Viking has announced it is expanding its destination-focused travel experiences with the launch of new expedition voyages. Viking Expeditions will begin sailing 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.
Viking's arrival to the Great Lakes will bring the newest and most modern vessels ever to explore this region of North America, visiting the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario.
As part of an exclusive preview, past Viking guests have been able to book select Viking Expeditions polar itineraries since 9 October 2019. From 16 January 2020, all expedition voyages – including the new Great Lakes itineraries – are available to the Australian and New Zealand public for booking.
“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,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking.
“Our guests are curious explorers. They want to continue travelling with us to familiar and iconic destinations, but they would also like to travel further. We began as Viking River Cruises; then we evolved into Viking Cruises with the addition of ocean cruises; today we stand singularly as Viking, offering destination-focused voyages on more than 20 rivers and five oceans, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents.”
To develop the new expedition voyages, Viking has partnered with some of the world's most prestigious scientific institutions. The lead partner is the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute. 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 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.
About Viking Expedition Ships
The new Polar Class 6 Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will host 378 guests in 189 staterooms; both ships are currently under construction and will be delivered in Norway by Fincantieri's VARD. Designed by the same experienced nautical architects and engineers that designed Viking ocean ships, the ships are optimally sized and 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.
Straight bows, longer hulls and state-of-the-art fin stabilizers will allow the ships to glide over the waves for the calmest possible journey; ice-strengthened Polar Class 6 hulls will provide the safest way to explore and U-tank stabilizers will significantly decrease rolling by up to 50 percent when the ships are stationary.
Guests will recognise the distinctly Viking experience from the moment they set foot on board. Customised to navigate the planet's most remote environments, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will offer the same comfort as Viking's ocean and river ships. The ships will feature public spaces that are familiar to Viking's ocean cruise guests but that have been reimagined, as well as new public spaces created specifically for expeditions. Modern Scandinavian design will feature throughout, with elegant touches, intimate spaces and attention to detail, including panoramic views from any location on the ship.
- The Hangar: An industry first, The Hangar brings true comfort to expedition cruising. This enclosed, in-ship marina allows the launch of small excursion craft through the ship's multiple shell doors, providing easy, comfortable and safe access to the water. The Hangar's most innovative feature is an 85 ft. slipway that allows guests to embark on RIBs from a flat, stable surface inside the ship, shielded from wind and waves. Once onboard, the RIB glides into the water. There is also a FerryBox, a set of instruments continuously collecting and displaying data on water quality, oxygen content, plankton composition and more.
- 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 robust program of complimentary experiences, expedition equipment available for guests on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will include two six-guest submarines that feature revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows for an incomparable undersea experience; 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. Everything guests need will be provided: a Viking Expedition Kit will contain items like boots, binoculars and waterproof pants; each excursion will 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 Laboratory: Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, while hosting guests, will also function as 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 sq. ft., 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, an experience unique to Viking.
- The Aula & Finse Terrace: Viking has created the world's most advanced venue for learning at sea with The Aula, a stunning 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 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 comfortable couches and warming lava rock “firepits” – perfect for panoramic views of the surroundings. Together the two spaces can be combined to create an unmatched indoor-outdoor al fresco experience for guests to be immersed in nature.
- Nordic Balcony: A first for polar expedition cruise vessels, all staterooms on board Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris feature a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom that converts into an al fresco viewing platform – inspired by Norway's bird-observing hides and designed to bring guests closer to the wildlife and places they will explore. Harnessing the Norwegian reverence for light and to create the optimal wildlife observatory at sea, the Nordic Balcony's floor-to-ceiling, distortion-free glass at the very edge of the ship lets guests take the views in, with no veranda impeding on views and no intrusion to living space, while keeping the elements out. Should guests wish to feel even closer to nature, the top of the panoramic glass lowers 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 sq. ft to 1,223 sq. ft: Nordic Balcony, Deluxe Nordic Balcony, Nordic Penthouse, Nordic Junior Suite, Explorer Suite and Owner's Suite. All staterooms feature 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 unique floor-to-ceiling drying closet that circulates warm air to dry and store clothing and expedition gear.
- Expedition Ship Suites: Nordic Junior Suites (322 sq. ft.) and Explorer Suites (580 sq. ft) on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris rival those on Viking's fleet of ocean ships, with abundant 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 feature two separate rooms, a Nordic Balcony and a full outdoor veranda. Additionally, each ship features one Owner's Suite, which at 1,223 sq. ft, is twice the size of the Explorer Suites. With the most exclusive accommodations and amenities on board, it features two separate rooms – a living room with six-seat dining table and a bedroom – as well as a 792 sq. ft. private garden with a traditional Norwegian badestamp (wood-sided hot tub) and outdoor dining table.
- 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.
- The Nordic Spa & Fitness Center: In keeping with Viking's Nordic heritage, The Nordic Spa on board is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind – with a thermal suite that features a Sauna, Snow Grotto and chaise lounges, as well as a warm hydrotherapy pool and badestamp (hot tub), surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. A state-of-the-art Fitness Center will also provide the latest equipment and workout gear.
