"Stop the presses!" I always wanted to shout this phrase, although now that computers and electronic wizardry have shanghaied the printing process, it’s more like “please gently remove your finger from the send button.”
What’s the breaking news? Viking Sport Cruisers, built in Plymouth, England, by Princess Yachts, is now going to be carrying the name of the builder. So, what was the Viking 50 Sport Cruisers a few days before this writing is now the Princess 50. The move is purely an effort to build a more global, less-fragmented brand structure by Princess’s parent company, luxury-goods powerhouse LVMH (owners of Louis Vuitton, De Beers, and the Feadship Yacht brand, among others).
What’s this going to mean to the boater looking for the well-designed, sound performance cruiser for family adventures previously offered by Viking Sport Cruisers? Well, not a whole hell of a lot. As with all of her sisterships, Princess incorporates design and equipment direction from Viking Sport Cruisers, now the distributor for Princess in the Americas.
I still maintain that the concept of importing Princess models into the Americas under the Viking Sport Cruisers moniker 15 years ago, and ensuring they would satisfy the demands of the New Jersey builder, was brilliant business. Had the boats simply arrived on these shores, as is, with zero changes and relatively unknown, they would have been about as welcome as Tony Hayward at a Bayou crawfish boil. Have other European builders tried this? Sure, and some have been successful, others not so much.
However, the Viking Sport Cruisers philosophy went beyond the initial sale, and zeroed in on the after-sales process. They were able to capitalize on an impressive dealer network that already serviced the fishing-oriented Viking Yachts. They ensured that equipment used on each model could be easily serviced in North and South America. And some design tweaks were incorporated to reflect how boats are actually used on this side of the Atlantic. “The major change is the name on the side of the boat,” explains James Nobel, marketing director for Viking Sport Cruisers. “The hull identification number will remain VSC [Viking Sport Cruisers] and we’re still focused on Princess, with a Viking difference.”
So, American boaters, meet the Princess 50—the latest generation of this model. Compared to the previous 50, this is an entirely new hull, and the interior benefits from a 15-foot, 3-inch beam. To really appreciate the interior design, volume, and clever touches of the 50, you need to place it in context. Even consider comparing it to the previous 50, and it is patently obvious that areas such as the master stateroom have leapfrogged the design evolution process. The master stateroom spans the full beam, and features six large hullside windows, allowing streams of light and air into the master stateroom.
“The market was really demanding a full-beam stateroom,” commented Nobel, as we toured the boat in Plymouth. Yet, to carry it off correctly on a 50-footer is usually tough, and you often end up with a space better suited as a nursery than as one for two adults.
Two additional staterooms are forward. The forepeak guest stateroom is equal to what was the master stateroom on the previous 50, and shares a head with the starboard, twin-bunk stateroom. The well-equipped galley is to port on this level, offset from the passageway. Loads of stowage and cleverly designed drawers will hold provisions for extended cruises.