The new ships will include several industry-first features tailored to expedition voyages (Image: Viking Cruises)
Viking Cruises is to launch expedition voyages under a new Viking Expeditions brand, with two purpose-built vessels set to debut in 2022.
Viking Octantis is scheduled to begin sailing in January 2022, embarking on voyages to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes. A second expedition ship, Viking Polaris, will debut with sailings to Antarctica and the Arctic in August 2022.
Both ships will accommodate 378 guests in 189 staterooms and are currently being constructed by Vard, Fincantieri’s Norwegian subsidiary. They will include the first in-ship marina in the cruise sector, which will allow guests to embark on small excursion craft from inside the ship. The vessels will also feature a range of expedition equipment, including two six-guest submarines and a fleet of military zodiac boats.
Viking has partnered with several scientific institutions to develop the voyages. The University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute is the lead partner, with Viking providing an endowment for a full professorship based at the institute, as well as a sponsorship fund supporting graduate students.
As part of the endowment, the institute’s scientists will undertake fieldwork onboard the expedition vessels in ‘The Laboratory’, a 430-square-feet research space. Guests will have supervised access to ‘The Laboratory’ to learn from the scientists and participate in primary research. Researchers from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also regularly join cruises to conduct research and interact with guests.
“In creating ‘the thinking person’s expedition,’ we are perfecting polar expedition cruising, and we will usher in a new era of comfortable exploration in the heart of North America,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking. “Our guests are curious explorers. They want to continue traveling with us to familiar and iconic destinations, but they would also like to travel further.”
Adventurers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will serve as godmothers to Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris respectively. Arnesen became the first woman to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994, while Bancroft was the first woman to successfully ski to both poles. Arnesen will also periodically serve as a member of the Viking Expeditions team.
Viking’s plans for the expedition voyages were revealed at an event in Beverly Hills, US. The event also saw the official naming of Viking Jupiter, the newest ship in the cruise line’s ocean fleet, by godmother and soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø. The singer offered the traditional blessing of good fortune for the ship, before instructing crew members to break a bottle of champagne on the ship’s hull as it sailed between the Falkland Islands and Cape Horn, Chile.
“We are grateful for our longstanding friendship with Sissel, who is responsible for many of Norway’s most treasured musical memories,” said Karine Hagen, executive vice president of Viking. “Sissel was my grandmother ‘Mamsen’s’ favorite singer – and she has been part of the Viking family since we launched our first ocean ship, Viking Star. We are honoured to have Sissel as the godmother of Viking Jupiter.”
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