When Viking Octantis quietly made its debut in February 2022, we were thrilled to see happy guests wearing bright red parkas waving from the bow of the new ship as it sailed through ice off the coast of Antarctica. Loaded with fun features, Viking Octantis is sure to be a hit, no matter its itinerary location.
From Viking Octantis' submarines to its unique passenger loading area, called The Hangar, the ship has a number of features sure to appeal to guests looking to make the leap to expedition cruising. Whether passengers are sailing Viking Octantis' Great Lakes itineraries or trying out its polar options, the new ship's features will appeal in any environment.
A longtime river stalwart, Viking made a splash when it began sailing the oceans in 2015, when Viking Star debuted. Those vessels, with 930 passengers, are wildly popular for combining an adults-only atmosphere with a luxury feel and no nickel-and-diming.
The cruise line took the same approach with Viking Octantis and sister ship Viking Polaris, both of which debuted in 2022. At 378 passengers, the ships fit that luxury expedition category, which gives passengers a chance to explore the farthest reaches of the globe and get close to wildlife, then return to a ship designed to offer Nordic comfort, great dining and superb service.
Read on for the five things that have us most excited about Viking Octantis.
Submarines are becoming the norm when it comes to expedition cruising, but Viking's newest cruise ship is doubling the fun, offering two submersibles. Each Viking Octantis submarine will carry six passengers and offer 270-degree views, thanks to revolving seats. What we really love is that using the submersible is free: Each guest will get at least one undersea voyage included in the expedition fare. This is a departure from what other cruise lines have been doing; other companies that offer submersibles charge a fee -- in some cases, a pretty steep one -- for submarine expeditions.
The Beatles would be in heaven, seeing their yellow submarines come to life as passengers explore life under the sea. One note: Submersibles are a great way to see things you've never seen before, but they are not allowed in all waters. Policies vary depending on location, so if the submersible experience is an important one for you, double-check that it's allowed where you're sailing. Luckily, they usually are permitted in the waters off Antarctica as well in Canadian waters on Great Lakes itineraries.
(Want to know more about adventure cruising? Check out our Editors' Tips on Taking an Expedition Cruise.)
Another recent trend in cruising has been the emergence of the Great Lakes as a destination. (Cruise lines such as Pearl Seas and American Queen Voyages are offering journeys to this area too). What we love about Viking Octantis Great Lakes itineraries is the addition of new ways to explore: via submersible or RIB inflatable vessels. Guests can explore the shores of places like Thunder Bay, Canada, or Wisconsin's Apostle Islands in a new way.
(See all of Viking Octantis' itineraries by checking out Cruise Critic's find a cruise feature.)
The Great Lakes offer a closer-to-home voyage for North American guests looking for a little adventure with a lot of comfort. Which brings us to the next feature we're really excited to try out …
One of the difficulties associated with expedition cruising is that it generally is only an option for people without mobility issues. Viking took that challenge head on, coming up with "The Hangar," the spot from which its sub and RIBs launch. The most-innovative feature looks to be its 85-foot slipway, designed to allow guests to get into and out of the smaller vessels from a flat and stable surface.
This is a pretty marked departure from the tendering experience you'll encounter on most other expedition ships, which usually require passengers to battle waves and wind to move from the ship to the tender. And it could open up expedition cruising -- and harder-to-reach places like Patagonia and Antarctica -- to people who have mobility concerns.
That said, it's still important to know that landings ashore still could require wet or difficult landings.
If you've traveled with Viking Cruises on its ocean-going vessels, you probably know about the cruise line's exceptional spas -- a multiple-time winner of Cruise Critic's Editors' Picks for the Best Spa at Sea. Viking Octantis will have a version of this stellar spa onboard.
When not out adventuring, guests can enjoy the ship's Nordic Spa, which will offer a variety of treatments, from massages to skin and salon options. The highlight, though, is the Thermal Suite, which includes a hydrotherapy pool, loungers and plunge pool designed around the Nordic ritual of hot and cold treatments. The best part is, the Thermal Suite is free for all passengers. This is a favorite spot for many passengers on Viking's ocean vessels, and we bet it will be on its expedition ships as well.
Part of the expedition experience is the learning component that comes with it. If you're visiting the Arctic, for example, you want to learn about the polar bears and bird life there, delve into the native culture and immerse yourself in talks about the climate.
Viking Octantis has created an auditorium, called The Aula, that will be the spot for taking in lectures from expedition experts and guides, watching movies or generally spending time gazing outdoors.
The reason this space stands apart is it features floor-to-ceiling windows that offer 270-degree views. When a movie is showing, a giant screen drops down and the windows are covered. But The Aula also can be opened to the adjacent Finse Terrace (pictured above), a large outdoor lounge that even features lava rock "firepits."
Viking championed the indoor/outdoor space on its river and ocean cruise ships with the Aquavit Terrace, and this feels like an exciting extension of that concept. When you're on an expedition cruise, you want to be steps from great views at any time so you don't miss a humpback breeching or a glacier calving. This space has you (part) covered.
Updated February 28, 2022