6 Things to Love About Viking Octantis, Viking’s First Expedition Ship
Viking Cruises was first known for its Europe river sailings. Then, in 2015, the cruise line debuted ocean-class ships that could traverse deeper, larger waters. Today, Viking Cruises hosts bucket-list-worthy expedition voyages featuring standard amenities like a pool and bar, along with a laboratory stocked with microscopes and a submarine for next-level shore excursions.
Enter Viking Octantis, a 378-passenger expedition vessel that was custom-built to cut through the ice in Antarctica and squeeze through the locks in the Great Lakes. The ship set sail for the first time earlier this year in South America and debuted along North America's Great Lakes in May.
Whether you're aiming to check the Great Lakes off your bucket list or head south to Antarctica, here's what you can expect onboard Viking Octantis.
1. The itinerary
Bored with the Caribbean? Tired of Europe? Focused on two parts of the world — North America's Great Lakes and South America — 22 different itineraries get you to places hard to visit on your own, such as Antarctica, Patagonia, and tiny towns along the Great Lakes. These are as short as seven nights (such as "Niagara & the Great Lakes," from Toronto to Milwaukee, Wisconsin) or as long as 18 nights (try "Antarctica & South Georgia Island," which sails round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina), not counting repositioning cruises. There's also the new 64-night Longitudinal World Cruise I, which sails from Ushuaia to Milwaukee.
2. Kayaks and submarines on board
Instead of partnering with an adventure company in port to host kayaking tours and excursions, Viking Octantis is equipped with its own kayaks — as well as two bright-yellow submarines. With a six-passenger capacity complete with 270-degree views from inside, each sub is used for undersea voyages in Canada and Antarctica. Who knows, you may spot a shipwreck in the notoriously deep Great Lakes. The best part? There's no additional fee: It's included in each passenger's fare!
3. Geek out in the science laboratory
There's a full-on laboratory with microscopes and other science gadgets on Viking Octantis. The activities for guests vary based on where the ship is traversing. In the Great Lakes, for example, this might mean studying collected water under the microscope for microplastics that can harm aquatic and mammal life. Partnerships with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mean six scientists are on board with you.
4. The lava rock fire pits
Sometimes, you just want to be out on the deck. However, on Viking Octantis itineraries, you might need to don a light sweater or polar fleece to stay warm. Fortunately, you can cozy up by the lava rock fire pits on the Finse Terrace, and you might still find the desire to sip a glass of sparkling wine (a bar is conveniently nearby).
5. The warming cave
The cruise line's signature Nordic Spa is designed to emulate the Scandinavian bathing ritual with a sauna, Vichy shower (in which cold water is dumped over your head), and snow grotto (life-like snow to rub all over your body). Also, on Viking Octantis, a "warming cave" means mosaic-tiled lounge chairs in a room looking out at the pool heated to just the right temperature — chairs and cave included. Even if you don't book a massage or other spa treatment, access to all the above facilities is free.
6. Weather balloon launches
Similar to the laboratory, this is a science-focused feature that's pretty darn cool. In 900 locations worldwide, weather balloons are released into the air twice daily to detect weather patterns and climate conditions. As part of Viking's partnership with the NOAA, one of those prized locations launches from the vessel's top deck.
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