Viking Cruises is deploying its two newest expedition ships to the Great Lakes region this spring and summer, after launching operations with just one vessel last year. Viking Polaris made her first port call May 3, 2023 at Toronto, joining sister ship Viking Octantis, which began her series of 2023 lake cruises in April.
Ships Will Cruise All Five Great Lakes
The growing popularity of Great Lakes cruising has prompted Viking Cruises to expand its reach in the area, adding a second expedition ship to sail the lakes through September. The cruise line entered the Great Lakes market in spring 2022 with the deployment of Viking Octantis. Each of the expedition ships accommodates up to 378 guests.
Itineraries call for the ships to cruise in all five of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. The interconnected freshwater lakes in the upper midwest of the US and bordering Canada meet the Saint Lawrence River, which joins the Atlantic Ocean off Canada’s eastern coast.
Cruisers on Great Lakes itineraries have opportunities to visit the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
“We are proud to welcome both of our expedition ships to the Great Lakes. With historic canals that are engineering marvels, cities with thriving arts and culture and unmatched wilderness, this is a phenomenal region of North America that may be familiar to many—but few have had the opportunity to explore,” said Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises Chairman.
“After our first full season of Great Lakes voyages in 2022, we are grateful for the warm welcome we received from each destination and look forward to introducing even more curious travelers to the region this season and in the years to come.”
The two ships will offer a wide variety of itineraries, including two completely new cruises.
The 15-day “Great Lakes Collection” cruise, from Toronto, in Canada’s Ontario Province, to Duluth, Minnesota, sails in all five of the lakes, as well as visiting Niagara Falls and Georgian Bay, and transiting the Soo Locks, the parallel locks between Lake Superior and the lower lakes.
The 16-day “Canada & the Atlantic Coastline” cruise travels between Toronto and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and southward along the Atlantic coast with calls to Quebec City, New York, and Charleston, among other destinations.
Other voyages that will be repeated from the 2022 season include the 8-day “Undiscovered Great Lakes,” the 8-day “Great Lakes Explorer,” and the 8-day “Niagara & the Great Lakes.”
The Great Lakes voyages also represent an opportunity for Viking Cruises to expand its onboard scientific enrichment programs, with a partnership between the line and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).
The partnership will help the government agencies to conduct research on the ecosystems of the lakes, as Viking’s expedition vessels are designated as weather balloon stations for NOAA and the National Weather Service.
About the Expedition Vessels
Both polar-class vessels are new, with Viking Octantis completed in 2021 and Viking Polaris delivered to the line in 2022. The ships are purpose-built for expedition cruising in remote destinations while offering luxury level amenities and a wealth of viewing spaces.
The Aula, for example, is a panoramic auditorium with floor to ceiling windows, while the Finse Terrace is an outdoor lounge nearly at sea level and featuring lava rock fire pits. A forward-viewing platform, the Bow, is a partially enclosed space used in inclement weather. The ships also each have a Science Lab, where scientists conduct research.
Dining choices include The Restaurant plus the casual World Cafe, Mamsen’s, serving Scandinavian-inspired foods, and Manfredi’s, an Italian venue. The ships’ Nordic Spas offer indoor heated pools and a hot tub. In staterooms, Nordic balconies feature a sunroom that converts to an al fresco viewing platform.
Following their seasonal deployments to the Great Lakes, both ships will begin Longitudinal World Cruises in September. Viking Polaris will cruise from Duluth to Ushuaia, and Viking Octantis will sail from Milwaukee to Ushuaia and Antarctica.