Please, if you’re carrying something precious, like a baby or a cup of good coffee, put them/it down before reading this shocking information: The first cruise ship to ply the waters of the Caribbean with passengers reported its first case of COVID-19 among those happy few.
I hope you all are able to locate your hats and socks, which must have been completely blown clear away by this development. The SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream 1 was heading to its new homeport in Barbados when a passenger showing symptoms tested positive for COVID using a rapid results test. Gene Sloan, a writer who covers the cruise industry, told the Orlando Sentinel just what measures were taken to protect the crew, passengers and ports-of-call:
The small SeaDream sailing had only 53 passengers and 63 crew on board, Sloan said. It had left from its home port of Barbados sailin[g] Saturday and had since visited several islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. All stops, though, only featured excursions to deserted beaches or taking catamarans to snorkeling spots, and no interaction in local towns, Sloan said.
Before sailing, Sloan had to test negative for COVID-19 along with all the other passengers within days of boarding, and then also take a test the day of sailing. A third on-board test was due to be taken Wednesday, but Sloan said the announcement and subsequent action had all passengers quarantining in their cabins as the ship made a return to Barbados.
“The $150 billion cruise industry has been working around-the-clock for months to find safe ways to restart sailings,” Sloan said. “This small-ship voyage was being closely watched by other cruise lines, cruise fans and the industry’s regulators, and - depending on what happens - this could be yet another disappointing setback for the industry and the millions of vacationers who are looking to return to the sea.”
Really, it’s a completely unbelievable scenario. It’s not like cruise ships were a major vector for the disease back in March when the Diamond Princess cruise, which started with 10 cases of COVID-19, ended up with more than 700 passengers infected while docked in Japan. I mean sure, this very yacht had a COVID scare among the crew just in August, but that was such a long time ago. Stop living in the past!
The CDC’s no-sail order expired Oct. 31, and now ships are able to sail if they can get a certificate via the new Framework for Conditional Sailing Order issued by the CDC. The good news is that the larger cruise ship companies are holding off on any operations until 2021 at the earliest, but the only people happy about it are infectious disease experts. Despite the obvious risks, customers are eager to get back to their cruises, if the public comments on the Centers for Disease Control website are any indication.
Cruise lines are also eager to hit the high seas, as the industry was left out of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in the spring and is continuing to bleed money with their ships docked. The Cruise Lines International Association told the Sentinel the industry has lost more than 164,000 jobs since the shutdown.