Viking to Launch Expedition Cruises in Great Lakes, Arctic


Viking has announced plans to launch a new expedition product, called Viking Expeditions. In addition to itineraries in Antarctica in the Arctic, the brand will also sail the Great Lakes, as the two new ships planned will be built small enough to navigate the Welland Canal Locks. 

Plans call for the plans to launch with its first ship, the Viking Octantis, in January 2022, sailing voyages to Antarctica and the Great Lakes. A second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022, sailing to Antarctica and the Arctic. As part of an exclusive preview, past Viking guests have been able to book select Viking Expeditions polar itineraries since October 9. Now, all expedition voyages—including the new Great Lakes itineraries—are available to the public for booking. 

To develop the new expedition voyages, Viking teamed up with scientific institutions including the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, its lead partner. This relationship is underpinned by a major Viking endowment for scientific research into the polar regions, The Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience, a Cambridge University full professorship based at the Scott Polar Research Institute, as well as a sponsorship fund supporting the Institute’s graduate students. As part of this endowment, the Institute’s scientists will undertake fieldwork on board Viking’s expedition vessels and join voyages to share their expertise with guests. Viking has also partnered with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a globally recognized bird research facility, whose ornithologists will regularly be on board the expedition ships, providing guest advice and interaction. Additionally, Viking has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whose scientists will join expeditions in the Great Lakes to conduct research focused on changes in the region’s weather, climate and ecosystems. NOAA scientists may also offer lectures about the Great Lakes’ unique environment to Viking guests during these voyages.  

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Each ship's Owner's Suite will have a private garden with a traditional Norwegian badestamp (wood-sided hot tub) and outdoor dining table.

The New Expedition Ships

The two new expedition ships are currently under construction and will be delivered in Norway by Fincantieri’s VARD. They will be Polar Class 6-rated, and they will each have a capacity of 378 guests in 189 staterooms. Designed by the same nautical architects and engineers behind Viking’s ocean ships, the new vessels will be built small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River. 

Viking said that the ships’ public spaces will be “familiar to Viking’s ocean cruise guests,” but “reimagined for expeditions.” The ships will also have new public spaces purpose-built for expedition cruises. 

In addition to a Polar Class 6 ice rating, the ships will incorporate straight bows, longer hulls and fin stabilizers for smoother sailing, as well as U-tank stabilizers that Viking said will be able to decrease rolling by up to 50 percent when the ships are stationary. 

Highlights of the new ships include:

The Hangar: This enclosed, in-ship marina permits the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors. An 85-foot slipway allows guests to embark on RIBs from a flat, stable surface inside the ship, shielded from wind and waves. There is also a FerryBox, a set of instruments continuously collecting and displaying data on water quality, oxygen content, plankton composition and more.

The Laboratory: Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, while hosting guests, will also be working research vessels with an onboard team of Viking Resident Scientists working on a variety of studies. Developed in consultation with Cambridge University and Viking’s other academic partners, The Laboratory, at 430 square feet, is designed to support a broad range of research activities and is equipped with wet and dry laboratory facilities, a sample processing area, fume cupboard, freezer and cool storage, comprehensive microscope optics and extensive bench space for analysis-specific instruments. Guests will have supervised access to The Laboratory, which is located in a glass-enclosed mezzanine above The Hangar, to learn from and participate with scientists undertaking primary research.

Expedition Equipment: Viking will offer a variety of ways for guests to experience their destination, according to their interests and activity level, at no extra charge. With a program of complimentary experiences, expedition equipment available for guests on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will include a fleet of Zodiacs; a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks; and two 12-seater convertible RIBs. Each ship will also have two six-guest submarines with revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows. Guests will also receive a Viking Expedition Kit with items such as boots, binoculars and waterproof pants; each excursion will also carry a full range of Safety Equipment, such as satellite phones, VHF radios, ropes, life jackets and a comprehensive shore survival kit; and all guests will receive complimentary use of Viking Excursion Gear, which includes specialty items like trekking poles, snowshoes and skis.

The Aula & Finse Terrace: A venue for learning at sea, The Aula will be a panoramic auditorium at the stern. Inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall where the Nobel Peace Prize was historically awarded, The Aula will serve as a venue for lectures and entertainment, with floor-to-ceiling windows and 270-degree views. Adjacent to The Aula through sliding glass walls is the Finse Terrace, an outdoor lounge area with comfortable couches and warming lava rock “firepits” whre guests can take in panoramic views of the surroundings. Together the two spaces can be combined to create an indoor-outdoor al fresco experience.

