Making a big Splash!

Pictured: Ander, Naiara, and Hannah Carton. By Andy Carton.

A familiar moment for many out there I’m sure…It’s a Monday morning in Dublin 4 and the rain is lashing down and your mode of transport to work was in a worse state than you were when you tried to operate it.

Now you’re late and wet and just when your stress levels are beginning to rise a loud cheer from a ‘Yellow Bus-Marine’ breaks up the gloom and brings your body’s hormones back to normal levels and you say to yourself who or what was that?

The Viking Splash tour vehicles are a common site around Beggars Bush, the Grand Canal Dock and the South Dock Road aboard with people of all ages in Viking headwear being entertained with stories on Dublin’s history by their amplified driver. Unsure of how long the good weather was to last in July, I booked a place for myself, my brother and his three kids (his wife was pregnant with their fourth at the time) with Viking Splash tours to finally get the chance to shout at unsuspecting members of the public and a spin around the grand canal.

One thing for certain with this ride is that it is definitely one way to find amusement at all the city’s Luas works and construction that normally drive you round the bend. The driver did his best to rouse his passengers from their Sunday stupor with funny tidbits about how the Dublin City Council chose some landmarks over Viking ones along with spontaneous requests to cheer at pedestrians and tour buses alike.

Although the kids felt a lot like they were in school on a Sunday for some of the journey, as soon as we reached the water’s edge on the South Dock Road and the lifejackets were given out all was forgiven. The ride has its ups and downs (and even get-downs), and has as much enjoyment for adults as for kids, and as true Vikings they have only just begun to conquer.

Founded in 1998 by an Irish American couple who were inspired by the Boston-Duck tours, Viking Splash Tours began with just one DUKW vehicle and a fire truck, but now run seven of these World War II restored amphibious vehicles which altogether have catered for 114,550 passengers in 2016. A spokesperson from Viking Splash Tours, Natalie Marr, tells us that these vehicles are one by one being decommissioned again but Viking Splash Tours has its own in-house manufacturer, Salamander AV, who are in the process of building and designing new vehicles – the first, Sally 1, being rolled out at the end of this year upon licensing and testing approval.

These vehicles, which are being designed to abide by EU exhaust emission regulations, will allow them to expand into other countries. However, the cities they are expanding into will not have the Viking history like Dublin has, and will be called City Splash Tours.
Due to this expansion, the staff at Viking Splash Tours havebeen offered share options at vastly reduced rate than their value. Marr explained: “The company was set up 18 years ago, and we have a number of staff who have worked here for almost as long. Many other staff members have been here for between 5 – 10 years, and we generally have a very low staff turnover rate. We’re like a little family, to be honest!”
During the busy summer season they run up to 35 tours a day. That’s a lot of Vikings going through the city cheering and laughing and probably not such a strange sight to when they actually did run the city.

by Paul Carton