With a science lab, a fleet of professional military Zodiacs and two six-guest submarines and a hangar on board, the Viking Octantis stopped in Port Colborne on Sunday on her maiden Great Lakes voyage.
It is the first of two new purpose-built expedition ships from the Viking cruise line.
It’s the first of 66 cruise ship calls in the city this season as ships return to the lakes after being absent for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joining the 378-passenger ship Viking will be vessels familiar to residents along the Welland Canal – Pearl Mist, Ocean Voyager and Ocean Navigator (formerly Victory I and II, respectively), and Hamburg (formerly C. Columbus).
Two Ponant ships, Le Bellot and Le Dumont d’Urville, each carrying 180 passengers, will head for the lakes. In 2019, their sister ship Le Champlain docked in Port Colborne.
The 160 passengers ocean explorerthrough Vantage Cruises, will sail up the east coast of North America from Boston, Mass., to cruise the lakes.
Port Colborne is seeking to entice ship passengers to stay in the city as they dock along West Street, for which a waterfront center is planned.
City Council recently approved the hiring of JP Thomson Architects to design it. It will go to land that once housed the public works yard along the Welland Canal.
Ten proposals have been sent for evaluation, and the city said the next step this month will see a series of kick-off meetings between city teams, the architectural firm and St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.
Consulting engineers will also participate in these early conversations by helping to develop a site plan that will determine the location of the building.
As cruise ships return, this season is expected to see around 20,735 berths – the number of people booked on ships – with at least 27,000 expected in 2023.
In previous interviews, the city has said that with between 180 and 500 passengers aboard the various ships, plus crew, it hopes to capture 10-15% of those numbers – around 2,000 people – and lure them ashore. .
The Viking Octantis, the most modern ship on the Great Lakes, is making four cruises this year with calls in Canadian and American ports.
Next year it will add a 15-day cruise on the Great Lakes Collection and the polaris viking will join the growing number of inland sea cruise liners.
The Octantis and Polaris have a fleet of professional military Zodiacs designed for professional use, a fleet of Arctic-tested two-seater kayaks, and two 12-seat convertible special operations boats. Each ship also includes two six-passenger submarines.
The ship’s hangar is an enclosed marina on board the ship that allows passengers to board and disembark tour boats in an innovative way via a 25-meter slipway that protects them from wind and waves.
The two ships, which will also sail in the Arctic and Antarctic, also have a 35 square meter science laboratory designed to support a wide range of research activities. The lab has wet and dry facilities, sample processing area, fume hood, freezer and cool storage, full microscope optics and ample benchtop space for analysis-specific instruments.
The lab was developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Akvaplan-Niva, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Water Research Institute.
Each ship also features an indoor-outdoor heated sanctuary with a retractable glass dome that allows guests to be surrounded by their destination as they swim and bask in three different temperature-controlled pools, including a upside-down swimming.