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Monday, July 26, 2021

How We Dealt with Vaccinated COVID-19 Positive Passenger and Contact Tracing on Viking Jupiter Cruise in Iceland after Viking Sky (updated)

Iceland was one of the first countries to reopen to tourists after the worldwide pandemic with certain requirements for quarantine or proof of vaccination.  Shortly after the reopening, offers for cruises, land tours and low cost airfares flooded our inbox.  We opted for a Viking Ocean cruise for the itinerary and because Viking had set the bar early on for its COVID-19 precautions and testing with the only onboard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing lab at sea.  

The strict COVID-19 protocols Viking has enacted are certainly more intense than most cruise lines:

  1. Our ship is 1/2 capacity since we are the first sailing of this ship since COVID-19 began 
  2. We must social distance and have no large gatherings
  3. Masks must be worn onboard and on buses
  4. Daily temperature checks are performed
  5. Tracking devices are worn for potential contact tracing. 
  6. Daily saliva PCR tests for COVID-19 are performed on each vessel where three technicians conduct the testing. Samples must be provided by passengers each morning before departure.
  7. Frequent hand washing and sanitization is necessary 
  8. All passengers and crew are vaccinated 

We planned a wonderful circumnavigation of Iceland to see waterfalls, volcanoes, geothermal baths, puffins, whales, geysers, glaciers, icebergs and more in the "land of fire and ice."  There were two Viking Ocean ships beginning the journey in Iceland, the Viking Sky who had completed a couple of circumnavigations already, followed three days later by our ship the Viking Jupiter.  It would be the first journey for our ship since the world shut down in March 2020 and we were at only half capacity of passengers: 438. 

What you will see in this article:

  • Viking COVID-19 protocols 
  • Viking Sky COVID-19 positive passenger
  • Viking Jupiter COVID-19 postive passenger
  • Quarantined Passengers due to contact tracing
  • Getting Home
  • What does Viking Say?
  • Updated Iceland COVID-19 Policies
  • Our packing list for Iceland

We will update sections as news becomes available, so check back frequently!

Viking Sky

Of course we are members of cruise critic and use the community roll calls before any cruise to meet and engage with other passengers for discussions about our cruise ahead of time. On day one reports that there was one positive COVID-19 case aboard the Viking Sky and they may not be able to go ashore in Seydisfjord.  Local officials would not allow any passengers off of the ship and seemingly put their locals at risk. No other passengers tested positive and the positive case was isolated.

Oh we were sure this would get cleared up in a matter of hours, but reports on the cruise critic roll calls continued to flow in that there would be no visit and they were moving onto the next port, Djúpivogur as planned. However, the following day, the same thing occurred to the passengers onboard the Viking Sky, and they were denied entry into the port. Clearly there was panic among the locals. 

We felt horrible for those passengers on the Viking Sky. This was a dream vacation for so many. Ultimately what happened to them was that the ship was denied entry at every remaining port and here is what they missed:

  • Seydisfjördur - where Icelandic folklore was born
  • Djúpivogur - glaciers, icebergs and the famous ice lagoon
  • Heimaey, Westman Islands - home to puffins, volcanos and beluga whales

Ultimately, Iceland's coast guard stepped in and ordered the ship back to Reykjavik one day before the passengers scheduled departure, where the passengers were allowed off the ship to explore the capital.  All passengers were able to fly home as planned with a negative COVID-19 test in hand, required to fly back to the USA (we will tell you more insight into this in a moment). No one ever was told what happened to the COVID-19 positive passenger aboard the Viking Sky. We do not know if they were required to leave the ship, if they were put into quarantine on the Viking Sky in one of their special quarantine rooms in the ship's Medical Center or if they were simply quarantined in their room.  Could they fly home?  We do not know but most likely they had to quarantine in an accepted hotel for a required period of time. Attestation to travel to the USA requires one of two things:

  • "I attest that I have received a negative pre-departure test result for COVID-19. The test was a viral test that was conducted on a specimen collected from me during the 3 calendar days preceding the flight’s departure."
  • "I attest that I have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 3 months (90 days), or the time period specified in current CDC guidance, after having previously tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and have been cleared for travel by a licensed healthcare provider or public health official."

Oh we felt terrible, but it was bound to happen because as of April 30, 2021, 0.01% of vaccinated individuals will test positive for COVID-19 with the highest proportion being over the age of 65.  In the cruise population often you are dealing with individuals who have a higher average age and may have a higher prevalence of being immunocompromised, meaning that they may not have a robust response to the vaccine. Fortunately, in studies, those who do test positive will likely not have severe illness if they are vaccinated. According to the CDC, as of July 19, 2021, 20% of vaccine breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic. These numbers may change as new variants are identified.  These positive tests seem to occur in the first few days after arrival which makes one believe the risk period is during airline travel.

