According to Viking, its expedition product marked a new milestone with the purpose-built Viking Octantis kicking off its inaugural season in the Great Lakes recently.
Designed specifically to reach the Great Lakes region, the vessel recently completed a roundtrip cruise through the Welland Canal, a section of the St. Lawrence Seaway that connects Lakes Ontario and Erie.
The Octantis became the largest passenger vessel ever to transit the canal, Viking said.
The ship will remain in the Great Lakes until early October 2022, sailing a variety of itineraries between Toronto and Duluth.
A second expedition vessel, the Viking Polaris, is set to debut later this year, joining the Viking Octantis in the Great Lakes for the 2023 season.
“Our expedition ships were designed with the Great Lakes in mind. This region has been historically underserved by cruise lines, and we are delighted by the warm and enthusiastic reception we have received from the local communities,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking.
“With our first season now underway, we are pleased with the strong demand among our guests and look forward to introducing even more curious travelers to these fantastic destinations in 2023.”
Viking’s arrival to the Great Lakes brings the newest and most modern vessels ever to explore this region of North America, the company said.
The deployment is also a significant commitment to local tourism and economic development for the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio (beginning in 2023) and the Canadian province of Ontario, it added.
To help develop the scientific enrichment program for its Great Lakes voyages, Viking has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).
According to the company, the entity conducts research on the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities.
Viking’s expedition ships have also been designated official NOAA / U.S. National Weather Service weather balloon stations, from which regular launches are undertaken.
During Viking’s inaugural 2022 season, the company is operating four new itineraries in the Great Lakes.
The eight- to 13-day cruises visit Lake Superior, the Soo Locks, the Apostle Islands, Keweenaw Peninsula, the Mackinac Island, Point Pelee, eastern Canada, the St. Lawrence River and more.
In 2023, Viking will add a new, 15-day voyage that sails to the Georgian Bay, the Soo Locks, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.