I'm an avid cruiser and now's the best time to go. Ships are only a third full, dining reservations aren't competitive, and everything was above and beyond sanitary.

  • Sheila Davies is a retired gas industry professional based in Northumberland, England.
  • She and her husband Ed recently took an 8-day cruise on the Viking Venus off the coast of the UK.
  • Here’s what their trip was like, as told to freelance writer Chrissie McClatchie.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Since my husband Ed and I retired, cruising has become a favorite pastime. In February 2020, we completed our 25th cruise with Viking River Cruises after spending 13 days cruising Norway’s Arctic Circle in search of the Northern Lights.

Like many others, we spent the next 15 months at home due to the pandemic. Then a few weeks ago early June, when travel restrictions lifted and cruise liners resumed sailing, we booked an eight-day round trip from Portsmouth to Portsmouth aboard the Viking Venus, the company’s newest vessel which launched in late May.

We drove directly to Portsmouth, a journey that took six hours. I packed too much luggage because I was so excited to get dressed up again for dinners, and we didn’t have any airline baggage restrictions to think about.

Viking made us feel confident about the trip right from the beginning.

When we arrived at the terminal, we were greeted warmly and our suitcases were taken and sanitized before being delivered to our room on the ship. We’d pre-registered for a set boarding time online, so boarding was staggered and done in small groups. The whole process felt very safe and secure.

At the check-in counter, we were given a contact tracing medallion to keep on us at all times. It wasn’t to track any personal information, instead just to identify close contacts in case there was a suspected positive case on board.

Once onboard, Ed and I were shown to our stateroom where we had to watch a short safety briefing on the TV.

Before we were able to leave our cabin, we had to self-administer a COVID PCR test, which was on a tray alongside masks, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer.

It was a noninvasive saliva test which, once completed, we put into separate Ziploc bags with our names. The ship did not set sail until everyone on board had been tested and all results came back negative.

As part of the onboard health and safety protocol, we were required to repeat this PCR test each morning.

We had to provide our test to the cabin steward at least 30 minutes before we ate or drank anything or brushed our teeth. Our samples were taken to the onboard laboratory for analysis, with the results back within four hours max.

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These daily tests, as well as the fact that all the passengers had to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to boarding, made me feel very safe. There were also touchless thermometers around the vessel for regular temperature checks.

We were told that the Venus uses a purification system in public areas with kills 99.99% of airborne viruses and bacteria, and each stateroom has independent air filtering units.

Five days were spent cruising along the southern edge of England from the Cornish coast up to the Irish Sea.

The itinerary was called Scenic British Isles. We had two ports of call, aka shore days, in Liverpool and Falmouth.

The scenic route was a gentle way to ease back into cruising. At anchor off Falmouth, I almost could have sworn I was in Bermuda due to the blue skies, calm waters, and sail boats bobbing in the bay.

After each shore day, our temperatures were checked again when we came back on board.

Masks were mandatory when moving around the communal areas of the ship.

Sanitizing stations were set up everywhere to clean our hands, and we were allowed to take off our masks when sitting down and eating and drinking.

The Venus can fit 930 passengers at capacity, but this cruise was running at around a third full, with 340 people. We were traveling in a bubble with two other couples and although we spoke to other guests, we didn’t socialize outside of our traveling companions.

The only time we saw the crew without masks was while performing in the ship’s theatre.

The first four rows were blocked off to allow the performers to sing freely. Along with the evening shows, we also played trivia and enjoyed live music in the late night bar lounge, Torshavn.

The Venus has an indoor plunge pool and an outdoor infinity pool.

The gym was open, although every second machine was switched off, and the spa treatments were available as usual as well. The only wellness facility that I noticed was closed was the Snow Grotto, part of the thermal suite.

The ship has a variety of dining options, with all meals included in the fare.

Certain eateries like the Chef’s Table and the Italian-themed Manfredi’s have to be reserved in advance. Because of the small number passengers on board, we were able to eat in these restaurants more often than on previous cruises.

Like other Viking ships, the Venus also has one buffet eatery, the World Cafe. While it was still counter service, the crew plated our selections so different guests weren’t using the same serving utensils.

The general atmosphere of the trip was incredible, with everybody just delighted to be back cruising. We booked another cruise for later this summer while we were onboard because we felt so safe. We’re off to Malta and the Greek Islands next.

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