Viking Jupiter

Then Iceland began to close down to the Viking Jupiter. We arrived in the “Capital of the North,” Akureyri, where we planned to visit the majestic Godafoss waterfall.  As we wait to get off the ship to board our tour bus, nothing happens. Silence, then a few messages that we still have to gain security clearance.  A couple of hours pass, and finally a message from our Captain that we had a passenger who had a preliminary COVID-19 positive test, and the local authorities were concerned about our protocols and reluctant to let passengers off.  A later message was that the local authorities were coming aboard to inspect the protocols and that was the last we heard.  We could not leave the ship to see the natural beauty of northern Iceland which was very disappointing.  What was even more disappointing was the lack of updates throughout the day.  Innuendo and rumors flew and knowing that the Viking Sky's cruise was essentially canceled did not make it any easier on us or other passengers.  

We did a series of videos from our balcony documenting our progress during this Icelandic saga, but fortunately for us it ended up being short-lived. In Seydisfjördur the passengers were allowed to go ashore and enjoy walking in the footsteps of elves and ultimately all of our ports. That was not the case for other passengers on board our ship. 

Quarantined Passengers on the Viking Jupiter

The rumor was circulating among the passengers that the COVID-19 positive test was a false positive and all was well.  Maybe that rumor made passengers feel better. That day we were contacted by another passenger, who we will keep anonymous. The fellow passenger told us that they were quarantined in their cabin because they sat near to the COVID-19 positive passenger two days prior on a tour bus. Viking has since made the decision to assign seats on buses and tenders. Remember, Viking requires passengers to wear contact tracing devices. 

The quarantined passengers could not leave their rooms. The doctor provided daily health checks and all tested negative as far as we know. Viking was transparent as much as possible while trying to follow their protocols and maintain privacy of those affected. 

This continued until the end of the cruise and the passengers who came in contact with the COVID positive passenger never were allowed off the Viking Jupiter until it was time to fly home from Reykjavik.  From this we can only assume there were other passengers quarantined like our contact because buses were not empty and it's possible that other close contacts occurred on excursions and/or onboard.  Clearly, the passenger who tested positive actually had a confirmed positive test and it was not a false positive. According to Viking Jupiter staff fewer than 10 passengers were quarantined for the last 5 days of the cruise due to contact tracing, and guest services went out of their way to make those quarantined in their cabins comfortable.  For that, our contact was extremely grateful. 

At a later date we found out additional information on Cruise Critic threads from a Jupiter 7/13 cruise passenger who had a completely different experience:

"The afternoon we had the unexpected sea day at Akureyri I got a call from the nurse saying I'd been contact-traced to a person who tested positive. My husband had not. I was asked to stay in the room, but was only there for an hour or so before the doctor called to say my test from that morning was negative and I was free to do anything I wanted.

The next morning in Seydisfjordur, Guest Services called to say the Iceland authorities wanted all the contacts to stay on the ship, so my husband went out to Skalanes on his own. GS then called back about noon to say I was now allowed off the ship and they'd pay for any excursion I wanted to do. I asked them to put us on the included walking tour of the town, which they did. (They refunded what I'd paid for the Skalanes excursion.)

 I ran into another contact-guest the next evening whose experience was the same as mine: she had to stay in her room for awhile, and then had to stay on the ship the next morning." This passenger was interviewed by the Viking Jupiter nurse and a health official about their whereabouts for the 48 hours before as well. 

Check out our favorite cruise essentials here to make your cruise hassle and clutter-free! 

Quarantined Passengers on other Viking Sailings

Our sailing or the Sky were not isolated events.  This continues to occur in Iceland as well as Malta. 

On Facebook, Aug 6 one passenger was removed before the Venus even left port: "We were taken off our cruise ship in Malta before we left port because my mother tested positive for covid( my husband and I were in a separate stateroom, and sat on separate rows in the airplane then my parents). We are negative but are having to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel room in Malta. The worst part is- we can’t get ahold of anyone with Viking that knows how this all works. We feel alone." Further updates have not shown their fate as of yet and they are still quarantined in Malta. 

Another posting on Cruise Critic Community was as follows regarding the Viking Jupiter: "I have friends on Jupiter August 10 departure and now they have at least 1 positive case onboard. They called to report, as internet is so slow on the ship right now they cannot use it. My friends were notified they were on the same bus as someone who tested positive but no symptoms. They have been ordered to stay in their room for 7 days. They have tested negative, but are not being allowed out at all. Viking told them they can get off the ship in the next port and fly home, but otherwise they have to stay quarantined in room for a full week(the entire remaining cruise). They were told this is Iceland Protocol now."

