River cruise giant breaks into Alaska waters: Ketchikan welcomes Viking Cruises

The cruise ship Viking Orion departs Berth 2 on Friday after its maiden voyage into Ketchikan. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Viking Cruises delved into Alaska waterways for the first time this past week with the Viking Orion — one of its six identical cruise ships.

 "The soap tray, the pen in the stateroom is exact specifications on every single ship that we have," Viking Orion Cruise Consultant Michael Coleman told a group of Ketchikan borough and city officials during a tour last weekend.

 The concept is to offer guests the same quality of experience every time. Coleman said guests will even request the same room number on future cruises.

 About 70 percent of the people on board were repeat guests, according to Coleman. Some had been with the ship since in came to Alaska via Asia and Auckland, New Zealand — 93 days.

 Viking Cruises, already an industry giant with river cruises, touting 78 ships in its fleet, has plans to expand its ocean cruise ships fleet from six vessels to 16 through 2027. All with a capacity of 930 passengers, a grand piano placed in the same exact spot in the main foyer, and all serving waffles with a recipe from owner Tor Hagen's grandmother.

 On May 24, the Viking Orion docked in Ketchikan for the first time. The ship, less than a year old, was in the midst of an 11-day trip to Seward.

 Judging from the exclamations of those on the tour, it was clear from the beginning, this was a different experience.

 "No children are allowed on board," said Coleman.

Although, there’s music and bands, dances, and even a nightclub on board, he said this is not a party boat. You must be at least 18 years or older to come aboard. And if you are 18, you have to be accompanied by someone at least 21 years or older.

 There were no go-karts, no casino, no water slides. There was, however, a lecture hall, planetarium, and a main level of the ship called the "living room" so comfortable you'll want to take off your shoes.

 "This is a thinking man's cruise," said Coleman.

The ship has guest lecturers who present on the culture and history of each town visited along the way.

 Another thing that separates them from other cruise lines is their inclusivity. Wi-fi is included in the experience, on many other ships it’s not, each passenger gets a complimentary tour in each port stop, all the small amenities are included in the purchase price, even a drink at lunch and dinner.

 On board there are jewelry stores, a hair salon, a spa with spa treatments — massages, they even have a 20 degree room complete with snow they call a "snow grotto."

The 11-day Alaskan cruise starts at $4,499 per person.

During the tour, Ketchikan Borough Mayor Dave Landis and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen presented Captain Richard Svardmark with framed artwork depicting Creek Street. In exchange, Svardmark presented them with an engraved plaque.

"We certainly again are very glad to welcome you here," said Landis, "This is a very important part of our community, to have the cruise industry here and strong, and we view it as a partnership. And we again thank you very much for having yourself and your ship and all your passengers here for the summer.”

The Viking Orion will dock in Ketchikan eight more times this summer season.