The Newest Viking Ship Was Named by an Aquanaut — and Just Set Sail on a 138-day World Cruise

Neptune is the newest in Viking's growing fleet of ocean ships.

The Viking Ocean ship sailing through Iceland

Courtesy of Viking Cruises

In a naming ceremony over the weekend, Viking officially welcomed its newest ship, Viking Neptune, into its ever-growing fleet. The 930-passenger vessel, a sibling to seven other ocean ships — soon to be eight, with the launch of Viking Saturn later this year — all of which have celestial namesakes.

It was only appropriate, then, to have a retired NASA astronaut serve as Viking Neptune's godmother. And not just an astronaut, but an aquanaut, too. Before she flew two missions to the International Space Station, Nicole Stott spent 18 days living underwater at the Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater research facility.

The infinity pool on board the Viking Ocean ship

Courtesy of Viking Cruises

"As someone who has been blessed to explore space, the ocean, and some of the otherworldly places on our planet, I understand the importance of broadening one’s horizons through travel," Stott told the crowd at the naming ceremony. "I am very excited for all those who journey around the world on this elegant vessel."

To christen Viking Neptune, Stott wielded a Viking broad axe and cut a ribbon that triggered a bottle of Norwegian aquavit to smash into the ship's hull.

Before the ceremony, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen shared some insight into the design ethos of Viking ships, which remains consistent between its longships on the rivers, its ocean fleet (to which Viking Neptune belongs), its two new expedition ships, and its upcoming Mississippi river ship. He described Viking to embody "quiet, calm, understated elegance."

Interior of the spa on board the Viking Ocean ship

Anthony Weller/Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Within each class of ship, each vessel is identical in layout and design. "That means when you go from one ship to the other, you have exactly the same experience," Hagen said. "The belief is that our guests will feel at home wherever they are." He also mentions it's helpful for staff who transfer between ships. "They know where the knives and forks are, so they don't have to fumble to get there," he joked.

Viking Neptune has all the hallmarks of the ocean fleet, including Viking's signature Manfredi's Italian restaurant, a star chart–filled Explorers' Lounge, and a retractable-roof pool deck, but there is something that makes the ship unique among its counterparts.

Upper deck of the Explorers Lounge on board the Viking Ocean ship

Courtesy of Viking Cruises

"On board this vessel here, on Deck Nine, we have a pilot plant for hydrogen fuel cells, so we can test out how it operates on the ship," Hagen said. Rather than turn to liquified natural gas (LNG) for a more eco-friendly fuel to propel his ships, as many other cruise lines are doing, Hagen is turning to the alternative source of hydrogen for sustainable fuel. Using LNG can result in methane slip, or releasing the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. And methane, Hagen noted, traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. "We have come to the conclusion that the right future is to operate with hydrogen fuel cells," he said.

And Viking Neptune will have plenty of time to test those hydrogen fuel cells. The ship is in the first phase of a world cruise that began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in December and will conclude in London in May. The cruise is currently on its way to Hawaii and will stop off in Tahiti before heading Down Under, then up through Indonesia to tour Asia and the Middle East, before sailing the Mediterranean and finally heading north to London. While Neptune sails the world, there are plenty of Viking ocean ships in the works — three are currently being built, with four more contracted.

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