Viking’s new small-ship expedition cruises will offer close-up views of a rapidly changing Antarctica and Arctic Circle

A Viking expedition ship.
Courtesy of Viking

Viking Cruises just announced a series of new destination-focused, expedition voyages with locales that will inevitably see rapid change over the next decade and years to come.

Viking Expeditions will set sail starting in January 2022 with its first vessel, Viking Octantis, embarking on voyages to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes. A second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022, sailing to Antarctica and the Arctic.

Optimally sized for discovery, the new Polar Class 6 Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will host 378 guests in 189 staterooms. Designed by the same experienced nautical architects and engineers as Viking’s ocean ships, the ships are purpose-built for expeditions—small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River, while large enough to provide superior handling and stability in the roughest seas.

Within the last eight years, the company has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and six ocean cruise ships to become the largest small ship cruise line with a current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels around the world. In 2020, Viking plans to launch seven new river ships with six more ocean sister ships are on order and options for four additional ships. These options could bring Viking’s total ocean fleet to 16 ships by 2027.

A rendering of the Viking Expedition ship: Penthouse Junior Suite—Polar Option.
Courtesy of Viking

To develop the new expedition itineraries and programs, Viking has forged exclusive partnerships with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, both of which will match leading 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).

Viking says its arrival at the Great Lakes, in particular, will bring the most modern vessels ever to explore this region while also marking a major commitment to local tourism and economic development for the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. 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.

A rendering of the Deck 2 Aft Aula Auditorium on-board the Viking Expedition ship.
Courtesy of Viking

Guests will have supervised access to The Laboratory, a 430-square foot center equipped with wet and dry lab facilities, a sample processing area, fume cupboard, freezer and cool storage, comprehensive microscope optics, and extensive bench space for analysis-specific instruments. The Laboratory will be situated in a glass-enclosed mezzanine where guests can learn from and participate with scientists undertaking primary research, an experience unique to Viking, according to the company.

Viking says it will offer a variety of ways for guests to experience their destinations—in accord with their interests and activity levels—at no extra charge. Expedition equipment available for guests on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will include a fleet of military pro zodiacs designed for professional use in the harshest of environments; a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks; and two 12-seater convertible RIBs.

Each ship will also feature two six-guest submarines that feature revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows for an incomparable undersea experience. Provided equipment will include the necessary basics—such as boots, binoculars and waterproof pants—as well as safety equipment, like 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.

A rendering of the Deck 2 Aft area, Finse Terrace, on-board the Viking Expedition ship.
Courtesy of Viking

Guests will also be able to take in lectures at The Aula, 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 can seat half the ship’s guests at one time and will offer a dynamic 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 couches and warming lava rock “firepits” with panoramic views of the surroundings. The two spaces are designed to create an indoor-outdoor al fresco experience for guests to be immersed in nature.

Of course, it’s not all work and no play. In keeping with Viking’s Nordic roots, the onboard spa onboard is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in min, hosting a thermal suite featuring a sauna, a warm hydrotherapy pool, and a badestamp (hot tub), surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can also swim and lounge in three different temperature-controlled pools, including an “inside-out” swimming experience at the terrace pool located at the stern, which features a retractable glass dome.

A rendering of the Explorer’s Lounge on-board the Viking Octantis.
Courtesy of Viking

Starting today, January 15, all expedition voyages—including the new Great Lakes itineraries—are available to the public for booking.

Trips start in price and duration from $5,995 per person (including airfare within North America) for the eight-day trip around Niagara and the Great Lakes (form Toronto to Milwaukee). At the highest end of the scale is the 44-day voyage from Tromsø, Norway (the country’s northernmost town) to Ushuaia, Argentina. Starting above the Arctic Circle, the ship will sail past the Shetland Islands and Ireland before making the trans-Atlantic crossing, later making port in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and finally to the “Last Continent” (Antarctica).  Pricing starts at $33,995 per person, with discounted airfare from $999 per person.

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