BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Viking Cruises has opened the books
on a new product line: Viking Expeditions, an expedition cruise line that will
set sail in 2022.
The line in its first year of operation will have two,
378-passenger ships. The Viking Octantis, scheduled to debut in January 2022,
will sail Antarctica and the U.S. Great Lakes. The Viking Polaris, due in August
2022, will cruise in Antarctica and the Svalbard region in the Arctic.
Vard, a Fincantieri subsidiary, will build the
Viking's expedition ships will feature the Finse Terrace.
It had been anticipated that Viking was planning an
expedition line ever since it placed an order with Vard, which also was
constructing expedition ships for Ponant and Hapag-Lloyd.
Viking made the plans official during an event for trade and
media at the Hilton Beverly Hills Hotel, which featured a naming of Viking Jupiter cruise ship by
soprano Sissel Kyrkjebo and a brief performance. (The naming was conducted remotely, as the Jupiter is currently sailing near Ushaia, Argentina.)
In remarks from the stage, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen said that he had "long had the ambition to do something in Antarctica." the company had been making plans for an expedition ship as early as 2013.
And there was applause when Hagen revealed plans for the Great Lakes cruises that take in ports such as Thunder Bay, Ontario; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Mackinac Island, Michigan, saying that "guests also like to cruise near home." The ships are being built specifically to fit that water system's locks.
Viking has also activated the URL viking.com, which include links to all three product lines.
At a Q&A session with press, Hagen said: "We have
one brand, so everybody really knows what they're getting when they're
getting a Viking product. I think that's comfortable. From the get-go we
said we're about exploring the world in comfort. So 'exploring' has
been part of our tagline. It's a logical step at this time in our career."
The Octantis and Polaris will do double duty as cruise ships
and research vessels. Viking said it will host researchers and scientists via partnerships
with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology, among others. Another partnership is with the University of
Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, where Viking has created an
endowment, the Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience, that supports the
institute’s graduate students.
As part of the endowment, scientists will conduct fieldwork
on the ships and interact with passengers.
A 430-square-foot space called the Laboratory will be “designed to support a broad
range of research activities,” Viking said. Guests will have supervised access
to the area.
Another view of the Finse Terrace outdoor lounge.
The Laboratory will overlook the Hangar, which Viking said will
be an industry first: an in-ship marina enabling the launch of small excursion
craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors, including an 85-foot slipway
that enables guests to embark rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) from a stable,
interior surface. The ships will carry Zodiac craft, kayaks and two
In the rendering Hagen showed to guests at the Hilton, he pointed out with a smile the color of the submersibles. "We have a yellow submarine."
Viking said the ships would meet guidelines and requirements
from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, the
Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and others. The ships’ straight
bows are expected to reduce fuel consumption. A dynamic positioning system will
enable the ships to hover over the seabed without anchoring.
Each passenger will be provided with a Viking Expedition Kit
with boots, binoculars and waterproof pants. They will have access to
satellite phones, VHF radios and excursion gear like trekking poles and
The expedition ships will feature the
Scandinavian design ethos seen on its river and ocean ships. Guests who have sailed Viking will recognize some of the public spaces on Octantis and Polaris. But there will be touches unique to
For example, the cabins will have what Viking called a Nordic Balcony:
a sun room where the top of the glass can be lowered to the open air. "You don't need an outdoor balcony -- it's cold," Hagen said. "We've taken that space and brought it inside." He also showed off an image of the drying closet that will be in each cabin, for airing and drying items like wet expedition jackets and gear.
start at 222 square feet, but the top accommodation is the 1,223-square-foot
Owners Suite with a living room, six-seat dining table, 800-square-foot private
garden and traditional Norwegian wood-sided hot tub.
A rendering of the expedition ships' pool deck.
Viking is designing the aft decks of the ships as a
combination lecture hall and outdoor lounge. The Aula auditorium is inspired by
the University of Oslo’s hall where Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded, and its
backdrop will be floor-to-ceiling windows with 270-degree views.
Adjacent to the Aula will be the Finse Terrace, an outdoor
lounge with couches and warming lava rock “firepits.” Viking said the two
spaces can be combined for “an unmatched alfresco experience for guests to be
immersed in nature.”
This report was updated to include remarks by Viking chairman Torstein Hagen.