Inside Viking Cruises’ new expedition-class ships


Viking Cruises has announced that it will introduce expedition voyages to the Arctic, the Antarctic and the Great Lakes region of North America on purpose-built ships beginning in 2022, as an expansion of its destination-focused travel experiences.

The first dedicated expedition vessel for Viking Expeditions, the Viking Octantis, will begin sailing in January 2022, embarking on voyages to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes. Viking’s arrival to the Great Lakes is expected to bring local tourism and economic development for the US states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario.

A second expedition vessel, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022 and sail to Antarctica and the Arctic.

Both Polar Class 6 ships are currently under construction and will be delivered in Norway by Fincantieri’s VARD. Designed by the same nautical architects and engineers that designed Viking ocean ships, the ships are small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River, while large enough to provide superior handling and stability in the rough seas. Each ship will host 378 guests in 189 staterooms.

“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,” says 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, five oceans and five Great Lakes, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents.”

Onboard the new Viking expedition-class cruise liners 

Both expedition ships will feature public spaces that will feel familiar to Viking’s ocean cruise guests, but they have been reimagined for expeditions. New public spaces were also created specifically for expeditions. Straight bows, longer hulls and state-of-the-art fin stabilisers will allow the ships to glide over the waves. The ships will also have ice-strengthened Polar Class 6 hulls; U-tank stabilisers will decrease rolling by up to 50% when the ships are stationary.

Viking’s expedition ships will feature modern Scandinavian design with elegant touches, intimate spaces and attention to detail.


The Hangar: An enclosed, in-ship marina permits the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors. 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. 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: While hosting guests, Viking’s expedition ships 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 430ft² (39.94m²), 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.

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. Expedition equipment available for guests on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will include a fleet of military pro zodiacs designed for professional use in harsh environments; a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks; and two 12-seater convertible RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats). Each ship will also feature two six-guest submarines that feature revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows. 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 speciality items like trekking poles, snowshoes and skis.

The Aula & Finse Terrace: Viking has created a venue for learning at sea with 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 will offer a dynamic venue for lectures and entertainment, with floor-to-ceiling windows and 270º 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’ – offering panoramic views of the surroundings. The two spaces can be combined to create an indoor-outdoor al fresco experience for guests to be immersed in nature.

Nordic Balcony: All staterooms onboard Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris feature a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom that converts into an alfresco viewing platform. 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, 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 stabilise binoculars or a camera. Guests can choose from six stateroom categories that range from 222ft² (20.6m²) to 1,223 ft² (113.6m²) – 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 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: The 322ft² (29.9m²) Nordic Junior Suites and the 580 ft² (53.8m²) Explorer Suites on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will feature wood detailing, 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 1,223 ft² (113.6m²) Owner’s Suite. It features two separate rooms – a living room with six-seat dining table and a bedroom – as well as a 792 ft² (73.57m²) 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 terrace 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 Centre: 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 Venues: 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.

Deck 2 Expedition Central Photography Studio – Studio Wall and Coffee Bar

Salon on-board the Viking Expedition ship

To develop the new expedition voyages, Viking has partnered with scientific institutions, with the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute as a 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 recognised bird research facility, whose ornithologists will regularly be on board the expedition ships, providing guest advice and interaction.

Viking has also partnered with the U.S. 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.

Details of Viking’s plans were unveiled by Chairman Hagen during a celebratory launch event in Beverly Hills, Calif. Hagen also 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 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 to raise awareness of the urgency for clean water and share solutions for a sustainable future. Arnesen will also periodically serve as a member of the Viking Expedition Team.

Images: Viking Cruises


About Author


Marisa has been writing about transport design and the passenger experience since 2013 and is also a contributor to sister titles Aircraft Interiors International and Business Jet Interiors International. She has travelled the world extensively by car, plane, train and cruise liner.

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