At least five passengers aboard the first cruise ship to set sail in the Caribbean since the start of the coronavirus pandemic have tested positive, according to two passengers on the ship.
Ben and David Hewitt-McDonald, who operate a YouTube channel and cruise blog about their sea voyages, confirmed to the Daily Beast on Thursday that a ship-wide announcement had been made saying five members of a family of the United States had been diagnosed with COVID-19 after being tested twice.
“The original passenger who tested positive underwent two more tests with all family members,” the British couple said. “We can’t wait to leave to be honest, we would like to be somewhere with more fresh air and space, to stop any further spread of the virus.”
The SeaDream Yacht Club cruise ship received its first positive test result on Wednesday, prompting the captain to make a ship-wide announcement for all guests to return to their quarantined rooms. The ship immediately returned to Barbados from the Grenadines.
The news came just four days after the ship’s seven-day voyage. He left Barbados on Saturday with 53 passengers and 66 crew on board. The trip included St. Vincent, Canouan Island, Tobago Cays and Union Island, and was scheduled to end on Saturday.
Instead, all passengers are now confined to their rooms as the crew and local authorities in Barbados determine the best strategy to contain the virus.
“We’re really upset because we really felt like the passengers, crew and the cruise line were taking COVID very seriously, but it still got on board. SeaDream requires double the number of tests because the CDC will require in the future, ”said the couple, who have been on the ship for almost three weeks. “So we wonder if we are testing the way forward if he can still get on such a small ship?”
It was the first time that SeaDream had resumed its trip to the West Indies since the start of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 240,000 Americans. It came just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new cruise ship guidelines to help an industry crippled by the pandemic to resume operations safely in a phased approach.
In March, cruise ships were banned from sailing in US waters after the CDC issued a no-sail order due to several outbreaks, including on the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess where ten and more have died. of 800 tested positive.
The SeaDream had been relaunched with extended test requirements. All passengers had to test negative before boarding the ship – and again on board. The goal, SeaDream said in September when announcing its 22 upcoming roundtrip sails from Barbados, was to “create a negative COVID-19 bubble, where guests can relax and enjoy the safety of the ship.
But, in a statement Thursday afternoon just before the new positive cases were confirmed, SeaDream Yacht Club said the ship had suspended her voyage “after guest testing for Covid-19 returned suspected positive results. .
“The ship’s medical staff tested all of the crew and all tests came back negative. SeaDream is currently retesting all guests, ”the statement said.
This is not the first time that the SeaDream, which was one of the first cruise liners to resume service in Europe, has had a positive COVID passenger. In August, the company said an asymptomatic passenger tested positive after disembarking from SeaDream I in Denmark.
Despite the latest drama, three passengers who spoke to The Daily Beast on Thursday said the quarantine process aboard the SeaDream had been surprisingly rigorous.
Gene Sloan, cruise editor for The Points Guy, pointed out that the ship’s crew had kept passengers updated on new cases of COVID-19 on board and applauded the ship for its ‘extended’ antivirus plan before even the beginning of quarantine.
“The first few days of the trip were pretty normal,” Sloan said. “There were changes on the ship, like social distancing and discouraging passengers from mingling, but overall everything was still sanitized and people took it seriously. The passengers on board were very happy to resume the cruise. “
He said everyone was tested multiple times during the trip, and Hewitt-McDonalds noted that there were three rapid PCR test machines on board that could test nine people per hour. (Rapid tests aren’t as accurate as PCR tests.) At each stop, Sloan said passengers were instructed not to interact with locals and were transported to empty beaches and stations.
The Hewitt-McDonalds, who boarded the ship in Portsmouth and traveled with the ship on its various voyages, said 40 new passengers, mostly from the United States and Canada, boarded on Saturday.
“We were very shocked to test positive, after the stringent pre-cruise measures we had to take, we would have thought it was nearly impossible for COVID to get on the ship,” the couple said.
“Before boarding, we had to pass a full COVID antigen test no more than 72 hours before boarding. On the day of embarkation in Portsmouth, UK, the ship’s doctor gave us another rapid PCR test. We also took our oxygen levels and our temperature. There is an hourly cleaning of the vessel as well as daily temperature checks. “
Sloan, however, admitted that there was an initial controversy at the start of the trip as the ship did not require passengers to wear face masks on board. On Monday, after complaints from concerned passengers, the policy was changed to include a mask warrant.
“The ship assumed it could block COVID-19 at the door, you could say,” Sloan added. “But people wanted to be very careful.”
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