Viking Cruises

Why We Spit on Viking Cruises

What’s the best part of taking a cruise around Iceland right now?

The food? The views? The waterfalls? Take your pick.

We’re fully vaccinated. But were we worried about traveling out of the country when the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t yet officially over?

You bet.

Still, when Viking Cruises sent an invite for a cruise around Iceland on the Viking Sky on one of the voyages in the “Welcome Back” collection, we said yes.

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.

Museum Monday highlights from Viking.TV

Courtesy Kon-Tiki Museum

We’re setting off for Iceland in a few weeks to join Viking for one of their Welcome Back cruises. So we have been poking around the company’s website.

One impressive resource there for the general public is Viking.TV. It was created in response to the pandemic and this channel is chock full of videos about art, culture, history, food, music, architecture, and destinations around the world.

Our favorite feature is Museum Monday. Stop in and you’ll see that there are now more than 60 videos about museums and collections. including some wonderful behind the scene tours.

You’ll find your own favorites, but here are a few of the videos that captured our attention and our imagination this week. We started with a visit to the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway, home to Thor Heyerdahl’s original Kon-Tiki raft and the papyrus boat Ra II.

We also went down a rabbit hole at London’s British Museum learning about how prepared the museum for lockdown and toured the collection of the Alaskan objects at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, England.

Astronauts have that isolation live/work thing down

Last week was World Space Week and Viking TV (a pandemic project of Viking Cruises) offered a full week of space-themed content.

I tuned in for the “When Space is Home” panel discussion with journalist Lynn Sherr and four former astronauts.

On the list of topics: animals in space, new toilets in space, and food in space.

And tips the astronauts might have for us about dealing with isolation.

A highlighted passage from my notes includes this advice: “Spend more time choosing your interactions and make them count more.”

The panelists you’ll hear from in the video below include:

Dr. Anna Fisher – In 1984, she was the first mother in space.

 Colonel Jack Fischer – During a 2017 mission, Fischer logged 136 days in space with two spacewalks.

Dr. Richard Linnehan – The first veterinarian in space.

Barbara Morgan – She pioneered the “Teacher in Space” program and flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2007.

Travel Tidbits – Out of the Inbox edition

Enter these sweepstakes

Baseball is back. (Sort of). And Alaska Airlines has a fun promo running with the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants.

Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants fans – or anyone – can enter to win one million miles as part of Alaska’s Million-Mile Home Run Sweepstakes. Register with your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan number, or sign up to get one free.

As a bonus, each week of the season Alaska Airlines will also pick one winner to receive air travel and tickets to 2021 Spring Training.

We also found an easy to enter sweepstakes from Bojangles. Prizes include $2,500 in cash, a $500 hotel gift card, a $500 gas card, a $500 rental car gift card, and $500 to spend at Bojangles.

Giant Robots at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Ten-foot-tall robots, a whole family of them, are now ‘living’ in the Phoenix Airport Museum’s Terminal 4 Gallery at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

The robots are part of an installation titled “Electro-Symbio Phonics for Phoenix,” by Nam June Paik.

What you’ll see: a mother, father, and child robot in an athletic pose with arms raised nearly touching the ceiling. Their heads, appendages, and torsos consist of 63 televisions blitzing with fast-paced video clips of sports highlights, popular culture, and desert imagery.

Ready to reconsider cruising?

Do you think you – and the world – might be ready to embrace cruising again in a year or so? Then you might want to go all-in on Viking’s new 2021-2022 Viking World Cruise. The trip will last 136 days, with visits to 27 countries and 56 ports.

The ship sets sail in Fort Lauderdale on December 24, 2021. After visiting ports of call in Central America, transiting through the Panama Canal, and going up the West Coast of North America, the ship will cross the Pacific Ocean and visit Hawaii. From there it’s off to New Zealand and Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean before ending in London.

Too long a trip for you? There’s a shorter, 119-day sailing. The 2022 Viking World Horizons which departs from Los Angeles on January 10, 2022, and visits 22 countries and 49 ports before ending in London.

Prices (which include lots of extras, such as business class airfare and transfers to and from the ship) start at $49,995 per person for the 2021-2022 Viking World Cruise and $45,995 for the 2022 World Cruise Horizons (based on double occupancy).