Cruise in luxury to the ends of the Earth with Viking Polaris

Viking Polaris is the ship that bucket list dreams are made of. The sturdy, 378-passenger ship in the Viking fleet is rated Polar Class 6, so it can take you to the ends of the Earth, no problem. It's tricked out with Zodiacs, two submersibles, kayaks and a speed boat, so remote islands and narrow bays won't keep you from close encounters with wildlife and nature. Checking off worldwide wish-list destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic and the Great Lakes also comes with style. The ship boasts four onboard restaurants and a breathtaking spa that's open to all. Cabins are cozy and spacious with seating nooks by floor-to-ceiling windows, large (for a ship) bathrooms with heated floors and thoughtful touches for the perfect adventure, like a drying closet and two sets of binoculars. Public lounge areas are so inviting, with comfortable seating and light-filled spaces thanks to tons of windows, that you'll be glad to kick back with a book, a puzzle or a drink after an incredible experience ashore. And the crew members do all they can to make you feel right at home, remembering your name and greeting you warmly whenever they see you. Viking might be inspired by Nordic sailors of yore, who explored the world in their bare-bones longships -- or the rugged 20th-century explorers whose portraits line the walls of the ship -- but Viking Polaris' creature comforts would make all those hardy men and women rethink their travel choices. You won't regret yours if you choose to make this gorgeous little ship your home base for vacation adventure.

At 30,158 tons, Viking Polaris is small by ocean ship standards. The biggest megaships are eight times larger. But it's actually the largest vessel in the adventure-focused subset of ocean ships known as expedition ships, and it holds an unusually large number of passengers for such a vessel: 378 spread across 189 cabins and suites. This means that while you'll enjoy the intimacy and personalized service of a small ship when you're on board, not to mention the additional onboard venues the extra space allows, you will need to wait your turn when going ashore in some destinations such as Antarctica, where only 100 people are allowed onshore at each landing site at a time. In addition, the ship is for adults only; you must be 18 years or older to sail. Not that you should expect a bunch of partying 20-somethings on board. Viking caters to a 55+ crowd, and the majority of its guests are retirees in their 60s and 70s. The cruise line also has a huge fan club. More than half the guests on my Antarctica cruise were repeat passengers who adore Viking's ocean and river cruises, and you'll find that to be true on most sailings.

Related: Viking Explorer Society cruise loyalty program: Everything you need to know

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