Thursday,  June 30, 2022  4:04 am

Viking celebrates inaugural season in the Great Lakes

  • Cruises
  •   05-26-2022  2:18 pm
  •   Pax Global Media

Viking celebrates inaugural season in the Great Lakes
Viking Octantis, seen here passing through the Welland Canal, has kicked off its inaugural season in the Great Lakes. (Viking)
Pax Global Media

Viking's new Viking Octantis has kicked off its inaugural season in the Great Lakes region, recently completing a roundtrip through the Welland Canal — a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie  making it the largest passenger vessel ever to sail through the canal. 

The ship, which the company says is experiencing a strong demand, will remain in the Great Lakes until early October 2022, sailing a variety of itineraries between Toronto and Duluth

A second expedition vessel, the Viking Polaris, will debut later this year and will join Octantis in the Great Lakes for the 2023 season. 

Viking Octantis transiting the Welland Canal. (Viking)

“Our expedition ships were designed with the Great Lakes in mind. This region has been historically underserved by cruise lines, and we are delighted by the warm and enthusiastic reception we have received from the local communities,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking. “With our first season now underway, we are pleased with the strong demand among our guests and look forward to introducing even more curious travellers to these fantastic destinations in 2023.”

READ MORE: “It’s modern and sleek”: Viking Octantis sightings spur excitement in Ontario

Viking’s arrival to the Great Lakes also brings a significant commitment to local tourism and economic development in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio (beginning in 2023) and Ontario.

Recent sighting of Viking Octantis sailing through Ontario have already been generating local buzz among locals and travel advisors. 

TIGHT FIT. More scenes of Viking Octantis transiting the Welland Canal. (Viking)

As previously reported by PAX, the new ship marks a return to cruising on the Great Lakes after two years of suspended service

"The return of cruise ship passengers to the Great Lakes will bring renewal and revitalization to our local tourism and travel sectors, hard-hit over the past two years,” said Geoffrey Wilson, CEO, PortsToronto, earlier this month.  “We are thrilled to welcome them back.”

For its Great Lakes voyages, Viking has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), which conducts innovative research on the environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities. 

Viking’s expedition ships have also been designated official NOAA / U.S. National Weather Service weather balloon stations, from which regular launches are undertaken.

Viking Octantis docked in Toronto harbour. (Kabir Bageria)

Four new itineraries

During Viking’s inaugural 2022 season, the company is operating four new itineraries in the Great Lakes. Highlights include:

In 2023, Viking will add a new, 15-day voyage:  

Viking expedition ships

The new Polar Class Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris host 378 guests in 189 staterooms. 

The vessels are purpose-built for expeditions, at an ideal size for safety and comfort in remote destinations. 

READ MORE: A first look at Octantis, Viking's first expedition ship

With more indoor and outdoor viewing areas than other expedition vessels, guests are as close as possible to the most magnificent scenery on earth. 

Highlights include: 

  • The Aula: A panoramic auditorium inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall, the former venue for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Used for lectures, daily briefings, documentaries and films, featuring a 4k laser-projected screen that retracts to expose floor-to-ceiling windows and 270° views.
  • Finse Terrace: An outdoor lounge area just above sea level with recessed, heated seating and lava rock “firepits," designed to allow guests the comforts of the ship al fresco while enjoying the dramatic scenery. Named after the Finse Plateau in Norway, where some of the greatest polar explorers, including Nansen and Amundsen, did their expedition training in preparation for their North and South Pole expeditions.

The Aula. (Supplied)

  • The Hangar: A marina providing ease of embarkation and disembarkation of Special Operations Boats and other equipment while sheltered from the elements.
  • The Bow: A comfortable, partially enclosed space for guests to warm up with a hot drink before going back out into the elements.
  • The Science Lab: At 380 sq. ft., this is designed to support a broad range of research activities and is equipped with wet and dry laboratory facilities. Guests have supervised access to The Science Lab to learn from and participate with scientists in undertaking meaningful research.
  • Expedition Central: The hub for the expedition team to consult with guests on their expedition activities and share knowledge about the destinations on a one-on-one basis, with the aid of 3D printed maps, digital screens, and a state-of-the-art spatial data visualization chart table.

Expedition Central. (Supplied)

  • Dining Choices: The Restaurant offers fine dining featuring regional cuisine and always-available classics; the casual World Café is an open kitchen, bakery, grill with premium seafood and sushi choices, as well as international flavours; Mamsen’s, named for the Hagen family matriarch, serves Scandinavian-inspired fare; and Manfredi’s serves Italian.
  • The Nordic Spa: Offering opportunities to experience healthy Nordic traditions, with an indoor heated pool set against expansive windows and a badestamp (wood-sided hot tub) that is open to the outside.
  • Explorers’ Lounge: Provides guests an ideal space to take in scenery, share discoveries with fellow travellers or to enjoy a drink.
  • The Living Room: On Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, The Living Room is located to maximize views of the surroundings through floor-to-ceiling windows and a library that informs even the best-read explorers. The Library is curated by acclaimed London bookshop Heywood Hill, as on all Viking vessels, as well as Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute. 

All staterooms on board Viking’s expedition ships feature a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom that converts into an al fresco viewing platform with an observation shelf at elbow level to stabilize binoculars or a camera. 

Guests can choose from six stateroom categories that range from 222 sq. ft. to 1,223 sq. ft.—all with a Nordic Balcony, as well as a king-size bed and large bathroom with spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated bathroom floor and anti-fog mirror. 

Every stateroom is also equipped with a floor-to-ceiling drying closet that circulates warm air to dry and store clothing and expedition gear.

Nordic Junior Suites (322 sq. ft.) and Explorer Suites (580 sq. ft.) on Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris are similar to those on Viking’s fleet of ocean ships, with wood detailing and amenities that include additional storage and seating, an expanded bathroom with extended shower and double sinks, welcome champagne, a fully-stocked mini-bar replenished daily, complimentary laundry, priority restaurant reservations and more. 

The Explorer Suite. (Supplied)

Explorer Suites feature two separate rooms, a Nordic Balcony and a full outdoor veranda. Additionally, each ship features one Owner’s Suite (1,223 sq. ft.) that has three rooms –a living room, a board/dining room and a bedroom—as well as a 792 sq. ft. private deck with a traditional Norwegian badestamp open to the invigorating outdoors.

Viking has also created a scientific enrichment environment in an expedition setting. 

Exclusive partnerships with the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—as well as other prestigious scientific institutions match leading researchers and educators with each expedition. 

For more info on Viking Octantis, click here. From now through May 31, 2022, Viking has special fares and reduced airfare on Great Lakes voyages.

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