Cruise company Viking will launch two new expedition ships in early 2022.
Viking Octantis will embarking on trips in January 2022 to North America's Great Lakes and Antarctica, while a second vessel, Viking Polaris, will make its maiden voyage in August that year, sailing to the Arctic and Antarctica.
Since its foundation in 1997 with the purchase of four ships in Russia, Viking has grown exponentially, first taking the river cruising market by storm before launching ocean ships in 2015. It now operates a fleet of more than 70 vessels.
The new Viking Expeditions venture aims to take luxury cruising to further reaches of the globe, with both ships set to raise the bar on style and comfort.
"Our guests are curious explorers. They want to continue travelling with us to familiar and iconic destinations, but they would also like to travel further," said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking.
"We invented the concept of modern river cruising when we launched in 1997; then we reinvented ocean cruises and became the 'World's Best Ocean Cruise Line' (by Travel + Leisure) in our first year of operation, as well as every year since then. Now, in creating 'the thinking person's expedition,' we are perfecting polar expedition cruising, and we will usher in a new era of comfortable exploration in the heart of North America."
Both ships --currently under construction -- will be designed by the same nautical architects and engineers that delivered Viking's ocean cruising ships. Set to be delivered in Norway by Fincantieri's VARD, meticulous attention has gone into the design process.
Hosting 378 guests in 189 staterooms, the ships are optimally sized for expeditions, both large enough to handle rougher sea conditions while still sufficiently nimble to navigate remote polar regions.
To suggest the onboard equipment and facilities will be state of the art might constitute as an understatement. Included in the expedition fee on both Viking Octatis and Viking Polaris will be access to two six-guest submarines featuring 270-degree spherical windows and revolving seats for the ultimate underwater viewing experience.
For outdoor enthusiasts there will also be a fleet of two-seater arctic tested kayaks and full complimentary use of Viking excursion gear including trekking poles, skis, snowshoes, waterproof clothing, binoculars and more.
Other highlights include a "Nordic Balcony"; essentially a sunroom with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that converts into an outdoor viewing platform, an indoor heated swimming sanctuary with three different temperature-controlled pools inside a retractable glass dome, a state-of-the-art fitness centre with a thermal suite and sauna and a two-deck "Explorer's Lounge" at the bow of the ship, where guests can enjoy a glass of wine while gazing out over the ice sheets.
Also breaking new ground is "The Hanger", an enclosed in-ship marina featuring a 26-metre slipway allowing guests to embark on smaller excursion vessels from the comfort of indoors, shielded from the elements.
As well as the mod cons, Viking Expeditions has partnered with world-renowned scientific institutes such as the University of Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute who will undertake fieldwork and research on board the vessels, sharing their expertise with guests. Another partnership with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will facilitate on board ornithologists liaising and educating guests on the regions' birdlife.
Both vessels will allow guests to have supervised access to "The Laboratory", a 40-square-metre glass enclosed research facility where the onboard scientists will be conducting much of their work.
Viking continues to expand its network, with plans to launch seven new river ships in 2020 with six more ocean sister ships on order with options for an additional four bringing Viking's total ocean fleet to a possible 16 by 2027.
"We began as Viking River Cruises; then we evolved into Viking Cruises with the addition of ocean cruises; today we stand singularly as Viking, offering destination-focused voyages on more than 20 rivers and five oceans, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents," said Mr Hagen.
Guy Wilkinson attended the Viking Expeditions launch in LA as a guest of Viking.