Viking Cruises made the plunge into the fast-growing expedition cruise segment with the launch of Viking Octantis. Sister ship Viking Polaris is coming, too, and these new 378-passenger cruise ships have a mix of innovation and comforts that make exotic and rugged destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic regions and the fjords of Chile more attainable for travelers who previously had been wary of the physical requirements of an adventure journey.
Viking has created The Hangar, a revolutionary enclosed marina that provides a stable launch of excursion boats from an 85-foot slipway that allows cruisers to embark on "Special Operations Boats" from a flat surface inside the ship, shielded from wind and waves. This makes expedition cruising more accessible than ever for older people and those with physical limitations.
I sailed on one of the early voyages of this exciting new ship, a cruise from Barbados to NYC, as Viking Octantis repositioned for its first season on the Great Lakes.
The ship offers the first-of-its-kind launch system, "paddle-free kayaks" and two submarines, in addition to several other features that cruisers will love.
Viking Octantis is the first expedition ship from Viking Cruises.
This vessel brings together much of what is familiar to and adored by loyal Viking cruisers who have sailed on the line's river and ocean ships.
The ship also delivers a leveled-up adventure cruise experience, unlike anything we've seen before on an expedition ship.
The larger size (I've sailed on adventure ships that typically hold 60 to 200 cruisers) and space ratio allows Viking to offer so many extras that make traveling to remote destinations a more comfortable trip filled with new ways to enjoy expedition voyages.
Life onboard while you sail is comfortable. Viking Octantis features an elegant and luxurious feel with the line's traditional Scandinavian decor that has been the trademark on the river and ocean ships.
Viking's first expedition ship (a second, Viking Polaris, joins the fleet in 2022) feels much like a mini maritime museum, too, with public spaces, hallways and various nooks and out-of-the-way spots filled with books, artwork, photos, models, engravings, inscriptions and other interesting items that tell tales of legendary expedition journeys to the polar regions and other places across the globe.
The food and service meet the extremely high standards for Viking Cruises, and all of the fellow passengers we sailed with during our 10 days onboard our "Caribbean Connections" voyage from Barbados to New York raved about their onboard experience.
However, it's what this exciting new ship combines with the traditional cruise experience that makes Octantis a special expedition ship, indeed.
Here are seven things we think you'll look forward to enjoying on Viking Octantis. (There are many more, of course, but these are the features that truly stand out.)
We joined for discussions about whales and harmful algae blooms, among other topics.
The Aula features massive windows that let the sunlight and scenery stream into the theater located at the aft of the ship. The views are stunning. Window shades come down to create the right lighting for presentations, and the shades are covered with reproductions of Edvard Munch frescos that Viking received permission to display from the partnership with the University of Oslo, which is home to the Oslo University Aula venue for which the space is named.
Viking also shows movies here on a massive screen that drops from the ceiling. We saw documentaries and recent-release feature films on the program during our sailing.
The Hangar and The Landing
The Hangar holds two yellow submarines and two Special Operations Boats. These are used for spectacular tours in destinations such as the Great Lakes and the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.
The Special Operations Boats (SOBs) are especially revolutionary because they allow for easy and safe boarding and departures during all kinds of conditions. The boats are rolled off the back of the ship though a kind of large garage door structure. These are military-grade boats that can go at high speeds and handle all types of sea conditions.
Octantis carries two six-passenger subs, Yellow Submarines called John and Paul, that offer rides for all passengers (included in your fare, but reserve a spot early online before you cruise). These are fun excursions that can take you up to 300 meters under the oceans and lakes where you visit.
Excursions include kayaking, and the 16 kayaks onboard can be set up as pedal-powered kayaks on smooth waters, so less-experienced paddlers can easily participate.
This space also offers the Science Lab, where resident expert scientists invite passengers to help with research and data-collection projects, covering topics like micro plastics in the oceans and water acidity.
The Science Lab features microscopes, white lab coats, filters, slides and computerized analyzers, so that cruisers can really get a feel for how Viking Octantis has taken a lead position among passenger vessels for aiding scientific research missions during the ship's voyages.
You can indulge in wonderful breads and pizzas baked right in front of you.
There is also a sushi bar and The Grill, which are essentially two separate eateries. The Grill features burgers, hot dogs and other sandwiches during lunch and transforms into a steak restaurant for dinner, with a range of prime cuts made to order.
Plus, there are salad stations with all kinds of additional hot and cold food choices.
Desserts include large cookies, cakes, tarts and the gelato stand, where you can get mix-ins like cookies and candies added to your gelato.
Decor and books located around the space highlight seafaring history and exploration. The lounge features windows with views all around the bow of the ship, and you can walk outside on Deck 4 to catch wildlife, sunsets or fresh air.
A musical duet performs here, and Pap's bar keeps the drinks flowing as cruisers cap their nights with music, dancing and chatting with new friends.
LivNordic Spa and Fitness
The massive facility features stunning views through floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can enjoy the scenery from lounge chairs or the big thalassotherapy pool that runs the length of the room.
The spa also has a badestamp warm tub, a sauna, steam room, snow grotto, an experience shower and a cold bucket room.
Heated loungers are also available in a quiet room off to the side.
The spa features a menu of massages and other treatments. Plus, there is a hair salon.
The gym is well equipped with cardio and resistance training machines, and a separate studio is attached for individual or group classes. You can ask a spa staff member to load a workout class of your choice into an app and displayed on the big screen for your individual sessions in the studio area.
Finse Terrace and Aquavit Terrace
There are also prime viewing spots at The Bow on Deck 3 and up top on Deck 6, which offers couches and loungers for enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
Aquavit Terrace is an indoor-outdoor venue at the aft on Deck 5 that offers a small swimming pool and a series of plunge pools.
The heated swimming pool is indoors, but it connects with the outdoors Tepidarium pool, which sits next to the Frigidarium (cold) and Caldarium (hot) plunge pools. These infinity-style pools feature stunning views of the wake and are my favorite spots for a drink and end-of-day rejuvenation.
The Hide is open all day, though, and is a wonderfully quiet space to read a book or play a game of cards with friends. Keep a lookout through the angled windows for any creatures at play just above the water line. You could spot dolphins or seabirds -- or maybe even polar bears on the ice when visiting remote Arctic regions.
Videos Tours of Viking Octantis
Thanks for reading, and happy travels!