Nordic Balcony: All staterooms onboard Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will have a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom that converts into an al fresco viewing platform. The balconies will have floor-to-ceiling, distortion-free glass windows at the very edge of the ship, the top of which will lower to transform the stateroom into a sheltered lookout, with an observation shelf at elbow level to stabilize binoculars or a camera. Guests can choose from six stateroom categories that range from 222 square feet to 1,223 square feet: Nordic Balcony, Deluxe Nordic Balcony, Nordic Penthouse, Nordic Junior Suite, Explorer Suite and Owner’s Suite. All staterooms have a Nordic Balcony, as well as a king-size bed and large bathroom with spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor and anti-fog mirror. Every stateroom is also equipped with a floor-to-ceiling drying closet that circulates warm air to dry and store clothing and expedition gear.

Expedition Ship Suites: Nordic Junior Suites (322 square feet) and Explorer Suites (580 square feet) on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will aim to be comparable to those on Viking’s fleet of ocean ships, with wood detailing and amenities that include additional storage and seating, an expanded bathroom with extended shower and double sinks, welcome champagne, a fully stocked mini-bar replenished daily, complimentary laundry and shoeshine services, priority restaurant reservations and more. Explorer Suites have two separate rooms, a Nordic Balcony and a full outdoor veranda. Additionally, each ship has one Owner’s Suite, which at 1,223 square feet, is twice the size of the Explorer Suites. With the most exclusive accommodations and amenities on board, it has two separate rooms—a living room with a six-seat dining table and a bedroom – as well as a 792-square-foot private garden with a traditional Norwegian badestamp (wood-sided hot tub) and outdoor dining table.

Aquavit Terrace & Pools: Located at the stern and with a retractable glass dome, this indoor-outdoor heated sanctuary will have three different temperature-controlled pools, including an “inside-out” swimming experience.

The Nordic Spa & Fitness Center: In keeping with Viking’s Nordic heritage, The Nordic Spa onboard is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind—with a thermal suite that has a Sauna, Snow Grotto and chaise lounges, as well as a warm hydrotherapy pool and badestamp (hot tub), surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. It will also have a 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 for taking in the scenery through double-height windows over a mug of mulled wine or glass of Norwegian aquavit.

Dining Choices: Viking’s expedition ships will offer an array of dining options that build on the venues from Viking’s ocean ships, but which have been redesigned for expeditions. The Restaurant will offer fine dining serving regional cuisine and always-available classics; the casual World Café will be a new “market” concept that offers live cooking, an open kitchen, bakery, grill and premium seafood and sushi choices, as well as a range of international flavors; Mamsen’s, named for “Mamsen,” the Hagen family matriarch, will serve Scandinavian-inspired fare; Manfredi’s will offer Italian cuisine; and 24-hour room service will be complimentary for all guests.

Enrichment Onboard and On Shore: Viking’s exclusive partnerships with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will match researchers and educators with each expedition. The onboard expedition program is designed to prepare guests for their onshore experiences, with more than 25 experts accompanying each journey—the Viking Expedition Team (expedition leader and staff, photographer and submarine pilots) and Viking Resident Scientists (biologists, botanists, geologists, glaciologists, oceanographers, ornithologists, polar experts and researchers). Onboard, guests will enjoy daily briefings and lectures about their destination—and engage with working scientists from renowned academic institutions in The Laboratory or participate directly in citizen science programs. On shore, guests can assist in fieldwork or interact through experiential activities during landings—such as monitoring birds to help identify migratory patterns; accompanying scientists to collect samples; or taking their cameras ashore alongside a professional photographer to learn how best to capture scenic landscapes.

Sustainable Features: Compliant to all guidelines and regulatory requirements from AECO, IAATO, the Antarctic Treaty System and the Governor of Svalbard, Viking’s expedition ships minimize environmental impact and meet the most stringent emissions and biosecurity standards, the cruise line said. Additionally, the straight bow reduces fuel consumption, and a dynamic positioning system enables the ship to hover over the seabed without anchoring, allowing access to pristine environments without damage.

