Viking Ocean Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen has been indicted in Norway on corruption charges arising out of the christening of the Viking Star cruise ship.
As we previously reported last week, the Godmother for the new cruise ship, Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen City in Norway, has been under police investigation due to allegations of bribery by the ship owner. Among other things, Godmother Drevland is accused of being flown in a private jet to Venice to participate in the launch of Viking Star. In addition, her stay at a luxury hotel was paid by the Viking CEO. Plus Ms Drevland accepted a free cruise (which she subsequently canceled) given to her by the Viking CEO.
CEO Hagan has been accused of lobbying the mayor regarding the flagging of his cruise ship in Norway. A Norwegian newspaper says that CEO Torstein wants to change the regulations for the Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS), so that his cruise ship may call the port of Bergen and go between Norwegian ports which the NIS currently prohibits.The free flight in the CEO’s jet, the complimentary luxury hotel and the free cruise have been viewed as bribery where the CEO sought special consideration from the government official for a favored economic benefit to the cruise line.
The VG News in Norway refers to emails between Torstein and Drevland where he specifically requests the "very most favorable treatment."
Viking denied that it received any benefit and says that this is business as usual in the cruise industry.
In a statement appearing in a Norwegian newspaper, Viking says in part:
"Viking Ocean Cruises is confident that the company has done nothing unlawful in this case. The company has followed perfectly normal business practice in the cruise industry (regarding) baptism of vessels is concerned. This is a practice that has been implemented by ships for decades, and that will be practiced in the future of our line – and other shipping companies worldwide."
Yes, it is well known that cruise lines will give godmothers and travel writers, cruise bloggers and friends in the media free or heavily discounted cruises and special favors in return for the benefits of good publicity and favorable reviews.
But it quite a different matter that Viking gives a governmental official such benefits while lobbying her for favorable treatment in the registration of the ship.
Viking’s defense that "everyone does it" may be true but its an indictment of the cruise industry.
The irony of all of this is that the adverse publicity came about only after the Viking Star, notwithstanding its serious mechanical defects and other problems, "won" the Cruise Critic "best new cruise ship" award by Cruise Critics editors.
I wonder what special favors Viking may have given to the Cruise Critic editors for the award in the first place?
Photo Credit: VG News