Another report from that Viking Jupiter August 10 sailing posted on Facebook: "Well, it’s happened: Jupiter Aug 10 sailing - positive test result from someone on our Golden Circle bus yesterday (we are and have been negative).  We sat at the back of the bus, separated by several rows from others and double-masked. The bus was ~70% full.  Lunch was fabulous but there were 2 busses together, tables for 6 and no possibility to distance.

Our choices seem to be: quarantine in our cabin for remainder of the cruise (it’s Thursday, so would be until Tuesday) or, with negative swab PCR test, fly home with government approval, which we are still waiting on. Either way, the cruise is over for us. We booked our own air and Viking will handle all transfers and flight arrangements for us. 

Beyond disappointed of course, but we accepted the risks that come with traveling these days. We’ll likely leave and are waiting on next steps - specifically regarding whether authorities will allow us to leave after a negative swab and who will administer the swab.  Can’t say we prepared ourselves for this exact outcome but we can’t fault anyone.  However, had it been known that this could happen simply through contact tracing, we would have seriously reconsidered this trip.  But, it’s such a fluid situation and everyone is doing the best they can and we appreciate that.  And even though we isolated the 2 weeks prior to the trip, never stopped masking and had 2 PCR tests, this just illustrates how little is under our own control.  While short, this was an amazing adventure in a fascinating country, on a beautiful ship and with a top-notch crew." 

The update about leaving to go home: "Friday the 13th (unbelievably):  we, along with ~26 others, are on a 6 hour bus ride from Akureyri to Reykjavik.  Viking has arranged a hotel, meals, airport transfers and flights for us.  We have been cleared by the authorities to depart the country tomorrow. Nasal swab PCR tests were done before we disembarked this morning so I’m guessing that, until those results are in, we’re not truly in the clear. 

We’re not exactly able to distance on the bus - first 3 rows are blocked to protect the driver (as they should be) - but it’s not as if we’ll be able to distance on our flights tomorrow either. 

According to the cruise director, we are the first and thus far only group to be disembarked.  We could have opted to stay on board and quarantine in the cabin, but we were stir crazy after 1 day. 4 more would have been tough."

Unfortunately these Facebook posts were removed by the Group Administrator after the poster reported that the quarantine hotel was "disgusting". 

The August 27, 2021 sailing of Viking had trip interruption also. This was seen on Facebook. 

Getting Home

For us getting home was easy. Viking provided us a copy of our negative PCR test on our last day of cruising and we provided that as documentation to board our flight to the USA. Our contact remained content but we believe this good attitude waned at the time of departure to the USA.  Despite the negative tests while quarantined on the Viking Jupiter, those quarantined passengers were required to provide a negative test administered by Iceland and not Viking. This is the only test Iceland would accept to allow these exposed passengers to break quarantine and fly.  If you recall, before July 1 travelers had to take a COVID test on arrival to Iceland and quarantine until the results were ready, often up to 24 hours. The quarantined passengers had to do the same and left Iceland one day after us presuming their tests were negative.  We still do not know what happened to the actual COVID-positive passenger on either ship. We can only assume that the passenger had to quarantine in Iceland at the approved quarantine hotel for COVID positive travelers, Reykjavik Foss Hotel, until a COVID-negative test administered by Iceland was obtained and/or they were cleared by health officials of Iceland. 

Unfortunately the contact traced passengers were subject to protocols that are necessary. We hope they were not treated as pariahs when trying to get home, but it is possible they were. The quarantined passengers were definitely treated fairly by Viking staff. The people of Reykjavik are kind but the uneasiness around the docking of the Viking Sky after being denied access to so many ports was evident when we heard that some passengers were treated poorly at the airport.

In our opinion, positives were and are bound to happen statistically.  Viking should have had action plans in place for each and every port with local, regional and national officials and airport in Reykjavik for departure. This is how they failed their passengers.  The Viking Sky passengers received a voucher for 50% off a future cruise.  Viking Jupiter passengers from our cruise all of whom missed ONE port, and may we say one of the ports we were most anticipating, will not receive any compensation. We do not know how the quarantined passengers on Viking Jupiter will be compensated, if at all.  They received a letter from the guest services manager and the captain and hopefully, they will be fair.  The right trip insurance policy should cover out of pocket expenses for them.  However, what is most concerning to us, and most future passengers we have engaged with on social media, is the lack of transparency of risk of quarantine due to contact tracing.  It is upsetting to hear that multiple Viking passengers were quarantined due to being on a bus with a COVID-19 positive passenger.  Those quarantined in this scenario had the entire trip interrupted 5-7 days early!  

What does Viking Say?

The cruise line stands by its decision to test for COVID-19 daily. “This testing protocol is the foundation of our Viking Health & Safety Program -- and was designed to detect any possible case early so that it can be isolated, and a potential chain of transmission can be stopped immediately,” the spokesman said. “However, with robust and highly-sensitive testing, it is to be expected that there will be this occasional positive test result. This applies even when guests and crew are vaccinated, although occurrences will be significantly reduced.”