Fare Inclusions: 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. Just as with Viking’s ocean cruises, guests will also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; premium dining reservations; lectures; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry; access to The Nordic Spa; and 24-hour room service. As part of their fare, Viking Expeditions guests will also receive charter flights for hard-to-reach locales and the use of Viking Expedition Gear specialty equipment for land and sea excursions. On polar itineraries, guests also receive their own Viking Expedition Kit, which includes everything needed to be comfortable—as well as a Viking Expeditions Jacket to keep.

The Aula will be a panoramic auditorium at the ship's stern. 

2022-2023 Viking Expedition Inaugural Voyages

Antarctic Explorer (13 days; Buenos Aires to Ushuaia) – This adventure takes guests into the heart of the Antarctic peninsula, where they will see where penguins and seals. There will also be chances to hike and whale-watch. Multiple sailing dates in January, February, November and December 2022; January and February 2023.

Antarctic & South America Discovery (19 days; Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro) – Ranging from icy Antarctica to tropical Rio, this itinerary explores the Antarctic Peninsula; offers a chance to visit one of the thriving penguin populations of the Falkland Islands; and discover the cultural treasures of Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Paranaguá. Multiple sailing dates in March, October and November 2022. 

Arctic Adventure (13 days; Roundtrip Tromsø) – Guests can experience the Arctic summer on this expedition, centered on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Multiple sailing dates in August and September 2022. 

From the Arctic to the Antarctic (44 days; Tromsø to Ushuaia) – Guests will traverse the globe from the far north to the extreme south on this journey, starting in Norway’s northernmost town above the Arctic Circle and continuing past rugged peaks and fishing villages to the rolling landscapes of the Shetland Islands and Ireland. Next, the itinerary will cross the equator on a transatlantic sailing to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, then further on to Buenos Aires and finally to Antarctica. Sailing date: September 21, 2022. .

Undiscovered Great Lakes (Eight days; Thunder Bay, Ontario to Milwaukee) – This itinerary offers the chance to visit bald eagle and bear habitats and pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron via the Soo Locks. Multiple sailing dates between May and September 2022. 

Great Lakes Explorer (Eight days; Milwaukee to Thunder Bay, Ontario) – From Georgian Bay’s granite islands to Thunder Bay’s towering cliffs, this itinerary will offer the chance to experience the car-free Mackinac Island and learn about indigenous cultures and frontier life along the way. Multiple sailing dates between May and September 2022. 

Niagara & The Great Lakes (Eight days; Toronto to Milwaukee) – From urban skylines to uninhabited islands, on this trip guests can discover the wilderness nestled in the interior of North America alongside world-class cultural attractions in Detroit, Toronto and Milwaukee. There will also be chances to see Niagara Falls and enjoy scenic cruising past North America’s busiest border during a crossing of Lake Huron. Multiple sailing dates in April, May, June, July and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at $5,995 per person, with free airfare within North America.

Canadian Discovery (13 days; New York to Toronto) – On this voyage guests cruise from Canada’s southeast coast to the St. Lawrence River, where they will learn about the region’s rich past. The trip will sail along the coasts of New England and Nova Scotia, with stops at Prince Edward Island, the Saguenay Fjord and Quebec’s Moisie River. Sailing dates in April and October 2022. 

Launch Event

Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen announced the brand’s plans during a celebratory launch event in Beverly Hills, CA. Hagen also announced that adventurers and educators Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will be honored as ceremonial godmothers to Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, respectively. Arnesen, a native Norwegian, became the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994. Bancroft is the first woman to successfully ski to both poles. Arnesen and Bancroft also became the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001. Together they co-founded Bancroft Arnesen Explore / Access Water, an initiative that aims to engage and empower more than 60 million minds to create a sustainable tomorrow. Arnesen will also periodically serve as a member of the Viking Expedition Team.

During the launch event, attendees were treated to a performance by Sissel Kyrkjebø, one of the world’s leading crossover sopranos and ceremonial godmother to Viking Jupiter, the newest ship in Viking’s ocean fleet. Before her performance, Sissel officially “named” Viking Jupiter as the ship sailed between the Falkland Islands and Cape Horn. As part of the naming, Sissel offered a blessing of good fortune and safe sailing for the ship and then instructed crew members currently on the ship to break a bottle of Norwegian aquavit on the ship’s hull.

Early Booking Offer

Through February 29, U.S. residents can take advantage of an Inaugural Offer on 2022 & 2023 Viking Expedition itineraries.

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