Viking Cruises announced it is cancelling cruises through April 30, becoming the first major cruise line to take such drastic measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Viking chairman Torstein Hagen wrote in a letter to passengers Wednesday that the company had made the "difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations" for river and ocean cruises beginning Thursday through April 30. 

"I am writing today because the situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions, which could diminish the travel experiences for which our guests have been planning," Hagen wrote. "As a private company with strong finances, 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, as we have always done."

A female traveler on a 29-passenger Southeast Asia river cruise was exposed "in recent days" to coronavirus "while in transit on an international airline," Hagen told passengers, adding that she was not exhibiting symptoms but had been quarantined. "Separately, the remaining 28 guests will also be quarantined." 

Hagen also cited other travel restrictions caused by coronavirus for the company's decision: Major ports, "including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen" have closed for the time being, big tourist attractions have been closed, and an increasing number of travel restrictions and lockdowns abroad and in the U.S. have squashed usual public gatherings. 

"This is a decision we made with a heavy heart, but with present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known," Hagen added. "We will stand by our guests, employees and partners in these challenging times and hope that they in turn will stand by us."

Guests whose trips will be impacted by the suspension can either request a total refund or a voucher for a future Viking cruise, valued at 125% of the original payment. Travelers are encouraged to contact Viking or their travel agent by March 25.