Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Viking
Cruise StylePremium
Ship SizeMidsize
Prince Range$$$$
Sails To

Ant...reat Lakes

Antarctica, Arctic, Great Lakes
Sails From

Ush...hunder Bay

Ushuaia, Tromso, Milwaukee/Thunder Bay
Duration8-15 days

The first of two planned expedition vessels for Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking Octantis melds the Nordic style of Viking’s typical ship design with the practicality of an expedition vessel. About half the size of a Viking Ocean Cruises ship (with a third the passenger capacity), Octantis is nevertheless larger than a typical expedition ship so that it can accommodate both zodiacs for landing in wilderness areas but also creature comforts including an expansive thermal suite, several restaurants, and nicely sized cabins. It’s large enough that you won’t be uncomfortable on sea days, but small enough so that every passenger can be disembarked for every expeditionary excursion.Read More

Octantis is based half the year in Ushuaia, Argentina, sailing a variety of itineraries to Antarctica. It spends late spring and summer in the Great Lakes, and will periodically do a short season in the Arctic in late summer, though the itineraries are still in flux. During all these periods, a dedicated scientific and expedition staff remain on board to see to the needs of not only passengers but also a rotating array of scientists and lecturers, who will board throughout the year. A serious group of scientists has been involved in planning expeditionary activities, especially for Antarctica, and Viking plans for Octantis to participate in real research projects, such as gathering water and ice samples and launching weather balloons. Passengers will have an opportunity to volunteer to help with ongoing projects in a dedicated science lab onboard.

Although passengers who have sailed previously with Viking will recognize the hallmark Viking design and line flourishes, Octantis is a brand-new design for Viking, with a dedicated launch bay called “The Hangar” for its two onboard submarines, two Norwegian-designed special operations boat, sea kayaks, and dozens of Zodiacs that can bring all the passengers for a single landing when the conditions permit. The line touts the ship’s zero-emissions waste treatment system and other safety measures to prevent contamination of pristine environments.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Pros
Cons
All the comfort and style Viking passengers have come to expect, including no inside cabins, albeit in a smaller ship
Few extra charges (limited mainly to spa treatments, some shore excursions, and alcoholic drinks beyond mealtimes)
Use of Zodiacs, ocean kayaks, the expedition boat, and two submarines is included  
The submarines and special-operations craft have extremely limited capacity and may not accommodate all passengers  
This ship is large for an expedition vessel, and that can make it slow to get everyone off for a landing
Cabins have large windows that open (only the two largest suite categories have actual balconies)

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Editor Rating
Cabins
Accessibility

Regular cabins on Viking Octantis (called “Nordic Balcony” or “Deluxe Nordic Balcony”) are identical, at 215 square feet. The so-called balcony is actually a window that can be fully lowered to give you access to the outside; the space that is taken up by a couple of armchairs and small table on a Viking Ocean Cruises ship is turned into a cozy sitting area. It’s an excellent solution for sailing in areas that are typically too cold to sit comfortably on a real balcony. All staterooms have large 55-inch TV (with complimentary on-demand movies and satellite channels), king bed (convertible to two twins), complimentary minibar (with soft drinks, water, and snacks), coffee maker, both US and European charging plugs and USB ports on each side of the bed, a bathroom (only a big shower, with a heated floor, hair dryer, and Freyja toiletries), large closet, drying closet for expedition gear, and binoculars. The only meaningful difference between regular and “deluxe” staterooms is priority advance booking privileges for expedition activities, specialty dining, and spa treatments; the minibar is also refilled daily. Regardless of your cabin category, your cabin will be stocked for polar expeditions with required gear, including a red Viking parka (which you keep) and other specialty excursion gear you need.

Penthouses (269 square feet) are larger and offer more priority booking opportunities, as well as free pressing, shoe shine, a bottle of Champagne, and alcohol in the minibar. They also get a second closet. Junior Suites (still larger at 322 square feet) get more priority booking opportunities, double sinks in the bathroom, and free laundry and dry cleaning. Explorer Suites (548 square feet) are larger still and have real balconies, a dining table, a complimentary Silver Spirts package, and access to the Explorer Suites Garden. The Owner’s Suite (1,238 square feet) is the largest accommodation on board, with an expansive outdoor deck with its own hot tub. But regardless of your accommodations category, all staterooms accommodate only two people.

