Ann Bancroft (left) with Viking' godmother, Liv Arnesen, in Antarctica. Credit: Viking

‘Polar exploration has taught me so much,' says celebrated polar explorer Ann Bancroft

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Esteemed explorer Ann Bancroft is the first woman ever to reach both poles. As godmother of new expedition ship Viking Polaris, she shares her love of dazzling destinations

What is it that makes expedition cruising such a special experience?
I have always been drawn to remote, wide-open spaces, and Viking’s expedition itineraries allow travellers to reach these very special areas of the world, including North America’s Great Lakes.

But for me, Antarctica is incomparable to anywhere else on earth, and experiencing that scenery from a Viking ship is just extraordinary.

How did you feel when you were invited to be godmother of Viking Polaris?
It’s a tremendous honour. What is lovely about Viking is that, no matter where they go, whether it’s the polar regions or Europe, they encourage a sense of curiosity. We’re all life-long learners and it’s such an adventure to see all parts of the globe we live on. Viking enables so many people to do that, and I feel honoured to be a part of their family.

Polar exploration has never looked so stylish. Credit: Viking

What is your favourite place aboard a Viking expedition ship?
Probably the Living Room. It’s located to maximise views of the surroundings through floor-to-ceiling windows, and it’s home to a library that informs even the best-read explorers.

The Library is curated by acclaimed London bookshop Heywood Hill, as on all Viking vessels, as well as Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, so there are some real gems in there.

The Finse Terrace is also quite special – it’s an outdoor lounge area just above sea level, with heated seating and lava rock ‘firepits’. Its name comes from the Finse Plateau in Norway, where some of the greatest polar explorers did their expedition training.

What advice would you give to readers who are planning their first expedition cruise?
Immerse yourself in the journey before you take it. Whether it’s through books, films or podcasts, research will make you feel so much more in tune with your destination.

understands that, so before any expedition journey their guests are equipped with a recommended reading list, film list and even a Spotify playlist tailored to the destination. There is also a special section on Viking.TV that’s packed with excellent expedition content and advice.

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Did you dream of exploration at an early age?
I grew up in a rural setting, so adventure was always just outside the back door. I came across a book on my parents’ bookshelf about the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, and that’s when my world really opened up.

I was fortunate to have parents who nurtured my dreams and gave me the sense that the world was my oyster.

How did you feel during your first polar expedition?
It was a life-changing experience that taught me so much. Each expedition is a stepping stone to knowledge and confidence but it’s completely different each time

Every good expedition gives you a moment of truth – you never know when it’s going to happen or what it will be about, but when it arrives it changes you for life.

Let Viking take you to the heart of Antarctica. Credit: Viking

Do you have any advice for budding explorers?
Keep stepping out of your comfort zone and keep your eyes wide open to opportunities. Stay curious, keep learning and keep experiencing. Life is wild and wonderful and it’s good to challenge yourself now and then.

I always say that my best advice is to ‘get lost’ – because when you do, that’s when the good life stories are created. And you will always find your way back.

Find out more about Ann Bancroft at Viking’s second expedition ship, Viking Polaris, began sailing this month (October) in Antarctica. This will be followed by a series of voyages in the US Great Lakes next spring and summer. Find out more at

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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.