We just concluded a 12 day cruise of the Antarctic aboard Viking Cruises' Octantis. This is a Polar Class 6 purpose-built expedition ship, starting the first passenger voyage of the Antarctica in January, 2022. It is named after Sigma Octantis, the south star, since the ship's primary route is the Antarctica (although in the Southern Hemisphere's winter it travels through the Great Lakes).
As an expedition ship, it has several unique spaces, in addition to the 189 staterooms (capacity for 378 guests) and about 250 crew"
The Hangar at the aft of the ship holds all of the "toys" as they are nicknamed, including more than 20 zodiacs, dozens of sea 2-person kayaks, two high speed special operation boats (that exit through a custom stern slipway), and a gantry crane that is used to move the two Cruise Sub 7-300 yellow submarines (no pun intended here!). The space was also humming with activity, although it was different from the embarkation area that passengers used for egress and ingress from the various excursions.
There was a fancy "boot cleaner" that removed all materials deemed to be potentially toxic to the Antarctic environment so when walking on the snow/ice or land you didn't bring anything from the boat with you. Actually, we had to take all of our personal equipment and clothing we would wear outside to be "cleaned" during our first day at sea, so we also would not contaminate the environment.
(Getting fitted for expedition boots -- provided by Viking)
Viking provided us with outdoor gear, including 2 jackets, pants, boots, and an inflatable life vest, so you were all identical when outdoors (think penguins but in red!).
(LestertheInvestor is dressed and prepared to face the elements)
The room had a great feature of a heating closet, where outdoor clothing was dried and warmed!
(Lifeboats, if you should ever need them, enclosed and heated)
There were also several "apps" that you could use to monitor what was going on onboard, but also monitoring the ships position and current air and wave conditions.
"The Aula" is a 2 story (deck) high auditorium (amphitheater) that covered the entire back of the ship--and had a large screen that was retracted by a "garage door-like chain mechanism" to reveal the full 180 panorama view. The space opened to allow for a reception space behind (where we enjoyed hot chocolate and stronger drinks!). This area was used 3-4 times per day for all of the lectures, preparations, and briefings. The expedition staff would give lectures on sea life, whales, krill, sea birds, cloud types, precipitation, the human impact with research on the continent, and anything else you may fancy! They were informative, entertaining, and preparatory for the next day's activities.
(Space behind the Aula)
The final unique space was the Laboratory, a space used for scientific research, with an in-house research staff and doctoral candidates. They are partnered with environmental research groups, ornithology departments, water research, weather services, and even launches weather balloons (alas the wind was too fast on the day we were going to observe it).
The ship, registered in Bergen, Norway, is 673 feet long, 77 feet wide and drafts to 20 feet. The maximum speed of 18 knots (21 mph) is generated with 4 amazing engines, that can geolocate the boat to within millimeters of the desired location with thrusters that are seemingly a full 360 rotation!
The interior of the ship was arranged into large, open conversation-style spaces, filled with book-lined shelves around the seating areas. These areas also doubled for some of the meetings, served as bars, and also allowed for the ship's musicians to entertain with various forms of music (classical and pop-rock).
Fake fire-places were everywhere and provided a great ambiance. All of the walls were covered with various art pieces, photographs, and objects of general expeditionary use from decades ago.
They had several bars, including one called The Hide, which was hidden, and required quite a bit of sleuthing to find.
There was a map room, which had maps of all of the places in Antarctica, along with life-size models of various sea birds.
Of course, there were a variety of restaurants serving delicious meals....
There were areas to walk on deck, an indoor-outdoor pool (including caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium!), a spa, including outdoor jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, snow shower, bucket shower (ice water!), and heated mosaic loungers, along with an indoor jacuzzi-pool, and massage rooms adjacent.
There was a gym, which actually gave an amazing view of the whales as you used the various equipment! The rooms were well designed with sufficient space to enjoy your stay. While there was no balcony, the window come down to 50% height, allowing you to enjoy the frigid air and take photos without glass in the way!
The people were friendly, the interest level in activities similar, and the staff were all amazingly friendly and happy to help you with whatever you may need. It was definitely worth it and an experience that will not be forgotten.