See photos inside Viking Octantis as it completes its first trip to Milwaukee

A bar aboard the Viking Octantis.

Last updated on May 10th, 2022 at 10:03 am

The Viking Octantis docked at Port Milwaukee for the first time Friday, bringing with it 307 passengers. The ship, which has capacity for 378 guests, also accommodates 256 cruise members. They’re the first of several groups expected to visit the Milwaukee and Great Lakes region this summer.

Cruise activity on the Great Lakes is experiencing exponential growth. In 2018, there were fewer than 1,000 passengers who came through the Great Lakes to Milwaukee. This summer, Port Milwaukee is expecting over 10,000 passengers.

Marcia Adair and her husband Richard Edwards were passengers on the Viking Octantis, and they are no strangers to the Midwest. Adair and Edwards are Ohio natives who chose to take part in the Toronto to Milwaukee trip offered by Viking because they’d already been on the more popular trips.

“This is our eighth cruise. We’ve been through a lot of Europe, so we decided to try the U.S. and Canada,” Edwards said.

As for the newly constructed ship itself, the couple gave its amenities high marks.

“It’s incredible. We’ve been on all the other ones and this one has everything – there’s a science lab on board,” Adair said, referencing the “Explorer Room” on board where passengers can plan their excursions and do research.

Milwaukee marked the end of this tour for Octantis passengers, who arrived at the port to find various buses for guided tours. Milwaukee Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, who represents the city’s 14th District, said the impact of cruise guests on Bay View and surrounding neighborhoods is an exciting opportunity for growth.

“The estimated economic impact for cruises in Milwaukee is between $2.8 million and $4 million annually. That’s major,” Dimitrijevic said. “We can expect more cruise ships, more passengers and more economic activity along the shores of Lake Michigan and in District 14. I’m so excited about the future potential that growing this cruising industry will have on Milwaukee’s south side, the rest of the city and the state.”

Port Milwaukee is a turnaround port, which means Milwaukee sees twice as many passengers for each vessel that visits, and cruise ships pay double the docking fees.  Adam Tindall-Schlicht, director of Port Milwaukee, said this situates the city as a premier cruise destination.

“Milwaukee is becoming the turnaround port of choice for international cruise lines that operate on the Great Lakes,” Tindall-Schlicht said. “These cruise lines will operate here in Milwaukee today, tomorrow and in the years ahead.”

Viking Cruises will utilize the Port’s City Heavy Lift Dock this season as their port-of-call 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 OctantisPort Milwaukee recently received $3.5 million in Capital Tourism grant funding from the state to build new Seawaymax infrastructure at South Shore Cruise Dock.

“People around the globe are clearly taking notice of our city,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “The growing passenger numbers, they speak for themselves. These international cruises are offering more freshwater tourists a glimpse into what makes the city of Milwaukee so special.”

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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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