All Viking Octantis staterooms are built with older travelers in mind, so all thresholds are low, but if you require a zero-entry shower and room for a wheelchair, there are two fully accessible junior suites. Most areas of the ship are accessible by elevator (other than the Hangar), and even the special operations boats board from a platform within the ship, making them ideal for those with limited range of motion.

Food & Drink

Editor Rating
Dining
Bars

There are no extra charges for food on Viking Ocean Cruises ships. Every item on every single restaurant menu is included — a hallmark of the line. And the quality is generally high without all the fanciness you’ll find on a full-on luxury ship that serves caviar and foie gras with every meal. Viking Octantis has four restaurants: The Restaurant (the ship’s primary restaurant, with a wide-ranging menu that’s often geared toward regional specialties as well as an never-changing menu of classics that are available on every single Viking Ocean or River ship); Manfredi’s (an Italian restaurant that features both pastas and steaks); the World Café (much more than a typical buffet, with individual cooking stations, and on Octantis a separate sushi bar, cold seafood bar, and grill for individually prepared steaks and lobster at night); and Mamsen’s (named after the chairman’s mother, it serves her favorite Norwegian specialties, including pea soup, open-face sandwiches, and waffles). A bakery and coffee bar in the World Café are open 24 hours a day, and you can also get round-the-clock room service in your cabin.

Although you can purchase a “Silver Spirits” alcoholic drinks plan, wine and beer are included with meals, though other drinks cost extra (charges are reasonable by cruise-ship standards, so you do need to be a relatively heavy drinker—or strongly prefer premium alcohol and wine—to really benefit from the beverage plan). The largest bars are in the Explorers’ Lounge, the Living Room, and the Aquavit Terrace, but see if you can find The Hide, the “hidden” bar and lounge on a lower deck in the bow at sea level that turns into a speakeasy at night. There’s also a small bar outside The Restaurant, which is open in the evening.

Entertainment

Editor Rating

One very important thing to remember about Viking Octantis is that it is not a typical cruise ship. Having been designed specifically for exploration and discovery, there is little traditional “entertainment” save for a piano player and singing duo performing before or after dinner. But the array of lectures and briefings in the spectacular Aula theater near the back of the ship is outstanding. The scientific aspect of the cruises is taken very seriously; partners include the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, and NOAA. There are activities galore for those who want to explore on shore, where you’ll be taken by either Zodiac or one of the two special operations boats (which are easier to board than Zodiacs since they can be boarded and launched from a platform within the ship’s hangar). There are also two six-person submarines. Movies are shown on a big screen in the Aula theater, and big-screen TVs can be found in the Living Room.

Spa & Fitness

Editor Rating

There’s a small but full-service spa and salon, and a workout room sufficient for the number of passengers on board (it is well-used). Yoga and Pilates classes are included, but you must pay extra for personal training and spa treatments. As on all the Viking Ocean Cruises ships, the thermal pool, sauna, and snow grotto are all complementary, if on a slightly smaller scale, and they do not carry an extra charge.

Key cruising tips

Health & Safety

The ship has a health clinic, and free seasickness pills are distributed as needed.

All passengers must be fully vaccinated (boosters are strongly recommended), and they may be asked to provide proof of vaccination prior to embarkation.

Advanced air purification is used in all Viking ships, but masks are not required, though they are encouraged for on shore excursions.

Dress Code

The dress code is always casual, even at dinner. On polar expeditions, you won’t feel uncomfortable in jeans and a sweater at all times.

Junior Cruisers

There are no special programs because children under 18 are not allowed on Viking ships.

 

 

 

 

 

Service 

Service is smooth and efficient, without pretense. In fact, Viking is well loved for its friendly staff and efficient service.

Tipping

A $15 daily charge is added to all bills automatically, though it can be adjusted at the discretion of passengers.

QUICK FACTS

SHIP STATS
Entered Service
2022
Number of Cabins
189
Passenger Capacity
378
Crew Members
256
Passengers to Crew Ratio
1.48
Gross Tons
30150
Width
77 feet
Length
665 feet

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