- 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, offering the perfect spot for taking in stunning 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 successful venues from Viking's ocean ships, but which have been redesigned for expeditions. The Restaurant will offer fine dining featuring 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 wide range of international flavours; Mamsen's, named for “Mamsen,” the Hagen family matriarch, serves Scandinavian-inspired fare; Manfredi's offers the best of Italian cuisine; and 24-hour room service will be complimentary for all guests.
- Enrichment Onboard and On Shore: Connecting guests to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking is creating “the thinking person's expedition.” As part of that commitment to destination-focused learning, Viking's exclusive partnerships with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology 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). On board, guests will enjoy daily briefings and world-class 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. 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.
- Viking's Inclusive Value: 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.
Details of Viking's plans were unveiled by Chairman Hagen during a celebratory launch event in Beverly Hills, California. Hagen announced that famed adventurers and educators Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will be honoured 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 finish a number of arduous expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. 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.
This announcement is the most recent development as Viking continues to increase its award-winning presence in the travel industry. In the last eight years alone, 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 will launch seven new river ships. Six more ocean sister ships are on order, with options for four additional ships. These options could bring Viking's total ocean fleet to 16 ships by 2027.
2022-2023 Viking Expedition Inaugural Voyages
- Antarctic Explorer (13 days; Buenos Aires to Ushuaia) – This ultimate adventure takes you into the heart of the Antarctic peninsula, where you will see where penguins and seals compress the cycle of life into a short season; hike on “The Last Continent” with your expedition leader for insight into the extreme geology of the dramatic landscape; and watch whales breach and glaciers calve into the sea from the comfort of your ship. Multiple sailing dates in January, February, November and December 2022; January and February 2023. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$20,995 per person, twin share.
- Antarctic & South America Discovery (19 days; Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro) – Embark on a journey of extremes, taking you from icy Antarctica to tropical Rio. Explore the Antarctic Peninsula, covered in ice and teeming with penguins, seals, whales and other wildlife; witness 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. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$27,995 per person, twin share.
- Arctic Adventure (13 days; Roundtrip Tromsø) – Experience the Arctic summer on this expedition, centered on Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Discover dramatic landscapes far north of the Arctic Circle, where deep fjords give way to glaciers; and look out for polar bears and seals from a RIB. Multiple sailing dates in August and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$18,495 per person, twin share.
- From the Arctic to the Antarctic (44 days; Tromsø to Ushuaia) – Traverse the globe from the far north to the extreme south on this ultimate journey. Start in Norway's northernmost town above the Arctic Circle and continue past rugged peaks and fishing villages to the rolling landscapes of the Shetland Islands and Ireland's green shores. Next, cross the equator on your trans-Atlantic sailing to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, then further on to Buenos Aires and finally—to the “Last Continent”—to be amazed by the otherworldly scenery, pristine nature and abundant penguins, seals and other wildlife few will ever see. Sailing date: 21 September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$47,995 per person, twin share.
- Undiscovered Great Lakes (8 days; Thunder Bay, Ontario to Milwaukee) – From Northern forests to pristine lagoons, encounter the natural splendor of the Great Lakes. Visit bald eagle and bear habitats that abut charming frontier towns in this remote region of North America; and pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron via the impressive Soo Locks. Multiple sailing dates between May and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$9,395 per person, twin share.
- Great Lakes Explorer (8 days; Milwaukee to Thunder Bay, Ontario) – Embark on a true expedition along “the nation's fourth seacoast,” from Georgian Bay's granite islands to Thunder Bay's towering cliffs. Experience the car-free idyllic Mackinac Island, and learn about indigenous cultures and frontier life along the way. Multiple sailing dates between May and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$9,095 per person, twin share.
- Niagara & The Great Lakes (8 days; Toronto to Milwaukee) – From urban skylines to uninhabited islands, discover the wilderness nestled in the interior of North America alongside world-class cultural attractions in Detroit, Toronto and Milwaukee. Witness the majesty of Niagara Falls, and enjoy scenic cruising past North America's busiest border as you cross Lake Huron. Multiple sailing dates in April, May, June, July and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$8,395 per person, twin share.
- Canadian Discovery (13 days; New York to Toronto) – Cruise from Canada's southeast coast to the St. Lawrence River, where you will learn about the region's rich past amid stunning natural settings and celebrated cities. Sail along the coasts of New England and Nova Scotia; discover the remote reaches and locally sourced seafood of Prince Edward Island; explore the Saguenay Fjord, home to seals, whales and other sea mammals; and go salmon fishing in Quebec's Moisie River. Sailing dates in April and October 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at AUD$12,495 per person, twin share.
Book before 31 March 2020 and save up to $2,000 per couple with Viking's Inaugural Offer on 2022 & 2023 Viking Expedition itineraries. Conditions apply. For additional information, contact Viking Cruises at 138 747 (AU) or 0800 447 913 (New Zealand) or visit vikingcruises.com.au/expeditions.