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My Viking Story...

Hi, everyone! I’ve been back a couple of weeks now and I’m *still* thinking about my recent journey with Viking. I was lucky enough to sail on their new expedition ship, Octantis. I’m happy to tell you that for several reasons, it was a perfect fit for my style of travel.

I’ve already filed a story featuring my initial takeaways for my friends at TravelAwaits, and also linked to it at the top of my website. A couple more articles are forthcoming, and I’m not about to spoil those, dear friends and readers. But what I do want to blog about here is what I think made this trip so special.

So, it’s Viking, right? Of course, the food, drinks and accommodations are going to be top-notch, which they all were. In the 25 years since the luxe cruise line was founded, Viking has hung its proverbial hat on offering the gold standard in service. The incredible staff made the voyage that much more enjoyable. The lovely general manager commented *upon meeting me* that he loved the piece I wrote about my family’s recent one-day Grand Canyon trek with my mom. After just a day or two, the wait staff knew my name, my drink preference, and how I liked my steaks and fish cooked. I cannot say enough about how attentive and amazing the Viking on-board staff was for the duration of my travels. Also, the spa? Chef’s kiss, friends.

(The food, OMG...)

Viking has made a lot of waves (pun intended!) of late with the introduction of its Expedition fleet. Octantis started sailing the Antarctic six months ago, then traveled to the Great Lakes for the summer season there; its identical sister ship Polaris will start making similar voyages upon its completion later this year. The focus of the Expedition fleet is to conduct on-board science, collect data, and work in tandem with other select scientific partners. Both ships are kitted out with complete science labs, and a whole host of exploratory marine vehicles, including submarines (seriously, they have two subs on each expedition ship!), special operations boats and Zodiacs.

(Onboard one of the ship's marine exploratory Zodiacs. These are the vessels the Octantis scientific staff will use to collect samples, data and record findings; guests get to tag along, too!)

On each sailing, there is an onboard team of three dozen scientists focused on such environmental issues as microplastics in water, bird migratory patterns, climate change measurements, and species surveys.

This bevy of academic activity takes place of course, while guests are provided with the superior at-sea product I described above. But here’s the really fascinating part: there is also an open invitation for those guests to get their hands dirty and participate in the science on the daily. It’s a truly innovative concept. The ship’s revenues fund the science taking place, and experts from those select partners (Cambridge, Cornell and NOAA, for now) are invited aboard to access the ship’s resources and conduct their research.

But they also need to be ambassadors for the research, explain it to guests, and do it in an understandable, relatable, approachable way. This is no small task.

I’ve had the privilege to work with some incredible scientists during the past seven years. Their research, findings and breakthroughs are nothing short of amazing. That said, it can be tough to be translational, and break down really intricate and complex theories and findings into concepts a lay audience can understand. That translation is important for many academics because in order to continue their research, they are often reliant on grants. Grants require applications, which in turn require descriptions of research and explanations about why it matters. If you can’t communicate the science, it makes it all the more difficult to get funded. I’ve been fortunate to act as a translator of sorts on behalf of some of the brightest minds out there, and I love doing it. Their breakthroughs will be what helps save our world, after all. But can be a difficult task, and the Viking staff handles it with grace and aplomb.

(Nature isn't always my thing. But the Viking Expedition excursions and scientists made it compelling, relevant and meaningful.)

The Viking Expedition ships make you lean into nature. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to this. The cruises I’ve taken up until this point were extremely city and port-based. I love museums, art, history, culture…but the places where we stopped on this trip flipped the script and leaned into the natural beauty of the route. We hiked in remote places, kayaked beautiful waters, and even got to go out on the research vessels and see first-hand how the scientists will use them to collect data. Each night, the on-board scientists gave lectures about what made the region so special, and why it needs protection and conservation. I got to take a peek at microplastics in water samples in the onboard lab, and learn about what makes them such a threat for fragile ecosystems. Heck, I even got up at 6am one morning to watch the Viking Expedition staff launch a NOAA weather balloon…and it was the coolest thing.

(I had to wake up early to attend this weather balloon launch carried out by Octantis Expedition Staff. I wasn't sorry--so cool!)

I didn’t check off any of my typical vacation activity boxes. I didn’t shop. I didn’t go to a single museum. I didn’t see a play or concert or take an historic walking tour of a great, ancient city.

But what I got was just as valuable, if not just a little bit more.

While Octantis hit the mark with its elegant accommodation, superior sips and excellent food, the ship’s focus on science also appealed to my sense of adventure in a way no other voyage I’ve taken has. I enjoyed glorious natural beauty (without roughing it, thank you!) plus learned first-hand from a dedicated and brilliant scientific staff what it’s going to take to protect and preserve it. It was an unforgettable eight days onboard.

(This was not my typical vacation experience, but I enjoyed it all the more for that! Exploring and increasing my knowledge of our environment, but not roughing it? Priceless!)

Viking says it seeks to appeal to the curious traveler. I can attest to the fact this is indeed the case. And unlike some of its other fabulous routes around the world, when it comes to the Expedition fleet, curiosity extends to a whole other level: to one of scientific method, stewardship and sustainability.

I hope to join them on another voyage sometime very soon!

Have you sailed with Viking before? Drop me a line and tell me about YOUR Viking story!

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Jul 19, 2022

I really enjoyed the Viking article! I am not a cruise person, but am sold on trying Viking the first chance I get. I love the idea of a smaller more luxurious ship, and the investment in scientific exploration and sustainability makes it all the more enticing.💕

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