Caribbean cruise lines have been shut down since March due to the pandemic, and they’re burning money pretty badly. Desperate to get back in the game to try and recoup their losses, one of these companies, the SeaDream Yacht Club, decided to take the risk of running a test trip with 53 passengers and 66 crew onboard its small vessel, Seadream 1. After testing everybody for COVID-19 before they boarded—but not requiring masks—a passenger felt ill and tested positive. That was yesterday. Now, the ship has returned to port with everybody quarantining in their rooms.
Travel journalist Gene Sloan is a passenger onboard and has detailed his experience on The Points Guy. As of Thursday, the ship is still in port in Barbados. A letter was apparently slipped under passengers’ doors this morning saying that the ship’s captain, Torbjorn Lund, was working with the authorities on how to proceed. The letter also said that more testing was done to try and ensure the disease has not spread to other passengers, though the results of those tests have yet to return.
Many publications are calling this a “scare,” but it’s pretty clear that all of this could’ve been avoided very easily. If only the passengers were told, “Don’t get on a small ship with more than a hundred other people during the deadliest global pandemic in a century,” perhaps they would’ve had second thoughts. But however obvious it seems that something like this would happen, Sloan tells us in another post that the medical screening process for boarding was actually quite rigorous.
“Within minutes of arriving at the port of Barbados on Saturday afternoon to board the first cruise ship to resume sailing in the Caribbean since March, I found myself in a medical tent, face-to-face with two staffers in full Contagion gear—masks, goggles, medical gowns, the works,” Sloan explained. “I also [took a COVID test], had my temperature taken, underwent a pulse oximetry test, was asked to sanitize my hands, had my luggage sprayed down with sanitizer—even my hand luggage!—and had to produce several pages of medical-related forms.”
In a nutshell, all of the passengers were required to take three COVID tests in the days before boarding. Regardless, it seems either the tests didn’t give accurate results or the inside of somebody’s luggage was contaminated. Nobody is sure how the virus made it onto the ship, and every passenger had tested negative upon boarding.
The SeaDream 1 sails with three Abbott ID Now rapid testing machines that can complete a COVID-19 test every 15 minutes, so it takes several hours to test everyone aboard the vessel. But despite the time it takes to test everyone, the captain claimed in his letter to passengers that it was unlikely they would be stuck in their rooms much longer, and that—although he couldn’t make any promises—once they returned to land, a long quarantine period was also unlikely. “We will do whatever we can to make this time as pleasant as possible for you and also as short as possible,” the letter supposedly read.
So, until all of the testing is complete and the local authorities make their call, the passengers are stuck in their cabins. It seems like this trip was being done with relatively high standards of safety for the passengers and crew, though it was clearly not enough to prevent at least one person from getting ill. It goes to show that you can never be too safe when it comes to staying healthy these days. Going on a cruise is a risk, no matter how you slice it.
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