Viking Announces The Launch of Expedition Ships

viking cruises launching expedition ships
Viking will launch expedition cruises with two brand-new ships. - Photo by Viking Cruises

Viking Cruises has announced their foray into yet another sector of the cruising industry: expedition voyages. Viking Expeditions will begin sailing in January 2022 with its first vessel, Viking Octantis, embarking on cruises to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes. A second expedition ship, Viking Polaris, will debut in August 2022 bound for Antarctica and the Arctic.

Viking’s presence in the Great Lakes will bring the newest and most modern vessels ever to explore that region of North America, and will mark a big commitment to local tourism for the states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. As part of an exclusive preview, past Viking guests have been able to book select expedition polar itineraries since October. Now, all expedition voyages, including the Great Lakes itineraries, are available to the public for booking. 

“We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we launched in 1997; then we reinvented ocean cruises and became the ‘World’s Best Ocean Cruise Line’ in our first year of operation, as well as every year since then. Now, 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. We began as Viking River Cruises; then we evolved into Viking Cruises with the addition of ocean cruises; today we stand singularly as Viking, offering destination-focused voyages on more than 20 rivers, five oceans and five Great Lakes, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents.”

To develop these expedition voyages, Viking partnered with some of the world’s best scientific institutions. The lead partner is the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute. This relationship is supported by a major endowment from Viking for scientific research into the polar regions, a Cambridge University full professorship based at the Scott Polar Research Institute, The Viking Chair of Polar Marine Geoscience, and a sponsorship fund supporting the Institute’s graduate students. As part of the endowment, the Institute’s scientists will undertake fieldwork onboard the expedition ships, and also share their expertise with guests. The line has also partnered with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a globally recognized bird research facility, whose ornithologists will regularly be onboard to provide information to passengers. Additionally, Viking has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose scientists will join expeditions in the Great Lakes to conduct research focused on changes in the region’s weather, climate, and ecosystems. They will also offer lectures onboard about the Great Lakes’ unique environments. 

Chairman Hagen detailed Viking’s plans during an event yesterday in Beverly Hills, and also announced that famed adventurers and educators Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will be honored as ceremonial godmothers to Octantis and Polaris, respectively. Arnesen, a native Norwegian, became the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994. Bancroft is the first woman to successfully ski to both poles. Arnesen and Bancroft also became the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001. Together, they co-founded Bancroft Arnesen Explorer / Access Water, an initiative that aims to engage and empower over 60 million minds to create a sustainable tomorrow. Arnesen will also periodically serve as a member of the Viking Expedition Team. 

During last evening’s event, attendees were treated to a performance by Sissel Kyrkjebø, one of the world’s leading crossover sopranos and ceremonial godmother to Viking Jupiter - the line’s newest ocean ship. Before her performance, she officially “named” Viking Jupiter, even though the ship wasn’t in California — it was sailing between the Falkland Islands and Cape Horn. After blessing the ship, she instructed the crew onboard via satellite to break a bottle of Norwegian aquavit against the ship’s hull. Viking’s executive vice president Karine Hagen spoke about Sissel’s close relationship with Viking. “We are grateful for our longstanding friendship with Sissel, who is responsible for many of Norway’s most treasured musical memories. 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 honored to have Sissel as the godmother of Viking Jupiter,” said Hagen. “Viking Jupiter’s location tonight, near Ushuaia, Argentina, is particularly significant. Ushuaia is the southernmost port our ocean ships currently visit, but with today’s announcement of Viking Expeditions, it will also serve as the launch port for our guests to explore the Antarctic region in Viking comfort.”

The new Polar Class 6 Viking Octantis and Polaris will hold 378 passengers in 189 cabins. Both ships are currently under construction and will be delivered in Norway by Fincantieri’s VARD. Designed by the same architects and engineers that designed Viking’s ocean ships, the ships are the perfect size for expeditions — small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River, but large enough to handle the roughest seas. Public areas onboard will be reminiscent of Viking’s other ocean ships, but reimagined for expeditions. Other spaces have been designed specifically for expeditions. Straight bows, longer hulls, and fin stabilizers will allow the ships to glide over the waves for the calmest possible journey, and ice-strengthened Polar Class 6 hulls will provide the safest way to explore. U-tank stabilizers will decrease rolling by up to 50 percent while the ships are stationary. 


