(noon EDT) – Viking was the second cruise line to resume shipping in the UK on May 22 with a series of coastal routes all of which feature ports of call.
The 930-passenger Viking Venus is the latest in the line’s nearly identical ocean-going fleet and the first ship to be named in the UK in a ceremony celebrated last month by TV presenter Anne Diamond who is the godmother of the ship.
Due to current UK government restrictions on numbers we are on board with only 360 other passengers and a full crew.
Here’s our take on what it’s like to sail with Viking after the pandemic.
Who is on board?
Viking is an adults-only line and crossings are only open to vaccinated UK residents. In addition to the loyal Viking cruisers, some of whom have sailed the line’s river and ocean vessels, we meet a surprisingly large number of shipmates who have never sailed before. They tell us they were eager to go and viewed a cruise as a stress-free option for traveling on mainland UK and having to find accommodation and places to eat in busy seaside resorts. One thing they all share is the pleasure of traveling again – a point shared by the always smiling crew members who gave us a warm welcome and said they were so happy to be working again.
There are a lot of tests going on
Viking’s health protocols are comprehensive and truly impressive, and the line was the first to set up a full-scale PCR lab at sea. Every day, all passengers (and crew) are required to perform a non-invasive saliva test which involves spitting into a glass tube and sealing it, ready to be picked up by the room manager and taken to the lab for testing. He dominated the conversations on boarding day but we quickly got used to it. Helpful tip: It’s easier to do this in the morning when you wake up, as you need to do this before brushing your teeth or having something to eat or drink.
Elsewhere, Covid security measures are skillfully implemented and do not appear to be too onerous. We’re all used to wearing masks now, so it doesn’t seem restrictive having to wear them while walking around the ship. Additional masks, hand sanitizer and wipes are provided in the cabin. Temperature checks are carried out daily – which involves standing in front of a smart facial recognition machine at the entrance to the two main restaurants and in guest services – and temperatures are taken upon returning from shore excursions.
In addition, all passengers receive a contact tracking device upon boarding, which can be worn on a lanyard or carried, and must keep it with them at all times (except for the swimming pool or the thermal spa suite). The device does not track personal information or collect GPS location data and would only come into play in the event of COVID-19 when used to determine whether passengers have been at risk.
Viking Venus has a purified air system, like those used in hospitals, and each cabin has “fresh” outside air that is not shared with other cabins or public areas. There are also improved cleaning and disinfection procedures.
Social distancing is practiced throughout the ship, with seats locked in public areas, but with so few people aboard what is already a spacious ship, it’s easy to keep your distance.
The most significant change on board is the World Cafe, the ship’s buffet restaurant, which is no longer self-service. There are glass screens in front of the food which is served by the staff behind the counter. It works perfectly well and – in the buffet style in the spotlight – you can go up as often as you want!
Some things are closed, like the new snow cave in the spa, and the number is limited in the pools and hot tubs. Passengers are also asked to reserve a time to enter the thermal suite as no more than six people are allowed at a time, but this didn’t seem to be a problem and we haven’t heard of anyone unable to do so. enter. Likewise, you are also asked to set aside time to visit the gym and, in theory, not to spend more than 45 minutes working out. However, the gym is not too busy, so you can spend as long as you want there as long as it does not overlap with passengers who have a pre-booked time slot, which did not happen. still produced.
In Torshavn’s nightclub, the dance floor has been filled with tables and chairs to stop the temptation to get up and dance to the sound of bands and only six people are allowed into the onboard shops at that time.
There is life on earth – but not like before
This is an area where COVID-19 measures are having the most impact. You can only disembark for shore excursions that take place in a bubble and you must stay with the group the entire time. One of Viking’s USPs is that it offers more time in port than many other lines – with ships usually arriving early in the morning and leaving at night – so it’s frustrating not being able to make the most of that free time. Stroll alone in bustling cities such as Liverpool, where there are fantastic free museums and attractions nearby on the waterfront. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we totally appreciate that the line is unwilling to take any risks that could compromise its stringent policies aimed at ensuring the safety of passengers and crew.
Conversely, you certainly don’t feel like you’re locked on board with nowhere to go. While some lines do nonstop coastal cruises, there are four stopovers on our weeklong cruise. Although the number of passengers is limited, Viking has not reduced the offer of shore tours, including its signature free excursion to each destination. Plus, there are up to six paid trips to choose from at each stop, including insightful “privileged access” tours exclusive to Viking and often with added special touches. For example, on the trip to Knowsley Hall, one of the largest estates in northern England and the home of the Stanley family since 1385, we were greeted by Lord Derby himself.
The plant supply has really developed
One thing we really noticed this week is how much the vegetarian and vegan food options have increased since our last embarkation. In the past, this was particularly an issue at the chef’s table, one of the two specialty restaurants included in the tariff, as the tasting menu did not have a vegetarian option, which meant people were missing out on food. and a first-rate wine. matchmaking experience. Now there are herbal options for every dish, which even gave some of the carnivores on our table a touch of food craving. Vegetarian and vegan options are available at all other restaurants and on the room service menu, along with milk alternatives.
Conclusion: we feel safe and spoiled
Viking is not on a mission to operate large, glitzy ships with a lot of commotion, so even though there are fewer passengers, there is no noticeable difference in the tranquil ambiance on board. The extent of the health protocol is very reassuring and we all feel very safe. The line is already known for its good service and with so many crew members dealing with a vessel operating at less than half of its normal capacity, we feel very spoiled. A passenger we met at the Portsmouth check-in said: “After all this time, I can’t wait for someone else to cook and make my bed.” Viking certainly did this, and more.