A Warm Welcome Back
LBAC Travel Advisor, Brittany Odom shares her first experience sailing, since the pandemic. Contact Brittany today with any questions you may have!
Have you been curious about cruising now that so much has changed? I sure was and when the opportunity for me to experience a cruise firsthand presented itself, I just could not turn it down.
Sailing on the Viking Orion through beautiful Bermuda was nothing short of a dream. After a long break from cruising, I welcomed the opportunity to get back on the open waters.
Prior to departure, I had a checklist of to-do’s. This was a combined list of requirements put in place by the US government, Bermuda government and Viking Ocean Cruises. Each guideline had to be followed or entry into/out of each country and onto the ship would not be permitted. I was fully aware of each of these guidelines and I was ready to meet them all!
- Full Vaccination (all guests and crew must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to travel).
- Vaccination documentation (COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card)
- PCR Testing complete 72 hours prior to travel (rapid test was not accepted)
- Travel Authorization form submitted and approved by the Bermuda Government
- Viking Health and Safety forms completed and submitted 5 days prior to travel
- PCR Negative Test for US reentry (Viking provided this test at no additional cost and the test was given on board. Viking also provided the necessary paperwork to submit to customs)
Ready to Sail
Once I had the all clear to go, I hopped on a plane and headed to Bermuda! Once I landed in Bermuda, I proceeded through customs, grabbed my luggage, and was required to take a nasal swab COVID test. All travelers entering Bermuda are required to take this test at the airport. This test was free of charge and my results were emailed to me later that evening.
After testing, I was greeted by a Viking representative and escorted to the bus that was taking me to my home for the next week. Upon arrival at the port in Hamilton, Viking guests went through a quick health screening during the check-in process (temp check & a short health survey), we were given our keys, a Contact Tracing device (this was not a GPS tracker rather a device that would keep track of guests if they were to be exposed to someone that tested positive for COVID-19 while on board. These could be worn as a necklace or kept in a purse/pocket while on board or on excursions) and were sent on our way to the Muster Drill. The Muster Drill was quick and informative. If you’ve ever cruised in the past, you know that the drills are held at a certain time when everyone is on board and everyone is required to go to their designated Muster Station. With social distancing protocols in place, they held the drills in groups of 5-10 and done once you boarded the ship. Once the drill was complete guests were escorted to their staterooms and greeted by cabin attendants. My stateroom attendants were Noira and Kirstin. Both were delighted to have guests on board and they were amazing! I was given instructions on the required health survey and PCR saliva test that had to be done daily. I was asked to complete the daily health survey either on paper or on my tv (they allowed guests to do it either way. I typically filled out the paper but did fill it out on the TV one time just for fun). I was also required to take a daily PCR saliva test within an hour of arrival and again each morning of the sailing. This test was self administered and the vial for the test was left in my stateroom each evening. My stateroom attendants would pick the test up each morning, so it was very easy for me and I was not inconvenienced at all. I love that I can say I was able to experience a sailing that had zero cases of COVID while sailing! All of the passengers agreed that we felt incredibly well taken care of and the protocols that were in place were working!
Exploring the Ship
I spent the week exploring the Orion and I was continually impressed. From the layout of the ship to the amenities offered (at no charge!), there was luxury at every turn. The onboard ‘Book Exchange’, the infinity pool and the spa were typically the three places you could find me at any given moment during the sailing…except for when I was dining on the delicious cuisine at one of the six restaurants.
Between the dining, the spa experience and reading, there were many other activities offered throughout the day. I would read over the Viking Daily each evening and circle where I wanted to be the next day (when I was not on an excursion!). Never once was I disappointed in my chosen activity. The entertainment team put on phenomenal shows each evening and the Viking Band that played in Torshavn (Lounge) each night was a favorite among guests.
Each sailing has a resident historian on board and he/she hosts lectures daily (sometimes more than once a day). Our particular sailing had a resident historian as well as an astronomer. Both the historian and astronomer were available between sessions to get to know and to ask questions. They were a wealth of knowledge and I enjoyed getting to speak to both throughout the week. One of my favorite experiences was attending a viewing in the planetarium. The Viking Orion has a planetarium on board and it is one of two planetariums at sea. Guests were able to schedule a time to go to a hosted experience in the Explorer’s Dome. This was an unbelievable experience and it was included in the cost of the sailing (I loved it so much that I went twice!). The astronomer, Lou, invited guests to join him on the top deck at 10pm one evening. He had a telescope out and we were able to see Saturn, Jupiter and the moon. He answered our questions and created a wonderful evening at sea for all of us that attended. Certainly a highlight for me!
Time for Adventure
Viking provides numerous excursions and experiences on each and every sailing. Each guest has one included excursion per day…which was fabulous! I was able to select my excursions prior to sailing but ended up modifying once on board. Famous Homes & Hideaway Cruise, The Great Sound Catamaran Rally, and Catamaran Cruise & Secluded Cove, were the three included excursions I chose. I was scheduled for another included excursion (Glass Bottom Boat tour) but decided to go on the Bermuda Shipwreck Snorkel. We had local guides on all excursions and they were phenomenal!
Famous Homes & Hideaway Cruise (Hamilton, Bermuda)
On this included excursion, guests enjoyed a two hour cruise along the shoreline admiring charming, pastel-painted colonial homes that are steeped in history. We saw homes belonging to Hollywood stars, playwrights, illustrators and more. We also saw many Bermuda landmarks such as the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere).
We also saw several sea turtles.
We were entertained by our captain and crew. Beautiful morning spent on the water.
