Viking® recently announced that it has completed installation of the first full-scale polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory at sea. This new onboard facility—an industry first—allows for unprecedented testing capacity in the cruise industry, enabling Viking 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, which provides flexibility to respond to COVID-19 prevalence levels around the world.
This first laboratory has been installed on Viking Star, the company’s award-winning 930-guest ocean vessel. The ship will undergo a series of extensive tests to ensure the procedures and protocols that have been designed are fully effective.
“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,” said Matt Grimes, Vice President of Maritime Operations for Viking. “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,” Grimes added.
Viking demonstrated the PCR laboratory in November 2020, along with new design and operating procedures. In the coming months, Viking will complete the installation of PCR laboratories on the remainder of its ocean ships—and will also have a strong network of shoreside laboratories for its river ships.
New Chief Health Officer
Viking also announced it has hired Raquel C. Bono, M.D. as the company’s Chief Health Officer. A board-certified trauma surgeon and retired Vice Admiral of the United States Navy Medical Corps, Dr. Bono most recently led Washington State’s medical and healthcare systems response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Principal at RCB Consulting, she partnered with Viking earlier in 2020 to help develop and define new protocol enhancements. As Chief Health Officer, Dr. Bono will be instrumental in Viking’s restart of operations, with a focus on public health.
“Dr. Bono brings valuable perspective informed by an extraordinary career that has included decorated military service, trauma surgery and health care administration. Additionally, her work as the head of Washington state’s COVID-19 health care response team makes her uniquely qualified to be our Chief Health Officer as we finalize plans for operating cruises safely,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “We are proud to officially welcome Dr. Bono to the Viking family, and we will soon be sharing more details about the Viking Health & Safety Program, which we believe is one of the most well-researched and comprehensive COVID-19 prevention and mitigation plans in the travel industry.”
Importance of Innovation
Viking’s leadership noted that challenging times—such as these—are often also times of great innovation and opportunity. Cruise Specialists knows that travelers are eager to once again safely explore the world in comfort. With the announcement of Viking’s PCR testing, this is one more step our industry partners are making to help ensure the return to travel in a safe way.