Travel Insights from Jenna Buege, senior editor of The Compass
In an epic conclusion to one of Viking’s impressive World Cruise itineraries, Viking Octantis docked at Port Milwaukee on May 4, 2023. The voyage lasted 65 days and marked the ship’s first stop in the Great Lakes for the summer 2023 season, and the town was a-buzz with excitement.
As a local Milwaukeean, I was thrilled to receive an exclusive invite for a tour of this beautiful ship. Here’s an inside look at Viking Octantis’ stunning shared spaces, incredible restaurants, unique selling points and more.
The Reception Area
Upon dropping my ID at the desk, I was immediately taken by Viking Octantis’ sleek design choices. With a subtle color palette accented by intentional pops of color, the ship’s reception area felt modern yet cozy — a vibe that radiates throughout the vessel. From window shades made to resemble the buckles on old timely luggage to artwork and furnishings paying homage to the spirit of adventure, Viking Octantis’ decor instantly transports you to an expedition state of mind.
As a nature lover myself, something I appreciated about this ship was its clear adoration of wildlife, namely birds. For many Viking guests, bird watching is a huge draw and to help cruise-goers know which species to watch for during their travels, Viking Octantis displays a series of life size, ultra-realistic felt birds in an area onboard the ship dubbed “Expedition Central.” The collection tops out at 96 different species, and eagle-eyed travelers will catch staff swapping which birds are on display depending upon the ship’s location. And, upon spotting a new fowl friend, travelers can add their notes to the communal whiteboard in Expedition Central labeled “Wildlife We’ve Seen.”
In addition to shining a light on wildlife, Viking’s expedition cruises have a strong focus on science, something that is evident upon learning Viking Octantis was the first private vessel to be named a sanctioned weather balloon launch station. In partnership with NOAA and the U.S. Weather Service, balloons launched from the ship are used to collect data surrounding wind, temperature and pressure, something guests can monitor from an interactive display shared at Expedition Central.
Next, we headed into the belly of the beast to take a closer look at some of Viking Octantis’ culinary offerings. Our first stop was Manfredi’s, the ship’s signature Italian restaurant serving fresh, handmade pasta each day. Wondering what’s on the menu, previous cruise-goers noted osso bucco, lobster and scallop pasta, chicken Parmigiano and Bistecca alla Fiorentina as favorites.
Fun fact: Viking’s Manfredi’s Italian restaurant is named after Silversea’s Chairman and former Owner Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio.
Not hungry for Italian? Hand rolled sushi from the World Café is sure to do the trick. Our next stop on the tour, I looked on in awe at the beautiful dining room as staff worked to prepare ingredients for fresh sushi rolls and other Asian-inspired favorites, each plate pre-equipped with chopsticks and soy sauce dishes in anticipation of hungry travelers. Of course, sushi isn’t the only offering at the World Café, guests can also enjoy a wide range of international flavors, delicious seafood and more.
Of everything I discovered about Viking Octantis’ onboard fare, I was most impressed to learn the cruise ship collaborates with local suppliers to provide guests with regionally inspired cuisine. What might a locally inspired meal look like? In Milwaukee’s case, think a Friday night fish fry paired with the perfect craft beer or soda. And I must say, to this Midwesterner, nothing sounds more delish.
The Spa and Lounge Areas
A quick walk-through of Viking Octantis’ Nordic-inspired spa had me craving some high-quality R&R. Designed to treat travelers to a taste of hot and cold therapy, the ship’s gorgeous spa is fully equipped with a large thalassotherapy pool, steam room, sauna, snow grotto, cold dump bucket shower and experience shower. One unique element of Viking Octantis’ onboard spa is the “Badestamp”, a hot tub perched along the edge of the ship featuring an open window. The hot tub’s unique design is totally immersive, and its exposure to the elements brought back memories of my younger self’s DIY approach to hot and cold therapy as my stepsiblings and I would leave the comfort of our family hot tub on a dare exposing ourselves to the unforgiving Wisconsin winter air.
Of course, Viking Octantis’ fabulous spa isn’t the only place travelers can rest and recharge, the ship has no shortage of beautifully decorated spaces designed for guests to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. For a cozy escape, cruise-goers can head to the Living Room, an inviting spot to catch up with friends, do some puzzling or dive into a good book — hundreds of which are supplied by Viking for travelers to peruse at their leisure. Alternatively, those looking to whet their whistle will find Viking’s all-inclusive itineraries mean places to imbibe are plentiful. Whether they prefer freshly brewed coffee, hand-squeezed juices or an alcoholic beverage, beautiful lounges and restaurants set the scene, two of which that stood out were the Explorer’s Lounge and Aquavit Bar — a place for live music and seaside chats, and an indoor-outdoor pool with floor-to-ceiling glass windows respectively.
While there’s no shortage of fun on the upper decks, within the depths of Viking Octantis awaits a mysterious nook referred to as “The Hide.” Not exactly top secret, but intentionally tough to find, my guide shared only the most curious of sailors manage to pinpoint the lounge’s exact location without help from their fellow travelers. Inside, The Hide is outfitted with no shortage of cozy bells and whistles including several leather chairs that are broken in just right and a collection of decor paying homage to Viking’s fascinating history. There are other fun details too, but at the risk of giving The Hides’ location away, I won’t share too much.
A Commitment to Science
As mentioned above, Viking stands apart from other cruise lines for its commitment to science. And on Viking Octantis, everyone can get involved as guests can uniquely experience each destination from the comfort of a submarine, kayak, special operations boat or Zodiac. How immersed travelers choose to get is up to them, and, if they feel so inclined, they can even work side-by-side with Viking scientists, all they need to do is ask.
About the Author
Senior Editor for VAX VacationAccess and world explorer, Jenna loves writing about all things travel. When she’s not busy creating content, she spends her time exploring the great outdoors, cuddling with her two black cats and researching her next big (sometimes strange) adventure.