Viking even flew in Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, the line’s chief health officer, for discussions with Icelandic officials to, in the words of a spokesman, “ensure our protocols are in sync” for the rest of the summer.

One thing that was disappointing to us was what we found out when docked in Seydisfjördur.  We were out for our marathon training run and an American passenger ashore from an Iceland Pro Cruise ship asked us why all the Viking passengers were wearing masks.  We told her that it was not required on shore but that we felt passengers felt ostracized and like pariahs after our day before and what happened to the Viking Sky.  She asked if we had to wear masks while on the ship and we told her yes and while on tenders and buses except when eating or drinking. On Iceland Pro Cruises, they did not need to wear a mask anywhere, they were not being tested or having contact tracing either. Obviously this news was in stark contrast to what we were doing, and it got us wondering who are the safer travelers and who were being treated as "lepers"?  You decide...

Dr Rachel Bono was interviewed July 25, 2021, but she provided no further insight into how contact tracing is used to interrupt exposed passengers' cruises. 

Viking isn't the only cruise line with lack of transparency, obviously to protect their reputation.  Carnival Cruise line has passengers who have died and made no announcements until forced by the media. 

Make sure you get a cover for your vaccine card!  We love the kind where the card can be removed to add booster record at a later date rather than laminating your card! Click below to check out these combined vaccine card and passport covers at Amazon! You can use them to organize all the documents needed to travel internationally these days! 

Updated Iceland Policies

On June 26, Iceland lifted all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19, one year and four months after the very first social restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic. The country also loosened border restrictions on July 1, allowing travellers with proof of vaccination or previous infection to enter the country without testing or quarantine. Infection rates have rose over the ensuing two weeks, and Iceland reported 371 active cases in mid-July, up from 60 cases 8 days prior.

Since then Iceland has made changes to their COVID policies. 

On July 23, in response to rising cases, Iceland officials announced a 200-person gathering limit to those born in 2016 or before, one-metre distancing, and restricted opening hours for bars and nightclubs just four weeks after all domestic restrictions due to COVID-19 were lifted. Swimming pools (like the Sky Lagoon) and gyms will remain open but may not operate above 75% capacity. Business operators must decide whether it is possible to maintain one-meter distancing on their premises, and if not, masks must be worn.  Thus far our hotel, the Reykjavik Konsulat has not changed any COVID-19 policies. 

The restrictions took effect July 24 at midnight and will remain in place until August 27.

Passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it

Can you visit Iceland? Yes. All travelers – regardless of origin – are welcome to visit Iceland if they can show either a certificate of full vaccination against COVID, or a certificate of previous COVID infection. See What do I need on my certificate of vaccination or previous infection?

Do you need to provide a negative test? Until July 26, GMT 23:59 – No. As of July 27, GMT 00:00 – Yes. You require a negative test (PCR or rapid antigen) before boarding an aircraft to Iceland, taken within 72 hours of departure. 

Do you need to be tested on arrival, or enter quarantine? No. There is no longer a requirement for arrival testing for passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it. However, from July 27, residents of Iceland and others who have widespread social ties in the country are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible after arriving in Iceland, even when they are asymptomatic.

Passengers not vaccinated against COVID-19 and not previously infected

Can you visit Iceland? Visitors holding a passport (or valid residency) from EEA/EFTA countries are welcome to visit Iceland. A growing list of non-EEA/EFTA nationalities may enter, including travelers from the US and Canada. See Who can visit Iceland? below for more detailed information.

Do you need a PCR test? Yes. You require a negative PCR test before boarding an aircraft to Iceland, taken within 72 hours of departure. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. See information under Do I need a negative COVID-19 test to board a flight to Iceland?

Is there arrival testing and quarantine? Yes. Arriving passengers must undergo double screening and 5-6 days quarantine between tests.

Updated Domestic Restrictions

On July 23, 2021, Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced new restrictions. They include a 200-person gathering limit, mandated closing time of midnight for bars and nightclubs, and a general one-metre distancing rule between individuals who do not have a close relationship.

Swimming pools and gyms will remain open but may not operate above 75% capacity. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that mandatory mask use will also be reimposed for certain activities that will be announced later. Katrín stated that the restrictions decided on by the cabinet were for the most part in line with the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations.

The restrictions take effect tomorrow (July 24) at midnight and will remain in place until August 13.

On August 9, 2021, the US State Department elevated Iceland to the "Do Not Travel" list due to increasing COVID-19 cases. 

Our Packing List

It was colder and windier than we expected July 11-20.  We used everything we had from lightweight teeshirts to fleece and jackets. We didn't use our hiking poles but we are pretty fit people.  Lots of passengers  used them. Here is what we packed and/or wished we had.  Some have links to find them.  


