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Credit: Viking Cruises

Viking cruise line EVP on best cruises for 2022 and what to expect from 'the biggest year yet'

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Viking cruise line has plenty to get excited about in 2022 as a new Expedition ship launches along with new river cruises. Executive vice president Karine Hagen revealed her top recommendations to holidaymakers.

Viking cruise line executive vice president Karine Hagen caught up with World of Cruising to discuss all things river and ocean for 2022.

She reveals what's new for the coming year, which destinations are best and which Viking ship is her favourite.

Read on to find out more in our exclusive interview.

What are Viking Cruises’ ocean plans for 2022?

The year 2022 marks our 25th anniversary and is set to be one of Viking’s biggest years yet.

One of the highlights will undoubtedly be the launch of Viking Expeditions in January – Viking Octantis, the first of our two purpose-built Polar Class 6 vessels, will set sail to Antarctica before heading to the Great Lakes in North America for the summer months.

We are also launching two new ocean ships, Viking Mars and Viking Neptune in 2022.

What's more, we recently announced that our dear friend, the Countess of Carnarvon of Highclere Castle, one of our cultural partners, will be godmother to Viking Mars which is set to launch in May.

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What are Viking Cruises’ river plans for 2022?

There is also a lot happening on rivers - which is where it all began for Viking back in 1997 with four ships in Russia.

We will launch our first river voyage in North America next August on our new ship Viking Mississippi which will sail between New Orleans and St Paul.

- READ MORE: What to see and do on Mississippi and Columbia river cruises -

Viking has additional river ships in the pipeline including Viking Saigon which will sail on the Mekong and Viking Osiris on the Nile – which we believe will be the most upscale ship in Egypt.

We are the first and only Western company to build, own and operate ships on the Nile and our 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids cruisetour itinerary remains a perennial favourite amongst travellers from around the world.

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Viking Cruises: Viking Mississippi which will sail between New Orleans and St Paul. Credit: Shutterstock

Which two itineraries would you recommend to Britons for 2022?

As a proud Norwegian – and given Viking’s Nordic heritage - I would always recommend our signature itinerary – Viking Homelands.

Highlights of this 15-day voyage include a journey through breath-taking fjords to the village of Eidfjord in one of Norway’s most scenic regions and calls to Stavanger and Bergen – as well as Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Denmark, and Germany.

- READ MORE: Viking Cruises new ship Viking Saturn to sail 2023 - what's onboard? -

The extension we offer, which is very popular with UK guests, includes a visit to the vibrant city of Oslo and a trip on the Bergen Railway over Europe’s highest mountain plateau, which is considered one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world.

On river, it would have to be our brand new America's Great River itinerary which covers nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost parts of the U.S.

It’s a part of the world I know many British travellers are keen to explore – personally, I’m fascinated by the Norwegian Valley in La Crosse, a 400-acre area of outstanding natural beauty which was established as an arboretum by Norwegians who settled in Wisconsin in the 19th century.

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Viking Homelands visits breath-taking fjords to the village of Eidfjord in Norway. Credit: Shutterstock

Which destinations would you most like to visit on a Viking ship and why?

Antarctica is top of my wish list – as well as my father’s - so I am looking forward to visiting the region together on one of our new expedition ships next year.

I know my father has dreamt of visiting since he was a young boy so it’s going to be particularly special.

- READ MORE: 10 amazing cruises to Antarctica -

What’s your favourite Viking Cruises ship and why?

I am godmother to Viking Sea so she is very close to my heart – but all our ocean ships are identical so it’s impossible to pick a favourite.

With Viking we are all about the destination – our ships provide a sanctuary – somewhere to reflect on and digest all the sights and sounds after a busy day out exploring the world.

My father and I have worked very closely with our design and engineering team to develop our new expedition ships.

I must say they are extremely special with industry-first features such as The Aula – a spectacular amphitheatre inspired by the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall, which was the former venue for the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

With floor to ceiling windows and 270-degree views, it will be the world’s most advanced venue for learning at sea where guests can listen to fascinating talks with the backdrop of the destination in full view.

We are also proud of our in-ship marina – which we call The Hangar – which means that guests can embark the special operations vessels within the comfort of the ship, protected from rough seas and inclement weather.

Why would you recommend a Viking cruise to World of Cruising readers?

At Viking, we don’t try to be everything to everyone and we don’t appeal to everyone.

We focus on the thinking person – our guests are mature, curious travellers who want to expand their horizons whilst exploring the world.

Viking delivers experiences both onboard and onshore which help guests learn about different cultures and the rich history and geography of each destination.

- READ MORE: A week onboard Viking Jupiter: Cruise review -

We offer a diverse range of learning opportunities – from the Viking Resident Historian programme with round table discussions and debates, port talks and language lessons, to guest lectures by leading experts who focus on topics about the region we are visiting.

