What You Need to Know About Planning a Trip to Iceland or Elsewhere Now (2021)
Updated: Sep 8
Interest in traveling to Iceland was growing by leaps and bounds before Covid-19. I was glad to see Iceland do so well with the Coronavirus. Ninety percent of adult Icelandics are vaccinated. They were one of the earliest countries to allow Americans with proof of being fully vaccinated or having had Coronavirus to enter without needing to go into quarantine.
My office went 16 months with no clients departing on a cruise or tour. As the pandemic persisted, we had continual waves of suspended trips since back to March 2020. Nothing in this world has ever affected the travel industry to anything near this extent.
Thankfully that pattern broke in July when my clients, Laura and Joe, flew from Philadelphia to Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland, to board their cruise ship. I'll be sharing their story in three blogs beginning with this one.
This blog post will go over:
My clients' experience with "Covid-19 travel"
Viking Ocean & River Cruises' Covid-19 Policies & Procedures
Requirements to Enter Iceland
Requirements for Return to the United States
Though this article is heavily specific to a Viking cruise to Iceland, the jist of it applies to the need for flexibility and the extra steps needed for many destinations for at least the immediate future. If you are comfortable with what you read, you are likely a good candidate for travel right now.
There are many ways to visit Iceland.
We have clients booked from last month through 2023 to Iceland. Some are booked on land tours. Others are looking forward to visiting on luxury cruise ships, a luxury expedition ship with its own helicopter and submarine, and premium larger ships with some trips including other countries along with Iceland.
Laura and Joe enjoy cruising. It had been quite a while since they had been on an ocean cruise, but they've been enjoying river cruises in Europe, specifically Viking River Cruises, over these past few years. It was a natural migration for them to try a Viking Ocean Cruise aboard Viking Sky.
What it's like to book a trip during Covid-19:
The best travelers are the ones who are adaptable. These people best handle unexpected changes and other cultures. Because of changing criteria by cruise lines, tour companies, and countries worldwide, it's best to assume there will be Covid-related policy changes. Their job is to follow the growing science of the virus, abide by various governments' protocols, and to keep everyone safe.
Laura and Joe are experienced travelers, adaptable, and go over all materials sent to them. They didn't go into this trip with blinders on. In an email early in the planning, they admitted to being "a bit anxious and excited!" I probably would have been concerned if they weren’t at all anxious and also upset if they weren’t excited!
Joe, Laura, and I caught up by phone and email after their trip. They had a great time and were very candid about everything they encountered. They were willing to share their experiences with our other clients. You'll see my questions in bold and their answers in blue.
What was the biggest concern you had about going on a "first trip" after the world was opening up from the pandemic?
"Maintaining and protecting our health was my 'biggest' concern. The past year we have been isolated and in a family bubble. In renewing international travel we had to 'trust the science' and Viking. Overall, Viking did a tremendous job preserving our health while providing onboard guests a relaxed and entertaining experience. Mandatory PCR testing and temperature checks were part of the daily routine. Mask wearing and social distancing were strongly encouraged regardless of Icelandic standards."
How did you feel about the trackers?
(Note: These are devices that are worn on a lanyard or put in your pocket when you are outside of your cabin. It's not a "tracker" in that Viking isn't keeping track of where everyone is at. But if someone tests positive during the cruise, the device can be used to determine what other guests and crew members came within six feet of that person for at least 15 minutes)
"Honestly, it didn't bother me at all. I also believe in masks and science! The biggest problem was it gave me something else to forget in the cabin."
By phone, we talked about the daily Covid test. It's a saliva test and has to be done without eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth beforehand. We joked about how the only hard part is remembering to wait to drink your coffee when it's been delivered by room service. I can relate. I shared my secret with them--- I need coffee before I deal with the world and before the world deals with me. Shhh.... don't tell anyone. ;-)
How Viking Cruises is handling Covid-19:
Here’s an outline of Viking’s current procedures. In addition to this list, you can click on the image at the top of this section or here to see the full embarkation letter guests received on the 7/16/21 sailing.
All crew members and guests must be vaccinated with no exceptions. (Viking is an "adults only" line.)
