(1:36 p.m. EDT) -- *Editor's Note: As of April 9, all cruise ships over 250 passengers and crew that operate in U.S. waters have been put under a no-sail order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The order will remain in place until COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, and supersedes individual cruise line dates for a return to service. For more information, visit
our news story.*After being the first cruise line to ground its fleet as a result of the global coroanavirus pandemic on March 11, Viking Cruises has extended suspension of all ocean and river cruises again through August 31, 2020. A statement sent out to trade partners and which will today be sent to passengers read: "While restrictions related to COVID-19 are beginning to ease in some countries, travel remains complicated."Viking Cruises operates 74 river ships in Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt, and six ocean-going ships worldwide. Viking's Chairman, Torstein Hagen, made the original March 11 announcement directly on the cruise line's travel update page: "I am writing to you today from my home, rather than the Viking office. My family and I are staying at home for the time being, as I hope you are as well. It is an adjustment for all of us and particularly for someone like me, who spends most of his time traveling. But we are truly living in an unprecedented time.Since we started Viking nearly 23 years ago, we have always cared first and foremost about our guests and our employees. I feel we have become one large Viking family of 500,000 guests each year and 10,000 employees. Since day one, it has been our mission to create experiences for our guests that focus on the destination and allow them to explore the world in comfort. This has always been Viking’s ambition and will remain so.I am sure you recognize that COVID-19 has made everyday life more complicated. On March 11, we were the first cruise line to announce a temporary suspension of operations through April 30, 2020. In the time since that announcement, many of you have expressed concern for our crew, and I want to reassure you that we are taking good care of them. We are using this period of non-operation as a time for additional training and initiatives to ensure we have the safest and healthiest fleet in the industry. As a private company we do not have to worry about quarterly profit expectations – and that flexibility allows us the ability to do what is best for our guests and our employees."For passengers booked on one of the canceled sailings, Viking is offering Future Cruise Credit of 125 percent of the fare paid or a refund equal to the amount paid. Passengers have 24 months to use their FCC on any river, ocean or expedition cruise. If passengers opting for FCC are then unable to use their voucher, Viking will automatically send a refund equal to the original amount paid. Hagen noted that he hoped people would use the additional credit to enhance the trip by choosing a longer itinerary; adding a pre/post cruise extension; upgarding their cabin category or upgrading to business class air. The future cruise credit is also fully transferable. To find out how cruise lines are handling cancellations, read Cruise Critic's article on flexible policies.Despite the suspension, Viking has not announced any cancelation of its expansion plans. In March 2020, the line said that Viking will debut a series of Galapagos sailings combined with South America land-based tours, starting in December 2020. The line also recently announced an expansion into expedition cruising with two ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, debuting in January 2022 and August 2022, respectively. It's expected to announce the launch of a Mississippi River ship in April.Viking’s river fleet is also gearing up for expansion, debuting in the U.S. with Mississippi River sailings by 2022.