Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Sunday, May 17, 2015
I’m time-jumping a bit in this report. If you’re wondering what happened to Saturday, May 16th, here’s the lowdown: the small press group I was a part of disembarked the ship. We then spent the day exploring Norway and Bergen. Boringly, we went to bed early – and slept in late. Today is, after all, going to be a very big day.
You can read all about my journey through Bergen from the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen through the streets of Bergen on the morning of Norwegian Constitution Day as a prelude to the christening of Viking Cruises’Viking Star by clicking here. I’d posted it early in the afternoon because of how symbolic it was to have Viking Star and the former Royal Viking Star (now Black Watch) in port on the same day.
But now – let us fast-forward to 5:00 p.m, or 1700 hours, as they like to say in Europe. At a dinner ceremony held at Bergen’s Greig Hall, Viking Cruises’ Chairman Torstein Hagen addressed the audience of cruise executives, Viking personnel, worldwide suppliers, and journalists:
“There are certain words you shouldn’t use lightly. ‘Love’ is one of them. But I love Bergen.”
There’s more reasons to be proud: Viking Star is the first cruise passenger ship to homeport in Bergen in over a decade. That alone will significantly boost Bergen’s tourism economy, as Viking has made Norway’s second-largest city a staple of their 2015 and 2016 Northern European itineraries.
Being able to fly the Norwegian flag was also important to Hagen – so in order to be able to do so, Viking Star is flagged in Norway and registered in Bergen. Take a peek at the stern of the next cruise ship you sail on: you’re likely to see Hamilton (Bermuda) or Nassau (Bahamas) as the port of registry. These are called “flags of convenience”, and typically translate into lower fees and more relaxed regulations.
But because she’s registered in Bergen, Viking Star can proudly carry her Norwegian heritage with her to the farthest corners of the world. That, too, is significant.
Officially, Torstein Hagen had this to say:
“We believe the arrival of Viking Star signals a new era in destination-focused cruising, and I could not be more proud that she will call my favorite city in the world ‘home. This is a ship that was built for exploration and designed with our Scandinavian heritage in mind, and our guests will experience it from the moment they step onboard.”
I believe he’s right. But Viking Star is so much more than just your average cruise ship launch – something confirmed when we returned to historic Bryggen for the two-hour outdoor concert and christening ceremony that was attended by over 20,000 local Bergen residents.
Viking Star’s godmother, Bergen mayor Trude Drevland, accompanied Hagen to their prime seats in front of the stage, where several Norwegian artists including actor Bjarte Hjelmeland, singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche, acclaimed violinist Charlie Siem and comedy duo Ylvis, performed. Ylvis was particularly confusing for those North American guests like myself who perhaps didn’t quite get that Ylvis is the Norwegian equivilant of Weird Al Yankovic. There were definitely some curious looks when they belted out their hit single, “The Fox.”
One performer I did know and hugely appreciate was Norwegian vocalist Sissel. You may not have heard of her before, but I guarantee you’ve heard her voice – as long as you weren’t trapped under a rock in 1997. Sissel, you see, provided the haunting background vocals for James Cameron’s blockbuster epic, Titanic. I would have given my left arm to hear her sing the opening theme of James Horner’s score, but sadly, it wasn’t on the menu. Still, she gave a bravura performance that seemed to be liked and respected by everyone in attendance.
Conducted almost exclusively in Norwegian, the ceremony reached its apex when Bergen mayor Trude Devland gave the traditional blessing, and a bottle of champagne smashed against the hull of the Viking Star. This was followed with a spectacular fireworks show launched from the Viking Star and a nearby vessel that lit up the night sky in Bergen for miles around.
Exactly two years ago to the day, I had joined many of my colleagues and friends here in Los Angeles for the first unveiling of the Viking Star. To be here two years later, watching her sail off into the darkening Norwegian sky for her first Baltic sailings, is something of a dream come true for me.
Just imagine the feeling that must exist for Torstein Hagen – the man who once headed up Royal Viking Line and made a fortune – then lost it – then rose from the ashes to start the world’s most successful river cruise company, and return once again to his roots in ocean cruising.
There’s no other way to close this series of reports except to state, honestly and fully, that the future of cruising is here – and its name is Viking Star.
|Day 1||London (Greenwich, England)||Embark Viking Star|
|Day 2||Cruising the North Sea|
|Day 3||Cruising the North Sea|
|Day 4||Bergen, Norway||Touring Bergen|
|Day 5||Bergen, Norway||Viking Star Christening Ceremonies|