(11:25 a.m. EST) -- Viking took delivery of its first purpose-built expedition vessel on Wednesday, welcoming Viking Octantis into its fleet in a ceremony held at Fincantieri's VARD shipyard in Soviknes, Norway.
The 378-passenger Viking Octantis set sail on Thursday, bound for South America where it will conduct its first revenue voyage in January, with a season of expedition cruises to Antarctica lined up in the coming months.
Viking Octantis will be named in New York City in April by explorer and educator Liv Arnesen. The ship will then operate summer cruises on the Great Lakes before returning to the polar regions.
Viking Octantis will be joined by sister-ship Viking Polaris, still under construction, in August 2022. Viking Polaris will immediately enter service in the Arctic before cruising to Antarctica for the Winter 2022-2023 season.
“Today is a proud day for the entire Viking family as we welcome our first expedition ship to the fleet and usher in a new era of exploration," said Viking chairman Torstein Hagen.
"Our guests have asked us to build on our award-winning river and ocean voyages to take them further, and that is just what we have done. Leveraging our long history of destination-focused travel, enrichment and innovative ship design, we are now perfecting expedition voyages and offering curious travelers the opportunity to visit the world's most pristine destinations in the most responsible way possible.
"With the arrival of Viking Octantis, Viking is now exploring all seven continents, and we look forward to welcoming her first guests on board in the coming weeks."
The launch of Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris is just one aspect of Viking's ambitious 2022 growth plans. The line also plans to start its first-ever Mississippi river cruises in August, debuting its new Viking Mississippi river cruise ship.
Viking will also take delivery of two new oceangoing vessels, Viking Mars and Viking Neptune, in 2022.