Viking, the company that got its start plying European rivers, will splash into the Great Lakes in the summer of 2022. One of the routes on the Earth's largest body of freshwater will shine a spotlight on Minnesota. Duluth will be among its ports of call.

Ships are being built for the just-announced cruises and have been designed specifically for expeditions. The Viking Octantis, the ship destined for the Great Lakes, will take its inaugural voyage in January 2022 to Antarctica. It will hold 378 guests in 189 staterooms and includes a space called "the hangar" that acts like an in-ship marina, where guests can easily get into small watercraft for shore excursions and small-group explorations.

A sister ship, the Viking Polaris, will head to the Arctic and Antarctica beginning in August 2022.

According to Viking, both of these ships will be "small enough to navigate remote polar regions and the St. Lawrence River, while large enough to provide superior handling and stability in the roughest seas."

Minnesota explorer and educator Ann Bancroft will be honored as ceremonial godmother to the Polaris. Her fellow adventurer, Norwegian Liv Arnesen, will be godmother to the Octantis.

Viking is offering four different Great Lakes cruises for 2022.

The Undiscovered Great Lakes stops in Duluth. The cruise, offered seven times between May and Sept., will depart from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and end in Milwaukee. Beyond the first stop in Duluth, the eight-day journey takes in the Apostle Islands, Wis.; Houghton and Mackinac Island, Mich.; and a passage through the Soo Locks in the St. Mary's River on its way to Lake Huron before it crosses Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. Prices start at $6,695 per person.

Another eight-day trip, the Great Lakes Explorer, starts in Milwaukee and ends in Thunder Bay. Stops include Georgian Bay, Canada, and Mackinac. Niagara and the Great Lakes, also an eight-day cruise, sails from Toronto to Milwaukee. Cruisers can explore Canada's Pointe Pelee National Park, Detroit and Alpena, Michigan, among other stops.

The longest cruise, the 13-day Canadian Discovery has multiple ports of call, including Halifax, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec City. Prices begin at $8995.

This summer, the German-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will dock its Hanseatic Inspiration two times in Duluth. The city is already planning shore excursions and lining up German translators for the boatload of visitors.

Kerri Westenberg • 612-673-4282