Margrith Ettlin, the first female captain of Viking – the brand new one, is particularly satisfied Viking Polaris flies at a rapid 17 knots over the Drakes Passage.
A storm is brewing behind her that will transform Drake’s Lake into its ordinary cauldron of swells that have earned it its fearsome reputation as one of the world’s roughest seas.
She’s outrun another expedition ship – and she knows Silversea is somewhere behind her and likely caught in the coming storm. She was Silversea’s first female captain. How she is Viking.
“She’s a very fast ship,” she says at an onboard reception at The Hide Polaris. And she’s right – this is indeed a revolutionary ship.
Polaris and Octantis represent a new generation of expedition ships. Viking has already dominated the river and is booming in the ocean. Now the highly lucrative adventure and expedition is in sight.
We’re heading for Antarctica, a dream destination for so many but actually only a real destination for one percent of cruise ships.
It is a treacherous place for a sailor to ply his trade. Margrith often says: “This is not a vacation, this is an expedition.”
And so it is. Our Zodiacs take us to islands where we see penguins, seals and whales – and only on the first day! Some guests watch in horror as a leopard seal turns a chinstrap penguin into a delicious lunch.
There is no place on earth where cruise passengers learn about the connection between species and survival and about our planet’s truly capricious weather patterns.
“If you have a schedule, forget it,” says expedition team leader Marc Jansen. We’ll soon see what he means.
Capt Ettlin brilliantly weathers the weather and takes us to Half Moon Island in 5 degrees and winds of 15 knots giving us valuable hours to go ashore and spot the wildlife.
Viking Polaris carries a submarine and is on the water at 7am. Zodiacs are being moved to the window – and as a result, we’re having amazing experiences on land as we watch the penguins build their nests for the upcoming breeding season.
But by 2pm we are underway, overtaking 55 knot winds and a swell and taking shelter next to a glacier for the night before heading out on our next adventure.
We remember the captain’s message: it’s not a vacation, it’s an expedition.
Guests are reminded of this by the 20-strong expedition team, who are keen to recruit them for citizen science projects to monitor krill and plankton and verify whale histories (they’re as unique as fingerprints). That Polaris has labs on board that are involved in serious science – they report to NASA and universities and have recently published their first scientific paper (remember the ship is on its fourth voyage since launch).
But there’s more to it than that – which is why we think Viking might have done for the Expedition what it did for the ocean: created a new class.
Polaris and her sister Octantis have uniquely combined true adventure with luxury cruising.
There are many references to the Ocean Fleet, which won Best Ocean Line in our 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards. Great food, fantastic cabin design – but above all a young expedition and science team full of enthusiasm. Australia has quickly become Viking Expedition’s second largest market.
“Antarctica is a very special place and it is a great privilege for each of us to come here, along with only 1% of the world’s population,” said Michelle Black, Managing Director of Viking Australasia.
“Australians are inquisitive travelers and it’s a testament to the fact that Australia and New Zealand are now Viking Expeditions’ second largest source market.
“Further bookings from the Australian and New Zealand expedition travel markets are good, with our 13-day Antarctica Explorer, the most popular expedition itinerary, and our three new Longitudinal World Cruises, which include Antarctica, exceeding our expectations.
“We recently launched our Expeditions 2024 brochure which included the introduction of the island of South Georgia to our Antarctic program which is already attracting interest and bookings ahead.”
Facts about the ship
- Total guest capacity of 378
- 189 outside cabins with Nordic balcony
- Sun deck with 360 degree views and shaded seating area
- Aquavit Terrace & Lounge, an indoor/outdoor space at the bow of the ship for al fresco dining
- Finse Terrace, an outdoor retreat with comfortable seating and lava rock fire pits, perfect for
- The Aula, the most advanced place to learn at sea with 270 degree views
- Viking Lounge & Bar with floor to ceiling glass doors
- The living room with floor to ceiling windows and a library that informs even the best read
- Choice of six restaurants including The Restaurant, our main restaurant, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant, Mamsen’s Norwegian Deli and the World Café.
- Library and on-board shop