The first cruise ship to set sail in the Caribbean since the start of the pandemic in March has reported a coronavirus case onboard just five days into its voyage.
A passenger aboard SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday as the ship was anchored off the coast of St Vincent’s and the Grenadines, according to travel writer Gene Sloan.
Sloan, who is among the 53 passengers onboard the Norwegian cruise ship that set sail from Barbados on Saturday, has been documenting the seven-day trip on The Points Guy travel blog.
According to Sloan, all passengers have been forced to quarantine in their cabins after the ship’s captain Torbjorn Lund announced the positive test result around noon.
A passenger aboard SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, five days into its first voyage since March
All 53 passengers are now quarantined as the vessel makes its way back to its point of departure in Barbados
Lund said the infected passenger had tested positive on a ‘preliminary’ basis, but had reported feeling ill prior to taking the test.
As a result, the ship was working under the assumption that it had more infected passengers onboard and would immediately return to its point of departure in Bridgetown.
Meanwhile, the remaining passengers and 66 crew members underwent tests, all of which came back negative by Wednesday evening, Sloan said.
The passengers and crew members are expected to be tested again by health authorities upon their return to the island.
The health scare comes amid what Sloan described as a ‘watershed moment’ for the cruise industry which had been forced to suspend operations due to several outbreaks during peak of the pandemic earlier this year.
The SeaDream I cruise is the first of 22 sailings that the cruise line planned in the region through the spring and was expected to make stops at islands in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
According to Sloane, passengers had to undergo a ‘gauntlet’ of COVID-19 testing for the trip and were required to produce negative results days before boarding, on the day of departure, and days after setting sail.
The strict testing requirements intended to create a ‘COVID-free bubble’ on the ship to ensure the odds of an outbreak were extremely low.
Travel writer Gene Sloan is among the 53 passengers onboard the Norwegian cruise ship that set sail from Barbados on Saturday and has been documenting his trip. Pictured: Crew members wearing masks onboard
Passengers had to undergo a ‘gauntlet’ of COVID-19 testing for the trip and were required to test negative three times before and during the journey. The ship also kept social distancing guidelines in place at its pools, bars (pictured) and deck-top lounge area
Passengers were initially not required to wear masks on board due to the health precautions however those rules were overturned by the ship’s activity director on Monday evening, Sloan said.
The ship had also kept social distancing guidelines in place at its pools, bars and deck-top lounge area.
Aside from the restrictions, Sloan in an earlier blog post had described the experience as ‘surprisingly normal.’
Of the 53 passengers, 37 are American and the remaining 16 from the UK, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany.
The cruise ship industry was among the worst hit by the pandemic earlier this year with several coronavirus outbreaks reported across multiple liners, some of which were required to keep their passengers quarantined aboard for weeks.
The SeaDream I cruise is the first of 22 sailings that the cruise line planned in the region through the spring and was expected to make stops at islands in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada
Perhaps the most famous case is that of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan from February 5 to February 19.
One sick passenger eventually led to nearly 700 infections and seven deaths from COVID-19.
The rapid spread of the virus prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to impose a no-sail order on US cruises in mid March for 30 days.
The ban was finally lifted late last month, with the agency issuing new guidance to help companies resume operations over the next several months.
It did not mean the CDC is allowing cruises in the US to resume as the country faces a third wave of infections.
However, it is framework that will allow the cruise industry to restart operations in phases along with an implementation of safety measures.