- Viking Expedition cruise of Canada and the Atlantic Coastline
- The adventure begins — embarkation in Toronto
- Scenic Sailing on the St. Lawrence Seaway
- Shore excursions — history, culture, nature, and adventure
- On-board activities
- Focus on Science
- Fun and games
- Lectures and enrichment
- Spa, fitness, and relaxation
- Self-guided art tour
- Dining options
- Expedition ship features
- PIN IT!
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Viking Expedition cruise of Canada and the Atlantic Coastline
We’re back home in Scottsdale, Arizona after 15 days at sea with Viking on one of their incredible expedition ships, the Octantis. We’ll have much to share in future posts about the sights, excursions, onboard experiences, and sailing the St. Lawrence Seaway and North Atlantic Ocean. For now, we’re going to recap a few highlights of our trip that you may have missed on social media while we were on the cruise. This is a fairly new cruise for Viking as part of their Longitudinal World Cruises from the Great Lakes to Antarctica. Some of the other passengers we met began their journey in the Great Lakes and were going all the way to Antarctica. We embarked in Toronto, Ontario and disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The adventure begins — embarkation in Toronto
From the easy transfer from the Toronto airport to the port and an introduction to the ship’s safety procedures, everything went smoothly during embarkation. After a nice lunch in the World Cafe onboard, we headed to our Nordic Balcony stateroom where a delicious cake, chocolate strawberries, and a bottle of wine awaited us to mark our wedding anniversary. And what a great view we had of the Toronto skyline!
Scenic Sailing on the St. Lawrence Seaway
After a night of cruising Lake Ontario, our first full day of sailing was a lovely easy cruise on the St. Lawrence River through Ontario. We spent quite a bit of time on the outer decks on this beautiful day to admire lush green trees (no fall color changes yet) lining the shore, waterfowl. alluring camping and beach sites, and riverside homes with docks that made us imagine life in such a pretty setting. In several places, we also spotted people on the shore watching our beautiful Octantis sail by and waving to passengers on deck.
Shore excursions — history, culture, nature, and adventure
There were multiple included and optional excursions in each port — Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Lunenburg (I also had a great visit in Lunenburg several years ago), New York City, Norfolk VA, and Charleston SC. Due to extreme weather conditions, the captain wisely decided that we would have to skip the destinations of Cap-aux-Meules in Quebec and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia (both normally on the itinerary) and head to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a great city to visit. Typical of Viking cruises, the excursions provided a nice diversity with history, culture, nature, and adventure.
Adventure is also calling you with water activities available on Viking expedition cruises such as rides on zodiacs, special operations boats (capable of 40 knots per hour), kayaks, and most notably — the submarines (the dives are optional excursions and sell out quickly). Even if you don’t want to participate in excursions on these vessels, watch the Viking Daily bulletins while onboard to see a designated time to be able to tour the hangar (the first marina actually located on a cruise ship) where they are stored, maintained, and launched. It’s quite impressive! The watercraft are also used by the onboard scientists in conducting important scientific studies, unique to any cruise ship.
On the Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise there are six full days of sailing without any destination stops, so it’s important that you enjoy time on the sea. Our cruise had seven full days because of a change of itinerary due to the weather. There are many onboard activities to enjoy while sailing. You won’t get bored.
Focus on Science
There are 36 experts onboard the ship for each expedition journey. They include naturalists, kayak guides. submarine pilots, and scientists who give lectures, hold workshops, and are enthusiastic about talking to guests about their work.
In Expedition Central, onboard scientists are available to discuss projects on which they are working on and to share information about their studies, the local area, and wildlife. Hands-on workshops on topics such as radio communications and the making of boating and climbing knots are also scheduled during the cruise. One of the many real scientific studies of Viking expeditions is the weather balloon launch and real-time data retrieval officially authorized by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The U.S. National Weather Service has authorized the Viking expedition ships as the first civilian ships to be official launch stations. We were lucky that the weather held out for us to be able to watch the launch of the balloon from the top deck one evening.
In the Science Lab, guests can request supervised access to get hands-on with some of the research activities of the scientists. The lab was developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Akvaplan-Niva.
Fun and games
As you will find on Viking ocean cruises, there is a wide range of fun gatherings, games, and live entertainment. There are also pleasant places to relax including the Explorer’s Lounge, Living Room, other common areas, and your own comfortable stateroom.
Lectures and enrichment
On this cruise, lectures included topics such as whale and dolphin identification, what seabirds and other creatures to look for on our cruise, how to tell a sea lion from a seal, and much more.
Spa, fitness, and relaxation
We really appreciate the fitness center with cardio equipment, weights and more. There are also Zumba, Yoga, Pilates, and other classes offered throughout the cruise. The full-service onboard spa offers many health and wellness treatments, pool, sauna, and ice cold shower. There are also three small pools (hot, warm, and cold) on the Aquavit Terrace providing a real Nordic experience.
Walking the promenade is great for exercise and enjoying being at sea. Take time to watch for wildlife and admire the sunrises and sunsets over the ocean.
Self-guided art tour
Each Viking ocean and expedition ship has an extensive collection of art, artifacts, and photography throughout. On the Viking Voyager app (which you’ll use while onboard) there is an art guide that you can follow to see and learn about all of the works. The art aboard Octantis had a theme accentuating Antarctica, the final destination for this Longitudinal World Cruise.
There are two specialty restaurants, The Restaurant and Manfredi’s, just like on the ocean cruises, but reservations are required on the expedition ships. We like the fact that the dress code is elegant/casual, not formal as on some other cruise lines. Also like on the ocean ships, the World Cafe and Mamsen’s casual/no reservations dining areas are also very popular.
The food and wines were excellent, consistent with our previous Viking cruising experiences. Mr. TWS particularly appreciated the many seafood and vegetarian options.
Reservation tip: Prior to the cruise, you’ll have a chance to make one reservation in each of the specialty restaurants. We recommend choosing sailing days since on excursion days you might want to have flexibility for a late lunch in the destination (which we like to do) and then a lighter dinner at The Grill or World Cafe. Once onboard, you can make additional reservations in the specialty restaurants either at Guest Services on Level 1 or on the Viking Voyager app.
Room service is available 24/7 with a limited menu. Take advantage of this service at least once to enjoy the pampering.
Expedition ship features
The Viking Expedition ships accommodate up to 378 passengers in 189 staterooms. The ship is similar to the ocean ships (which host 930 guests) in interior design, just on a bit smaller scale. We love the smaller size of the Viking ships. We were also happy to learn about the energy-efficient design of the Octantis that actually exceeds the Energy Efficiency Design Index requirements by 38%.
Stay tuned to Traveling with Sweeney as we will have more posts about the cruise.
Thanks to Viking Cruises for sponsoring our sail on the Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise. The commentary and perspectives in this post are totally our own, as always.