Viking Cruises will test all guests and crew for COVID-19 with daily PCR tests when sailings resume, as part of the company's new Viking Health & Safety Program, the cruise line recently announced.
The daily tests will be completed with a saliva sample in passengers' staterooms, the cruise line detailed this week, and processed in either an onboard lab on ocean-going ships or a shoreside lab for river cruises. Viking built the first lab onboard a ship on its 930-passenger-capacity "Viking Star."
"There is wide agreement that the best testing method for COVID-19 is PCR and also that daily tests — if you can do them — are important to avoid spread of the virus on board… Our experts agree: with daily PCR testing it is possible to virtually eliminate any spread of [the] virus on board our ocean or river ships," Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said in a video address, adding all of the new protocols "make the ships even more suitable for COVID times."
In addition to testing, Viking will install new air purification technology on each of its ships (all staterooms have their own independent air handling units), require passengers to fill out an online health questionnaire before leaving home, and perform temperature checks upon check-in.
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
Additionally, Viking will stagger boarding based on passenger's flight arrivals, and continually check temperatures with automated thermal cameras. Onboard, the company will use robots with UV-C light to disinfect public areas, has upgraded its medical facilities with specialized equipment, and will feature a 24/7 hotline to talk to a doctor for passengers on river cruises.
Shore excursions will include audio headsets to facilitate social distancing.
Viking has suspended operations through at least March 31, 2021, according to the company -- more than a year after the cruise line first cancelled sailings on March 11, 2020.
The cancellation is in line with several other major cruise lines, which have paused operations into 2021, with some nixing journeys even into 2022.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.