Women’s Fleece pants
Eddie Bauer men’s
Fleece jacket full zip to remove easily on hot bus
Rain suit pants
Rain suit jacket get one size larger to fit over jacket/fleece
I brought my thermoball jacket - lightweight and felt great over a fleece.
Backpack rain cover
Gloves with touchscreen fingers for phone
Selfie stick with quick release clips easy to use with gloves
Hiking trail sneakers
Long socks
Entertainment for bus ride
Battery with two charging cords for bus
Knit hat great for windy days rather than a baseball cap
Head mesh for midges
Covid vaccine card cover
Kiwi camp spray use on question able things before you leave

Interested in going to Iceland but not sure what to see?  View our entire Iceland Video Playlist from our and our contributors' recent trips by clicking here!

Remember, if you have questions related to your health, always consult your doctor or medical professional. The information presented here is informative only and is not medical advice.

Find the latest updates about COVID-19 by visiting the CDC website

What do you think about cruising now as the world reopens?  Do you think that Viking is doing things right for their passengers and the port locals? Or do you think they are going overboard? Drop us a comment below to tell us what you think! 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Soak in the Experience -- Sky Lagoon is Iceland's Newest Geothermal Bath in Reykjavik -- All You Need to Know to Have a Meaningful and Healthy Visit

The Sky Lagoon is the ultimate meaningful and healthy experience! You may not fully understand why say that until you read our behind-the-scenes information from interviewing the guest relations and marketing coordinator. We invite you to add this new Icelandic spa to your travel list for 2021. 

Imagine you are a Icelandic boat traveling from your home to the sea.  What would you see? Sailing through lava rock formations, navigating your way and you can’t see what’s ahead because of the mist hovering above the water……appears…the vast expanse of the North Atlantic.  You’ve arrived at the Sky Lagoon’s treasure — the infinity pool over looking the sea and the effect is perfect.  You can’t tell where the lagoon ends and the sea begins.  

Courtesy of Sky Lagoon

Here is what you will learn in this article

  1. How is visiting the Sky Lagoon Healthy?
  2. What is the Ritual 7-Step Experience?
  3. How is the Meaning behind visiting the Sky Lagoon Meaningful?
  4. Interesting Tidbits about Sky Lagoon
  5. Practical Information about Sky Lagoon
  6. Summary

Iceland's newest geothermal lagoon, the Sky Lagoon opened April 30, 2021 and features more than just a lagoon. We met with Ragnheiður Harpa Haraldsdóttir, Guest Experience & Marketing Coordinator, (call her Heidi!) to find out more about how the Sky Lagoon is a meaningful and healthy experience! 

Luxury Travel Docs met with Ragnheiður Harpa Haraldsdóttir, Guest Experience & Marketing Coordinator for Sky Lagoon.  

How is the Sky Lagoon Healthy?

The Icelandic people have always had a strong relationship with the sea.  Of course that seems obvious when you are descended from Vikings and exist as an island equivalent to the size of Kentucky, but it is very interesting how the tradition of the sea continues today. Iceland is regularly rated as one of the happiest places in the world. Since the 1940s, learning to swim has been a legal requirement in the country – and it has one of the highest people-to-pools ratios in the world.  

So, could the secret to Icelandic health and happiness lie in their pool and hot tub culture? Swimming is seen as integral to their health, safety and culture. Heidi told us that she and many Icelanders swim in the ocean regularly despite the cold temperatures and how this is reflected in your experience at the Sky Lagoon will be evident shortly.  We found it interesting that Icelanders are introduced to swimming pools as babies! It is reminiscent of a Nirvana album cover…here is Snorri Magnusson "The Baby Whisperer" working with 4 month old babies in the pool. 

After hearing about this swimming culture, it is no surprise that locals were ready to come to the Sky Lagoon as soon as it opened.  Iceland reopened to international travelers in May of 2021, and before that the Sky Lagoon was 100% locals, but at the time we went, 10 weeks after opening, the ratio was about 50% locals and 50% tourists.  

When we first heard about the Sky Lagoon, we initially learned about the the Ritual 7-Step Experience. So what is the Ritual 7-Step Experience?  

The Ritual 7-Step Experience

Step One: Slow down, relax in the Lagoon

Enter through the cave-like entrance to the Lagoon. Step into the warm waters and relax. Breathe in the refreshing, cool ocean air. Float through a breathtaking canyon to the infinity edge and take in a view of Mount Keilir.  Pause, take it all in and enter a state of calm where you feel relaxed and open to what is to come.

Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland! Of course the gorgeous Sky Lagoon would feature a waterfall. Luxury Travel Docs found the cool water and invigorating massage of the waterfall at the far end of the lagoon to just another enjoyable feature of the full experience!

