Viking Octantis Bucket List: What You Can’t Miss Onboard

Ever dreamt of exploring untouched corners of the earth? Yeah, me too (like all day long)! That’s why being onboard the Viking Octantis is topping my cruising bucket list. Forget giant cruise ships with casinos and water slides – this expeditionary vessel is all about one thing: exploration.

Think zodiac landings, submarine dives, and lectures by experts who really know their sciency stuff. Plus, the Octantis is packed with cool onboard activities, from snow showers (seriously!) to weather balloon launches.

Here’s my picks for things not to miss while onboard your Octantis, whether your Viking Cruise takes you to the Arctic or on the 8-Day Niagara & Great Lakes cruise that I took. 

Must-Do Activities on Viking Octantis

Things to Do Onboard the Viking Octantis

1. Experience the Nordic Bathing Experience

The pretty onboard spa includes a bathing experience from the Nordic Culture—which is all included for FREE! This tradition alternates between heating up and cooling down to detoxify, relax muscles and stimulate circulation. And even though I hate being cold, there’s no way I was missing it.

Nordic Bathing Spa

The steps were to first relax in the sauna, then refresh with a cold bucket shower (brr!), afterwards heat up in the outdoor badestamp and finally step into the snow shower. Then repeat.

P.S. The snow shower that shoots actual snow down from the ceiling is extra bucket list worthy. So, if you skip everything else, at least do this!

2. Order a Lobster Sushi Roll

It was a special treat that they served lobster EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. And I definitely ate my share slathered in clarified butter. 

But, here’s an insider tip: if you take that lobster from the World Cafe Grill over to the sushi section they will turn it into a yummy sushi roll!

3. Find The Hide

A dimly lit speakeasy that features some of the crew telling fascinating expedition stories? Sign me up! Viking Octantis has just the place for like-minded people who have a sense of adventure and exploration: The Hide.

The Hide Interior

This speakeasy is quite tricky to find, because they intentionally keep it under-the-radar. The idea is that, like any good explorer, you’ll find it only by exploring the ship and asking around. But once you find it, what awaits you is a steady flow of drinks and amazing (and sometimes educational) stories from its host/speakers.

Hint: you can only get there from the bow side of the boat and only from certain floors. And being a speakeasy, you can’t get anything but straight-up liquor inside (so, I brought my own wine, of course).

4. Watch the Weather Balloon Launch

The Viking Octantis (as well as its sister ship, Polaris) specialize in meaningful scientific work, so once a week they launch and track a weather balloon in remote areas like Antarctica and the Great Lakes, and the guests get to see it! 

This usually is announced in the daily schedule and happens on the top deck, so be sure to catch it if you want to see science in action! After they let the balloon off you can go to the expedition center and watch the graphs of them live tracking it, to see how high and far it goes. 

Fun fact: The Viking Octantis is actually the first civilian ship to be designated as an official weather balloon launch station by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


5. Take the Art Walk

There is artwork displayed throughout the ship (each area has a different theme!). Most of them are Norwegian, which are made by renowned as well as up-and-coming artists. They also come in all sorts of mediums, like digital prints, photographs, and oil paintings.

Art Viking Octantis

Something that I found cool is that next to the artwork there is a small informational plaque displayed that has the artist’s information plus a number. If you go to the Viking Voyager app. you can key in this number and get a lot more information about that specific piece of art.

Art Walk Viking

6. Eat Grandma’s Norwegian food at Mamsen’s

All the food in this small dining section are traditional Norwegian recipes straight from “Mamsen”, the grandmother of Viking’s senior vice president, Karine Hagen. 

DON’T miss out on the Ertesuppe (Split Pea Soup), it was my favorite! Other must-tries include Mamsen’s original recipe waffles and open-faced sandwiches. Something that caught my eye too are billboards of her grandma’s recipes displayed throughout.

