Viking Cruises this week declared that American chemist, emergency room physician and recently retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher will be honoured as godmother to its fifth ocean ship, which will debut in July 2018. The new ship has been named Viking Orion after the constellation and in honour of Dr. Fisher’s contributions to NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project. The announcement was first made by Viking chairman, Torstein Hagen, during a press conference in New York City celebrating the first call in Manhattan for the company’s third ship, Viking Sky.
The 930-guest Viking Orion reached a construction milestone on 28 September, when the ship met water for the first time during her “float out” ceremony at Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard. Dr. Fisher attended the ceremony and assisted with several maritime traditions. Viking Orion will spend her maiden year sailing itineraries in the Mediterranean, before making her way to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and then Alaska.
“Vikings were the original long-distance explorers and the first to use the stars and constellations as a way to navigate uncharted territory,” said Torstein Hagen. “The spirit of exploration is at the heart of everything we do, and so I am especially proud that an astronaut will be honoured as godmother to our new ship. Dr. Fisher is a past Viking guest, a fellow scientist and a true explorer. As one of the first women in space, she has inspired generations of curious minds, and I look forward to welcoming guests onboard Viking Orion to learn more about her impressive career in space exploration.”
Viking Orion’s float out began at approximately 11.00am local time, and in keeping with maritime tradition, Dr. Fisher 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.