This doesn’t stop when our guests return home – we stay connected through our cultural partnerships, regular events and Viking.TV.

Our guests tell us every time they board one of our ships it feels like coming home and I would echo that sentiment.

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Viking Cruises: "All our ocean ships are identical so it’s impossible to pick a favourite." Credit: Shutterstock

Are you pleased with the success of Viking TV?

We are all very proud of Viking.TV – especially as it was an idea that was conceived and delivered so quickly with a small team and budget.

Within two weeks of suspending the operation of our ships at the beginning of the global pandemic, we had a platform ready to livestream every day at the same time. It is still free for everyone and open to all and we remain true to the original objective of keeping everyone connected and entertained.

For me personally, the highlight is the knowledge that Viking.TV has and will continue to help people get through a very difficult time - it’s very rewarding to know that we are making a difference to people’s lives.

Since April 2020, we have been sharing a daily dose of positive, enriching programming, in line with what we do on our ships. Had only one person said Viking.TV had helped them through this time it would have been worth it, but we have received hundreds of kind messages from viewers, some Viking travellers, others not, thanking us for keeping their minds alive, and bodies balanced.

At one stage we thought that Viking.TV was going to be a short-term project to see us through the lockdowns many of us have experienced during the global pandemic and that it might be scaled back once we started to explore the world again. But I am pleased to say that it is continuing to go from strength to strength and is constantly evolving.

- READ MORE: Winter cruises: Where to enjoy Europe's best Christmas markets -

We have around 2.5 million unique visitors, many of whom watch several episodes a week. Although most of us can now start travelling again, the level of engagement we see on Viking.TV shows that there is still an appetite for virtual travel – especially as we help give viewers access to destinations they might not otherwise have the chance to visit.

We are currently filming our first Viking.TV Original series with our Resident Photographer, Alastair Miller. He will be travelling the full length of the Rhine following one of our most popular river itineraries, Rhine Getaway, and will be joined by our producer and Norwegian cameraman Per Magne Dalen.

Alastair will be presenting five episodes which he is shooting on an iPhone 13 so that viewers can follow his journey. The mini-series will be broadcast on Viking.TV during the week of 15 November and will be available to watch on-demand afterwards. Highlights will include snapshots of local life, insights into the working world and privileged access to cultural treasures – all experiences that we offer to our guests.

Another highlight has been seeing all the partnerships and friendships Viking has forged all around the world since we were established nearly 25 years ago coming together on one platform – the content is very varied and reflects the rich tapestry of life across different cultures and continents. One of the reasons we all love travelling so much!

Which shows are you particularly proud of?

With the diversity of the programming, there is something for everyone and I think some of the episodes we thought might be quite niche have proven to be very popular – some of our guests use Viking.TV to challenge themselves to learn about completely new things, or to take a ‘deep dive’ into areas of general interest.

The Countess of Carnarvon’s series ‘At Home at Highclere Castle’ is still a favourite amongst viewers and she has been a regular guest on Viking.TV ever since the launch. Highclere Castle features on some of our pre-cruise extensions and is one of our highest rated experiences worldwide, so our guests have loved being able to see behind the scenes and to hear about life at the castle.

We have had several themed weeks and Mississippi Week seemed to pique the interest of UK viewers in particular, so I think everyone is looking forward to the launch of our river cruises there in 2022. There is also a lot of demand for more content around expeditions – our ships, our partnerships and research programme and the destinations we will be visiting.

Anne Diamond, a longtime friend of Viking and godmother to Viking Venus, has been hosting our Guest Speaker Thursday series since we launched Viking.TV. Anne volunteered to help right at the beginning of the pandemic – she called me and said ‘How can I help others get through this difficult time?’ and then very quickly became an integral part of Viking.TV – and a beloved member of the Viking family.

- READ MORE: Anne Diamond on 'addictive' cruises & top sailing tips -

Anne’s guests have included astronauts, ballet dancers, garden designers, authors, actors, Lords and Ladies, explorers, singers and musicians – obviously Anne is already well known and loved by our UK viewers but our US viewers also really enjoy her warm and engaging interview style.

Recent highlights include Anne’s interview with the astronaut Nicole Stott which was part of our World Space Week programming as well as fascinating guests from around the world such as Sir Michael Palin and Yo Yo Ma.

For me personally, some of my favourite episodes are those hosted by our incredible crew, our Viking Family, especially the episode where we showed how our team were taking care of our ocean and river ships whilst operations were suspended. We followed the float out, delivery and inaugural voyage of our newest ocean ship, Viking Venus and we’re hoping to do the same with our new expedition ship, Viking Octantis.

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