Step Two: Cool down with a cold plunge in a replica of Snorri's pool

Boost your happiness with cold therapy. Wander in the fresh Icelandic air. Or, if you’re brave, take a quick dip in the cold (10 C/50 F) plunge pool. It will stimulate your immune system, decrease blood flow in the body and tighten skin. There is an interesting history behind the inspiration: Snorri's pool.

Snorri Sturluson, a revered Icelandic historian, poet and politician, had a man made geothermal bathing pool in Reykholt back in the 13th century. It was aptly named Snorralaug, which translates to Snorri’s pool and was fed hot water from the nearby hot spring Skrifla. Snorri had a tunnel built from his home straight to the pool so move easily back and forth to the pool. The pool still exists and can be visited

Snorralaug was once thought to be used only by Snorri, but the pool was mentioned much earlier in the Landnáma, or book of settlement in the 10th century. 

Courtesy of Sky Lagoon

Step Three: Relax with a view in the sauna

After your cold awakening, visit the sauna for 5 to 15 minutes. Allow the heat to open pores, remove toxins and cleanse your skin. While the heat works its magic, enjoy breathtaking views through the largest single window in Iceland and enjoy the sensory experience of gentle coastal acoustics.

Courtesy of Sky Lagoon

Step Four: Refresh in an energizing mist

Next, balance the heat by stepping slowly through Sky Lagoon’s cold fog-mist space. It’s stimulating and rejuvenating for mind, body and soul. Take a deep breath and refresh your senses.

Step 5: The Sky Body Scrub

It’s time for re-invigoration. By applying Sky Lagoon’s signature Sky Body Scrub, with almond and sesame oils mixed with sea salt, your skin will be exfoliated and glowing. Don't get it in your eyes! 

Step 6: The steam room

Steam will once more open your skin, allowing it to absorb the key therapeutic elements of The Ritual and maximizing the hydrating benefits of the Sky Body Scrub. This warmth eases your breathing and improves overall body function.

Step 7: Shower and relax in the lagoon

Rinse off the scrub in the rain shower. Then, step back into the warm geothermal lagoon. Lean back, close your eyes, breathe deeply, feel the results and enjoy the moment. Let all the benefits of the journey set in. You’ll feel every single muscle in your body relax. When you’re ready, head to the Lagoon Bar for a refreshment.

Courtesy of Sky Lagoon

Our thoughts were that the 7-Step Experience would be nice to experience, like going to a spa after arrival to combat jet lag.  Little did we know that the experience is so much more than steam and salt scrubs. Don't get us wrong, the spa like atmosphere and experience is wonderful and makes your skin feel amazing but what intrigued us after speaking with Heidi are the under-recognized benefits of the 7-step ritual: Alternating COLD and HEAT experiences.  

For a long time we have studied the Wim Hof method about the power of cold therapy. "Breathing, focus, and controlled exposure to cold are the three pillars on which the Wim Hof Method is built. Together they enable us to deal with ‘cold hard nature’, which are conditions that our bodies are no longer accustomed to, due to the modern-day comforts that characterize our lives. Exposing oneself to cold conditions such as cold showers and ice baths is related to serious health benefits, including stress relief , better sleep , faster recovery from physical exercise , and even relief from symptoms that are related to diseases like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis." (from We suggest reading the latest book by Wim Hof about his powerful method for realizing our physical and spiritual potential. Click the photo below to see the formats available and reviews at Amazon.

Not only are Icelanders obsessed with their geothermal swimming pools and their natural hot springs, but many people also love to swim in the cold North Atlantic ocean! 

In fact there is a great spot in Reykjavík that is geothermally heated and is a great place for people to swim. On a warm summer day, The Nauthólsvík beach is one of the most popular spots for groups of locals who like to indulge in the benefits of cold sea swimming, all year long! 

What is incredible is the invigorating feeling that you experience when moving from a cold to heat experience.  Your body will tingle for several minutes as blood flow increases.  There is science suggesting that alternating hot and cold therapy, can simultaneously reduce inflammation, stimulate circulation, and loosen tight muscles. This sensation will occur in two steps of the 7-Step Ritual: from Snorri's plunge pool to the sauna and from the cold mist to the steam room.

How is the Sky Lagoon Meaningful?

On so many levels, the Sky Lagoon is a meaningful experience. Understanding the history of Icelander's relationship with water and how the Sky Lagoon reflects this historically, physically and visually was enough for us, but there's more.  

Iceland is the "Land of Fire and Ice" and hot water is in abundance around the entire country. With so many resources, it is no surprise that Icelanders have learned to harness the power of geothermal water in many ways. The majority of households in Iceland use geothermal water. The water used in homes, hotels and guesthouses is both water that has been directly pumped from boreholes in the ground and water that has been used in power plants to produce electricity. Water is an abundant resource and we chuckled when Heidi told us that the Sky Lagoon had to install timers on the showers because Icelanders will just let the water run and never shut it off. 

