A Viking Has Conquered The Great Lakes
No, it’s not a burly, bearded guy wielding an ax but rather the brand new Viking Octantis cruise ship. This striking beauty has established her reign by capturing the bounty of nature in the majestic waters of the Great Lakes. Over the past 25 years Viking has established itself as a premier player in river and ocean cruising but is now initiating an expeditionary profile with the introduction of this new vessel.
An expedition is generally described as a journey taken for the purpose of learning something new and the intrepid itineraries of the Viking Octantis follow through with that initiative. The brand’s pervasive all-inclusive concept is full throttle and bolstered by the hallmark amenities that define a Viking cruise. In this case, they have upped the ante with complimentary excursions that are geared towards exploration and discovery carried out by a full complement of state of the art watercraft housed in the expanse of the ship’s amazing Hangar.
More than two dozen zodiacs stand at the ready for excursions that search coastal waters for wildlife and two, million-dollar lightning fast Special Operations Boats take guests on thrilling wilderness rides that stoke an adrenaline rush. A fleet of kayaks is launched for an enjoyable paddle fest and for indelible memories, two six passenger submarines probe sights below the surface. Need it be said again, all complimentary!
Led by an expedition team and an authoritative scientist, actual research is conducted both onboard and ashore for all to witness. Expedition Central is an accessible venue that provides unique opportunities to interact with the experts and gain insight into the idiosyncrasies of our planet. To satisfy inquisitive minds, engaging enrichment seminars are conducted in The Aula, a stunning auditorium with a giant multimedia screen that retracts revealing a massive window to the open sea.
Panoramic views abound from exceptional vantage points throughout the vessel. Sit in the comfort of the outdoor couches of the Finse Terrace warmed by a lava rock fire pit. Sneak down to water level in The Hide, a lounge in the bow of the ship with ceiling to floor windows or enjoy a cocktail in the Explorers Lounge with wrap around views supplemented by live music. It’s the place to see and be seen. The aptly named Living Room with tasteful leather furnishings and accoutrements and unfettered views of the passing views. The evenings feature entertainment by a talented classical music duo. Allow me rephrase that… an extremely talented classical duo!
After a day of eye opening activity ashore, nothing beats returning to the pristine ship for pampering in the Nordic Spa and unlike other ships, there is no supplemental fee for enjoying the milieu of luxury features. Soak in the bubbling mineral enriched waters of the heated thermal pool. Detox in the steam room or sauna and then decompress on heated loungers. Chill out in the snow room or watch the sea pass by in the heated water of the semi open air Badestamp. It’s life unplugged without cost.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Viking cruise without emphasis on the culinary chops that are staples with the Viking brand. Although technically a buffet, the World Cafe offers a diverse menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seafood lovers will relish an evening in an adjacent area featuring an amazing raw bar with King Crab Legs, jumbo shrimp, seafood salads and of course freshly prepared sushi. Steak aficionados will appreciate grilled lunches and dining on aged Angus beef from The Grill. Mamsen’s features light bite specialties like Norwegian waffles, soups, sandwiches and pastries. Take advantage of full service alternative dining at no additional charge in The Restaurant or Manfredi’s, the ship’s deluxe Italian venue. Complimentary fine wines and beer flow at lunch and dinner, all part of Viking’s inclusive concept.
It’s inexplicable why after 40 years of cruising we’ve never been to the Great Lakes but the itinerary of Viking Octantis provided an ideal opportunity to explore the virtually untouched waterways and coastal views shared by Canada and the United States. Alternating 7 night itineraries depart from Milwaukee, WI. and Thunder Bay, Ontario. The journey is a mix of small town character and mother nature’s enchantment minus big city bustle.
Without a car in sight enjoy the charm of Mackinac Island on a complimentary horse carriage ride or savor lunch at the magnificent Grand Hotel. Enter the Canadian waters of Georgian Bay amidst the 30,000 islands surrounding Parry Sound. In Killarney, you can hike the Lighthouse Trail along massive red granite boulders and experience a fish fry lunch at the impressive Canada House constructed out of massive logs. Frazier Bay provides an opportunity to cruise the world’s largest fresh water fjord or hike nature trails winding their way out from Okeechobee Lodge.
Squeezing through the locks near Sault Ste. Marie the ship enters Lake Superior for a visit to Silver Islet and the fascinating lore of the now submerged silver mine. Hike the Sleeping Giant trail or kayak below rock ledges before the final day and arrival in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Viking Octantis will sail the Great Lakes through September when it repositions to South America and ultimately Antarctica for the winter where she will be joined by her virtual twin, the new Viking Polaris. With expedition leadership combined with the warmth and hospitality of the ship’s crew, it’s not a stretch to envision the thrills of a foray through the ice and sights of Antarctica on these vessels of luxurious exploration.