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This Viking Cruise Ship Will Feature the First Full-scale COVID-19 Lab at Sea

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 11/4/2020 Cailey Rizzo
a small boat in a body of water: Viking Cruises © Provided by Travel + Leisure Viking Cruises

Viking’s “Viking Star” cruise ship — scheduled to embark on a 136-day journey around the world next year — will be equipped with a COVID-19 testing lab.

“We have been working on this for a number of months, and today is important as it moves us one step closer to operating cruises again, without compromising the safety of our guests and crew,” Matt Grimes, Vice President of Maritime Operations for Viking, said in a statement Monday. 

The lab will be capable of performing a non-invasive COVID-19 saliva test every day for every crew member and every passenger aboard the 930-passenger-capacity ship, allowing flexibility for different contagion levels around the world. 

The “Viking Star” is scheduled to depart Dec. 2021 for an epic 136-day cruise around the world, stopping in 56 ports in 27 different countries. To ensure safety as guests spend half a year boarding and disembarking the ship around the world, the new PCR lab — the first full-scale PCR lab at sea, according to Viking — will conduct regular COVID-19 tests while passengers are onboard. 

a small boat in a body of water: The ship equipped with the lab will be heading on Viking's 136-day world cruise next year. © Viking Cruises The ship equipped with the lab will be heading on Viking's 136-day world cruise next year.

Video: CDC extends ‘no sail’ order on US cruise ships (TODAY)

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Viking will demonstrate all the features of the PCR lab, as well as the ship’s new design and operating procedures, when it lands in Oslo, Norway later this month. 

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its No-Sail Order for cruises in U.S. waters. The CDC’s rules for sailing have been set out in phases and will require cruise ships to meet select testing and cleanliness standards. 

“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,” Grimes said in a statement. “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.” 

Although the CDC will allow cruise ships back into U.S. waters this year, many major cruise lines have already cancelled their voyages well into 2021

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.

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