Viking’s new expedition cruise ship, Viking Octantis, offers guests a learning experience while still surrounded by comfort. Here’s everything you need to know about exploring on the Viking Octantis.
When I had a chance to sail on Viking’s new expedition cruise ship, Viking Octantis, I immediately took up the offer. Having sailed on expedition cruises in the past, I realized the great appeal of such a cruise. Viking appreciates that some cruisers thrive on interactively exploring the ports they visit. They also understand that just because a guest enjoys active exploration, they also appreciate creature comforts. Here are my highlights of what you can expect when you sail aboard Viking Octantis, appropriately named for a southern star.
Arriving in Barbados
My itinerary was atypical. The ship had previously sailed Antarctica and was heading toward the Great Lakes, an itinerary I hope to explore in the future.
I followed all the health protocols and ventured to Boston to catch my Jet Blue flight to Barbados. Of course, flights leave early in the day, so I had to spend the previous night nearby.
After a long day of flying, I arrived in Barbados and boarded the bus to the port. The check-in process was efficient and friendly. A traditionally dressed staff member greeted us as we arrived on the ship.
At the time, I was required to take a COVID test on the ship and submit daily saliva samples. This made me feel confident about sailing and staying healthy.
Exploring Viking Octantis
Previously having sailed on Viking Orion, I was familiar with the Viking ships. Octantis contains some of the elements and features despite its smaller size. And being an expedition ship, it also has its own proprietary features.
Upon boarding, I noticed the familiar Scandinavian décor. I find this style very soothing and appreciate how nicely it fits with the idea of discovery. Many windows connected me to the sea, which I find very important.
One of the most welcoming spots on Viking Octantis is The Living Room. Any bibliophile will want to spend time there looking at the books in The Library niche of this large room.
Many of the books are non-fiction with an emphasis on the natural world. At a time when libraries seem to be disappearing from many ships, it’s refreshing to see such a vast collection of reading material. Heywood Hill curates this collection. Another large selection of books is found in the Explorers Lounge.
A complimentary thermal spa for all guests adds to the experience, and the complimentary beer and wine at dinner is a nice touch.
Many areas with nooks and crannies, like the library at one end of the Living Room, made it simple to find solitude. Maybe part of the solitude is because this is an adults-only cruise.
Scientists Onboard Viking Octantis
There are guest scientists and a crew of guides on board who are happy to share information about the areas visited. During the day, sessions for a more in-depth investigation into a topic occur regularly. At Expedition Central, something related to wildlife, science, or data collection was always happening.
The staff there was happy to answer questions and give more details about the natural history of a particular port area or a particular topic of interest.
One of the activity options is to participate in lab research on board. A resident scientist is currently collecting data for research on microplastics. Guests may sign up to help with this important investigation of sea pollutants. I participated and found the experience both amazing and frustrating due to my poor microscope skills.
My Stateroom on Viking Octantis
On the Viking Octantis, balcony staterooms aren’t typical. Rather than doors leading to a deck, the glass wall of the cabin consists of a window that drops halfway down. I prefer a more traditional balcony that I could step out on, but I understand how this system might be more practical considering the size restrictions of some of the canals that Octantis will sail through.
As in the public area, staterooms showcase a Scandinavian style. My Nordic Junior Suite came fully equipped with everything I needed for comfort after an excursion. The beds have a nice traditional Norwegian Marius, weave blanket on them. One feature I like is the light for navigating you to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A bedside switch operates the pathway lights. No need to wake up your roommate with a bright light, unless you accidentally use the wrong switch.
One of my favorite features of my stateroom was the well-designed bathroom, also in a Scandinavian style. The layout is efficient and functional, with form completing the space. There are two sinks with storage for two people. The shower is large enough so you can turn around. Even the toiletries add a touch of luxury and are printed in large letters so aging eyes can tell the difference between lotion and conditioner.
I like the bathrooms so much that I am considering adding my favorite elements to our new house. I took photos of other spaces on the ship with the same purpose in mind.
The stateroom also had a drying closet for wet gear with plenty of closet space for two guests. A real benefit of sailing with Viking is the complimentary self-serve laundry.
Dining on Viking Octantis
Choices on board include The World Cafe, a buffet-style restaurant with plenty of food options, including a made-to-order grill station. Many guests choose to take all three of their daily meals here. I found it convenient and liked grabbing my food and sitting outside.
Two specialty restaurants are included in the fare, but reservations should be made early. Manfredi’s Italian, as the name suggests, offers some Italian dishes, but I was surprised by the lack of pasta offerings.
The Restaurant is the larger dining room. Dishes vary from traditional fare like meat and potatoes to exotic choices like venison or elk.
For Norwegian-inspired foods, Mamsen’s is the place to go for a traditional waffle or a snack. Named after the chairman’s mother, this venue has a variety of recipes that grace the walls of the small venue.
When You Choose to Sail on Viking Octantis
I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance of Viking Octantis. The focus on science impressed me. I enjoyed the experiments, lectures, and especially the launching of a weather balloon. My one disappointment was that I didn’t get to experience any of the onboard toys other than the kayaks. Viking Octantis carries submarines, Special Operations Boats, and zodiacs. The research component on this ship makes lots of sense. It’s easy to understand why the tagline for this cruise is For the Thinking Person℠.
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