“No plan survives first contact with the enemy,” said Dr. Raquel Bono, chief health officer for Viking, after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19 on a recent sailing in Iceland. The company rose to the occasion, acting like a true warrior.
When we boarded the Viking Sky in Reykjavik, Iceland, little did we know that a suspected case of COVID-19 would be joining us. We anticipated that Viking would conduct two “Welcome Back”, circumnavigations around the island nation, with no incidents.
All crew and guests were fully vaccinated against this virus. The line requires , and there were many other protocols in place to add extra precaution.
Physical distancing began at embarkation. Instead of being gathered together to perform a muster drill or lifeboat, all passengers were led to their muster stations and shown how to wear a life jacket. It’s easy.
Less convenient is the spa’s thermal suite. Although it was still free, the thermal suite at the spa was temporarily available by appointment to limit guest capacity. The number of people who could use the pools and whirlpools was limited to four at a given time.
As we entered venues like the buffet, where food is now served, our temperatures were recorded at digital kiosks every day. Even more common were full sink basins and hand sanitizing stations. I saw the staff at guest relations disinfecting their desks after every passenger transaction. Viking did not play games.
Face coverings are also still required indoors while moving about the ship, in elevators and on tour buses. Two travel agents I spoke with onboard said that Viking’s health measures, including masks, were excessive for a fully vaccinated ship. Many guests felt the same way, and opted to not wear them onboard their motor coaches. The captain did however, speak over loud speakers to remind guests that it was not Iceland’s policy to wear them but Viking’s.
As it turned out, daily testing and contact trace were the most important measures to ensure our sailing. Viking is the first cruise line to have a full testing laboratory onboard each of its ocean ships, and guests must spit into a tube every morning to receive a non-invasive molecular COVID-19 test. Each cabin is provided with a tube in the evening. The tube will be taken to the laboratory the following morning by the stewards. To be prepared for the possibility that a case might arise, passengers are requested to bring a small (less than a quarter of an inch) contact tracing device.
And arise it did. Halfway through our cruise, the captain informed us that there was a single suspected COVID-19 infection on the ship, and that anyone in close contact with the guest was quickly informed before they were all retested. All contacts were negative. The guest was positive for the infection twice. The infected passenger was quarantined onboard and all spread was stopped.
Nonetheless, the last three of our port visits were impacted. Guests who had disembarked on the morning the COVID-19 case was discovered were returned right back to the ship by local Icelandic authorities. We thought that the cruise would go on as planned. However, tours were rescheduled the second day due to confusion over regional jurisdiction. Our third and final port was out of bounds.
Although an unfortunate situation, no one seemed upset with Viking, and all healthy parties were able to disembark as scheduled at the end of the cruise. The line followed all protocols and did everything it could to protect guests and crew.
Time will reveal how things go after the initial hiccup. However, we are still aboard Viking this week and will hopefully report back on a second sailing without incident. It is safe to say that the Viking cruise experience is still alive and well. Iceland is breathtakingly beautiful.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!