The Aula auditorium features a retractable 4K laser-projected screen and floor-to-ceiling windows
Building on its offering of river and ocean voyages, Viking debuted its first expedition ship, Viking Octantis, in January 2022 with voyages to Antarctica.
In line with Viking chairman Torstein Hagen's vision, the 378-guest ship was designed by Richard Riveire, founding principal of Los Angeles-based interior design firm Rottet Studio, who also designed all of Viking’s Longships and ocean vessels. According to Riveire, the initial idea for Viking Octantis’s design was inspired by the unique experience of visiting the polar regions.
“Only very few people in history have been able to set foot in Antarctica,” says Riveire. “So we wanted to give people the experience of going on an expedition, while also feeling comfortable and secure. Therefore, the ship offers a balance between an industrial feel, with exposed steel and submarines, and some of the more decorative and luxurious elements that will be familiar from other Viking ships.”
Viking Octantis will sail in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season and the Great Lakes in North America during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. This posed a challenge for Riveire, who had to ensure that the design would be suitable for both environments.
“It was a tough problem for us to solve, because we’re talking about two wildly different places,” he says. “Snow references in the design aren’t going to work when its 35C in the western Great Lakes. So, we focused on wildlife and the scenery as both places are untouched and unspoiled wildernesses. Getting guests to explore is the important thing, and the ship’s design enables this.”
Among the new spaces onboard the ship is The Aula, a panoramic auditorium inspired by the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall that features a retractable 4K laser-projected screen and floor-to-ceiling windows. Another is The Hangar, an enclosed, in-ship marina where guests can embark and disembark from excursion craft on an 85-foot slipway, and elsewhere is Expedition Central, which provides a hub for the expedition team to share knowledge about the ship’s destinations using 3D printed maps, digital screens, and a spatial data visualisation chart table. Areas throughout the ship feature an extensive collection of art, including pieces by acclaimed artists such as Olav Christopher Jenssen and Jakob Weidemann.
Riveire highlights one of Viking’s signature spaces, the Explorers’ Lounge, as one of his favourites. The lounge has been updated with a new design onboard Viking Octantis.
“The Explorers’ Lounge is an amazing place on all of our ships,” says Riveire. “However, in Viking Octantis we managed to create a much more three-dimensional feel to the space with the decks stacked on top of each other. The mezzanine runs around the space as a big, freestanding balcony, and the wide 270-degree view allows you to choose between spectacular views of your surroundings or focusing on your friends.”
The ship embarked on her maiden voyage to the Antarctic in January 2022, with Riveire among the passengers onboard. He took the opportunity to observe the reaction from guests to the design and judge its success.
“Without wanting to sound like an egotist, people were really enjoying the ship,” he says. “Behaviour is the key giveaway, because seeing how people react to spaces, observing which ones they use and which ones they tend to cut through, is incredibly useful as a designer.”
This article was first published in the 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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