Viking has extended its temporary suspension of operations for all river and ocean cruises through December 31, 2020. All cruises are cancelled through that date, with compensation policies outlined below.
In its public statement the line stressed that in March 2020, it was the first cruise line to temporarily suspend operations of river and ocean cruises. "Our commitment to our family of guests and employees is that their safety and well being is always our top priority," the line's statement said, adding that "in that spirit" it had extended the "pause" through the end of the year.
"If itinerary changes are required, impacted guests and their travel agents are notified directly by Viking Customer Relations," the line's online statement said.
Letter from Hagen
In addition, this week Viking published a guest letter online from Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking, and loaded an online video message.
In the letter, Hagen said he couldn't have imagined in March that by August the line would still not be sailing. That said, Hagen stressed that "every day I am encouraged by the scientific advancements toward COVID-19 therapeutics and a vaccine." But, Hagen also said that "recent events have shown us that the recovery from this pandemic will be sporadic, and the ability to travel freely across borders remains some time away."
While the U.S. State Department has lifted some travel advisories for Americans, many countries are still limiting tourists, he noted: "As keen as we may be to get back to exploring, for now, international travel must wait."
On August 5, Viking celebrated its 23rd anniversary. It started operations in 1997 with four river ships, and today is a very different, much larger company that operates ocean, river and (soon to be) expedition cruises.
"But one thing has not changed in the last two decades," said Hagen. "Since Viking’s very first day, our commitment to the safety and welfare of all those onboard our vessels and to our mission—to deliver experiences that focus on the destination, allowing you to explore the world in comfort—has never wavered. I have said before that we will only sail again when it is safe to do so. We are a private, closely-held company, which means we do not have to rush the decision to return to service."
In extending the temporary suspension of cruises through year's end, Hagen said that by that point, "we believe the world will be in a better position, and international travel will be less complicated."
Future Cruise Voucher
For guests on cancelled voyages, Viking is offering a 125 percent Future Cruise Voucher. It covers 100 percent of monies paid to Viking, plus an additional 25 percent value.
Viking mentioned that the added value allows guests to enhance their future trip—perhaps by traveling in a different season; adding a pre- or post-cruise extension; upgrading the stateroom category; upgrading to business class air or even choosing a different itinerary for 2021 or 2022.
The 125 percent Future Cruise Voucher has some exclusive and enhanced terms. For example, it's fully transferable, allowing travelers to gift it to someone. It can be applied within the next 24 months to any river, ocean or expedition cruise. If guests are unable to use the voucher by the expiration date, they can return the expired voucher to Viking, and the line will send a cash refund equal to the original amount paid to Viking.
Additionally, any vouchers that had previously been applied to the now cancelled booking were automatically reinstated, are valid for 24 months and are available for the guest's immediate use. If clients use their voucher and rebook their cruise by August 31, the line's Risk-Free Guarantee applies. That means guests can change their plans up to 24 hours prior to departure.
Alternatively, if guests prefer a cash refund over the added-value voucher, they can get that but the request must be made before August 24, 2020.
This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.