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Viking’s first of two expedition ships to cruise in North America began, as the purpose-builtViking Octantis kicked off its inaugural season in the Great Lakes. Designed specifically to cruise the Great Lakes region,Viking Octantis recently completed an historic roundtrip through the Welland Canal.
This important waterway is located in a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway that connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Viking Octantis became the largest passenger ship to ever to transit the canal.
The ship will cruise the Great Lakes until early October 2022, with a variety of itineraries volleying between Toronto, Ontario and Duluth, Minnesota. Viking will launch a second expedition ship, Viking Polaris, later this year. Along with Viking Octantis, both expedition ships will cruise the Great Lakes for the 2023 season.
Viking Great Lakes Cruises Impact on the Region
Viking’s entry into Great Lakes cruising brings the newest and most modern ships ever to explore this region of North America. The ships will also contribute a substantial economic and tourism boon to the area. This includes ports in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio (beginning in 2023) and the Canadian province of Ontario.
“Our expedition ships were designed with the Great Lakes in mind. This region has been historically underserved by cruise lines, and we are delighted by the warm and enthusiastic reception we have received from the local communities,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “With our first season now underway, we are pleased with the strong demand among our guests and look forward to introducing even more curious travelers to these fantastic destinations in 2023.”
Viking Partners with NOAA
Viking has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), to help develop scientific enrichment program for its Great Lakes voyages. Both organizations conduct research on the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions.
The research information leads to resource use and management decisions for safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities. In a unique twist, Viking’s expedition ships are designated official NOAA / U.S. National Weather Service weather balloon stations. The ships will be actual working weather ballon launch stations.
Viking Great Lakes Cruises for 2022 and 2023
During Viking’s inaugural 2022 season, there are four itineraries for the Great Lakes. These include:
- Undiscovered Great Lakes: Eight days from Thunder Bay to Milwaukee
- Cross the width of Lake Superior between Duluth and the Soo Locks, explore the Apostle Islands and Keweenaw Peninsula. Hike along clifftop trails for panoramic views of Lake Superior. Kayak into sea caves by kayak and tour on foot or horse carriage through Mackinac Island. Be sure to buy some fudge!
- Great Lakes Explorer:Eight days from Milwaukee to Thunder Bay
- Discover the maze of granite islands that comprise Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. Hike and kayak through this pristine area before heading to Mackinac Island. Explore the boreal forests of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on Lake Superior’s northern shore.
- Niagara & The Great Lakes: Eight days from Toronto to Milwaukee
- From urban skylines to uninhabited islands, you’ll explore North America’s wilderness as well as Toronto’s cultural attractions. Learn about the lakes’ compelling shipping history, visit Niagara Falls and be on the lookout for scores of migratory birds at Point Pelee.
- Canadian Discovery Thirteen days from New York to Toronto
- From New York, you’ll head straight to Halifax, in eastern Canada. Admire the unparalleled beauty of the rugged coast of the Canadian Maritimes. Cruise along the wide expanse of the St. Lawrence River and marvel at the dramatic cliffs and wildlife of the Saguenay River Valley. Engaging shore excursions in each port allow you to better enjoy all this region has to offer.
New 15-Day Viking Cruise for 2023
- Great Lakes Collection: 15 days; Toronto to Duluth, Minnesota
- Join Viking for a unique expedition across the historic waterways of all five of the majestic Great Lakes. Experience culture-rich urban centers and admire the awesome power of thundering Niagara Falls. Explore the granite islands and sheltered inlets of Georgian Bay and traverse the famous Soo Locks. Study the aquatic ecosystems of the lakes and venture into the dense boreal forests that line the shores of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.
Viking Expedition Ships Overview
The new Polar Class Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris accommodate 378 guests in 189 staterooms and purpose-built for expeditions. Plenty of indoor and outdoor viewing areas enable guests to get as close as possible to the water for spectacular, unobstructed views.
- The Aula: A stunning panoramic auditorium inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall, the former venue for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Used for lectures, daily briefings, documentaries and films, this spectacular venue features a 4k laser-projected screen that retracts to expose floor-to-ceiling windows and 270° views.
- Finse Terrace: An outdoor lounge area just above sea level with recessed, heated seating and lava rock “firepits,” the Finse Terrace was designed to allow guests the comforts of the ship al fresco while enjoying the dramatic scenery. Named after the Finse Plateau in Norway, where some of the greatest polar explorers, including Nansen and Amundsen, did their expedition training in preparation for their North and South Pole expeditions.
- The Hangar: A state-of-the-art, industry-first in-ship marina providing ease of embarkation and disembarkation of Special Operations Boats and other equipment while sheltered from the elements.
- The Bow: An important forward-viewing platform. And in the case of inclement weather, The Shelter is a comfortable, partially enclosed space for guests to warm up with a hot drink before going back out into the elements.
- The Science Lab: Developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Akvaplan-Niva, The Science Lab, at 380 sq. ft., is designed to support a broad range of research activities and is equipped with wet and dry laboratory facilities. Guests have supervised access to The Science Lab to learn from and participate with scientists in undertaking meaningful research.
- Expedition Central: The hub for the expedition team to consult with guests on their expedition activities and share knowledge about the destinations on a one-on-one basis, with the aid of 3D printed maps, digital screens, and a state-of-the-art spatial data visualization chart table.
- Dining Choices: The Restaurant offers fine dining featuring regional cuisine and always-available classics; the casual World Café offers an open kitchen, bakery, grill and premium seafood and sushi choices, as well as a wide range of international flavors; Mamsen’s, named for the Hagen family matriarch, serves Scandinavian-inspired fare; and Manfredi’s offers the best of Italian cuisine.
- The Nordic Spa: Following a day of exploration, The Nordic Spa offers guests opportunities to experience the ultimate healthy Nordic traditions, with an indoor heated pool set against expansive windows and a badestamp (wood-sided hot tub) that is open to the outside.
- Explorers’ Lounge: Located high on the ship with floor-to-ceiling windows, the Explorers’ Lounge provides guests an ideal space to take in the magnificent scenery, share discoveries with fellow travelers or to enjoy a drink.
- The Living Room: On Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, The Living Room is located to maximize views of the surroundings through floor-to-ceiling windows and a library that informs even the best-read explorers. The Library is curated by acclaimed London bookshop Heywood Hill, as on all Viking vessels, as well as Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute.
- Nordic Balcony: A first for polar expedition vessels, all staterooms on board Viking’s expedition ships feature a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom that converts into an al fresco viewing platform 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.—all with 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 are similar 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, 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 (1,223 sq. ft.) that has three rooms –a living room, a board/dining room and a bedroom—as well as a 792 sq. ft. private deck with a traditional Norwegian badestamp open to the invigorating outdoors.
- Enrichment On Board and On Shore: Exclusive partnerships with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—as well as other prestigious scientific institutions match leading researchers and educators with each expedition. Thirty-six experts accompany each journey as part of the Viking Expedition Team, including an Expedition Leader and support staff, photographer, field research scientists, general naturalists, mountain guides, kayak guides, submarine pilots and specialists (ornithology, geology, higher predator biology and history). Daily onboard briefings and world-class lectures inform guests about their destination. On shore, they 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.
- Environmentally Considerate: Viking’s expedition ships have set a new standard for responsible travel with an energy-efficient design that exceeds the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) requirements by nearly 38%. In addition to an integrated bow that creates a longer waterline for the ships, engines with heat recovery systems and Azipod® Electric Propulsion, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris have received one of the industry’s first SILENT-E notations—the highest-level certification for quiet ship propulsion, minimizing underwater noise pollution.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.