Viking Cruises has lifted its fleetwide requirement for pre-cruise COVID-19 testing, making the luxury line the first cruise line to do so since sailings restarted in mid-2021.
Not all passengers will be able to forgo the pre-cruise test, however, but this is an encouraging further step toward a return to pre-pandemic travel conditions.
Viking Cruises Ends Pre-Cruise Testing Requirement
In accordance with the decision of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to end the mandate for pre-flight testing for travelers entering the United States, Viking Cruises has also ended its fleetwide pre-cruise testing mandate as of June 10, 2022.
“Today, let us celebrate the good news together,” said Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen in a video announcement discussing the change. “I hope to see you onboard again soon.”
This does not mean, however, that all guests can now cruise without testing. In an update to their health and safety protocols, Viking explains:
“Viking highly recommends, but no longer requires, a pre-departure COVID-19 test—unless one is required by the destination. As of June 10, 2022, select ocean voyages on the Viking Orion and expedition voyages on the Viking Octantis in the United States and Canada will continue to require a pre-departure COVID-19 test.”
The cruise line does not yet list which destinations are requiring a pre-cruise test, but is working to notify booked guests of the updated protocols. The line’s vaccine mandates remain in effect for both passengers and crew members.
The cruise line is in the process of updating its website and related documents to reflect this shift. All changes should be made by June 14, 2022.
Onboard Protocol Updates and Changes
Viking will continue to offer and require COVID-19 tests both pre-cruise and onboard its ships in certain circumstances. This includes “if a guest reports symptoms, requests a test, or if our Medical Team deems necessary.”
The cruise line continues to make the health and safety of its guests, crew members, and communities it visits a top priority for successful operations. At this time, crew members will continue testing as needed and will wear masks at all times.
“We are proud that since Viking resumed operations in May 2021, we have successfully prevented any outbreak of COVID on board our ships—thanks to our protocols,” Viking states.
As of this writing, only two Viking Cruises ships are operating in U.S. waters and are therefore part of the CDC’s voluntary program for cruise ships – Viking Orion and the new Viking Octantis.
Viking Orion is currently offering 10-night, one-way Alaska sailings between Seward, Alaska, and Vancouver, Canada. The ship will remain in the Alaska market through mid-September, at which time the vessel will reposition to Asia and the South Pacific, including Australia, for the southern hemisphere summer season.
Viking Octantis, one of the cruise line’s newest vessels and the first of its purpose-built “expedition” ships, is currently offering Great Lakes itineraries, sailing to multiple ports along the Great Lakes and into Canada. Viking Octantis was only delivered to the cruise line in December 2021, and spent its inaugural season in Antarctica.
Both Viking Orion and Viking Octantis are currently classified as “orange” by the CDC, indicating that COVID-19 cases have been detected onboard and are being investigated.
Of the 93 total vessels across all cruise lines involved in the CDC’s program, 85 are classified as orange, three as yellow (a few cases reported but not enough to trigger an investigation), and only five are classified as green (no reported COVID-19 cases).
No ships are classified as red, which would indicate a more severe outbreak requiring additional health protocols.
Will More Lines Follow?
While Viking’s decision is an encouraging step, it may not be as extensive as it appears, as many destinations are likely to continue requiring pre-travel testing. This is a hopeful indication, however, that more testing requirements may soon be discontinued, which would make travel plans far easier for many eager cruisers worldwide.
No other cruise lines have so far indicated any changes to pre-cruise testing, but Cruise Hive will continue to keep readers updated as different cruise lines adapt their protocols in these changing times.