Ecologically, the Sky Lagoon was designed to utilize the power of water and nature to conserve.  How? The water from the Lagoon is recycled throughout the floors and walls to heat the building.  

Courtesy of Sky Lagoon

While Sky Lagoon wows visitors with its warm and modern feel, the team ensured thoughtful historical elements and traditions were worked into the overall design and guest experience. The style of building used dates back to the settlement of Iceland in about 870 and was used all the way through to the mid 20th century. Settlers used turf to build their homes because it offered exceptional isolation and protection against Iceland’s harsh weather conditions. Turf was and continues to be in abundant supply on an island where historically construction materials were hard to come by (Have you heard the joke "what do you do if you get lost in and Icelandic Forest? Stand up!). While modern homes and buildings no longer use turf, they paid homage to this ancient Iceland design by building a turf wall at Sky Lagoon, a first for a modern building in the country. The turf wall greets guests as they arrive. You can see the turf wall first hand in our photo above with Ragnheiður Harpa Haraldsdóttir, Guest Experience & Marketing Coordinator.

When constructing the wall, turf layer specialist Guðjón S. Kristinsson and his team revived this ancient building technique by cutting heavy pieces of turf into tiles and then layering those tiles into a herringbone pattern inside a wooden frame. Icelandic turf is especially durable because it is mixed with ash from various volcanic eruptions, making it thicker and almost concrete-like.

We pressed the question about giving back to the community, because these events are not publicized.  You won't see much about this because, things like donating tickets to an entire hospital after the pandemic, were not meant to be PR stunts, but truly a "thank you" to healthcare heroes. We feel this is the perfect attitude to have and it made us so happy to hear that the Sky Lagoon gives back. We heard many examples of how this is done. 

Interesting Tidbits

  • The sauna in Sky Lagoon is truly magnificent and boasts the largest single window in Iceland, weighing in at 2.4 tons!
  • The Sky Lagoon is situated on Seal Pup Bay, so make sure you look for seals while enjoying your views from the sauna.
  • The Sky Lagoon is built on a former landfill.  Let's just say it's MUCH nicer now!
  • A bridge across the Fossvogur (Reykjavik to Kópavogur) is planned in the near future for buses, pedestrians and cyclists and that will make traveling to Sky Lagoon from Reykjavik even less than 6 miles. They have bike racks at Sky Lagoon to encourage cyclists to ride to the facility.
  • We learned that the 65 employees of the Sky Lagoon feel like a close knit family and we found that was true! Everyone enjoyed interacting with patrons having big smiles and friendly attitudes. Ages of employees range from about 20 to 50 years of age. 
  • Wristbands provided at check-in gives you access to your locker.  Place the wristband up to the locker to lock or unlock indicated by a color change on the locker.  If you forget what locker number you have, you can hold your wristband up to a reader and it will display what number you have (do you think this good or bad?)

Practical Information:

  • Taxis to the Sky Lagoon from central Reykavik costs about $32 each way. We met a group that walked from the Perlan museum and it took about 45 minutes. 
  • Get drinks at the end of the Ritual 7-Step Experience. Then you won't risk getting dizzy in the sauna or steam room. 
  • The sauna has sand "hour glass" timers for 15 minutes on the wall.  Use one to not overheat (it's 80 degrees Celsius in there)
  • When you approach the Sky Lagoon, the area looks to the wrong place but know that the area is developing around it. Kópavogur is one of the fastest growing suburbs of Reykjavik.
  • Ask for return taxi at the coffee counter when you're ready to leave. They will call one for you. 
  • There are three passes available.  The Pure Lite pass was just added that skips the 7-Step Ritual, but we feel that is part of the meaningful and healthy experience. The difference between the Pure pass and the Sky pass is the Sky Pass gives you access to private showers and changing rooms.  Shower gel, conditioner, lotion and blow dryers are available with both passes and it's only whether they are privately available (Sky pass) or in a common area (Pure and Pure Lite passes). 
  • If you want to shower and use lockers with your spouse, get the Sky Pass and you will not have to use unisex rooms. 
  • Bring a waterproof holder or dry-bag for you phone.  We liked getting our pictures done in the beginning and putting our phones away to enjoy the experience.  
  • Cycling to the facility is encouraged and there are large bike racks out front for storage.  With a distance of 6 miles from Reykjavik, cycling is a perfect and healthy option for transportation.  In fact, Heidi often cycles to work. 



