Viking has announced it will temporarily suspend river and ocean cruise operations until May 1, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The announcement was made Wednesday night in a video and a letter sent from Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen to currently booked guests.
It’s important to note that some of the most susceptible to coronavirus are older adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to those with heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. Hagen is on record describing Viking’s guests as "55-plus years of age, English-speaking, well-educated, affluent [and more].”
In his letter, Hagen says, “Since we started Viking nearly 23 years ago, we have always cared first and foremost about our guests and our employees.”
He continues, “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.
“In recent days we have had an experience where a river cruise guest in Southeast Asia was exposed to COVID-19 while in transit on an international airline. While this guest is not exhibiting symptoms, she has been placed in quarantine. Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined.
“I am writing today because the situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions, which could diminish the travel experiences for which our guests have been planning. As a private company with strong finances, we do not have to worry about quarterly profit expectations—and that flexibility allows us the ability to do what is best for our guests and our employees, as we have always done.
“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30, 2020—at which time we believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve. This is a decision we made with a heavy heart, but with present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known.”
For guests who are booked on a cruise within this window of suspended operations, Viking is offering the choice of a Future Cruise Voucher valued at 125 percent of all monies paid to Viking or a refund equal to the amount paid. Guests will have 24 months to use their Future Cruise Voucher to make a new reservation on any river, ocean or expedition cruise. If you are unable to use your voucher, Viking adds it will send you a refund equal to the original amount paid after the voucher expires. Good to know: These Future Cruise Vouchers will also be fully transferable.
What does this means for you? Viking says it will pay commission on any: Risk-Free Guarantee Future Cruise Voucher (FCV) booking or 125 percent FCV (as described above) booking unless commission has already been paid on original booking.
"We understand that this is a difficult time for all of us in the travel industry, and we thank you for your support," Viking said in an email provided to travel advisors. "We hope that this announcement and the continuation of the Risk-Free Guarantee Program provides you with strong retention and sales tools that will help you continue to sell during this period of uncertainty, while providing your clients with the peace of mind they need and deserve."
On a positive note, Hagen concludes in his video, “We plan to continue expansion of our destination-focused travel experiences … In early 2022 we will launch our expedition journeys to the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as North America’s Great Lakes. And, at the beginning of April 2020, we will announce our newest river voyages closer to home, in America’s heartland.”
This article originally appeared on www.luxurytraveladvisor.com.