Viking expanded into the expedition cruising arena following success in both the river and ocean cruise sectors. The line follows a model that maintains consistency across its fleet. All of the ships in the same class are nearly carbon copies of previous ships. Viking has taken the best components of its ocean ships and combined them with the essential design of an expedition ship.
Here’s a look at the similarities and differences between Viking Ocean and Viking Expedition:
1. Larger Than Competitors
The most obvious difference between ocean and expedition is the design and size of the ships. Ocean ships accommodate 930 guests while expedition ships sail with 378 guests. The expedition ships are Polar Class 6 ships allowing them to navigate in a variety of conditions and geographic areas. Cruising narrower canals and locks requires the smaller beam of the expedition ships. Smaller ships mean access to a greater variety of ports.
2. Viking’s Signature Design
The Scandinavian design remains a high point throughout the ocean and expedition fleets. Lots of comfortable areas for relaxation and conversation are found within the Living Room areas on both types of ships. Everything is just a bit more compact on the expedition ship, but it never feels crowded even on the smaller ships.
3. Cozy Conversations
Winter Garden, the spot on the ocean ships for a lovely tea, is missing from the expedition ships. On the expedition ships, specialty coffees can be had at the small bar in the Living Room. On ocean ships, The Living Room (atrium) extends over several decks.
4. Similar Staterooms
Both ships have the same great stateroom amenities. The expedition ships do have a drying closet for gear. On all of the Viking ships, the bathrooms have heated floors and towel racks — perfect after a cool day of adventure.
5. Octantis’ Hidden Bar
Hidden on deck one, The Hide is a bar offering mostly neat drinks. Its location makes it the ideal place to meet with a small group of friends. Don’t expect to get a mixed drink here, but if you simply need a nightcap of pure spirit, this dark spot might suit your need to escape from other guests.
6. Garage For Water Toys
A special feature of the expedition ship is The Hangar. Consider it the garage for all of the toys on board. Kayaks, Special Operation Boats, two submarines, Zodiacs, and other equipment are found in this large area. Watch the Viking Daily for opportunities to utilize some of this equipment. Note that there are restrictions and regulations depending on which countries the expedition ships sail. For example, it’s quite difficult to comply with U.S. regulations. The submarine adventure does require a mandatory training session.
7. Non-Traditional Expedition “Theater”
While the ocean ships do have a theater, the expedition ships have a theater-like space called The Aula, inspired by the space at the University of Oslo’s hall where Nobel Peace Prize winners receive their awards. The full-glass windows allow a 270-degree view of the area.
8. Similar, But Smaller Spa
Both ocean and expedition cruises offer the Nordic Spa and spa services with a Nordic flair. Despite its smaller size, the expedition ships efficiently maintain many of the same experiences, just on a smaller scale. Even though smaller in size, the expedition ships include a fitness center.
In addition to the pool in the spa area on the expedition ships, there are small swim-through pools in the Aquavit Terrace. On ocean ships, the infinity pool occupies the Aquavit Terrace area.
9. Familiar Dining Options
Viking Octantis accommodates diners in three larger dining areas. The Restaurant, Manfredi’s, and World Café provide sustenance on both ships. All of these restaurants are included in the fare. Mamsen’s is quite a bit smaller on Octantis than on the ocean ships. In fact, it’s a totally different experience. One of the high points for me on Viking Orion was the setting of Mamsen’s.
The comfortable space had tables for enjoying selections from Mamsen’s and also a place to sit and relax, read, or catch up on emails. The fireplace and multiple windows completed this relaxing experience. The nearby Explorers’ Lounge made access to beverages effortless.
10. Lack of American Outlets on Octantis
10. One little thing that I really appreciated — mostly because it seems my electronics always need a charge — was the U.S. outlets in the Living Room area. My fruitless search for outlets on Octantis resulted in finding just a few European-style outlets in public areas.
Seeing the outlets on Viking Orion was a real treat as such an amenity is virtually nonexistent on other ships that I have sailed. Within the staterooms, there are plenty of both USB and U.S. outlet options, something greatly appreciated. Speaking of electronics, there are a few computer stations on the ocean vessels. I found none on Octantis.
11. Expeditions = Science & Research
Science and research comprise some of the missions of the expedition ships. Also important on the ocean ships, environmental concerns factor into the building of the ships and to best practices on board all of the ships. A special experience onboard Viking Octantis comprised of visiting the ship’s lab, one fully equipped with a variety of microscopes and testing equipment.
The latest technology analyzes the collected samples from the waters sailed by Viking Octantis. Guests may reserve spots in the lab to contribute to the ongoing research. Expert scientists guide the process and are part of the staff. Many of the experts spend time with guests in Exploration Central.
One fascinating research project that Viking Octantis participates in is the release of weather balloons in a partnership with NOAA. Once inflated by the staff, the balloons drift above the ship quickly becoming just a small dot in the sky.
A major benefit of basing ships on the same plan is that it is cost-effective, but more importantly, guests immediately recognize their sailing home. Both types of ships welcome adults only, a real draw for many. Whether you sail on the more traditional ocean ship or the newer expedition ships, you will receive the same Viking welcome.