Skip to content

Fast-growing Viking doubles down on adventure cruising with a second expedition cruise ship

Sept. 30, 2022
7 min read
Fast-growing Viking doubles down on adventure cruising with a second expedition cruise ship
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free trip from Viking to attend a preview event this week for Viking Polaris. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the line.


Fast-growing Viking on Friday doubled down on its move into adventurous expedition cruising with the unveiling of a second vessel specifically designed to explore far-off places such as Antarctica.

With more than a hundred Viking executives, business partners, passengers and media looking on, the company officially welcomed the 378-passenger ship, Viking Polaris, with a short but upbeat naming ceremony along the waterfront of Amsterdam.

Ann Bancroft, the first woman to ski solo to the North Pole, served the traditional role of ship's godmother during the ceremony, using a ceremonial Norwegian spade to cut a red ribbon. The ribbon cutting triggered the breaking of a bottle of Aquavit against the ship's hull.

For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter

The use of a bottle of Aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit, instead of a bottle of Champagne to name Viking Polaris was a nod to Viking's Norwegian heritage. Viking founder and chairman Torstein Hagen is Norwegian.

"Have you ever seen anything like this? I've never seen anything like this," a clearly proud Hagen said at the afternoon event, which started in the ship's glass-walled Aula lounge with a talk by Hagen and finished with the formal naming on its bow.

Amsterdam is a major hub for Viking river ships that sail on the Rhine River and is often visited by its ocean ships, too. It's also where Hagen was when he founded Viking 25 years ago.

Friday's celebration for the arrival of Viking Polaris, which included a brief performance by Norwegian crossover soprano Sissel, doubled as a celebration of the company's 25th anniversary.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Famed explorer Ann Bancroft cuts a ribbon using a traditional Viking spade to christen the new Viking Polaris. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Viking Polaris is a sister vessel to Viking's first expedition ship, the 378-passenger Viking Octantis, which debuted earlier this year in Antarctica.

Currently sailing in the Great Lakes, Viking Octantis also was officially named at Friday's event via a live video feed. The ship's ceremonial godmother, explorer Liv Arnesen, was on stage at the event in Amsterdam and directed a bottle breaking on Viking Octantis via the video link.

In celebration of Viking's 25th anniversary, Viking Polaris along with one of Viking's river ships (Viking Mani) and one of its bigger ocean ships (Viking Mars) paraded together down the waterway that connects Amsterdam to the sea. It was the first time all three main types of Viking vessels had sailed together.

Both Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis are specifically designed to take travelers to the most remote parts of the world and operate in the toughest conditions.

As is typical for expedition ships, Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis are hardy vessels, with reinforced bows that let them bump through ice in polar regions and extra tanks for fuel and food.

Each of the vessels also has its own landing craft on board to bring people ashore in remote locations, as well as kayaks and even submarines for exploring. (The latter is the hot new thing for expedition ships — upscale cruise brands Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Seabourn have been adding them to expedition ships, too.)

A cabin on Viking Polaris. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Like other expedition ships, both Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis are designed to operate with a large and seasoned “expedition team” that includes biologists, botanists, geologists, glaciologists and ornithologists who lecture regularly.

But each of the vessels has several new and unusual features, too. Most notable is The Hangar, an enclosed marina that allows passengers to transfer to 12-seat excursion craft while still in the protected interior of the ship. It’s a first for an expedition cruise ship.

Related: The 3 types of Viking ships, explained

In another first for a polar expedition cruise vessel, every cabin on each vessel has floor-to-ceiling glass walls that slide partially open from the top to create a balcony-like feel.

Both Viking Polaris and Viking Octantis are designed to be upscale. Like all Viking vessels, they boast an elegant Scandinavian design. The restaurants on both vessels include a version of Viking’s signature Italian spot, Manfredi’s, and the Scandinavian-inspired Mamsen’s outlet.

Another feature of both ships that will be familiar to regular Viking customers is a top-of-the-ship, glass-walled Explorers’ Lounge offering stunning views of passing scenery.

The Explorers' Lounge on Viking Polaris. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Unlike some cruise brands, Viking continued to expand its fleet rapidly during the COVID-19-related industry downturn. Viking Polaris is one of 16 new vessels that recently joined or will soon join the Viking fleet.

Related: The ultimate guide to Viking cruises

In addition to expedition vessels, Viking now operates 80 river ships around the world as well as seven traditional ocean ships. Three more river ships and four more ocean ships for the line are under construction, Hagen said at the event.

"Bad times are the times when you should invest," Hagen said. "We try to take the opportunities when we see them."

Hagen founded Viking in 1997 with just four river vessels. As recently as 2012, the company operated just 29 ships. The privately owned brand, which now has 10,000 employees, has been one of the fastest-growing cruise operators in history since then. It has roughly doubled in size every three years since 2012 and now carries more than 500,000 passengers a year.

Related: The ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

In case you're curious, Viking Polaris is named after the current "north star" that hovers over the North Pole. Viking Octantis is named after Sigma Octantis, the current "south star" that hovers over the South Pole (it's also known as Polaris Australis).

Viking Polaris (center) sails together with Viking ocean ship Viking Mars and Viking river ship Viking Mani. VIKING

The names are a nod to the polar regions where these expedition ships likely will spend much of their careers.

Viking Polaris will spend the coming winter sailing in Antarctica before repositioning to the Great Lakes for the summer of 2023.

Fares for 12-night Antarctica trips start at $13,995 per person, not including taxes and fees. Great Lakes sailings start at $5,995 per person, not including taxes and fees.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more