Viking River Cruises Expands Sponsorship Of PBS' MASTERPIECE

Viking River Cruises extended its partnership with the MASTERPIECE series, providing more hours of programming on PBS stations in 2015. Starting in January, viewers can continue to tune in to the series during its Sunday at 9pm time slot, and also enjoy at least 20 additional hours of new programming – some shows at 8pm, others at 10pm – throughout the year. Viking River Cruises is the exclusive corporate funder of these additional hours of programming.

The enlarged MASTERPIECE footprint kicks off with Grantchester, a six-part mystery premiering Sunday, Jan. 18, at 10pm, following new episodes of Downton Abbey. Already a hit in the UK, Grantchester stars James Norton (Happy Valley) as a young clergyman and Robson Green (Wire in the Blood) as a down-to-earth cop who team up to fight crime in the beautiful hamlet of Grantchester in 1953. Based on the mystery novels by James Runcie, the young vicar is styled after Runcie's late father, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s.

On April 5, three-time Tony Award-winning actor Mark Rylance (Twelfth Night) and Emmy Award-winner Damian Lewis (Homeland) star as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in Wolf Hall, an adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The six-part series charts the shrewd and brilliant rise of Cromwell in the Tudor court – from a blacksmith's son to Henry VIII's closest advisor.

Other MASTERPIECE programming scheduled for 2015 includes: The Manners of Downton Abbey, a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Edwardian manners with Alastair Bruce, historical advisor to Downton Abbey; a third series of the Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven; a new adaptation of the 1970s blockbuster Poldark, starring Aidan Turner (The Hobbit, Being Human); and the sumptuous drama Indian Summers, set in the waning years of British colonial rule in 1930s India. Funding for these programs is provided by Ralph Lauren Corporation and Viking River Cruises.

In addition to its MASTERPIECE sponsorship – and as a response to the popularity of Downton Abbey – Viking also offers its guests an optional excursion to Highclere Castle, the setting of the hit series. The Oxford & Highclere Castle pre- or post- trip experience is available for guests on the Cities of Light or Paris & the Heart of Normandy itineraries. Co-created with the owners of Highclere Castle, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, Viking guests spend three days in the rolling hills of England's countryside, with a champagne welcome and special tour of the famous home.

With river cruising as the fastest-growing segment of travel, Viking is expanding rapidly to meet customer demand. In March, Viking broke its own world record and christened 18 vessels across four countries in five days. Viking also recently announced it plans to launch 12 new river vessels in 2015, bringing the company's total river fleet size to 64 vessels next year. Additionally, the company's first ocean ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star®, is currently under construction and will set sail in early 2015.

For more information, visit www.vikingrivercruises.com.

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