Viking River Cruises was established in 1997 with 4 river ships. Today it has two divisions: Viking River Cruises has 72 river ships sailing to Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Asia and Egypt, and Viking Ocean Cruises has 6 ocean going ships with itineraries that cover Europe, Scandinavia, The Americas and the Caribbean, as well as offering world cruises. The Vikings have a long, proud and storied history of exploration, and Viking Cruises continues this tradition with their next venture, Viking Expeditions.

Viking Expeditions has scheduled its inaugural season for 2022, starting with 2 ships venturing to the Arctic, Antarctica and the Great Lakes. The ships will have a guest capacity of 378 and are described as “purpose-built,” small enough to navigate waters in remote polar regions and on the St. Lawrence River. The ice-strengthened hulls give the ships the ability to safely maneuver through rough seas.

For this new venture, Viking has partnered with a series of leading scientific experts, offering curated opportunities to learn about nature and the environment through lectures, participatory research, and immersive experiences. In one partnership, through an endowment to the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, graduate students will join Viking Expeditions’ voyages to conduct fieldwork and share their expertise with guests during lectures and other interactive experiences.

Another Viking partnership created with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will bring scientists conducting bird research on board. Both new expedition ships will be equipped with wet and dry labs, as well as all the tools and equipment necessary to support this pioneering research.

Finally, through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), scientists will join Great Lakes expeditions to conduct research focused on the region’s weather, climate and ecosystems. During these voyages, scientists may also offer lectures about the unique environment of the Great Lakes.

Viking’s strategy with this new venture is to entice past guests and attract new ones. Thoughtful innovation and design includes an enclosed, in-ship marina called The Hangar, which allows guests to embark on inflatable boats from a stable surface inside the ship, offering protection from wind and waves.

Viking’s guests tend to be environmentally conscious, and Viking has pledged that its expedition ships will have minimal environmental impact while meeting the most stringent emission and biosecurity standards. The straight bow design of these ships reduces fuel consumption and a dynamic positioning system will allow the ship to hover over the seabed without anchoring.

Their foray into the Great Lakes will be Viking’s first in North America and will likely have a significant impact on tourism and economic development in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the province of Ontario in Canada.

Viking tends to steer clear of the glitz and glamour that characterizes mega ships, but their ships all reflect good taste, functionality and classic Scandinavian design, and their expedition ships will be no exception. The cruise fare will include virtually all shore excursions, all onboard meals, complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner service, 24-hour room service and access to the Nordic Spa. The cost of charter flights for hard to reach spots and the use of specialty equipment for land and sea excursions will also be included for Viking Expedition guests. Guests on polar itineraries will enjoy a free Viking Expedition Kit with a jacket and other gear needed for comfort.

Viking Cruises has distinguished itself with its unique river and ocean cruises, making their venture into expedition cruising an exciting next chapter the industry will be watching.

This post was written by cruise industry expert, Shannon Mckee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.