MASSENA — After spending most of the winter in the Southern Hemisphere sailing in Antarctica, Viking’s first purpose-built expedition ship, the Octantis, sailed up the St. Lawrence River on Thursday, spinning heads and leaving a cool factor in its wake from people who saw the ship.
Earlier this month, Octantis stopped by New York to be officially named by her ceremonial godmother, Liv Arnesen, the world-renowned Norwegian explorer and educator. In 1994, she became the first woman in the world to ski solo and unassisted to the South Pole. She was aboard the cruise ship’s first two expeditions to Antarctica.
Octantis was delivered to Viking on December 22 at Fincantieri’s Vard shipyard in Søviknes, Norway. She goes up the St. Lawrence towards the Great Lakes and a series of trips in the spring and summer. A sister ship, Viking Polaris, will join the Viking fleet later this year. Both were designed with navigation in the Great Lakes-Seaway system in mind.
According to a Viking press release, the new ships are “specifically designed for expeditions, at an ideal size for safety and comfort in remote destinations. With more indoor and outdoor viewing areas than other expedition ships, guests are as close as possible to Earth’s most magnificent landscapes.
Octantis – named after a constellation in the southern sky – has five decks and is 665 feet long with beam, or 77 feet wide. By comparison, the Ojibway, a popular freighter seen on the Seaway for decades before retiring late last year, was 642 feet long, with a beam of 67 feet.
The Pearl Mist cruise ship, owned by Pearl Sea Cruises, is scheduled to dock in Clayton in May and September. It is 325 feet long, with a width of 55 feet.
Octantis can accommodate 378 guests and has a crew of 256.
Among those watching her closely on Thursday as the ship passed through the region was Michael J. Folsom, founder of the St. Lawrence Seaway Shipwatchers Facebook group and industry expert.
It was tight pressure for Octantis at the Snell and Eisenhower locks at Massena.
“She is about 100 feet in locks length and literally spared inches on her beam,” Mr Folsom said. “It ended up rubbing along the walls of the lock, leaving marks, similar to what freighters get. Obliged to arrive in such restricted quarters.
According to Seatrade Cruise News, Octantis, beginning in June, will offer 15-day “Great Lakes Collection” cruises that will sail between Toronto and Duluth, Minnesota, and that in 2023 additional Great Lakes cruises will be added.
Viking’s new expedition vessels were designed by Richard Riviere, founding director of internationally acclaimed interior design firm Rottet Studio of Los Angeles, who also designed Viking’s award-winning longships and ocean-going ships. An integrated bow creates a longer waterline for vessels; state-of-the-art fin stabilizers allow for the smoothest ride possible; and the hulls are ice-strengthened, with Polar-grade and U-tank stabilizers dramatically reducing roll by up to 50% when the vessels are stationary.