At around 11 a.m. Friday, the Viking cruise ship Octantis backed under the Hoan Bridge and moored at the city's Heavy Lift Dock at Port Milwaukee, kicking off the season here in Milwaukee, where such ships are expected to carry 10,000 passengers here in 2022. We went inside for a look.
The ship had arrived from Mackinac Island as part of its debut season using Milwaukee as an embarkation and debarkation port for the cruise line’s itineraries.
The arrival launches a season in which Milwaukee expects 33 cruise ship port calls, a massive jump from the 10 stops here in 2019. (Covid halted Great Lakes cruises in 2020 and '21.)
It is these kinds of numbers that have led to the construction of a dedicated cruise ship dock and terminal to be constructed on the lakeshore in Bay View, next to the Lake Express Ferry terminal.
You can read more about that project here.
After a press conference by local officials and the captain of the ship, Anders Steen, tours of the bright, modern, Scandinavian-design-inspired ship were offered to media, while most of the roughly 340 passengers were off exploring Brew City.
The Octantis, which looks large in the inner harbor, especially seen from atop the Hoan Bridge, is fairly small in the cruise ship world.
Just completed, it can carry 378 guests, along with a crew of 256. It is 665 feet long and 77 feet wide.
Viking calls it an "expedition ship built specifically to explore the world’s most remote destinations and allow you to immerse yourself in these regions," and it carries a variety of smaller water excusion craft.
Each state room also has a drying closet for passengers whose gear gets wet during explorations. There's also a science lab and an area celebrating classic adventure literature.
In addition to treks between Milwaukee and Thunder Bay, Toronto and Milwaukee, and New York and Toronto, Octantis also travels between South America and the Antarctic, and the Caribbean.
Cruises range in price from about $4,000 to about $30,000 and last anywhere from eight to 47 days.
But beyond that nod toward ruggedness, the rest of Octantis' six decks are pretty plush, with a spa – that has a "Snow Grotto," basically a sauna with a snow machine – a salon, a fitness center, pools, outdoor terraces, living-room style lounges, a food hall, multiple bars and restaurants, the Aula auditorium and more.
The staterooms all have Nordic balconies, which are seating areas next to large windows that slide down to a bar-top-style ledge, providing wide open-air views as well as a place to rest your elbows while using your ship-provided binoculars.
To see it all, check out this interactive deck plan.
Here's what we saw inside:
Living Room seating
Aquavit Terrace bar
Sushi in the World Cafe food hall
View down into The Hangar (excursion vehicles)
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.