We’re a few days late on the Icelandverse bandwagon. But we want to do our part to make sure everyone takes a look at how Iceland is promoting tourism with a hysterical swipe at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the ‘metaverse’ concept.
In the video below, which comes to us courtesy of cheeky Visit Iceland, a “Chief Visionary Officer” Zack Mossbergsson -a character that looks and motions like Mark Zuckerberg, extols the many real things you can see, touch, and experience in Iceland in contrast to the virtual world of Zuckerberg’s metaverse.
“Today I want to talk about a revolutionary approach on how to connect our world without being super weird,” says Mossbergsson. “Some said it’s not possible. Some said it’s out of reach. To them we say, It’s already here. Seriously. Look it’s right here,” he says pointing out the window.
If you’ve been to Iceland before or are just packing to go to the “Icelandverse,” this video reinforces the fact that the country offers “enhanced actual reality without silly-looking headsets,” “water that’s wet” and “skies you can see with your eyeballs.” And whether you’re a fan of the company formerly known as Facebook, or not, you’ll get a kick out of this video.
Visit Iceland has a long history of quirky videos. Many are part of the Iceland Academy Series, including the one below about what to pack when visiting Iceland.
Just getting to go somewhere was an attraction of course. And there are now many researched-during-the pandemic places on our go-there-soon list.
But Iceland went to the top of the list when we took a look at the cruise itinerary and contemplated all the waterfalls, fjords, and elf-anointed landscapes we’d get to visit.
Viking’s Health and Safety program and COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plans, as described, were an attraction too.
Before the cruise, passengers had to provide proof of vaccination and fill out multiple health surveys. (I was a bit late on the uptake with that and got a phone call gently reminding me to get with the program.)
And in addition to wearing masks on board and while out on excursions, we had to agree to daily temperature checks, to wear contact-tracing devices, and to take daily non-invasive PCR tests once on board.
We were assured that crew members would be wearing the contact tracing devices and be tested daily too.
That PCR testing involves spitting into a tube left in our staterooms each night.
And to be honest, filling the tube to the required line isn’t that easy. And it is certainly not ‘cruise fun’ to be reminded by a staff member to take care of this task before leaving the cabin each day.
But it is important.
What happens to all that spit?
All the tubes get delivered daily to the onboard lab Viking has created on the ship. (Each Viking ocean ship has one now.) And the team in that lab uses highly sensitive equipment to test and evaluate all those PCR tests each day.
As we learned a few days into this cruise, this protocol works very well.
Although everyone on board is vaccinated, the lab discovered a suspected positive case of COVID_19 on board.
That fully vaccinated and asymptomatic guest was quickly re-tested and isolated in a dedicated section of the ship. The contact tracing system was activated.
We have another level of safety on board that has been protecting passengers from COVID-19: A pair of UV sanitizing robots, named R2 and D2. While passengers sleep, these efficient machines are sent into public spaces such as the fitness room and the atrium to UV-away any viruses that may be hanging about.
Still, the Icelandic authorities are making the Viking Sky skip some scheduled port visits. But because the onboard protocol is so extensive and efficient, there is no need for the rest of the passengers on board to restrict activities as we head back to Reykjavik.
There is no shortage of alcohol, sushi, or fact-filled lectures. And there are no other cases of COVID-19 discovered. (Yes, we keep spitting).
So we are all fine. It is, after all, a cruise ship filled with wonderful amenities and incredibly enthusiastic staff. There is no need to feel sorry for this merry band of cruisers.
[Update: the bars are now open. And Viking’s Chief Health Officer has arrived in Iceland to meet with officials and ensure the cruise line’s protocols are in sync with the country’s health officials and the Coast Guard. ]
As is their way, the team at Viking Cruises is keeping everyone very informed of what is happening – or not – and offering generous partial refunds (50% ) to customers, many of whom are already talking about their future cruises.
And as I move about the ship I hear disappointment, of course, but barely a grumble.
And that is why we are happy to spit on Viking Cruises.
Delta also announced on Tuesday that it is extending the expiration date on travel credits and bringing snacks back starting April 14. Passengers flying Delta One or First Class on select domestic coast-to-coast flights will see hot food options return in early June. First Class customers on some other U.S. routes will be served boxed meals beginning in early July.
Alaska Airlines now part of oneworld airline alliance
As of March 31 Alaska Airlines becomes the newest member of the oneworld airline alliance. That means that “as a Mileage Plan member, you can earn Alaska miles on all 14 member airlines when you fly to as many as 1,000 destinations in more than 170 countries and territories,” the airline said in a statement.
The new membership also means the benefit enjoyed by Alaska’s elite flyers will be honored on other member airlines.
“You’re an MVP Gold? Without doing a thing, you now also have Sapphire tier status in oneworld (75K fliers are Emerald and MVPs are Ruby in the alliance),” the airline notes, and, “Depending on your tier status, oneworld travel priveleges include priority check-in, access to more than 650 international first and business class lounges, preferred boarding, fast track through security, priority baggage benefits and more.”
Hair Rollers harbor finches
People try to smuggle things – foods, animals, drugs, etc – through airports all the time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently spotted a guy who was trying to 29 finches in these hair rollers.
Iceland is hot right now
If Iceland wasn’t high on your travel list before now, the volcanic eruption going on now should be grabbing your attention. Another reason to make plans to head that way: this package offer from Icelandair available to book through April 13 for travel from 10 US cities. Along with roundtrip airfare and three nights hotel, with breakfast, vaccinated travelers get a visit to the new Sky Lagoon, a Northern Lights Board Tour and a one-day pass for the Hop On Hop Off city sightseeing bus.
Icelandair took its first new Boeing 737 MAX 8 on a celebratory flight on Saturday, flying north from the in-city Reykjavík Airport for a one-hour special flight over stunning mountains and landscape before returning to the airport for a welcome party that included tours of the aircraft for hundreds of invited guests.
I was fortunate to go along for the flight.
All Icelandair planes are named after Icelandic volcanoes, glaciers or other areas of Iceland’s landscape and this new Boeing 737 MAX 8, is named Jökulsárlon, after a glacial lagoon.
Here are some more snaps from the flight:
Invited guests on the flight got to taste a special 737 Transatlantic Pale Ale, which will be available for purchase onboard Icelandair flights, starting at the end of May, for a few months.
Sigurður Helgason, Icelandair’s past CEO and Bjorgolfur Johannsson, the current President & CEO, toast the new plane with cans of the special 737 Transatlantic IPA.
Hundreds of invited guests came to the airport to welcome the plane and lined up for a tour. But first the red carpet had to put out.
This is the first of 16 737 Max airplanes Icealandair will receive over the next four years, so keep an eye out for them in the skies and at your airport.