viking expedition cruises junior suite
Junior Suite with Nordic Balcony - Rendering by Viking

A first for polar expedition cruise vessels, all cabins feature a Nordic Balcony — a sunroom that converts into an al fresco viewing platform. The Nordic Balcony’s floor-to-ceiling, distortion-free glass at the edge of the ship lets guests take the views in, while keeping the elements out. The top of the panoramic glass lowers to transform the stateroom into a sheltered looking with an observation shelf at elbow level to stabilize binoculars or a camera. There are six stateroom categories to choose from, ranging in size from 222 to 1,223 square feet: Nordic Balcony, Deluxe Nordic Balcony, Nordic Penthouse, Nordic Junior Suite, Explorer Suite, and Owner’s Suite. There are no oceanview-only or interior cabins on these ships. They all have a Nordic Balcony as well as a king-size bed and large bathroom with a glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor, and anti-fog mirror. Each cabin also has a drying closet that circulates warm air to dry and store clothing and expedition gear. 

Nordic Junior Suites (322 square feet) and Explorer Suites (580 square feet) include wood detailing and amenities like additional storage and seating, an expanded bathroom with double sinks, a fully-stocked mini-bar replenished daily, complimentary laundry and shoeshine services, priority restaurant reservations, welcome champagne, and more. Explorer Suites feature two separate rooms, a Nordic Balcony, and a full outdoor veranda. Each ship also features one Owner’s Suite, which is twice the size of the Explorer Suites. It features a living room with a six-seat dining table and a bedroom, as well as a 792 square foot private garden with a traditional Norwegian hot tub and outdoor dining table. 

Public Areas

viking expedition ship terrace rendering
The Finse Terrace with The Aula behind it - Rendering by Viking

The Aula will be a new venue to Viking; a stunning panoramic auditorium at the stern, inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall where the Nobel Peace Prize was historically awarded. The Aula will be a dynamic venue for lectures and entertainment, with floor-to-ceiling windows and 270-degree views. Adjacent to The Aula through sliding glass walls is the Finse Terrace, an outdoor lounge area with couches and warming lava rock “firepits” to keep cozy while enjoying the surroundings. Together, the two spaces can be combined to create an unmatched indoor-outdoor al fresco experience. 

viking expedition ship aquavit terrace
The Aquavit Terrace & Pools - Rendering by Viking

Similar to Viking’s regular ocean ships, Octantis and Polaris will have a two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow of the ship, offering the perfect spot to take in stunning scenery over a mug of mulled wine or glass of Norwegian aquavit. Located at the stern will be the Aquavit Terrace & Pools, an indoor-outdoor heated space with three temperature-controlled pools, including a unique “inside-out” swimming experience. 

viking expedition cruise nordic spa hydrotherapy pool
The hydrotherapy pool in the Nordic Spa - Rendering by Viking

The ships will also feature The Nordic Spa which has a thermal suite including a sauna, snow grotto, hydrotherapy pool, hot tub, and chaise lounges, all surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. The Fitness Center will provide the latest equipment and workout gear. 


viking expedition ship world cafe buffet
The World Café - Rendering by Viking

Viking’s expedition ships will offer a variety of dining options that build on the venues from their regular ocean ships, but have been redesigned for expeditions. The Restaurant will offer fine dining, featuring regional cuisine as well as always-available classics, and the casual World Cafe will be a new “market” concept that offers live cooking, an open kitchen, bakery, grill, and premium seafood and sushi choices as well as a wide range of international flavors. Mamsen’s, named for the Hagen family matriarch, serves Scandinavian-inspired fare; Manfredi’s offers the best of Italian cuisine; and 24-hour complimentary room service rounds out the ships’ dining choices.

