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River cruise giant Viking unveils a stylish new vessel on the Nile

August 22 2022
7 min read
River cruise giant Viking unveils a stylish new vessel on the Nile
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free trip from Viking to attend a preview event this week for the line's new Viking Osiris. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the line.

River cruise giant Viking on Monday finally unveiled what it's been billing as the most upscale vessel ever built for the Nile.

With dozens of Egyptian government officials, business partners and media looking on, the company officially welcomed the 82-passenger ship, Viking Osiris, with a short but upbeat naming ceremony along the waterfront of Luxor, Egypt.

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Located along the east bank of the Nile, Luxor is home to two of Egypt's most famous historic sites, both of which will feature prominently in Viking Osiris itineraries: the temples of Karnak and Luxor. The Valley of the Kings, the burial place of Egyptian pharaohs, is just across the river.

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"We are very proud of this," Viking founder Torstein Hagen said at the early evening event, which started in the ship's glass-walled lounge and finished on its open-air top deck. He called the vessel "by far the best ship on the Nile."

The naming ceremony included an official bottle-breaking against the hull of the vessel, triggered by a guest of honor with an unusual tie both to the historic temples of Egypt that the ship will visit and Viking itself: George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon. The English lord's great-grandfather, also named George Herbert and the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter’s benefactor and co-explorer. Together they discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun nearly 100 years ago.

In a tie-in to Viking, Herbert's family also is the owner of Highclere Castle, the English country house that was the setting for the historical drama "Downton Abbey." Viking rose to prominence as a cruise company in the past decade in part due to its well-timed sponsorship of "Downton Abbey" on PBS. Highclere Castle features in some of its tour programs.

Carnarvon served the traditional role of godparent for the ship.

George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, pushes a button to trigger a bottle-breaking at the naming of Viking Osiris. To his left is Viking founder Torstein Hagen. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

"I can say after just a short time on this glorious new vessel, Viking Osiris, that I am extremely honored to be [the] godfather," Herbert told attendees at the event, before pushing a button on a stage atop the vessel to send a bottle smashing against its hull. "The attention to detail and design and comfort is second to none."

Originally scheduled to debut in 2020 but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Viking Osiris features an entire deck of sprawling suites with two full-size rooms apiece, two of which have stunning glass walls that wrap around the front of the vessel.

The river ship also has a swanky sun deck where you can kick back on shaded loungers while enjoying 360-degree views of the Nile's most famous treasures. The views are almost as grand from its main restaurant, which sits high on the ship and features floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

Viking Osiris is, notably, the first Nile River vessel specifically built to Viking's specifications. It's also owned and operated by Viking. That's unusual in a market where most Western lines charter local vessels for their trips.

In Viking's eyes (and ours, too), that means Viking will be able to offer the most consistent product on the river. Unlike some other Western companies operating in Egypt, Viking will have complete control of the experience.

Suites on Viking Osiris feature separate living rooms in addition to bedrooms. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Viking Osiris is notably smaller than the typical Viking river ship at just 236 feet in length. That's about half the size of most Viking river ships in Europe. It's also home to far fewer cabins — just 41 as compared to 95 for the typical Viking river ship. But it's a classic Viking vessel in other respects (think: clean-lined Scandinavian design and included tours). If you've been on any of Viking's 60-plus river ships in Europe, you'll feel right at home.

In addition to classic Viking decor, the ship features a number of touches that tie it to its Egyptian home, including a collection of photographs taken during the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Additional photographs on the walls of the ship, also taken by Lord Carnarvon, show scenes of daily life in Egypt in the early 1900s.

Viking Osiris is one of 16 new vessels that have recently joined or will soon join the Viking fleet. Unlike some cruise brands, Viking continued to expand its fleet rapidly during the COVID-19-related industry downturn.

Viking now operates 80 river ships around the world, as well as seven traditional ocean ships and a recently unveiled expedition-style ocean ship.

Hagen founded Viking in 1997 with just four river vessels. As recently as 2012, the company operated just 29 ships. The privately owned brand, which now has 10,000 employees, has been one of the fastest-growing cruise operators in history.

Related: The ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

Viking Osiris is joining Viking’s 4-year-old, 52-passenger Viking Ra on the Nile, and the older, 62-passenger Antares. Viking Ra, too, is owned and operated by Viking, but it technically wasn’t built by the line. Viking gutted and reconfigured an existing Nile ship to create it. Viking will expand even more on the Nile next year with the debut of a fourth vessel, a sister to Viking Osiris to be called Viking Aton.

Hagen on Monday announced that two more sister ships to Viking Osiris — to be called Viking Hathor and Viking Sobek — are on order to debut in August 2024 and August 2025. The additions will grow the line's presence on the Nile to six ships by late 2025 — three times as many as it had going into this year.

Hagen said bookings for Egypt cruises have been booming. The company has capacity for 10,000 passengers in Egypt for 2023 and already has about 9,200 passengers booked for the year. The company already is "well on the way" to booking up the line's Egypt ships for 2024, he said.

Viking Osiris' first voyage with paying passengers is scheduled to begin Friday.

Like Viking Ra, Viking Osiris will operate seven-night Nile cruises that Viking will pair with a four-night stay at a hotel in Cairo (three nights before the cruise and one night after) to create an 11-night "Pharaohs and Pyramids" tour of Egypt.

The cruise portion of the trip will include visits to the historic temples of Luxor, Karnak, Esna, Dendera and Abu Simbel as well as a visit to the iconic Valley of the Kings. The stay in Cairo will bring a visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum and other sites.

Fares for the 11-night trips start at $5,299 per person, not including taxes and fees.

TPG's Gene Sloan will be reporting live this week from Viking Osiris as it operates a short, non-revenue preview sailing for media in advance of its first voyage with paying passengers. You can find all of his dispatches at his author’s page.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured photo by (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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