Princess and Viking Sport Cruisers launch a superyacht series and do some re-badging.
Not quite 15 years ago, I sea-trialed the first Viking Sport Cruiser to hit the States, a sleek mid-ranger with euro-style cachet and lotsa performance pizazz. As the day unfolded, I remember feeling increasingly mystified about the “strategic alliance” behind the V52 Express’ Anglo-American pedigree. Why, I wondered, would Viking Yachts, a premier builder of sportfishing machines in the United States, enter into a collaborative/supportive/semi-supervisory relationship with a British outfit called Marine Projects (later to be renamed Princess Yachts International) that was manufacturing curvaceous, performance-oriented cruisers and selling them mostly in Europe?
Half of the answer came with characteristic straightforwardness from Tom Carroll, Viking Sport Cruisers president and CEO. For starters, Carroll explained at the time, the two companies were quite similar in terms of the business models they espoused. Neither carried any major debt and both kept a tight rein on inventory, with relatively few boats built on spec. Moreover, Carroll said, both companies were privately owned and vertically integrated, taking pride in the fact that the lion’s share of the onboard components of each, from color-coded and labeled wiring harnesses to stainless steel hardware, were crafted in-house. “And besides,” Carroll concluded, “We want to break into the performance-cruiser market so hey, it’s a no-brainer.”
The other half of the answer came from David King, a quiet Englishman who presides over Princess to this day. As we worked through the sea trial, he evinced such conversancy with every aspect of the V52, confidently addressing questions about everything from fabrics to laminate schedules, that I realized: he was a lot like then-Viking president Bill Healey: a boatbuilder first and everything else second.
Things with Viking Sport Cruisers have changed considerably since that intro. From a modest stable of essentially mid-range crusiers, the marque has evolved into a major brand with big, increasingly Americanized models going to dealerships all over North and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
And as Viking continues to import, support (especially in terms of setting specifications for ABYC, USCG, and NMMA certifications), and distribute these vessels, manufacturing operations in England have grown significantly. Just a year ago, Princess leased a 15-acre tract at Plymouth’s Devonport Naval Shipyard for a new state-of-the-art facility that is currently building two 32-meter yachts and developing a 40-meter tri-decker.
Although the little sister of these—the 95 Motor Yacht—was several days away from being sea-trial-ready at the time of a visit I paid to Plymouth last summer, I was still able to get aboard her and examine her especially voluminous interior. As with every other Princess built since 1980, the 95 had been designed by Bernard Olesinski, a naval architect who favors comparatively narrow, modified-deep-V running surfaces that enhance speed and performance.
Narrowness seemed nowhere evident in the layout, however. The 20'x23' main-deck saloon felt flat-out immense, with long windows on either side offering unobstructed visibility to folks seated on the leather furniture. The galley, replete with top-notch Miele and Sub-Zero appliances, was equally ample—a real gathering place for guests and crew—and easily accessed from the dining area (and its transverse table for eight) further aft.
On the lower deck, the standard four-stateroom arrangement (full-beam master, two VIPs, and a twin-berth guest, plus crew quarters with kitchenette and full entertainment center aft) continued the theme. Not only did each stateroom offer genuine spaciousness, but each had its own en suite head and loads of stowage bins, lockers, drawers, and shelves.
“If this baby’s as fast as she is good looking,” I told Princess technical sales manager Clive Brooks as we stepped into an oak-paneled wheelhouse trimmed with dark brown leather, “Olesinski’s struck a fine balance between performance and cruising comfort.” The response came back rapid-fire. With the standard engine package—twin 1,925-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERTs—Brooks predicted a respectable top speed of between 25 and 27 knots. But with a set of optional 2,400-hp MTUs, he upped his prediction significantly to between 29 and 31 knots. “Yup, that’ll do,” I replied with a grin, while imagining what it might feel like zooming across a four-foot chop while kicked back at this particular helm station.
It was a beauty, really. Sleipner (the folks who manufacture Side-Power products) had supplied all the hydraulics for the bow and stern thrusters, windlass, and steering system. You could upgrade the entirety, Brooks said, by adding digital fin-type stabilizers from Trac, a move that would also substitute Trac components for the thrusters and windlass. Visibility ahead was fine, although certainly not nearly as good as from the duplicate helm station on the flying bridge, and I was enthused to hear that the top-shelf Furuno electronics with two multifunctional displays per helm station was a standard feature.
I noted one especially nifty feature in the 95’s engine room that seemed to illustrate Viking’s engineering influences upon the Princess-Viking synergy. Instead of a saddle-tank configuration for fuel, there was a single 2,438-gallon behemoth mounted in the yacht’s belly. Brooks said it had been constructed of fiberglass with a full set of interior baffles outside the vessel, and then bonded into place. Not only does this free up tons of elbowroom in the machinery spaces, it greatly simplifies fuel transfer and nixes related trim issues.
One remaining detail is way worth mentioning. After completing my tour of the 95 Motor Yacht, I little suspected a turn of events I only recently was able to confirm once I was back on this side of the pond. With the aim of unifying and globalizing the brand, Viking Sport Cruisers and Princess Yachts will be re-badging all future Viking Sport Cruisers as Princess Yachts, with Viking Sport Cruisers continuing to import, support, and solely distribute the vessels in North and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In fact, several new models are slated to appear at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale and Miami boat shows. Based on my past experience, I’d say they’ll be well worth a look, no matter what label they carry.
CONTACT: Viking Sport Cruisers (561) 840-1940.
This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.