Viking Cruises suspended operations worldwide due to the coronavirus, as infections ravage the cruise industry

Viking Cruises’ Viking Sea ship. Viking Cruises
  • Viking Cruises cancelled all operations until May on Wednesday due to the coronavirus.
  • Only one Viking passenger, a British woman on a river cruise in Cambodia, has contracted the virus. Her 63 fellow passengers are in quarantine for the next 14 days.
  • Rival operator Princess Cruises has suffered badly. Two of its vessels were quarantined, with more than 700 confirmed cases between them.
  • Other ships have been turned away from ports, even if no cases are suspected on board.
  • The industry has been battered by the virus, with three major operators predicting heavy financial losses.
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Viking Cruises, one of the world’s largest cruise companies, suspended all operations on Wednesday due to the threat posed by the coronavirus.

“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,” Viking’s founder, Torstein Hagen, wrote in a statement posted to its website.

Viking operates 79 vessels across the world, but from Wednesday all ocean and river trips are cancelled. Operations will restart on May 1, Hagen said.

Torsetin Hagen Viking
Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises founder, apologises to customers in a video published Wednesday. Viking Cruises

“I am sure you recognise that COVID-19 has made travel exceedingly complicated,” Hagen said. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the disease.

Hagen made the move despite only one confirmed cases of the virus among his current customers.

A British woman on a Viking river cruise in Cambodia contracted COVID-19 this week, and has been placed in quarantine, along with 63 others, according the British ITV broadcast network.

Hagen is offering full refunds or credit vouchers to those affected by the cancellations.

Viking Cruises
A Viking cruises river vessel. Viking Cruises

Hagen made the move in the wake of several disastrous events for the wider cruise industry.

Two vessels operated by Princess Cruises fought major coronavirus outbreaks in January and February.

700 people on the Princess Diamond in Japan contracted COVID-19, amid a two-week quarantine.

On the Grand Princess, which was placed on lockdown in San Francisco, one person died and 21 people tested positive for the coronavirus.

Princess Cruises Diamond Princess
The cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on February 7, 2020. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Both were the subject of sustained media attention, which prompted questions about whether cruise ships were equipped to deal with such outbreaks.

The cases stirred up resentment towards the cruise industry, even toward ships that reported no confirmed cases of the virus.

On March 2, passengers disembarking the Sun Princess cruise liner by bus on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean were bombarded with bricks and stones by protesters who objected to their government’s decision not to take their temperatures. No cases of COVID-19 were recorded onboard.

Authorities in Malaysia and Thailand blocked the Italian Costa Fortuna cruise liner from making stops there, even though there were also no cases recorded on board.

Diamond Cruises has not stopped operating outright, but a number of trips have been cancelled on eight of it major ships.

The world’s three biggest cruise operators – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line – has said they are taking a financial beating from the coronavirus.

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