It wasn’t very long ago that if you wanted to take an expedition cruise, your choice of vessel might be limited to an old research vessel. A purpose-built expedition cruise ship designed to provide its passengers luxury, comfort, and scientific research opportunities? Unheard of, until now.
Recently I was invited to cruise aboard Viking’s first purpose-built expedition vessel, Viking Octantis. We’ve been following the development of this ship from when first announced, so we were excited to see the finished product. Viking is no stranger to cruising, and with twenty-five years under its belt as a company, they seem to always focus on the fine details. As you may know, their motto is “Exploring the World in Comfort.” Now with the Viking Octantis and her soon to arrive sister-ship Viking Polaris, this tagline has become a promise kept to its many loyal customers and repeat passengers.
So what did I think? Let’s start at the beginning.
This cruise would be a nine-night sailing from Barbados to New York City. Before my flight from Miami, I had to complete a Covid-19 test at a clinic at the airport. Barbados was not accepting self-administered tests for entry into the company. Before the cruise, I also used the VerifFLY app to transmit my vaccination information to Viking. Once at the cruise port, the embarkation was quick and easy. A bus drove me to the gangway to the ship farther down the pier. A short walk up the gangway, and my cruise had begun. Once aboard, I received a covid-19 antigen test and was held in The Restaurant until the ship’s doctor cleared me. I then went to my stateroom and provided a sputum sample for the ship’s onboard PCR test. Once I completed it, I could explore the ship with a mask on until I received the results later in the day.
In a word, the Viking Octantis is gorgeous. The amount of beautiful artwork and the Scandinavian interior design only impressed me more and more as I explored this beauty.
Here are some of her measurements, to name a few. She has a total guest capacity of 378 and 261 total crew members. The ship is 30,150 gross tons, 77 feet wide and 665 feet long. Viking Octantis is also a 100% polar class ship that allows safe travel to Antarctica and the Artic. The ship also offers some of the highest space-to-guest ratios, being one of the most spacious expedition ships afloat.
For the first time, I genuinely felt we were in a resort and not on a cruise ship, and it was a good thing. Every corner of this ship had a thoughtful design and purposeful attention to detail.
During the cruise, I stayed in Deluxe Nordic Balcony (DN3) 3007, which is 215 SQ Feet. Configured in a King-sized bed for my cruise, it was very comfortable with its luxury linens and pillows. The wall-mounted 55″ OLED flat-screen interactive TV offered an excellent selection of live tv, complimentary movies, live ship tracking, and more.
The Nordic Balcony had easy use controls that allowed me to hear the ocean waves and get fresh air at the touch of a button. It also has a screen that can block out any sun or allow for extra privacy. The included desk provided the perfect space for my laptop and other gear during the cruise. This space was a joy to sit in a enjoy room service breakfast as we sailed into port in the morning and watched as the sun rose.
The bathroom had a thoughtful design and featured a spacious enclosed glass shower with a door. It featured a heated floor, ant-fog mirrors, and the popular Freya toiletries.
The stateroom also came with two self-inflatable life vests, a drying closet, and a pair of Meopta Optika MeoPro 8×42 binoculars. I was also impressed by the stocked mini-bar and personal coffee machine with a great selection of coffee and teas.
The crew members aboard Viking Octantis made me feel very welcome, and they all seemed to learn my name overnight. I was impressed by how attentive each crew member was to all the passengers. They focused on helping you have a safe and enjoyable experience during the cruise. My cabin stewards, Michael and Arvin, were exceptional, and both spoiled me daily.
This purpose-built area is the first of its kind aboard any other expedition ship. The Hanger is a protected in-ship marina that allows easy launching of the ship’s two Special Operation Boats, two submarines, kayaks, and a fleet of Zodiacs stored onboard. This equipment is vital to allow guests on board to explore the places the ship will explore. Be it the Caribbean during my cruise or Antarctica, the Artic of the Great Lakes region. All of this is included with the price of your cruise too.
This ship has a large World Cafe with a modern food-hall-like design, including The Grill, where guests could order cook-to-order prime steaks for dinner or even a burger or hot dog for lunch. You can also expect an open kitchen and interactive space offering soups, salads, freshly carved meat, charcuterie, and live cooking stations for omelets, stir-fry, and amazing desserts during the cruise. The Sushi bar and chilled premium seafood available each evening were a highlight. However, one of my favorite areas is The Bakery with its incredible fresh-made Focaccias’, daily bread assortments, pizza, and cookies. The most popular spot was undoubtedly the gelato and the ability to create a sundae mixed on a chilled marble slab.
If you’d like a more formal dining experience, Viking Octnatis also offers reservations at The Restaurant and Manfredi’s every evening. You will also find 24-hour room service, coffee stations onboard, and Mamsen’s provides Norwegian delicacies.
One of the most impressive public spaces aboard Viking Octantis is The Aula. Inspired by the University of Oslo’s famed ceremonial hall, The Aula offers guests a comfortable venue for lectures and entertainment. It features floor-to-ceiling windows, and 270-degree views are stunning. We met here special events by the Captain during our cruise, Safety Briefings, Movies, and entertainment.