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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! 


  1. Wow, I think it's a good idea to take advantage of the cheap cruises, but I'm too scared to travel anywhere until I'm double jabbed! I'm glad you had a good time though. It does seem like holidays anywhere are going to be a bit more of a hassle, with covid tests, paperwork, etc, but as long as we get to travel again. Thanks for sharing your experience. Really interesting read!

  2. Regarding Iceland Pro Cruises lack of Covid19 protection procedures as well as every single other visitor who has no testing, masking or contract tracing, it was surprising how Viking was treated. How many of those people after 3 or 4 days visiting Iceland become positive? Iceland does not know until they get their test in the days before departure. And they have no idea with whom they may have been in contact if they test positive

    Many on the roll calls want Viking to drop the daily testing. We do not want Viking to drop ANY of their current protocols. We enjoyed our July 17-24 Iceland cruise covid free and hope to have another from Spain at the end of November covid free.

    I think Viking is doing all they can to protest their crew and guests. I trust they will continue to do so in the changing covid environment and with the different countries they visit. Its not an easy job dealing with different government and health authorities.

    Thanks for the video on Heimaey. Our cruise missed that port due to rough tendering conditions. When up close we could not see the cliff tops so glad to enjoy a sea day.

  3. Cruised August 3rd on Jupiter, and so glad I did - no positive cases as far as I could hear or tell, no missed ports, no bad weather, great fellow cruisers, no big deal to comply with Viking's protocol, and Iceland certainly didn't disappoint us. It's a beautiful country with excellent options for excursions. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  4. It's good that masks are required. However, the masks, vaccinations and social distancing would not be enough to get me on a cruise. It seems too dangerous with breakthrough infections and variants. Plus, it seems that your entire cruise could very well be spent inside your room in isolation if someone else on the ship has tested positive for COVID, or been in contact with someone who has. This is no way to spend a vacation.