On Wednesday evening, at The Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom, under the glow left behind by the movie stars who attended the Golden Globes awards ceremony only two weeks prior, Viking—in a room full of travel advisors, Viking executives, press and other notable guests—celebrated the naming of the Viking Jupiter, with Norwegian soprano Sissel as the godmother, as well as the debut of Viking Expeditions.
“I’ve long had an ambition to do something [with expedition voyages],” said Torstein Hagen, Viking’s chairman, during the celebratory evening. “ We had the first draft for an expedition ship in 2013,” but as Hagen noted, it wasn’t ready for prime time.
Jump ahead seven years, and Viking is finally ready to dive into the expedition segment. And, of course, Hagen was quick to point out that they’ll do it better than anyone else, noting their extraordinary success with ocean voyages when the cruise line’s forte had long been river cruises.
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. Yes, you read right. In addition to exploring the Polar regions—they’ll begin sailing to the Arctic in August 2022 aboard a second expedition ship, Viking Polaris—Viking Expeditions will also sail the Great Lakes, because according to Hagen, it’s an “underserved area. We did research with past guests and saw that the market was there.”
Hagen refers to this new launch as “the thinking person’s expedition,” and when speaking to the Great Lakes voyages specifically, he says it means “ushering in a new era of comfortable exploration in the heart of North America.”
The 378-guest, 189-stateroom ships, Octantis and Polaris, are Polar Class 6 and 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. One of the ships’ most innovative features are their U-tank stabilizers, which will significantly decrease rolling by up to 50 percent when the ships are stationary.
One of the highlights of the new ships—which Hagen noted will have all the top-end amenities travelers have come to expect from Viking and many of the same public spaces of the ocean ships although reimagined for expedition voyages—is The Hangar, an enclosed, in-ship marina that allows for the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors. Its 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.
The ships, while hosting guests, will also be working research vessels with an onboard team of Viking Resident Scientists, and as such The Laboratory will be buzzing with activity. Developed in consultation with Cambridge University and Viking’s other academic partners, the 430-sq.-ft. Laboratory will be accessible to guests under supervision while learning from and participating with scientists undertaking primary research. To add to that, Viking’s exclusive partnership with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will match leading researchers and educators with each expedition. There will be 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).
For exploration, the ships will have a robust program of complimentary experiences via expedition equipment, including a fleet of military-pro Zodiacs; a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks; two 12-seater convertible RIBs; and two 6-guest submarines that feature revolving seats and 270-degree spherical windows. Those submarines, by the way, are “yellow submarines” and with two on each ship, there’s a yellow submarine in honor of each member of The Beatles.
One of the public spaces that produced the most “oohs and aahs” during the evening’s presentation was when Hagen revealed The Aula & Finse Terrace. Inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall where the Nobel Peace Prize was historically awarded, The Aula will offer a 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”—ideal for panoramic views of the surroundings.
The crowd also swooned when Hagen revealed the Nordic Balcony. Featured in all staterooms, it’s a sunroom that converts into an alfresco viewing platform. The balcony’s floor-to-ceiling, distortion-free glass at the very edge of the ship is ideal for wildlife viewing, and for those who 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.
Viking 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 the aforementioned 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 stores clothing and expedition gear.
For top-of-the-line accommodations, we must highlight the Owner’s Suite, featuring two separate rooms—a living room with 6-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.
Of course, if you’re a Viking partner you know the ideal guest for all Viking voyages is 55+, and the expedition voyages are no different. The Viking guest, stressed Hagen, is English-speaking, well-educated, affluent, curious and active, and interested in history, science, culture and music. By the way, as Hagen read down the list, he said, “well, I’m all those things,” so if you know Hagen, you know the ideal client for a Viking voyage.
Highlighting an itinerary for each region the ships will be sailing, there’s the 13-day Antarctic Explorer, from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Guests will hike on the “Last Continent,” guided by their expedition leader, who will provide insight into the landscape’s extreme geology. And they’ll 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 $14,995 per person, with discounted airfare from $999 per person.
In the North, the 13-day Arctic Adventure, roundtrip Tromso, is centered on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, with its dramatic landscapes far north of the Arctic Circle, where deep fjords give way to glaciers; and guests will have the opportunity to look out for polar bears and seals from a RIB. Multiple sailing dates in August and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at $13,395 per person, with discounted airfare from $999 per person.
Meanwhile, on the 8-day Undiscovered Great Lakes, from Thunder Bay, Ontario to Milwaukee, guests will get to see the area’s Northern forests and pristine lagoons, as well as bald eagle and bear habitats that abut charming frontier towns. They’ll also pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron via the impressive Soo Locks. Multiple sailing dates between May and September 2022. Inaugural pricing starts at $6,695 per person, with free airfare within North America.
Another option is the 13-day Canadian Discovery, from New York to Toronto. It sails from Canada’s southeast coast to the St. Lawrence River, where guests will learn about the region’s rich past amid stunning natural settings and celebrated cities. They’ll 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 $8,995 per person, with free airfare within North America.
As Hagen noted, For Viking, all about the destination, the voyage, not the cruise itself. Viking Expeditions is about “journeys to the ends of the earth and closer to home.”
For more information, visit viking.com.