships in the world. Ten more ships are in preparation. Hagen said it would not be unthinkable to devote to the Chinese market.
"It's Viking on demand," says Jason Leppert, publisher of PopularCruising.com. "Four ships alone are remarkable, and at 16, they will occupy all seats all the time."
Viking's Ocean Ships are all-inclusive, with complimentary beer and wine with meals, Wi-Fi, and alternative restaurants a shore excursion in every harbor.  Leppert says Viking fares are lower than small luxury ships, while offering a similar experience. For example, a Viking booklet shows that the price per day for comparable verandas on Northern European routes, including air, is $ 585 for Viking versus $ 1,140 for Regent Seven Seas.
"You are suspicious of luxury, but Viking is aware that he is playing the big boys," says Leppert. "It's just shy of ultimate luxury – no butler – it's luxury without pretension – you get the comfort and benefits of luxury without having to dress up for it."
Ellen Uzelac is a freelance writer
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