Viking Cruises has named its fifth ocean ship, Viking Orion, during a spectacular celebration in Livorno, Italy. The ship was delivered to Viking last week and is currently sailing a maiden voyage with her ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher, along with dozens of Dr. Fisher’s friends, family, academics, explorers and fellow astronauts. Named after the prominent constellation and in honour of Dr. Fisher’s work on NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project, the 930-guest 47,800-tonne Viking Orion arrived in Livorno early this morning. The ship will continue her maiden season sailing itineraries in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean this summer before heading east to sail Viking’s newest itineraries in Asia, Australia and Alaska.
Following her arrival, Viking Orion was positioned alongside the city’s historic Medici-built Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress). Livorno is known as a gateway to Tuscany, a region reached by the original Viking explorers. Nearby, Pisa is also known for its native Galileo Galilei – “The Father of Science” – whose gravitational theories and invention of the Galilean telescope have been central advancements in oceanic navigation. It was at the Fortezza Vecchia that in 1662 students of Galileo held an experiment to test his projectile motion theory. Livorno – with its Fortezza Vecchia – was chosen specifically for Viking Orion’s naming ceremony because of those connections to scientific studies and exploration. During the day, Viking Orion guests and international dignitaries were treated to an interactive exhibit inside the Fortezza Vecchia that tells the stories of exploration technology throughout history – from the Vikings’ solar compass to Galileo’s gravitational and projectile motion experiments. The exhibit was designed and built specifically for Viking Orion’s naming ceremony.
During the naming ceremony, guests enjoyed a high-tech show and musical concert that paid tribute to Nordic mythology and the spirit of exploration. Legendary British explorer Sir Ranulph “Ran” Fiennes served as the narrator for the event, which also included musical performances from Italian tenor Antonio Corianò, Norwegian bukkehorn musician Sissel Morken Gullord and Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø, who is widely considered one of the world’s top crossover sopranos and who will also be godmother to Viking Jupiter®, which debuts in early 2019.
Dr. Anna Fisher served as ceremonial godmother and offered a blessing of good fortune and safe sailing for Viking Orion – a naval tradition that dates back thousands of years. In keeping with the naming custom, Dr. Fisher also used an historic Viking broad axe to cut a ribbon that allowed a bottle of Norwegian aquavit to break on the ship’s hull. The ship was officially blessed by Monsignor Liberio Andreatta. Mons. Liberio Andreatta has led Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, an office of the Vicariate of Rome, an organ of the Holy See, reporting directly to the Cardinal Vicar of the Pope – and is the largest operator of pilgrim travel in the world. Staying true to shipbuilding tradition, Viking Orion has also been blessed by Father Dino Cecconi, the Chaplain of the Port of Ancona, at her float out ceremony in September 2017.
Viking’s ocean ships have a gross tonnage of 47,800 tonnes, have 465 staterooms and host 930 guests. Classified by Cruise Critic® as a “small ship,” the all-veranda Viking Orion is the newest addition to Viking’s award-winning ocean fleet, which also includes Viking Star®, Viking Sea®, Viking Sky®, and Viking Sun®.
In keeping with the inspiration for the ship’s name, Viking Orion features several onboard experiences that pay tribute to space exploration:
The Explorers’ Dome – Located in the upper level of the Explorers’ Lounge on Deck 8, “The Explorers’ Dome” is a planetarium-like theatre where guests can view special panoramic films about exploration, such as “Journey to Space” and “Life Under the Arctic Sky” in a fully immersive environment.
Explorations in Space Collection – The interiors and art of Viking’s ships honour early explorers, and on Viking Orion, the “Explorations in Space” collection is an homage to humankind’s exploration beyond the confines of planet Earth. The onboard collection is conceived as a photographic journal through space, with a broad range of vintage photographs, including astronaut portraits and documents of complex mission activities, produced by NASA and captured by National Geographic photographers and the Apollo and Gemini astronauts themselves.
Viking Resident Astronomer – Building on the success of the Viking Resident Historian program, Viking Orion is the first ship in the fleet to feature a Viking Resident Astronomer. Howard Parkin, a Royal Astronomical Society Fellow and founding member of the IOM Astronomical Society, will lead lectures and stargazing sessions onboard Viking Orion during her maiden season throughout 2018.