BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Viking’s pair of expedition ships will operate winter cruises in Antarctica. But in the offseason, one of the vessels will head to a slightly more unusual destination for an expedition ship: the Great Lakes. 

The two ships have ice-rated hulls for polar operations, but their beam and length were calculated specifically to fit through the Welland Canal locks between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which provide access to the western portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway. 

In introducing the expedition line from the stage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said, “We do our research, and we know our guests also like to be cruising near to home.” 

The unveiling of the Great Lakes itineraries brought exclamations and applause from the audience.

“I think this new cruising area, the Great Lakes, should be a very interesting place,” Hagen said, adding that he thought it had been “underserved.”

The cruises to the lakes on the Viking Octantis will start in the summer of 2022 and sail between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Milwaukee and between Milwaukee and Toronto. Depending on the itinerary, the ship will visit Georgian Bay in Lake Huron; Mackinac Island, Detroit and Traverse City, Mich.; and Duluth, Minn.  

The voyages would mix visits to urban destinations with wildlife sightings, kayaking and hiking.

As with Arctic and Antarctic cruises, scientists will be onboard; the Octantis, like its sister ship, the Polaris, has dedicated lab space. On the Great Lakes cruises, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct research on the region’s weather, climate and ecosystem and will serve as guest lecturers. 

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