The 378-passenger Viking Polaris was floated out by VARD ahead of her scheduled debut in summer, 2022 and maiden season cruising in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The vessel’s sister ship Viking Octantis was floated out last December and is scheduled to enter service in early 2022, sailing to Antarctica and North America’s Great Lakes.
The float out is a significant milestone as it marks the beginning of the final stage of construction. With all the major engineering work now complete, VARD will be able to focus on the final fit out and finishing of the vessel.
Viking Polaris has now been moved to a nearby outfitting dock for further construction and interior build-out. After final outfitting, the Viking Polaris will be delivered at Fincantieri’s VARD shipyard in Søviknes, Norway.
“We are now one step closer to our launch of ‘the thinking person’s expedition,’ with new voyages that will allow our guests to explore the ends of the world and closer to home—in comfort,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking.
“We are grateful for our long-standing partnership with Fincantieri, who has helped us build the world’s most beautiful ocean ships and are now helping us perfect expedition cruising,” he added.
The ships have been designed by the same experienced nautical architects and engineers as Viking’s ocean ships and are purpose-built for expeditions. They’re small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River, but large enough to be comfortable on the open seas.
The explorers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft will be ceremonial godmothers to Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, respectively.
Arnesen, a native Norwegian, became the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 1994, while Bancroft is the first woman to successfully ski to both poles.
Arnesen and Bancroft also became the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001 and together have co-founded Bancroft Arnesen Explore / Access Water, an initiative that aims to engage and empower more than 60 million minds to create a sustainable tomorrow.
The two new expedition cruise ships are part of a major expansion of the Viking fleet. The cruise line has introduced more than 60 new river cruise ships and six ocean cruise ships in the last eight years, with six more ocean going ships on order and options for four additional ships.
The introduction of two expedition cruise ships is also part of a move by most major cruise companies to enter the expedition cruise market, or expand their presence within it.
The newcomer to the market Atlas Ocean Voyages recently entered the market with plans to cruise in the Middle East, Seabourn Cruises is building out its expedition cruise fleet, along with Crystal Cruises and Silversea.