The first onboard facility has been installed on Viking Star and it will be demonstrated in Oslo this month
Viking has announced that it has completed the installation of the first full-scale PCR laboratory at sea.
The new onboard facility enables the cruise line to conduct PCR testing of all crew members and guests with a non-invasive saliva test. The laboratory has enough capacity for daily testing of every crew member and guest.
The first laboratory has been installed on Viking Star, one of the company’s 930-guest ocean vessels. The line said it will undergo a series of extensive tests to ensure the procedures and protocols that have been designed are fully effective.
Matt Grimes, vice president of maritime operations for Viking, said: “It moves us one step closer to operating cruises again, without compromising the safety of our guests and crew. The recently announced CDC guidelines are clearly aligned with our public health research and we welcome the agency’s push toward testing, as we believe this is the only way to safely operate. In our view, continuous PCR testing, along with our extensive onboard hygiene protocols, will lead to making Viking ships a safe place to get away to and explore the world.”
Viking said it will be demonstrating the PCR laboratory, as well as new design and operating procedures, when the Viking Star comes to Oslo, Norway in mid-November.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US health body, has changed its ‘no sail’ cruise order to a ‘conditional sailing order’.
The move means that, in theory, cruises are no longer banned in the United States. However, cruise lines will need to work with the CDC before their ships can begin sailing.
“The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members,” the CDC said. It has been reported that initial cruises will not have paying passengers on board, to prove to the authorities that they can be run safely.
Last month, Clia ocean cruise line members worldwide – of which Viking is not a member – agreed to conduct 100 per cent testing of guests and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons.
The association said that a negative test was required for any embarkation, noting that it is a travel industry first. A spokesperson said: “We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the wellbeing of the passengers, the crew and the communities we visit our top priority.”
Clia and the UK Chamber of Shipping also created a new framework for cruise ship operators to begin sailing again safely. The new documents have been shared with the UK government, which has currently put no date on a restart for the cruise industry.
Bob Sanguinetti, the UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive, said: “This new framework gives the government, passengers, crew and operators the confidence that the very latest science and medical advice has been included in the industry’s planning process. We are not talking about restarting the sector tomorrow, but it is a vital first step in the process to get cruises sailing again when conditions allow and government guidance changes.”
New restrictions in France and Germany prompt the decision, but MSC Grandiosa’s Western Med intineraries are extended
MSC Cruises has cancelled all sailings on MSC Magnifica from November 8 until December 18, as well as its 2021 World Cruise, as a result of the new restrictions in France and Germany.
The two countries represent key source markets for the ship’s 10-night voyages.
However, MSC Grandiosa is set to continue its seven-night sailings in the Western Mediterranean, with the company extending its sailings there until March 27, 2021.
MSC has also updated its safety protocols, which will now include testing guests mid-way through their cruise, as well as before boarding. All crew will be tested weekly, up from twice-a-month. Cleaning will be increased, while the time definition of ‘close contact’ will also be tightened from 15 to 10 minutes.
For more information about MSC Cruises’ health and safety protocols visit here: msccruises.co.uk/health-safety