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It was unsettling to hear the recent news that Viking Sky, one of Viking’s ocean-going ships, lost power in rough sea conditions off the coast of Norway in late March, necessitating passenger and crew evacuation via helicopter.
However, I’m convinced that the incident will go down in history as a disaster averted, thanks to a textbook emergency response. And that’s reason for travel advisors and their clients to remain confident in the safety of ocean cruising, whether onboard Viking or any other line.
Of course, some have questioned why Sky was in rough conditions to begin with, considering that a Hurtigruten ship on the same route opted not to sail. However, that line’s ships are smaller and more likely to be tossed by high waves. Sky is fully compliant with all international maritime regulations, and the ship’s captain and two local Norwegian pilots onboard decided to proceed along the route.
“We are confident that all the relevant safety procedures were implemented by our crew to the highest standards,” according to a statement from Viking.
As dramatic as the ship’s listing appeared on video, the vessel would have been entirely capable of navigating through such conditions had the engines not failed. The Norwegian Maritime Authority has initially concluded that the cause was relatively low oil pressure — though it was still within set limits — and that the ship’s movement affected the lubricating oil from reaching the engines via pumps.
“We have inspected the lubricating oil levels on all our sister ships and are now revising our procedures to ensure that this issue could not be repeated,” according to Viking's statement. “We will continue to work with our partners and the regulatory bodies in supporting them with the ongoing investigations.”
Of course, an event like this may compel some clients to fear cruising as a form of travel, but statistically, cruising is safer than air travel. And, thankfully, only injuries were reported from this incident. Additionally, the guests onboard Sky universally praised the crew for dealing with the situation in an outstanding way.
In total, 479 guests were airlifted off the 930-passenger Sky. The ship managed to regain power and sail safely into the port of Molde, Norway, where it docked and the rest of its guests disembarked. Torstein Hagen, chairman for Viking, was on hand with an operational task force to welcome Sky, its passengers and its crew back to shore.
Only one sailing was canceled, and Sky reentered service April 6. Guests onboard the affected sailing will receive a full refund, as well as a personal invitation from Hagen for another complimentary cruise.
“The past few days have been stressful and hectic for both guests and crew alike,” Hagen said. “My heart goes out to all who were impacted by this incident. I would also like to say how impressed and grateful I am for the efforts of the national rescue services, rescue personnel, local authorities and the people along the coast. I thank them for the concern and generosity they have showed our guests. I would also like to express my thanks to the crew onboard Sky for their efforts and dedication.”
I have sailed on every Viking ocean ship except the Viking Sun world cruiser, and just last December, I was onboard Sky with my wife and my parents. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back with my family. I believe that Viking offers remarkable vessels staffed by incredibly capable and friendly crew. And I feel confident that cruising onboard Sky — and cruising overall — is safe.