Viking announced that it had completed work on the first ever full-scale PCR laboratory at sea on its Viking Star vessel.
The lab will allow for “unprecedented testing capacity in the cruise industry”, according to the company, which hopes it will get the go-ahead to restart cruising again soon.
With capacity for every crew member and guest to be tested daily, the lab is designed to provide “flexibility to respond to COVID-19 prevalence levels around the world”.
Testing will be non-invasive, conducted using a saliva test.
The Viking Star has room for 930 guests onboard and was the line’s first ocean-going vessel, unveiled in 2015.
Its new lab must still undergo a series of “extensive” tests to ensure that it follows all necessary protocols.
Viking will show off the lab and other new procedures designed to be Covid-safe when it docks in Oslo, Norway, in November.
“We have been working on this for a number of months, and today is important as it moves us one step closer to operating cruises again, without compromising the safety of our guests and crew,” said Matt Grimes, vice president of maritime operations for Viking.
“The recently announced CDC guidelines are clearly aligned with our public health research, and we welcome the agency’s push toward testing, as we believe this is the only way to safely operate.
“In our view, continuous PCR testing, along with our extensive onboard hygiene protocols, will lead to making Viking ships a safe place to get away to and explore the world.”
It follows the news that the US cruise market could start to reopen in the not-too-distant future.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has replaced its cruise ban with a “framework for conditional sailing order” outlining how cruising can resume safely.
It’s not clear when exactly cruises will be up and running again, but the order recommends “a phased approach” with a “framework of actionable items for the cruise line industry to follow”.
The CDC has advised that cruise lines test their protocols with “mock” cruises where “volunteers play the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate Covid-19 risk”.
Companies must demonstrate that they have robust and rigorous health and safety procedures in place, including being able to adhere to social distancing requirements and having adequate testing and quarantine capacity onboard.