ONBOARD THE VIKING ATON — When it comes to designing and deploying river cruise ships, Viking doesn’t just stick to what it knows — it sticks to what it does best.
And here in Egypt, where travel demand and product development have soared for suppliers in the past two years alone, especially for river cruise products, Viking is doing what it does best: deploying ships that are identical in size, design and amenities to areas where it sees the strongest interest.
The Viking Aton, which debuted this month, is the latest addition to the company’s Nile River fleet. The 82-guest, 41-cabin ship will sail a 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary between Aswan and Luxor, with three nights in Cairo.
The Aton is identical to its year-old sister, the Viking Osiris, and will also mirror its other siblings planned to debut on the Nile over the next two years: the Viking Hathor and Viking Sobek.
“We try very hard to make the inside of the ship feel larger than the outside with expansiveness and light,” said Richard Riviere, the architect behind most of Viking’s ocean, expedition and river cruise ships, including the Aton.
“We have five big ideas for all Viking ships everywhere: residential modernism, Scandinavian heritage, craft, nature and exploration. It’s a brand concept that gives us structure.”
But why identical ships, and not individualized, personality-driven vessels, each with its own design story and flair?
“You always have people who understand how the ships work. They get in and they know where everything is,” Riviere said, explaining that designing the ships to be identical helps people prioritize the reasons why they’re traveling in the first place.
“You start thinking about the destination and what’s out the window, which in my mind, is the most important,” Riviere said. “The architecture needs to be the place that you come home to and doesn’t distract you.”
The Aton’s official launch
This month’s naming ceremony for the Aton was presided over by Riviere, who was chosen to be the ship’s godfather. He is the second godfather in Viking’s fleet. George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and great-grandson of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who funded the search and excavation of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, named the Osiris last August.
The Aton brings the company’s total number of ships operating on the Nile to four, with two more on order. And as is often the case with Viking, that may only be the start.
More on the way?
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more coming,” said Torstein Hagen, Viking’s chairman, while giving a presentation to the group of journalists, Egyptian tourism representatives and Viking executives and staff during the Aton’s launch weekend.
“I see huge potential here. I see a beautiful ship like this and see how we can outperform others. Nobody had imagined that we would have 100 longships on the rivers in Europe.”
Hagen didn’t give away much about Viking’s future fleet here, but he did say there is a possibility that the company’s ships could extend their routes beyond Aswan and Luxor, eventually sailing between Luxor and Cairo.
“It’s what the customer wants,” he said.
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