The Queen To Christen P&O’s Britannia – Other Cruise News: Six New Vikings For The Mississippi
by Kevin Griffin
When Queen Elizabeth II christens P&O Cruises’ Italian-built Britannia next week, she will become the second P&O ship to be named by Her Majesty, joining the German-built Oriana, which she named in 1995. Between 1947 and 2010, the Queen has also named four ships of the sister Cunard Line. Over in New Orleans, meanwhile, US cruise circles are abuzz with Viking River Cruises’ plans to introduce half a dozen new 300-passenger vessels, or 1,800 more berths, to the Mississippi River between 2017 and 2019.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
The Queen To Christen P&O’s Britannia
After keeping quiet about who was going to christen P&O Cruises’ new 3,674-berth Britannia, someone finally connected the date of March 10, which had been scheduled for her christening at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal, and the Royal Diary, which sees the Queen and Prince Philip staying in Hampshire, the county where Southampton is located, on the same date.
P&O Cruises thus finally announced just before lunch on Friday that HM Queen Elizabeth II would indeed be the Godmother of the new 144,000-ton Britannia, the largest cruise ship yet introduced to the British market.
This distinction of course turns on her definition as a cruise ship compared to the 148,528-ton Queen Mary 2, which must be defined not so much as a cruise ship as an ocean liner in order to let the Britannia make her claim.
Queen Elizabeth has christened one P&O ship already, sponsoring the 1,870-berth Oriana twenty years ago in 1995, but the new Britannia is double her size. As Queen, Her Majesty has also sponsored three Cunard Line ships, the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967, Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010.
This will mean that the Queen will have christened four of the ships that are active in the Carnival UK fleet, in Oriana, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Britannia. As well as the Queen Elizabeth 2, no longer in the fleet, Her Majesty christened Cunard Line’s second Caronia, in 1947 when she was still Princess Elizabeth.
The most recent ship christened by Her Majesty was the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which she named at Govan last July.
One amusing side effect of having Her Majesty sponsor the Britannia is that P&O felt duty-bound to register the ship in the UK, so her port of registry, at least for now, will be back in Southampton rather than in Hamilton, Bermuda, where the rest of the Carnival UK fleet is registered.
The hour-long ceremony will be hosted by the Welsh actor, comedian and singer Rob Brydon, who has featured heavily in P&O Cruises’ television advertising of late.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Six New Vikings For The Mississippi
Viking Cruises chairman Torstein Hagen last week announced the selection of New Orleans as the home port for Viking River Cruises’ first North American river cruise itineraries.
The Mississippi River cruises will dock at new facilities near the French Quarter in New Orleans. Viking claims it will create 416 new direct jobs for Louisiana-based operations and vessel crews, with an average salary of $40,000, while Louisiana estimates the project will generate an additional 368 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 780 new jobs in the southeast region of the state.
Plans call for the construction of six new vessels over the next three years at an estimated cost of $90 million to $100 million per vessel, all in US shipyards and crewed by US citizens.
The vessels will be owned by Los Angeles-based Tennenbaum Capital Partners, an alternative investment management firm, and will be time-chartered to Viking in compliance with US coasting laws. They will carry up to 300 passengers each, more than 50% more per ship than the 190-berth Viking Longships that serve in Europe, where bridge, dock and lock sizes limit vessel dimensions.
The Mississippi has fewer such limitations, with the river already featuring the 436-berth American Queen.
Commencing with the launch of cruise operations on the Mississippi in late 2017, two vessels will be commissioned per year, for a total of six over three years. Cruises will take passengers on voyages along the river from New Orleans to or from Memphis, St Louis or St Paul, depending on the season.
Hagen said, “we are excited about the prospect of bringing modern river cruising to the Mississippi, a river that has been travelled by explorers for centuries. We know our passengers will enjoy the rich history, culture and cuisine of all the great cities and towns along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St Paul.”
Viking River was founded in 1997 with the purchase of four ships and the launch of river cruise operations in Russia. Since that time, the company has grown to become the world’s leading river cruise line, holding the largest share of the market and operating the largest fleet of cruise vessels along rivers across the globe.
The company’s fleet currently features sixty modern, deluxe river vessels, including its new Viking Longships. The company first expanded into the US by establishing US headquarters in Los Angeles.
The Mississippi River itineraries will be the company’s first cruise offering on that continent.
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)