Viking the launch U.S. service from New OrleansToday, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisana and Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen announced the selection of New Orleans as the homeport for Viking River Cruises’ first North American river cruise itineraries, starting in late 2017.

The Mississippi River cruises will operate from docking facilities near the French Quarter in New Orleans. According to the Governor, Viking’s new service will result in the creation of 416 new direct jobs for Louisiana-based operations and vessel crews, with an average salary of $40,000, plus benefits; and the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) estimates the project will result in an additional 368 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 780 new jobs in the Southeast Region of the state.

Plans call for the construction of six new vessels over the next three years at an estimated cost of $90 million to $100 million per vessel, all of which will be built in U.S. shipyards and crewed by U.S. citizens. The vessels will be owned by Tennenbaum Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based alternative investment management firm, and time-chartered to Viking.

Viking River customers are expected to travel to New Orleans from across the U.S., Europe and beyond, and bring new business to hotels, restaurants, museums and other attractions in the city, expanding sales for local merchants. More than 90 percent of sales created by the project are expected to come from out-of-state customers.

With the launch of cruise operations on the Mississippi River in late 2017, two boats will be deployed per year, for a total of six new boats in the first three years. Cruises will take passengers on a journey along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to itinerary stops in St. James, East Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes; continuing upriver to Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis; or St. Paul, Minnesota, depending on the season.

The specialty-built riverboats will have a full complement of luxury amenities and host up to 300 passengers.

LED began discussing expansion possibilities with Viking in November 2013. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes a $4.5 million performance-based grant for site preparation at the company’s docking locations in Louisiana. The company also will receive the customized solutions of the nation’s No. 1 state workforce development program, LED FastStart®, which will include partnerships with the Louisiana Workforce Commission and local educational institutions.

“Having the top river cruise company homeport in New Orleans will be an outstanding chance to tell the story of the Louisiana renaissance to the world,” said President and CEO Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. “Viking River Cruises choosing greater New Orleans is a testament not only to our culture and river, but also to our outstanding teamwork at the state, regional and local level. GNO Inc. is proud to have been an integral part of the team that met with Viking on two continents to bring them to New Orleans."

“We are thrilled by the choice of the Port of New Orleans as Viking’s initial entry into the North American market,” said Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “Viking is one of the premier cruise brands throughout Europe and Asia. Their worldwide reputation underscores New Orleans as a destination city for both international and domestic leisure travelers. The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans has worked with the Viking team for nearly two years to determine the proper venue for the new ships within the port and along the Mississippi River, and we couldn’t be happier to add Viking to the port’s cruise portfolio.”

“Viking River is an exciting and compelling addition to the opportunity-rich New Orleans destination,” said President and CEO Stephen Perry of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They will bring a diverse domestic and international clientele drawn not only to enjoyment of the river through cruising, but to the New Orleans part of their visit in this historic capital of American music and food as well.”

“It was an honor to be part of Governor Jindal’s recent economic development trip to Europe, encouraging companies to locate in our great state,” said Chairman Greg Rusovich of the Louisiana Board of International Commerce.

“The decision to locate Viking’s North American homeport in New Orleans speaks to the operational capabilities of our port, the expertise of our hospitality workforce and the increasing popularity of river cruising around the globe,” said executive board Chairman Henry Coaxum of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “We welcome Viking to the New Orleans business community and look forward to its success.”