Chairman Torstein Hagen broke the news today in a video and a letter sent to booked guests.
Hagen said COVID-19 has made travel 'exceedingly complicated,' with an increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, temporarily closed to cruise ships. As well, major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed, and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors.
River cruiser infected, 29 to be quarantined
'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,' Hagen said. 'While this guest is not exhibiting symptoms, she has been placed in quarantine. Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined.'
Hagen continued that the 'situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions.'
Suspending embarkations from March 12
Viking is suspending operations of its river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30 — at which time, Hagen said, he believes Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences guests expect and deserve.
He added that, being a private company 'with strong finances,' Viking has the flexibility to act without concern for quarterly profit expecations.
Generous compensation or full refund
For travelers whose cruise falls within the window of suspended operations, Viking is offering a future cruise voucher valued at 125% of all monies paid to Viking or a refund equal to the amount paid. Passengers will have 24 months to use their future cruise voucher to reserve any river, ocean or expedition cruise.
For additional flexibility, if they are unable to use their voucher, travelers will automatically receive a refund equal to the original amount paid to Viking, after the voucher expires. The future cruise vouchers will be fully transferable.