Cruise season kicks off in Milwaukee with return of Viking Octantis

The Viking Octantis arrives in Milwaukee at the start of the 2023 cruise season.

Last updated on May 8th, 2023 at 02:12 pm

The Viking Octantis cruise ship returned to the Milwaukee harbor Thursday morning, officially marking the start of the 2023 cruise season for the city.

The cruise ship’s arrival in Milwaukee will begin a 2023 summer season during which 31 port calls by various cruise ships are planned, bringing an estimated 12,000 passengers to the city.

Operated by Switzerland-based Viking Cruises, the Octantis ship can carry up to 378 passengers on voyages throughout the Great Lakes. This is the second season that Viking will designate Milwaukee as a stop for the company’s Great Lakes cruise itineraries.

Viking also plans to introduce a second, identical ship to the Great Lakes in 2023. Called the Viking Polaris, the ship will double the cruise line company’s capacity in the Great Lakes region and create more recreational tourism opportunities in Milwaukee.

The Octantis and Polaris ships will also offer new cruises this year between Milwaukee and South America. The passengers who arrived in Milwaukee on Thursday completed a two-month long trip that began in South America.

“Port Milwaukee’s Great Lakes cruise industry has elevated our profile within the community and around the world. More residents are becoming familiar with Port Milwaukee’s work because of this new tourism sector, and we’re excited for more growth in the years ahead,” said Jackie Carter, director of Port Milwaukee. “The Port is looking forward to another successful Great Lakes recreational cruise season in 2023.”

After the cruise season was cancelled for two years due to the pandemic, 2022 was a record-setting year for Port Milwaukee with over 13,000 visitors coming to the city. Eight different cruise ships made 33 port calls last year.

Peggy Williams-Smith, president and chief executive officer of VISIT Milwaukee, previously said the economic impact of last year’s cruise season in Milwaukee was over $3.1 million.

This year, Viking will once again use the city’s Heavy Lift Dock as its docking location. The South Shore Cruise Dock, located immediately east of the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry terminal, will serve as the future port-of-call for vessels the size of the Viking Octantis and the Viking Polaris. Construction of South Shore Cruise Dock is expected to begin in 2024.

“Milwaukee is a great destination, filled with attractions and hospitality. People from around the globe are taking notice of our city,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “This is a wonderful example of how local and regional partnerships are creating new excitement and activity in Milwaukee. I’m looking forward to more international cruise passengers traveling to America’s fresh coast this year, and beyond.”

Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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