Jim Zim: My Brush With Covid-19 On A Viking Cruise Ship

I'm onboard the Viking Sky this week for a cruise around Iceland. And it's been an interesting cruise because there's a passenger onboard that has tested positive for COVID-19. I got to see firsthand how Viking's COVID protocols work. And I honestly believe that they've saved me from getting COVID myself.

I think that if I had been on some other cruise line besides Viking, and there was a COVID-positive passenger aboard, there's a chance I might've gone home with COVID myself, but it hasn't happened on this cruise because of all the things that Viking has done to combat the spread of COVID.

The key to Viking's approach to preventing a COVID outbreak on the ship is daily testing. Because there's a new group of passengers coming on board the ship every week, somebody at some point is going to bring COVID aboard. They will be asymptomatic, not even know they have COVID, and come aboard the ship with the virus. In fact, that's exactly what happened this week here on Viking Sky. So daily testing is the key to identifying a passenger like that, and then being able to quarantine them before they can infect anybody else. 

The way that the daily COVID testing works on board the ships is like this: each evening, the cabin steward drops by a couple of test tubes. And in the morning, my wife and I pretty much, as soon as we wake up, we'll spit into those tubes to provide a saliva sample. Then we just leave it here in the cabin. At about 8:30 in the morning, the cabin steward comes by and picks up those samples. Those test tubes from all the passengers and crew are then taken up to the PCR testing lab up on the seventh floor of the ship. I got a tour of it yesterday. It was really impressive to take a look at it and talk to the medical doctor in charge and to the technicians that do the test analysis. Because COVID has an incubation period, it's vital to have daily testing of the passengers and crew.

A lot of cruise lines just require you to have a COVID test at home and show a negative result to prove that you don't have COVID. But what if on your flight to the cruise port, you pick up COVID along the way? Because of the incubation period, it may be several days into the cruise before you actually show a positive result, if you picked up COVID somewhere along the way. So those daily tests are the key to identifying any passengers or crew that have picked up COVID somewhere and then become infectious. 

That way, once you identify them, you can quarantine them and keep them from infecting everybody else on board. So that's exactly what happened this week here on Viking Sky. There was a passenger that had absolutely no symptoms at all and passed the COVID test the first few days of the cruise, but then finally about halfway through the cruise, got a positive result on the test because, of course, of that incubation period of the virus. So that passenger was immediately quarantined so that he or she wouldn't infect anybody else onboard.

Furthermore, there is a very high-tech contact tracing system onboard Viking ships. All the passengers and crew are given these little contact tracing electronic devices. Now, you usually just wear it on the end of a lanyard. With the lanyard around your neck, and you're good to go, but you can also take that electronic device off of the lanyard if you want and just keep it in your pocket, whatever you prefer. So these devices keep a record of all the other devices that they come in close contact with. So when that one passenger failed the COVID test, the data was downloaded from their device to find out what other devices it was close enough to for long enough for that person to possibly have infected somebody else. Then all those people are notified and they do some additional COVID testing to see if any of those people got COVID.

In the case of the incident we've had this week here on Viking Sky, nobody else but that one passenger was infected with COVID. And so there was no outbreak, thanks to all the steps that Viking put in place (the daily testing and the contact tracing) an outbreak was prevented. 

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