Last week’s fatal accident involving one of its vessels in Budapest has prompted Viking Cruises to cancel a gala planned christening of its new ship Viking Jupiter this week. An outdoor concert featuring Norwegian band a-ha and soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø was still due to be held, but may turn into a wet affair.
Newspaper Dagens Næringslliv (DN) had first reported on what was supposed to be a spectacular and star-studded ceremony Thursday evening, just as a large annual shipping conference was ending in Oslo. Kyrkjebø, who sang at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, had also been tapped as the new vessel’s godmother and was to perform at the concert along with a-ha, the Norwegian boys’ choir Sølvguttene and Italian singer Andrea Bocelli.
A Viking River Cruise vessel’s collision with a sightseeing boat on the Danube at Budapest, however, left 28 passengers on the sightseeing boat missing and presumed dead. “It would not have been fitting to carry out a ship’s christening and celebration after what happened in Budapest,” said a public relations agent hired by Viking Cruises. He told DN that Viking Cruises’ Norwegian owner Torstein Hagen therefore turned the concert arrangement over to the Nor-Shipping conference organizers “and told them they could do what they wanted with it.”
An outdoor stage was under construction this week on the dock where the Viking Jupiter was to have been berthed. Nor-Shipping staff remained secretive, announcing only a “closing party” on its website that was “so special that we’re not allowed to reveal the band headlining the event.” Those attending had to have bought a conference pass at a price of NOK 4,000 (USD 459) each.
DN reported that the new ocean-going cruiseship Viking Jupiter was still calling on Oslo this week, but without the elaborate christening: “We can’t have a christening party in light of the tragedy that occurred,” stressed Viking Cruises’ spokesman Jon Mørland. The cruise line’s own website wrote that Viking Jupiter would instead be “officially named” in Oslo on June 6.
Hagen’s cruise line was also involved in a drama at sea off the coast of northwestern Norway earlier this year, when its Viking Sky sailed during a major storm into a treacherous stretch of sea near Kristiansund and lost power. With the vessel threatening to run aground, passengers were airlifted off the stricken ship by helicopter. There were no casualities, but several passengers were injured and a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Viking Cruises.
The Viking Jupiter is the sixth ocean-going vessel for Hagen’s cruise line that began with river cruising in 1997. Hagen himself is originally from Nittedal, just north of Oslo, and built himself up in the shipping and cruise industries in the 1980s. Norwegian business magazine Kapital has estimated his fortune at around NOK 52 billion (USD 6 billion).