Viking has announced the launch of Viking Expeditions, a third string to the multi-award-winning cruise company’s bow, aiming to attract “curious explorers” with voyages to remote reaches of the earth.
Eight inaugural “journeys to the extraordinary” will traverse the Arctic, Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes, on two new state-of-the-art ships, setting sail from January 2022. It’s an exciting next step for Viking, which carried over half a million passengers on river and ocean cruises last year.
“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 and five oceans, visiting more than 500 ports in 100 countries and on all seven continents,” said Viking founder and Chairman, Torstein Hagen, at a launch event in Los Angeles this week.
Viking Octantis (named after the South Star) will head to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes, debuting with a 13-day Arctic Explorer trip, starting in Buenos Aires and spending a week in the Antarctic Peninsula. Viking Polaris (the North Star), will journey to Antarctica and the Arctic.
Its maiden voyage in August 2022, is a 13-day Arctic Adventure starting and ending in Tromsø and centred on Svalbard, an archipelago far north of Norway, less than 500 miles from the North Pole. Some 60 per cent of the landmass is covered with glaciers and its home to polar bears, reindeers and beluga whales.
In September 2022, Polaris will embark on a 44-day expedition taking passengers from the Arctic to Antarctica, via the Shetland Islands, Ireland, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Further down the line, the Atacama Desert, Patagonia, Easter Island and Iguazu Falls will be added to the series of hit-list destinations.
In a bid to create "the thinking person’s expedition", Viking have partnered with a trio of leading scientific organisations – the University of Cambridge’s Scott Polar Research Institute, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Each voyage will be enriched with the knowledge of more than 25 expedition experts and scientists, through an itinerary of inclusive lectures and excursions, focused around the wildlife, geography and science of the remote destinations. In addition, passengers can join scientists ashore to collect samples, and assist in primary research in an on-board, marine research vessel-standard, laboratory.
Adventurers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft – the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001–were named godmothers to Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, respectively. Norwegian-born Arnesen, who became the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994, will also be joining the Viking Expedition Team on select voyages.
The two 378-passenger, Polar Class 6 vessels feature straight bows and ice-strengthened, elongated hulls to reduce fuel consumption and navigate remote narrow stretches such as the St. Lawrence River in North America and Ontario’s Welland Canal; fin stabilisers to provide the smoothest ride through renowned rocky paths like the famously choppy Antarctica Drake Passage; a dynamic positioning system, which enables the ship to hover over the seabed, alleviating any potential damage from traditional anchoring, and U-tank stabilisers to reduce rolling by up to 50 per cent when the ships are stationary.
A fleet of 12-seater convertible RIBs, military-grade Zodiac boats and kayaks will ferry guests around and on shore, launched via an industry-first Hangar – an enclosed 85ft slipway where passengers can embark from a stable platform inside the ship, shielded from the elements – while two six-seater submarines will explore life beneath through 270-degree-aspect spherical windows.
In Hagen’s words, “one shouldn’t have to rough it,” and those familiar with Viking’s Ocean fleet will enjoy the same all-inclusive, five-star luxury, spacious modern Scandinavian design, signature restaurants serving up destination-focused flavours, and creature comforts (Viking's Nordic Spa, king-size beds, heated bathroom floors), plus new features to maximise views of the surroundings wherever you are on the ship.
Highlights include The Aula, a panoramic auditorium at the stern, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing a dynamic background to lectures and entertainment, and an Aquavit Terrace with three temperature-controlled pools sheltered by a retractable glass dome roof.
The 189 staterooms, across six categories, feature Viking’s new Nordic Balcony, putting the views centre-stage through a glass wall that lowers to create an al fresco lookout and sill to perch binoculars and cameras. A drying closet has also been added to store expedition gear (all of which is provided on the polar itineraries). At the top of the scale, the Owner’s Suite, which features a 792 sq ft private garden with traditional Norwegian badestamp (wood-sided hot tub).
“Many people confuse luxury with opulence,” said Hagen at the event, “but in my mind and the Viking mind it’s understated elegance”.
“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.”
Viking Expedition prices start at £12,995 per person for Antarctic Explorer, £10,995 per person for Arctic Explorer, and £27,995 per person for the 44-day From the Arctic to the Antarctic. Bookings are open now (vikingcruises.co.uk).
Inspiration for your inbox
Sign up to Telegraph Travel's new weekly newsletter for the latest features, advice, competitions, exclusive deals and comment.