Courtesy of Viking Expeditions
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Courtesy of Viking Expeditions
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Courtesy of Viking Expeditions
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Courtesy of Viking Expeditions
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Courtesy of Viking Expeditions
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Viking Octantis

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

In just eight years, Viking has grown from a river cruise line founded in 1997 and known for scenic itineraries on Europe’s top waterways into a major ocean cruise line with nine award-winning 930-guest ships and, more recently, an expedition cruise operator with two sleek and identical Polar-Class-6-rated vessels. 

The first expedition ship in its fleet was the 378-passenger Viking Octantis (launched in early 2022). Its twin sister, Viking Polaris, debuted later that year. The ships were designed to cruise to Antarctica during its summer season (November to March) and explore the Great Lakes from May to September. In between, Octantis sails 65-night Longitudinal World Cruise itineraries as it relocates from Buenos Aires or Ushuaia to the Great Lakes (or vice versa). Summer sailings in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland are also now offered. 

On Viking Octantis, guests will find the familiar Scandinavian-inspired décor (the company’s founder, Torstein Hagen, is Norwegian) and the consistently excellent service and cuisine offered on all adults-only Viking ships. Spaces loved by previous Viking passengers — such as the forward-facing Explorer’s Lounge, the aft Aquavit Terrace, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant, and Mamsen’s for authentic Norwegian light bites — are all on Octantis. One major difference is that this ship has a much smaller indoor pool, located in the Aquavit Terrace and known as the Tepidarium. It extends outdoors, where guests can also enjoy a Frigidarium (cold pool) and Caldarium (hot pool), although one must climb between them using pool ladders.

What We Love

The Spacious and Light-filled Staterooms: Every stateroom and junior suite on Viking Octantis features a Nordic Balcony, which isn’t actually a balcony (impractical on ships cruising regions with colder, more temperamental weather) but rather a floor-to-ceiling window, the top of which lowers to allow for fresh air and glare-free views. This opens up the space and provides ample scenic viewing from all staterooms, each featuring inviting light wood furnishings and spacious bathrooms and ranging in size from 215 to 269 square feet. Nordic Balcony Junior Suites are 322 square feet, and two-room Explorer’s Suites are 548 square feet, while the 1,238-square-foot Owner’s Suite features indulgent extras and a private outdoor balcony.

The Spa Thermal Suite With a View: Viking’s Nordic Spa has always had a relaxing and complimentary thermal suite with a thalassotherapy pool, steam room, sauna, cold bucket drench, Experience Shower, and Snow Grotto (with actual falling snowflakes). The spa onboard Viking Octantis has all that plus a large panoramic window, so guests won’t miss the passing scenery while enjoying a warm soak after a day of adventure. And the adjacent Badestamp (hot tub) is actually in an outdoor alcove offering access to cool air as you soak.

The Aula: More great views? Yes! When the screen in this spectacular aft-facing auditorium is lifted, The Aula (named for the ceremonial hall at the University of Oslo that inspired its design), guests enjoy 270-degree views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Used for lectures and entertainment, the space overlooks the Finse Terrace, an outdoor lounge area with sofas and lava-rock “fire pits.” 

The Special Operations Boats: Whether you’re speeding past rocky islets populated by nesting bird colonies in Lake Superior or maneuvering among blue-tinged icebergs and torpedoing penguins along the Antarctic Archipelago, you’ll the love the Special Operations Boat (SOB) experience offered on Octantis. Stored in The Hangar (alongside the Zodiacs and submarines), these easy-to-board, high-tech crafts accommodate up to 12 passengers in comfortable, hydraulically adjusting seats to counteract bumps. The main caveat: The wind that whips through the open-air SOBs as they zoom around frigid waters means you’ll likely feel cold even if you’re warmly dressed.

Best Known For

Sleek Scandinavian Design: Viking is reliably consistent in the look and ambiance of its ships, so passengers who’ve sailed Viking River or Viking Ocean cruises will feel right at home amid the subdued neutral and pale blue palette and the cozy textured fabrics and throws. 

Onboard Lectures and Lab Sessions: Viking calls itself “The Thinking Person’s Cruise Line,” and its onboard program of guest lectures — in this case by resident naturalists and scientists—in The Aula offer insights into local flora and fauna, geology, and other topics. Guests can also sign up for hands-on sessions in the onboard Science Lab, such as analyzing collected water specimens for microplastics. In addition, Octantis launches weather balloons in conjunction with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and passenger participation is welcome.

Mostly Inclusive Pricing: Viking guests don’t have many surprise expenses while onboard, especially if they are content to drink the complimentary beer and wine offered at both lunch and dinner and enjoy the free shore excursion provided in each port. Wifi and specialty dining are also included in the cruise fare, but crew gratuities will be added to guests’ onboard accounts.

Who It's Best For

Affluent Mature Travelers: Viking’s expedition itineraries command a premium—in this case anywhere from $6,000 per person (for Great Lakes sailings), $12,000 per person or more for Antarctica cruises to $45,000 per person for Longitudinal World Cruises.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Onboard Toys Can Be Temperamental: Getting to try one of the yellow submarines (named John and Paul) aboard Octantis is a process that doesn’t always have a happy ending. In order to channel Jules Verne, you’ll need to sign a waiver, get weighed (the six-passenger submersibles must be weight balanced), and pass an agility test (because loading the submarines is done from a Zodiac). Then you’ll wait for your session to be scheduled and get into your expedition gear — only perhaps to have it canceled due to wind, waves, technical issues, or even one of your weight-balanced co-submariners not showing up. Viking is now charging $499 per person for a submarine dive (it had initially been free). Far easier, more exhilarating, and less claustrophobic is a complimentary ride in one of the SOBs.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger
Cruise Expert