Great Sound Catamaran Rally
(Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda)
Once I disembarked the ship, I followed a Viking crew member to the meeting spot for those going on the Great Sound Catamaran Rally. This was a catamaran ride to a protected area surrounded on three sides by land and a wave buffering coral reef at the entrance. Once we anchored, we were given several hours to paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, cliff jump and relax. The captain was entertaining and guests enjoyed a complimentary and refreshing Rum Swizzle cocktail—Bermuda’s national drink. This was a relaxing and fun way to get out on the water in Bermuda.
Bermuda Shipwreck Snorkel
(Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda)
We spent two full days docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard. On the second day, I chose to go on an optional shipwreck snorkel excursion (this excursion was $39 and absolutely worth it!). I’m so glad I did! Once we boarded the boat, we ventured into the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. Our captain took us to two famous shipwrecks to snorkel; the Constellation (1943) and the Montana (1863). Both ships, which sunk 100 years apart, are located near each other at the edge of the reef. This was my first time snorkeling a shipwreck and I loved it! The fish were beautiful and hearing the captain explain the history of the area was incredible! Once we finished snorkeling we were treated to a Rum Swizzle and headed back to our ship.
Catamaran Cruise & Secluded Cove Exploration
Being out on the water is one of my favorite things in the world. So while I did a catamaran adventure a few days prior, I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to do it again. This time, our captain took us on a 20 min ride to a secluded area and after anchoring, we were able to hop off and explore. Each boat has a ‘pool noodle’ that passengers swim/float with. This helps the crew keep track of everyone and it provides a fun way to relax in the water. I really wanted to try the clear kayak and I found another guest that wanted to do the same. Getting to know other travelers is always a trip favorite for me. With the help of the crew, we loaded up and were on our way. Paddling around in the open waters of Bermuda was truly a dream. We had fun paddling our way through other guests and even had a crew member deliver a Rum Swizzle to us while we were kayaking!
When traveling with my family, I don’t typically take the time to enjoy the amenities offered by a spa (but I should!!!). Since I was traveling solo, I figured this would be the perfect time to check things out. I was able to make a spa appointment (I actually made one for every single day on this sailing) and during that appointment, I had complete freedom to enjoy the wet sauna, dry sauna, hydrotherapy pool and even the snow grotto (just look it up….it is amazing. And freezing. Literally)! There was also a gym in the spa area but let’s be real….I didn’t do anything in there other than take photos! Many guests did take advantage of the gym equipment throughout the sailing though. I definitely looked forward to my ‘spa time’ every single day!
The staterooms on Viking are like no other. There are no inside staterooms and that means every single room has a balcony! I was in a Verandah Stateroom on deck 3 and it was wonderful. This particular ship can hold 930 passengers. It was built in 2018 and still has the ‘new ship’ feel. There are a number of stateroom categories for guests to choose from and I was able to tour several of those. I liked each and every stateroom but my favorite was the Explorer Suite (forward). Each stateroom has a small refrigerator that the cabin attendants would keep stocked. They quickly noticed that I liked coke (not diet coke or sprite) and they adjusted my supply so that I never ran out of coke. Such a little touch that made me smile!
If I am honest, I don’t always love food on a cruise. I feel like it is often hit or miss with service and quality. This was a completely different experience! The food was consistent and delicious every single meal. There are six restaurants on board and yes, I tried them all. Since I was traveling solo, I ate some meals by myself, but often, I would join other guests and we enjoyed the most lovely evenings over incredible dinners. My favorite restaurant would have to be Manfredi’s. I went to dinner there at least three of the nights and the crew welcomed me by name each and every time.
24 Hour Room Service is also an included service. I took advantage of room service for breakfast one morning and for the occasional late night snack!
High Tea was held each day from 4-5 in the Windsong Cafe. This was such a great way to wind down after a wonderful day and feel refreshed and ready for an exciting evening on board! With an incredible tea selection (I don’t even drink tea but after talking to those that do, the offerings were impressive) and amazing sweet and savory treats, you were left feeling full, happy and relaxed. There was a grand piano in the tea room and a pianist played a variety of music for all to enjoy.
The travel industry has changed dramatically since March 2020, and the LBAC team has worked hard to stay current and informed. Staying current and informed requires more than doing research on a computer (webinars and training online are incredibly important too!); it often requires first hand knowledge. When an opportunity presents itself, and the timing works for our partners, we welcome the opportunity to explore the world. This particular opportunity presented itself to me about nine days prior to travel. Having many cruise inquiries and clients regularly asking if I had been on a cruise, I decided the time was right for me. Being invited to sail with Viking was a reminder that the industry values and depends on travel advisors. Being part of this select group was an honor.
While on this sailing, I was able to experience the new healthy and safety protocols that have been put in place all the way from the airports to the ship. I was incredibly impressed and thankful for the work Viking has done and is continuing to do in an effort to keep guests healthy and cared for.
I was given the opportunity to meet with team members from Viking and those partnerships are invaluable to LBAC and to our clients. Richard Sims, Viking Director of National Accounts (see photo), hosted dinners, ship tours, small group gatherings, and made himself available for questions, and meetings all week long. His hospitality and knowledge was another highlight of the week.
As agents, we truly invest the time and utilize our contacts to ensure our clients are well taken care of from the moment our partnership begins. I am grateful for the experience of sailing with Viking on the Orion and was incredibly impressed with the entire operation. If you are considering Viking or any cruise in the near future, let us know! We would love the opportunity to help you see the world!
Go where you can, when you can but only when you are ready! I was ready. Contact Brittany today to plan your trip, or for any questions you have!