Visiting the Sky Lagoon was one of the highlights of our tour of Iceland.  We are grateful to Ragnheiður Harpa Haraldsdóttir for taking the time to explain not only the meaningful and healthy elements of the Sky Lagoon, but giving us tremendous insight into the Icelandic culture. Geothermal and cold water experiences are at the heart of daily life in Iceland and it is not something to miss. We hope our post has given you some insight into why you should make experiencing this a priority for your travels. In our opinion, skip the Blue Lagoon which we find to be too touristy, and take the time to immerse yourself in the experience at the Sky Lagoon. Or if you feel like it try both.  Have you visited the Sky Lagoon or the Blue Lagoon?  If so, leave us a comment about your experience below! 

Remember, if you have questions related to your health, always consult your doctor or medical professional. The information presented here is informative only and is not medical advice.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Review of New JFK American Express Centurion Lounge and Speakeasy in New York City


When Traveling through JFK use your American Express Platinum Card to gain Access to the New Centurion Lounge in Terminal 4 for a good meal and refreshment before your flight.  While you’re there, checkout the Speakeasy bar (if you can find it)!

Is it worth taking the long walk from the end of concourse B to this location if you have time.  Allow 15-20 minutes walk time to get to the Centurion lounge if you have a layover at JFK.  However finding the lounge is not very easy still, although it is a little easier than the old location at JFK where you felt like you were entering a prohibited employee only area.  When coming from A or B concourse it is located above the duty free shopping area.  Look for the Caviar House seafood restaurant or Kiehl’s and take the elevator to the 4th level.  If you are departing NYC from JFK the Centurion lounge is conveniently located inside security.  

Friday, July 16, 2021

Passenger tests positive for COVID-19 on Jupiter Sky, cruise is cancelled and Viking Jupiter’s itinerary in question

 Jupiter sky Iceland’s natural beauty welcome back cruise pauses in Akureyri, Iceland.

Much speculation has been made about how the cruise industry will return.  When Viking ocean announced welcome back cruises to Iceland, one of the first European countries to reopen, we jumped on the opportunity. We set sail on the Viking Jupiter on July 11 from Reykjavik. 

Viking has enacted strict COVID-19 protocols.  

  1. Our ship is 1/2 capacity since we are the first sailing of this ship since COVID-19 began 
  2. We must social distance and have no large gatherings
  3. Masks must be worn onboard and on buses
  4. Daily temperature checks are performed
  5. Tracking devices are worn for potential contact tracing. 
  6. Daily saliva PCR tests for COVID-19 are performed. 
  7. Frequent hand washing and sanitization is necessary 
  8. All passengers and crew are vaccinated 

Make sure you get a cover for your vaccine card!  We love the kind where the card can be removed to add booster record at a later date rather than laminating your card! Click below to check these out at Amazon!


We knew this voyage would be at risk for trip interruption.  Over the last few days reports were trickling in about Viking Sky having a passenger that tested positive for COVID-19.  That led to the passengers not being allowed to disembark and two of their ports. Last night reports were that the remainder of the Viking Sky’s cruise was canceled and they would be returning to Reykjavík.

This morning we arrived for our planned shore excursions at 8 AM only to sit there for another two hours hoping to disembark. The crew was excellent at updating us about what was occurring. But they only told us that we were being delayed. Eventually the captain came on the loudspeaker and informed us that the local police were having issue with potential for COVID-19 positive passengers. The captain reassured us that we had obtained pre-clearance from the government of Iceland for arrival today but unfortunately that did not correlate with what the locals wanted. As of now over four hours later we are still waiting for word about the status of our port and perhaps even cruise.

The captain’s last update was that local authorities wanted to inspect the ship for protocols but it was happening slowly.  That’s was a few hours ago. 

Kudos to Viking for making our morning comfortable with refreshments, including mimosas, and entertainment.

Many of us on board saw that our buses for sure excursions were leaving after about 1 to 2 hours and some of us also noticed an ambulance pull up to the cruise ship. This ended up being not due to a Covid positive passnger but actually for a passenger who fell and broke her hip.

This highlights the need for having insurance particularly on very expensive vacations and when there is what seems to be a high chance of trip interruption for either personal or health reasons like today.

Rumors are circulating that passengers aboard Sky will receive a 50% refund for a cruise canceled 1 day early with 3 missed ports. The Sky has not arrived in Reykjavik yet and they do not know their fate. More recent reports are that a cruise voucher was provided and open bar started at noon. 

Update: Viking Sky passengers will disembark on July 17 as planned with a future cruise voucher equivalent to 50% of cruise cost. 

Update: After losing our day in Akureyri, we were able to go ashore in every other port and the cruise finished normally for most passengers.  There was no further communication from any Viking staff to the passengers.  A rumor was afloat that the COVID positive test was a false positive, but we know this to not be true.  Several passengers who were located near the positive individual, were quarantined in their respective cabins for the remainder of the cruise.  We know this because we directly messaged with one of them.  Understandably, Viking was trying to limit panic and confusion for all aboard, all while trying to keep the passengers safe and protect the privacy of those affected.