FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Viking Polaris Antarctica Review

by Jillian Dara

Dec 27, 2023

© Jillian Dara

eFlyer Reviews

“If you wouldn’t mind only wearing this hat around the boat, that would be much appreciated,” a Viking expedition team member politely requested as she handed back my faux-fur lined trapper hat with a smile. “Real fur is even more discouraged for landings as scientists are like why are we finding rabbit fur here?’”

It was my first day aboard the 378-passenger Viking Polaris — Viking Cruises’ second expedition ship launched in September 2022 —  on a 10-day sailing to Antarctica. I was on Deck A in the embarkation wing clearing my outerwear with Viking’s biosecurity, a measure in place due to the destination’s fragile environment. This is when I realized how Viking’s attention to detail exceeded the elements of its luxurious standard to the practical details and committed responsibilities as a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

Viking

© Jillian Dara

I initially boarded the Polar Class 6 ship (meaning it can sail through ice thickness up to 2.2 feet) in Ushuaia, Argentina.

On board, I settled into my 269-square-foot Nordic Penthouse — one of six room categories on board — outfitted with a king bed, Nordic balcony, heated bathroom floors, ample storage space and a cozy seating nook complete with a bookshelf displaying titles of famed explorers. There were also destination-specific necessities: a dry closet to quickly evaporate moisture from your gear in between expeditions, binoculars, lip balm, hand lotion and sunscreen. It was sizable, comfortable and surprisingly warm given the floor-to-ceiling panoramic glass, so I thought I’d spend ample time in my room. Yet, there was so much to do on the boat in between excursions I only used the space for showering and sleeping.

Expeditions & Science
I’ve been on both ocean liners and river cruises before, but this was my first expedition trip. One detail guests are regularly reminded from the moment of booking is how dependent activities are on weather conditions. This became apparent as soon as Polaris reached the Antarctic Peninsula and we were caught in a blizzard that washed out our first day. Even though they’d prepared us for this, the crew still profusely apologized. The rest of the days we were privileged to experience the destination via the ship’s impressive collection of “toys” as Viking refers to them — 12 zodiacs, two special operations boats, eight kayaks and two submarines.

Viking

Jillian Dara

Zodiacs zipped us to shore for hour-long landings or through glaciers for dedicated scenic cruising, and submarines brought guests some 700 feet down to the Southern Ocean seabed and, if lucky, eye-to-tentacle with the Viking jellyfish — a 30-foot scyphozoan known as the giant phantom jellyfish Viking first encountered in 2022 during its inaugural season in Antarctica. It was spotted by one sub group during our sailing.

Perhaps my favorite experience was kayaking. What I thought sounded intimidating was a nice paddle in the calm inlets towered by glacial peaks for a humbling reality of the land’s rugged vastness. Without motors, I felt the stillness and heard the hush of the untouched land.

Viking

© Jillian Dara

Leisure & Science
In between activities, panoramic windows permitted unparalleled views from reading nooks in The Living Room to the barstools at the bow-located Explorers’ Lounge and the caldarium (warm plunge pool). Guests could also use downtime to learn more about Antarctica by interacting with on-board scientists at Expedition Central or attending educational lectures at The Aula. I loved learning how the leisure ship doubles as a research vessel; throughout our 10 days of active sailing, Viking scientists were busy collecting samples of phytoplankton as indicators of glacier melt impact, observing microplastics and transmitting weather balloon data in collaboration with their esteemed list of scientific partners including NOAA, NASA and University of Cambridge.

Viking

© Jillian Dara

Wellness
I was thoroughly dazzled by the state-of-the-art Nordic Spa and fitness center on Deck 2, where I spent at least an hour a day. The unisex facilities are inspired by Viking’s Scandinavian roots, with a thermal pool enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows ensuring you never miss a wildlife viewing (I witnessed a family of humpback whales breaching one afternoon), as well as a series of hot and cold therapies: a badestamp (hot tub), sauna, steam room, snow grotto and cold bucket shower. I enjoyed performing the circuit daily and it never felt overcrowded.

Viking

© Jillian Dara

Cuisine
I was nervous that after day 10 I’d have food fatigue given guests eat all their meals on board. However, this was certainly not the case. The buffet-style World Café acted as the main eating hall of the ship, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. There was a constant rotation of dishes along with signature concessions, like the grill, sushi bar and salad station. I was particularly excited about the themed days, like a Mexican-inspired lunch with quesadillas and guacamole, and an Asian takeover, featuring a bounty of curries, stir fry and dumplings. Another way Viking Polaris provides culinary variety is with its two standalone venues: The Restaurant offers an upscale menu with regional flair while Manfredi’s serves traditional Italian.

I know they say Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but I’d jump at another opportunity to return to the White Continent with Viking in the future.

Viking Polaris Antarctica

tel 800 381 4596

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