The Seabournization Of Viking River Cruises: Odin, Seabjørnized, Part I

Pictured in Amsterdam: Anna Storbraaten, Ralph Grizzle & Bjørn Storbraaten, architect of the new Viking Longships.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that my experience so far aboard Viking River Cruises’ newest vessel, the Viking Odin, is a lot like my experience aboard Seabourn‘s fine Odyssey-class ships.

I am on board Odin with other journalists and travel agents for the vessel’s four-night christening cruise. Today in Amsterdam, we watched as bottles of champagne cracked against the hulls of four so-called “Viking Longships.” Two of these extraordinary new ships were christened just outside Amsterdam’s passenger terminal; two others were christened, via a live broadcast on huge outdoor screens, in Rostock, Germany.

Both the Longships and Seabourn’s vessels were designed by Bjørn Storbraaten, of Olso-based Yran & Storbraaten Architects. I, and many others, have always admired the Scandinavian sensibility that Bjørn brings to the drawing board, and with the Viking Longships, he applied his aesthetic to the hilt, just as he has done for Seabourn, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line and many other cruise companies.

You might say that Bjørn “Seabjørnized” Viking River Cruises’ newest vessels. Certainly, there is a sense of the familiar for those who have been on Seabourn’s newer Odyssey-class ships and the new Viking vessels.

Bjørn expressed satisfaction in the Longship design when I spoke with him today in Amsterdam. He says one of his successes was in being able to shift the interior infrastructure six meters forward. He did so by incorporating a square bow into Odin’s design.

The space gained by the square bow, as opposed to a triangular bow, allowed him not only to add staterooms and suites but also to fulfill his vision of the atrium/reception area.

Thin backlit marble creates a sense of continuity along staircases that connect decks one, two and three.

He wanted a common staircase that connected all interior decks. On Viking Prestige and some of the other Viking vessels, passengers on decks that are below the reception areas must walk to the corridors to access the staircases to the lower decks.

Odin’s common staircase provides a more elegant way to access the decks below and makes for what Bjørn feels is a grander atrium area. The staircase also features thin sheets of backlighted marble that spans decks one and two, providing a sense of continuity and grandeur.

Bjørn’s wife Anna is also part of the creative team. Her job was to execute elements of the design. She says she is particularly proud of the small piece of Scandinavia she was able to incorporate beside the staircase on deck two: moss covered rocks and bright flowers in a small rock garden, exemplifying the Scandinavian love of nature. The garden is a subtle but impressionable feature that contributes the Odin’s overall elegance.

Like a walk in Norway. The moss on the rocks is real, and the flowers too.

With 12 new Longships scheduled to enter service this year and next, Viking River Cruises is showing remarkable confidence in river cruising’s potential.

On stage following the christening ceremonies today, Torstein Hagen, the company’s chairman, announced options for six more Longships in 2014. That’s 18 new vessels from one company. Apparently, despite reports of its demise, the Viking Age is alive and well.

Tomorrow, I’ll report on Odin’s public spaces and staterooms. Stay tuned.

Avid Cruiser’s Aaron Saunders covers the christening event on his blog, From The Deck Chair.

A glass ceiling allows light to fill Viking Odin's two-deck atrium.

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