7. Ride on a Zodiac

If you’re taking an expedition cruise, then it’s almost a sure thing that one of your excursions will include a Zodiac ride (weather permitting of course). The ship has 17 of these Special Operations Boats, so don’t miss taking a ride on one.


8. Play Games on a Video Table

In the “Living Room” on Deck 5, you will find an interactive video table where you can play games like air hockey, checkers or blackjack. You can even turn the table into a digital canvas and opt to draw a masterpiece! If was a routine for my husband and I to play a few games of blackjack every night before dinner.

Video Tables Annette

9. Read a Good Book

Also on Deck 5, there are many seating areas with loaded bookshelves which makes it easy to dive into a good book. The books were expertly curated by Heywood Hill Libraries in London and most are related to specific destinations, like the Arctic and Antarctica. 

Library Onboard Viking Octantis Annette

10. Ride in a Submarine

If there’s an opportunity to ride in the submarine…DO IT! My itinerary didn’t include it, but we did get to go inside and have a look. They have two 6-seater yellow submarines onboard, named Paul and John (from the Beatles). 

Tip: You can do this as part of their optional excursion program on some of their Antarctica, The Arctic, Great Lakes, and Grand Journeys itineraries. If it’s something you really want to do, make sure to ask before booking.

Submarine Viking Octantis

11. Get a Signature Spa Service

There are many unique spa services offered onboard, but why not try one of their signature ones? The Arctic Face Toning is one that is special for the ship, while the Nordic Facial is featured onboard all the Viking Cruises. I had the latter of the two, it was uber-relaxing and included the use of hot and cold stones on my face.

12. Help with a Puzzle

Throughout the cruise unfinished puzzles are randomly placed around the ship. Stop and help out with one! Every time I walked by one, someone different was working on completing one.

Midway through the cruise most were finished and the staff let us enjoy the masterpieces for a day and then replaced them with fresh puzzles.


13. Get the Viking Bistecca at Manfredi’s

Multiple people told me that the Viking Bistecca at the Italian restaurant Manfredi’s was their absolute favorite dish on the boat. So, I had to try it—and so do you. It’s a thick-cut ribeye coated in garlic oil and rubbed with porcini mushroom powder, kosher salt, brown sugar and red chili flakes. Need I say more?

For the Antipasti dish don’t miss the parmigiana di melanzane di manfredi! The layered eggplant dish was so delicious I had it two nights in a row!

14. Witness A Lock

A lock in a canal is like a giant elevator for boats. Canals aren’t always flat, so locks raise or lower boats between different water levels. This way, boats can travel the entire length of the canal, even if there are changes in elevation. It never ceases to amaze me to see this clever engineering feat at work!

Our cruise went through the Welland Canal (connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario) which had a whopping 8 locks and took about 12 hours to get through! It was fascinating to go to the bow to watch as the our ship went through one of these.

15. Order Room Service

Nothing says luxury quite like ordering room service — breakfast in bed anyone? They have 24-hour room service, with a complimentary menu that features items throughout the day, from breakfast options like oatmeal and pancakes to dinner choices like pasta, grilled salmon, and burgers. 

What’s more, you can also order from the menus of the ship’s specialty restaurants during their open hours. During lunch and dinner hours, they offer complimentary wine, alcohol, and soft drinks.

16. Attend a Lecture or Talk

Being an expedition/scientific type of ship, Viking Octantis features a team of resident experts on board. They give lectures and presentations throughout the cruise on a variety of topics related to the itinerary. Some of these might include a talk on weather balloons, a knots workshop, and even an explorer diary story telling (which typically happens in The Hide). 

Many of these talks are held at The Aula, a breathtaking panoramic auditorium modeled after the renowned ceremonial hall of the University of Oslo.

Viking Octantis Lecture

From weather balloon launches to snow showers these unique moments onboard the Viking Octantis aren’t just activities—they’re memories in the making. 

This post was in partnership with Viking Cruises. All opinions my own. For more information read my full disclosure.

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Annette White the Owner of Bucket List Journey
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