Viking Cruises Enters the Expedition Cruise Market

Viking Cruises made an exciting announcement last week at a gala event in Beverly Hills, California. The cruise line revealed they are launching an expedition cruise division and building two new expedition ships.

Viking Expeditions Ships

Viking Expeditions and Two New Expedition Ships

I had heard rumors but this made it official. New Viking Expeditions will begin sailing in January 2022 with their first expedition ship, Viking Octantis. The new ship will embark on voyages to Antarctica and, closer to home, North America’s Great Lakes cruises.

Eight months later, Viking will launch their second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, in August 2022. This ship is scheduled to head to Antarctica and the Arctic.

Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen announced details of Viking’s plans during the celebratory launch event in Beverly Hills.

“We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we launched in 1997; then we reinvented ocean cruises and became the ‘World’s Best Ocean Cruise Line’ in our first year of operation, as well as every year since then. Now, in creating ‘the thinking person’s expedition,’ we are perfecting polar expedition cruising, and we will usher in a new era of comfortable exploration in the heart of North America.”

When Viking begins Great Lakes cruises, planned itineraries will include ports in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Viking Octantis will also cruise to ports in Ontario, Canada. Looks like Viking is getting a jump-start on what will once again be a cruise region as it was decades ago.

Viking Expedition Partners with Major Universities and NOAA

Viking has partnered with the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute made possible through a major Viking endowment for scientific research into the polar regions. As part of this endowment, the Institute’s scientists will work on board Viking’s expedition vessels and share their expertise with guests.

Birders will be overjoyed to learn that Viking has also partnered with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Ornithologists will be on board the expedition ships, providing enrichment lectures and interaction with guests.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also a partner in Viking Expedition Great Lakes voyages. Scientists will join expeditions in the Great Lakes to conduct research focused on changes in the region’s weather, climate and ecosystems. When possible, NOAA scientists may also provide enrichment lectures about the Great Lakes’ unique environment.

Details about Viking’s Newest Ships

The two new Polar Class 6 expedition ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, will accommodate up to 378 guests in 189 staterooms. Both ships are currently under construction and will be delivered in Norway.

The designers are the same team that designed Viking ocean ships. Both Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris are small enough to navigate remote polar regions as well as cruise the St. Lawrence River. They’re also large enough for excellent stability in some of the roughest seas on the globe.

What distinguishes a Viking Expedition ship design:

  • Straight bows
  • Longer hulls
  • State-of-the-art fin stabilizers to allow the ships to glide over the waves
  • Ice-strengthened Polar Class 6 hulls
  • U-tank stabilizers to significantly decrease rolling by up to 50 percent when the ships are stationary.

Interior design features

As on all Viking ocean and river ships, these two new ships will also feature modern yet elegant Scandinavian design. Highlights include:

  • The Hangar: An industry first, this enclosed, indoor marina enables the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors.
Viking Octantis Hangar
Rendering of The Hangar
  • The Laboratory: Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will also be working research vessels. Onboard will be the team of Viking research scientists, part of Cambridge University and Viking’s academic partners. Guests will have supervised access to The Laboratory, located in a glass-enclosed mezzanine above The Hangar.
  • Expedition Equipment:  Available to guest will be a fleet of military pro zodiacs, a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks and two 12-seater convertible RIBs. Each ship will also feature two six-guest submarines with revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows.
  • Everything will be provided:  Guests will receive a Viking Expedition Kit with items like boots, binoculars and waterproof pants. Excursions will carry satellite phones, VHF radios, ropes, life jackets and a comprehensive shore survival kit. All guests will receive complimentary use of Viking Excursion Gear, which includes specialty items like trekking poles, snowshoes and skis.

First Look at Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris Staterooms

All staterooms on both Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris feature what Viking calls a “Nordic Balcony.” It’s actually a sunroom that converts into an outdoor viewing platform. Here are the latest artist renderings:

Viking Octantis Nordic Balcony
Rendering of Viking Expedition Ship Nordic Balcony in a Junior Suite.

Both expedition ships will have six stateroom categories; Nordic Balcony, Deluxe Nordic Balcony, Nordic Penthouse, Nordic Junior Suite, Explorer Suite and Owner’s Suite. In addition to the Nordic Balcony, all staterooms will have a king-size bed, large bathroom with spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor and anti-fog mirror.

  • Aquavit Terrace & Pools: Located at the stern and featuring a retractable glass dome, this indoor-outdoor heated sanctuary will allow guests to be surrounded by their destination as they swim and lounge in three different temperature-controlled pools, including an “inside-out” swimming experience.
Viking Octantis Finse Terrace outdoor lounge
Rendering of Finse Terrace, an outdoor lounge area with couches and lava rock “firepits”.
Viking Octantic The Aula, auditorium.
Artist rendering of The Aula, an aft-facing auditorium for lectures and entertainment…not to mention the view.
  • The Nordic Spa & Fitness Center
  • Explorers’ Lounge: Similar to Viking’s ocean ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris have a two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow of the ship.
  • All Inclusive: Every Viking Expeditions cruise fare includes a Nordic Balcony stateroom or suite, virtually all shore excursions, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner service. Wi-Fi, self-service laundry and access to The Nordic Spa are included.
  • Air Transportation:  Viking Expeditions guests will receive charter flights for hard-to-reach locales.
  • Clothing:  All guests can use Viking Expedition Gear specialty equipment for land and sea excursions. On polar itineraries, guests will have their own Viking Expedition Kit, which includes Viking Expeditions Jacket to keep.

Dining on the new ships

Viking’s expedition ships, like their ocean ships, will offer The Restaurant for fine dining featuring regional and classic cuisine. The casual World Café will feature live cooking, an open kitchen, bakery, grill and premium seafood and sushi choices. Mamsen’s is back and serves Scandinavian-inspired fare. Manfredi’s returns for Italian cuisine and there’s 24-hour complimentary room service.

Reservations are now available for all itineraries for Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris.

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