Viking has become the first cruise line ground its entire fleet, some 73 river cruise ships and six ocean going ships, due to coronavirus. The suspension of operations applies to all cruises departing between March 12 to April 30, 2020. The announcement came overnight in a video message from the company’s chairman Torstein Hagen, not long after President Trump announced a temporary suspension of flights from Europe to the US.
Viking is a privately owned cruise company, operating for nearly 23 years, with 500,000 guests a year and 10,000 employees. The head office is in Basel, Switzerland, and the line also has a sales and marketing base in Los Angeles. Viking’s river cruise ships operate in Europe, Russia, Asia, Ukraine and Egypt, while the ocean ships sail in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Northern Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, plus Asia and Australia. Viking Sun is currently on a world cruise, sailing a modified itinerary, and the company is yet to confirm when and where that will end.
In his address, Hagen explained why the cruise line has taken this unprecedented step, a decision he described as “difficult but entirely necessary.”
He said: “I am sure you recognize that 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.