Other Highlights

viking expedition ship the hangar
The Hangar - Rendering by Viking
  • The Hangar - An industry first, this enclosed, in-ship marina permits the launch of small excursion craft through the ship’s multiple shell doors. The Hangar’s most innovative feature is an 85 foot slipway that allows explorers to embark on RIBs from a flat, stable surface inside the ship, shielded from wind and waves. There’s also a FerryBox, a set of instruments continuously collecting and displaying data on water quality, oxygen content, plankton composition, and more.
  • The Laboratory - The ships, in addition to hosting guests, will also be working research vessels with an onboard team of Viking Resident Scientists working on a variety of studies. Developed with Viking’s academic partners, The 430 square foot Laboratory is designed to support a broad range of research activities and is equipped with wet and dry lab facilities, a sample processing area, fume cupboard, freezer and cool storage, comprehensive microscope optics, and extensive bench space for analysis-specific instruments. Guests will have supervised access to The Laboratory, which is located in a glass-enclosed mezzanine above The Hangar. 
  • Expedition Equipment - Equipment for all of the day’s adventures will be available for guests, including a fleet of military pro zodiacs, a fleet of two-seater Arctic-tested kayaks, and two 12-seater convertible RIBs. Each ship will also include two 6-guest submarines that feature 270-degree spherical windows. Everything travelers need will be provided: a Viking Expedition Kit contains items like boots, binoculars, and waterproof pants; each excursion will carry safety equipment such as satellite phones, VHF radios, ropes, life jackets, and a shore survival kit. Guests will also receive complimentary use of Viking Excursion Gear, which includes things like trekking poles, snowshoes, and skis.
  • Enrichment Onboard and Ashore - As part of Viking’s commitment to destination-focused learning, the line’s Institution partnerships will match leading researchers and educators with each expedition. Over 25 experts will accompany each journey: the Viking Expedition Team (expedition leader and staff, photographer, and submarine pilots) and Viking Resident Scientists (biologists, botanists, geologists, glaciologists, oceanographers, ornithologists, polar experts, and researchers). Onboard, passengers will enjoy daily briefings and world-class lectures about their destination and engage with working scientists in The Laboratory or participate directly in citizen science programs. On shore, travelers can assist in fieldwork or interact through experiential activities during landings, such as monitoring birds to help identify migratory patterns, accompany scientists to collect samples, or taking their cameras ashore with a professional photographer to learn how to best capture scenic landscapes. 
  • Inclusive Value - Every Viking Expeditions cruise fare includes a Nordic Balcony stateroom or suite, nearly all shore excursions, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Just as with Viking’s regular ocean cruises, passengers will also enjoy complimentary amenities as part of their fare including beer and wine with lunch and dinner, lectures, wifi, self-service laundry, access to the Nordic Spa, and 24-hour room service. Guests will also receive charter flights for hard-to-reach locales and the use of Viking Expeditions Gear equipment for land and sea excursions. On polar itineraries, guests also receive their own Viking Expedition Kit as well as a Viking Expeditions Jacket to keep.

Viking’s expedition ships will minimize environmental impact and meet the most strict emissions and biosecurity standards. Their straight bows will reduce fuel consumption, and a dynamic positioning system will enable the ship to hover over the seabed without anchoring, allowing access to pristine environments without damage. 


2022-23 Viking Expedition Inaugural Voyages

Inaugural voyages include the following itineraries:

  • Antarctic Explorer: 13 days, Buenos Aires to Ushuaia - pricing starts at $14,995 per person
  • Antarctic & South America Discovery: 19 days, Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro - pricing starts at $19,995 per person
  • Arctic Adventure: 13 days, roundtrip Tromsø - pricing starts at $13,395 per person
  • From the Arctic to the Antarctic: 44 days, Tromsø to Ushuaia - pricing starts at $33,995 per person
  • Undiscovered Great Lakes: 8 days, Thunder Bay, Ontario to Milwaukee - pricing starts at $6,695 per person
  • Great Lakes Explorer: 8 days, Milwaukee to Thunder Bay - pricing starts at $6,495 per person
  • Niagara & The Great Lakes: 8 days, Toronto to Milwaukee - pricing starts at $5,995 per person
  • Canadian Discovery: 13 days, New York to Toronto - pricing starts at $8,995 per person

From now through February 29, 2020, US residents can take advantage of an inaugural offer on 2022 and 2023 Viking Expedition itineraries. For information, visit

Viking has a current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels around the world. This year, the line will launch seven new river ships. Six more ocean ships are on order, with the option for four additional ones. These options, along with the launch of the two expedition vessels, could bring VIking’s total ocean fleet to 16 ships by 2027. 


Join the discussion

Would you consider taking a cruise on Viking Octantis or Polaris?

1 Comment

Posted by WeCruiseToo

Awesome news – thanks for the great article!

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