Viking Ocean Cruises’ next ship will be named the Viking Orion, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said during a press conference in New York City celebrating the first Manhattan call for the company’s third ship, the Viking Sky. Previously, the ship had been referred to as the Viking Spirit.
Named after the constellation in honor of the ship’s newly announced godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and recently retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher, the new ship will be the fifth for the company. It is set to debut in July 2018.
The 930-guest Viking Orion reached a major construction milestone last week, when the ship met water for the first time during its "float out" ceremony at Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard. Dr. Fisher attended the September 28 ceremony and assisted with several maritime traditions. Viking Orion will spend its inaugural year sailing itineraries in the Mediterranean, before making its way to Asia, Australia and then Alaska.
A float out ceremony is significant because it denotes the first time a ship touches water and moves into its final stage of construction. Viking Orion's float out began at approximately 11:00 a.m. local time, and in keeping with maritime tradition, Dr. Fisher, as godmother to the ship, assisted with the ceremony, first "mast stepping," by welding coins under the ship mast. The commemorative coins she welded represented her birth year, as well as the birth year of Chairman Hagen. Two special coins were also welded to represent members of the Hagen family: 1911 to represent Ragnhild "Mamsen" Hagen, the mother of Chairman Hagen, and 2012 to represent Finse, the yellow Labrador of Karine Hagen, Viking's senior vice president and daughter of Torstein Hagen. Dr. Fisher then cut a cord to allow water to begin flowing into the ship's building dock. Following a two-day process that set Viking Orion afloat, the ship was then moved to a nearby outfitting dock for final construction and interior build-out.
Born in New York City and raised in Southern California, Dr. Fisher holds bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry, as well as a Doctor of Medicine degree, from the University of California, Los Angeles. Selected as an astronaut in January 1978, Dr. Fisher was one of the "original six" women accepted into NASA's Astronaut Training Program. Dr. Fisher became the first mother in space when she served as a mission specialist on STS-51A aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, which launched on November 8, 1984. During her NASA career, which spanned more than three decades, Dr. Fisher contributed to three major initiatives: the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station and Orion, NASA's new crew-rated exploration spacecraft. Prior to her retirement in April 2017, Dr. Fisher was also the oldest active American astronaut. In celebration of her retirement, Dr. Fisher sailed on Viking's Rhine Getaway itinerary in July 2017.
Viking's ocean ships have a gross tonnage of 47,800 tons, have 465 cabins and accommodate 930 guests. Viking Orion, formerly known as Viking Spirit, is the fifth of eight ocean cruise ships currently planned for the fleet. By 2019 Viking will welcome its sixth ship, which it says will make it the largest small ship ocean cruise line. Two additional ships are on order for delivery in 2021 and 2022.