Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen has announced the cruise line will temporarily suspend both its river and ocean cruise programs in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation gripping the world.
In a video and in letter form to guests booked to cruise with Viking, Hagen said COVID-19 has made travel “exceedingly complicated”.
“An increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, have temporarily closed to cruise ships; major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed; and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors,” Hagen explained.
“In recent days we have had an experience where a river cruise guest in Southeast Asia was exposed to COVID-19 while in transit on an international airline. While this guest is not exhibiting symptoms, she has been placed in quarantine. Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined,” he said.
Hagen said that the current situation had reached the point where “operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions, which could diminish the travel experiences for which our guests have been planning”.
He said that as a private company, and without the expectations of quarterly profits, Viking has the flexibility “to do what is best for our guests and our employees”.
As a result, Viking’s river and ocean voyages embarking from 12 March until 30 April have been halted, a decision Torstein says was made with a heavy heart. “With present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known,” he said.
Guests whose cruise falls within this window of suspended operations are being offered the choice of a Future Cruise Voucher valued at 125% of all monies paid to Viking or a refund equal to the amount paid. Guests will have 24 months to use their Future Cruise Voucher to make a new reservation on any river, ocean or expedition cruise. For additional flexibility, those guests unable to use their voucher will automatically be sent a refund equal to the original amount paid to Viking after the voucher expires. Future Cruise Vouchers will also be fully transferable.
“We will stand by our guests, employees and partners in these challenging times and hope that they in turn will stand by us,” Hagen concluded.