All guests must be fully dosed with an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before embarkation. A copy of that card has to be uploaded at least 14 days before sailing. The card also has to be shown at embarkation and may be requested to be seen by other authorities during your trip.
Between 5-7 days before embarkation, guests will receive a health survey which must be completed. That is also when you receive pre-embarkation COVID-19 testing procedures. If there is anything questionable in the survey or a positive Covid test, there is follow-up.
Airport transfers are being done in smaller groups. Everyone is required to use hand sanitizer and wear masks during transfers.
At embarkation, check-in procedures include completing a negative PCR test, a temperature check, a health survey, and accepting and agreeing to wear a contact tracing device.
Temperatures are taken by thermal cameras with face recognition capability at least once daily.
Currently, all guests must participate in Viking's shore excursions and stay with the group to maintain a "bubble."
Your cabin attendant leaves test tubes in your cabin. Before eating or drinking the next morning, you spit into the vial, screw on the lid and leave them in a designated bag for your cabin. Viking invested in having labs added to every one of their ocean vessels. The shipboard lab will perform the PCR test. For their riverboats, they are working with a network of labs in the ports to be able to do daily Covid tests.
The buffet is open, with crew members serving the food.
Masks are required when in public areas and social distancing takes place in the theater.
By requiring appointments for the spa and gym, Viking can limit the number of people in those areas.
These policies may change. You can access Viking's latest Ccovid-19 policies and procedures here.
Iceland's requirements for tourists:
Passports must be valid for at least six months past your planned departure from Iceland.
For Americans staying no longer than 90 days, a visa is not required. (Note: ETIAS travel authorization is expected to go into effect in late 2022.)
Certificate of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival or certificate of previous Covid infection is required. The first time you must present this in person is at the airport before departing on your flight. It also has to be uploaded in advance of your trip.
Certificate of a negative PCR or antigen test from within 72 hours of arrival into Iceland is required. The first time you must present this in person is at the airport before departing on your flight.
Complete an online registration within 72 hours of arrival in Iceland.
Children born in 2005 and later are exempt from pre-registration, presenting a negative test and testing.
This can all change. In fact, when my clients flew into Keflavik Airport which serves Reykjavik, fully vaccinated passengers didn't need to be tested before arrival. By the end of their trip, it was announced that Iceland was requiring a negative result from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival into their country beginning the next week.
Please consider the above requirements for Iceland as both simplified and subject to change. Everyone considering travel to Iceland must check current requirements.
U.S. requirements for entry:
All airline passengers age two and over must present a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken within three days of arrival into the U.S. or present acceptable proof of a recent recovery from Covid.
Please consider the above requirements for the United States as both simplified and subject to change. Everyone planning to travel outside of the U.S. should check for the most current needs.
So far, all cruise lines and tour operators handling Iceland that I've spoken with are, at the least, handling the arrangements for the Covid-19 test. Viking has been performing the U.S. required tests on their ships free of charge and issuing the paperwork needed for guests to present to the airline to board their flight home, assuming the test results are negative.
On my clients' cruise, there were no positive cases. During the previous week, there was one positive case. From everything I've heard and read, guests understand the need for these procedures and the advantages of working together to benefit them all. Not all travelers are as understanding, but I think that's the difference between those traveling now and to places such as Iceland.
I didn't get the impression that Laura or Joe had issues with any of the requirements or felt that they were overly invasive or annoying. Instead, I think they felt that everyone was working together to ensure that all went as smoothly as possible so people could get back to the business of traveling and having fun.
I've dubbed this post, "Joe & Laura's Viking Iceland trip: Part 1 – Booking Now with Covid." Admittedly, I found it impossible to write about all of these requirements in an "interesting" way, but felt that it would benefit people thinking of leaving the western hemisphere right now. I promise that "Part 2 – The Beauty of Iceland" and "Part 3 – The Scoop on Viking including Viking Ocean vs. Viking River" will be more fun to read. They already sound like more fun, right?!
Are you ready to book your trip to Iceland? Its beauty and uniqueness await those who are anxious to see it. Email me so we can talk about the best way for you to explore there. And when you book, I'll send you our popular vaccination card protectors.