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?
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.