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Viking Star Becomes First Cruise Ship Equipped With PCR Test Lab

viking star
Viking Star at Tallinn, Estonia, August 2016 (file image courtesy Pjotr Mahhonin / CC BY SA 4.0)

By The Maritime Executive 11-03-2020 08:51:10

The cruise ship Viking Star now boasts an unusual distinction: she is now the first cruise ship ever equipped with a full-scale PCR testing laboratory for processing coronavirus tests. 

Viking says that the industry-first facility will allow it 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 on board, which provides flexibility to respond to COVID-19 risk levels around the world. When operating at full load, this would mean hundreds of tests daily. 

Many cruise operators have instituted preboarding swab tests, but no cruise ship (and perhaps no ship of any kind) has ever conducted PCR testing for every person, every day for the duration of their time on board. The closest analogue might be the military response to the outbreak aboard the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which involved repeated testing for more than 4,000 crewmembers after they were evacuated from the ship. The effort was only possible thanks to extensive shoreside resources. 

“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. 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,” said Matt Grimes, Viking's VP of maritime operations. 

Viking says that it will be demonstrating the lab when the Viking Star visits Oslo, Norway in mid-November. The 930-passenger vessel is currently moored at Rostock, Germany. 

Viking was the first cruise line to suspend sailings at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and in August it announced that it would cancel all planned sailings until 2021.