(6:30 a.m. EDT) -- Viking Cruises will restart cruising May 22, with round-trip cruises from Portsmouth on its newest ship, Viking Venus, which will be christened in the U.K.
The line will offer three eight-day ocean itineraries with embarkation dates of May 22, 29 and June 5 for U.K. residents only, calling in at Liverpool, Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, Falmouth and Portland -- roundtrip from Portsmouth. Viking won't require passengers to be vaccinated. Instead it will require a negative PCR test to sail and daily non-invasive saliva PCR tests for both crew and passengers.
The news comes just a day before P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines announced a restart of cruising round Britain, on June 27 and July 5 respectively. P&O Cruises will require passengers to be vaccinated; Fred. Olsen will not.
Viking was the first cruise line to pause all operations at the start of the pandemic. The resumption decision was triggered by the U.K. government signaling it will allow the resumption of domestic cruises beginning in May 2021. All other previously scheduled Viking sailings through to May 31, 2021 remain canceled.
"We welcome the U.K. Government's support for the return of safe domestic cruises as an important component in the travel industry's recovery," Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said in a news release.
"In recognition of this support, and to celebrate the fact we have a British godmother -- the esteemed broadcaster and journalist Anne Diamond --we have chosen to name our new ship, Viking Venus, in the U.K. on 17 May."
The line has not revealed where the new ship, which will be delivered next month, will be christened.
Hagen said the line is able to move quickly as it has kept its ships in "warm layup," nautical parlance meaning the ship has been idle but can be brought back into service at relatively short notice, as opposed to "cold layup," which requires more time to return.
A Viking spokesperson clarified the policy: "We encourage all of our guests to get their vaccination when it is their time. With the implementation of our Viking Health & Safety Program, which includes daily non-invasive saliva PCR testing for all guests and crew, among many other protocol enhancements, Viking will not require vaccinations for these three domestic U.K. sailings.
"However, Viking’s medical team will continue to monitor vaccination rates and adjust our protocol and policies as needed to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and crew."
Hagen added: "With our new protocol enhancements in place, we believe there will be no safer way to travel the world than on a Viking voyage, and we look forward to welcoming U.K. guests back on board very soon."
In addition, the line has installed the following enhanced health and safety protocols: a full-scale laboratory on every Viking ocean ship, new air purification technology, and additional health checks, sanitization and physical distancing measures.