Adding to its lineup of ocean and river vessels, Viking recently introduced the first of its expedition ships. Viking Octantis started sailing from Antarctica in 2022.
I hopped on the ship in Barbados and sailed to New York City. Here are my first impressions of the newest addition to their fleet:
1. Octantis is a sleek ship similar to other ocean cruisers in the fleet. But, even though there are similarities in appearance, there are definite differences. One of the main differences is that Octantis is much narrower than the other ocean going vessels. Have you heard of Panamax ships? The ones that can fit through the Panama Canal? Well, Octantis had to be narrow enough to fit through locks on the way to the Great Lakes. She will be sailing that region in the summer.
2. Upon boarding, I noticed the hospitality of the crew. Throughout the cruise, the crew continued to be friendly and engaging with passengers. Many remembered the names of guests, which added a bit of extra luxury to this cruise.
3. I sailed on Viking Orion and had that layout ingrained on my brain. Although the Nordic décor is quite similar on both ships, it tricked me into thinking that I was on Viking Orion. It took several days to delete the layout of the bigger ship from my memory.
4. Like other ships in the fleet, Viking Octantis has a distinctly Scandinavian flair, not a big surprise since it is a Norwegian-based company. And with this style comes a sense of hygge. The interior is soothing and welcoming. The design and layout of several intimate areas creates a very relaxing vibe throughout the ship.
5. Viking Octantis has comfy staterooms with plenty of storage. My Nordic Junior Suite had so many storage options that we didn’t even use them all. Had we had lots of expedition gear, we would have plenty of space available.
In this cabin, there were two large closets, plenty of drawers and extra storage in desks, cabinets and besides the beds. A proprietary feature for this expedition ship is a drying closet for all the wet gear.
The balcony staterooms have what Viking refers to as a Nordic Balcony. Basically, there is no real outdoor space. The window goes down about halfway opening the area to the sea as a traditional balcony would. This set-up allows more space in the room, but somehow lacks the feel of a true balcony.
6. There are plenty of quiet spaces throughout the ship. In fact, this is one of the quietest ships that I have been on. Throughout The Living Room, the main gathering room, there are many comfortable seating areas. Nearby shelves feature so many books that you might think that you are at the library. In fact, there is a small niche known as The Library.
One difference from Viking Orion, which I noticed, was that there were no electrical outlets in The Living Room area that could accommodate U.S. style plugs.
7. The many outdoor spaces were quite impressive. Dining tables outside the Aquavit Bar, near the far end of the dining room, offered a chance to enjoy the fresh air.
The ship had an easily-accessible bow and a protected area right behind it called the Shelter. Deck 6 also had a comfortable sun deck at the top of the ship.
In the aft of the ship, one of the areas that most intrigued me when I looked at the deck plans was the Finse Terrace — two separate sitting areas with table fireplaces looked like that perfect spot for enjoying a sunset or the fresh air while enjoying a beverage. Although the space did turn out to be comfortable, quiet, and relaxing, the nearest spot to get a beverage is far away.
8. Boarding the ship, I went to the World Café — the buffet — for dinner. I grabbed a plate and waited for the person behind the counter to serve me. I realized that on this ship, guests could actually serve themselves at many of the stations.
Although there were a few more options for dinner, the only options for breakfast and lunch were the World Café and Mamsen’s, the small self-serve dining area with a focus on Norwegian specialties.
Dinner also offered The Restaurant and Manfredi’s, so plenty of options. However, it was necessary to book in advance and reservations were not always readily available.
9. The ship was fairly easy to navigate once I erased those memories of the larger ship from my mind. Stateroom halls did enter directly into public areas like Explorers Lounge through fire doors, which seemed strange. Of course this kept the cabin areas quieter.
10. At the back of the Aquavit bar was a series of small pools. From looking at the deck plan prior to boarding, I was excited to try one of the warm pools. When I actually boarded and saw that this was a fairly public dining area and bar, I changed my mind. I like the concept, but I’m just not sure that it’s the best location.
11. Plenty of interesting artwork is scattered about the ship. Guests may learn more about it via an app. The focus on a variety of disciplines like the arts combined with science makes this ship appealing to people who seek more than just a leisure experience onboard.
12. Viking has a proprietary app. My guest and I often struggled with the functionality. The setup wasn’t intuitive to either of us.
Viking understands that expedition and luxury can be combined. It’s refreshing to see a comfortable area for relaxation after having a day of exploring on shore.
By Theresa Russell