I’ll admit, my family members were a bit concerned. Before I left for my cruise on the Viking Venus through the Adriatic Sea (we’re currently on day two), my mother and friends probably told me fifteen (okay, maybe twenty times) “wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, be careful.. stay safe.” Honestly, this is probably the cleanest, safest cruise I’ve ever been on.
The boarding process actually began at home. Viking Ocean and River cruises are adults-only, therefore all guests qualify for a COVID-19 vaccination and Viking does require everyone to be vaccinated. Roughly ten days before departure, guests have to upload and certify their COVID-19 vaccination using the VeriFLY app. Additionally, our embarkation port of Malta required some documents to be completed and also used VeriFLY to verify your vaccination. Then, five days before departure Viking sends all guests a health questionnaire to complete. With that said, although my vaccine was verified and I showed the “green checkmark” in the VeriFLY app, both Viking and the health checkpoint at the Malta Airport asked to see my vaccine card again. So there is a bit of redundancy.
Arriving at the Embarkation Port
Upon arrival in Malta and beginning in the baggage claim area, Viking representatives guided us through the airport and on to busses where we waited to be cleared before departing to the port. To ensure added safety after many hours of traveling, Viking’s check-in area only processes 20 guests at a time. After each guest checks in, and again after each bus is completely checked in, each seat, counter, and table a guest touches is disinfected.
At the first podium checkpoint, a Viking representative takes your temperature. Then they ask you the same series of questions you previously answered on the health questionnaire before you left home just to ensure your health hasn’t changed while traveling. Once everything checks out, you’re then allowed to proceed to a check-in desk. Here, like all other cruises, you receive your room keys, a credit card gets placed on file, but unlike other cruises, you now receive your GPS tracking device. This device is used to quickly identify guests who may have encountered any other guest or crew member for longer than fifteen minutes, at a distance of fewer than six feet who tests positive for COVID-19. It is to be on your person at all times on and off the ship.
On Board the Ship
Once you board the ship you’re quickly taken to your muster station. Because of COVID-19, the safety drill has been drastically changed. There’s no more gathering while you listen to announcements. Instead, you arrive at your muster station and watch a quick demonstration on the use of your life jacket. After which you are then free to locate and enter your stateroom. On the television, you are required to watch a safety presentation and then acknowledge your viewing and understanding of the information right on the TV using your remote.
In Your Cabin
Soon after settling in, your room steward arrives and walks you through the various features of the Viking Venus’ beautiful cabins. But they also explain to you some of the health protocols onboard and your responsibilities while sailing. The first, and most important to Viking’s procedures is a daily PCR test. In each cabin upon boarding is two medical vials. Each morning you’re expected to fill one with 2ML of saliva for a PCR test that will be completed on board in a new state-of-the-art testing lab. A representative for Viking told me the Ocean ships have labs onboard and for their River cruises, they’ve created a network of testing labs in each port. Embarkation day is no different. Within fifteen minutes of boarding, I was expected to turn over my first sample for testing. Shipboard staff would know in the next few hours whether or not everyone on board was negative for COVID-19.. and to my knowledge, everyone was.
The second vial in the room was for the next morning’s test. Guests are also given a package of 10 masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes. Each night during turn-down service you’re given another vial for the next day.
Additional Testing & Protocols
In addition to wearing the GPS device and your daily PCR test, you’re also expected to visit the buffet area, The World Cafe, or guest services each day to have your temperature taken and recorded. They say this is “at your leisure,” but I’ve also been told they expect it to be done sometime before mid-afternoon. Also, before 10 a.m. every morning you’re expected to complete a health survey to affirm you’re not experiencing a fever, loss of taste, or flu-like symptoms. This can be completed on their app or on your TV.
While walking around the ship and on all excursions guests are required to wear face masks unless eating or drinking. However, I have spotted guests removing them in the lounge while playing a game or chatting when seated away from others, and on the sun and exercise decks.
By the way, the crew is also PCR tested daily and also wears GPS devices.
With all of the testing in place, questions to be answered, tracking to be done, masks worn and distances kept, Viking has done more than any cruise line I’ve seen to ensure the safety of the guests and crew and create peace of mind while on vacation. Personally, it is reassuring to know that everyone on board is tested daily and those seated around you at dinner or in a lounge are negative. And although we’re still wearing masks and keeping a distance, it does restore a sense of normalcy by way of removing a bit of worry when you hear a cough or pass someone at a close distance in a hallway.
We’ll have more from my experience onboard airing on The Jet Set week of 8/30. Find your local station here.