Viking announces epic 71-day cruise, beginning in Duluth
Tickets for the world cruise that will take guests to Antarctica start at about $50K.
DULUTH — Travelers with plenty of time and money to spend are likely to descend on the city next fall, providing the local tourism industry with a welcome economic shot in the arm.
Viking Cruises has announced an itinerary for a Longitudinal World Cruise starting in Duluth on Sept. 12, 2023. Ticket prices start at $49,995, but if you book before June 30 of this year, they’ll throw in free international air travel.
The Viking Polaris can accommodate up to 378 guests on a 71-day cruise that will take passengers through the St. Lawrence Seaway, down the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, down the west coast of South America, all the way to Antarctica and back north to end in Ushuaia, Argentina.
“I think it’s good news for Duluth, because to be at the start of a trip means that passengers will spend time in Duluth. Their travel plans will likely include a hotel stay, and they’ll maybe make a day of Duluth before their departure,” said Lucie Amundsen, communications director for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, where guests will be processed before they embark on the international voyage.
Duluth will be a port of call for seven cruise trips this year, as it hosts the Viking Octantis , a sister ship to the Polaris. The vessel’s second visit to Duluth is expected June 27.
In a written statement, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said: “Our expedition ships were designed with the Great Lakes in mind. This region has been historically underserved by cruise lines, and we are delighted by the warm and enthusiastic reception we have received from the local communities. With our first season now underway, we are pleased with the strong demand among our guests and look forward to introducing even more curious travelers to these fantastic destinations in 2023.”
This year, cruise ship visits to Duluth are expected to inject about $677,000 into the local economy, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research in conjunction with the Minnesota Sea Grant.
Researchers noted that if Duluth becomes an origination point for cruise travel instead of just a port of call, it could expect greater financial rewards.
But Matt Grimes, vice president of maritime operations for Viking, told researchers Duluth might be an unlikely host destination for cruise ship travel, as it lacks direct flights to major markets, such as New York City or Los Angeles. Still, Duluth does have direct connections to other major centers, including Minneapolis, Chicago and presumably Denver in the near future.
Deb DeLuca, executive director, Duluth Seaway Port Authority, issued a statement, saying, “Viking’s first cruise ship visit to Duluth was a success, thanks to a team effort from our cruising partners, and we’re excited to see plans forming for the development of more cruise opportunities in our port, including Viking’s 'Longitudinal World Cruise.’ The details are still coming together, but the idea of Duluth serving as a hub port for such a grand voyage would represent an impressive next stage for the expansion of modern cruising in our region and on the Great Lakes.”
“Overall, from the hospitality side, along with the airport, this is a huge win for our region, because of the money it will bring in,” said Natalie Peterson, director of communication and marketing for Duluth International Airport.
“And just think about the fact that these will be worldwide travelers. They’re not going to be coming from one particular area or region, So, it helps put Duluth on the map. We will welcome them,” she said.
Tricia Hobbs, a senior economic developer for the city of Duluth, said: “We are excited about Viking’s recent announcement to feature Duluth as a port of call in 2023 for both their Great Lakes Cruise and World Cruise. By allowing cruise passengers to start or end their cruise in Duluth, we’ll see visitors not only patronizing our shops and attractions, but also staying in our hotels, dining in our restaurants, and experiencing our arts and culture scene. This puts Duluth in play as a destination option for other cruise lines looking to offer unique and authentic experiences like Viking has.”
Peterson has high hopes and said, “Hopefully, it will be wildly successful, and the airport will play a positive role in any way that we can to be a good partner, as always."
This story was updated at 9:10 a.m. June 8 with a statement from Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen and again at 11 a.m. the same day with a statement from Deb DeLuca. It was originally posted at 5:57 p.m. June 7.