(CNN) — SeaDream Yacht Club is canceling the rest of its 2020 cruises in the wake of a Covid-19 outbreak on board one of its ships last week. “Multiple negative PCR tests were required before the guests boarded, but this was not sufficient to prevent Covid-19 onboard,” the company said in a statement released Tuesday.

Marnie Hunter and Patrick Oppmann, CNN

Published 17th November 2020

Source: CNN

Reprinted for educational purposes and social benefit, not for profit.

A total of 7 guests and two crew members aboard SeaDream 1 tested positive for Covid-19, the statement said.

  • The ship embarked from Barbados on November 7 on a sailing that was meant to show that regular testing aboard the ship and other safety protocols could allow cruise voyages to take place safely during the pandemic.
  • SeaDream 1 was the first cruise vessel to resume sailing in the Caribbean after the pandemic shut down operations in March.
  • SeaDream noted that it operated 20 sailings during the pandemic without any cases and it made additional improvements to safety protocols before it launched the first of what was supposed to be a series of sailings from Barbados this winter.
  • “The company will now spend time to evaluate and see if it is possible to operate and have a high degree of certainty of not getting Covid,” the statement reads.
  • ‘How often and how big?’
  • After a passenger received a preliminary positive test result on November 11, the ship returned to Barbados to test all passengers and crew.
    The passengers who tested negative for coronavirus began to disembark the SeaDream 1 cruise ship to fly home Saturday, according to passenger Ben Hewitt.
  • Five passengers who tested positive also disembarked for a private flight back to the United States, according to Hewitt.
  • Hewitt, host of Cruise with Ben & David on YouTube, was among a handful of cruise journalists and bloggers on board the SeaDream Yacht Club cruise.
    Gene Sloan, a senior reporter for cruise and travel at The Points Guy, was also on board.
  • Passengers were tested in advance of traveling to the ship and also before boarding the ship, Sloan said.
  • “I think what this shows is it’s going to happen. And until there’s a vaccine or herd immunity, when cruising starts up you’re going to see things like this happen. The question is how often and how big?”
  • Fewer than 250 guests
  • SeaDream’s ships, which the company refers to as “superyachts,” have capacity for 112 guests and 95 crew.
  • Carrying fewer than 250 guests outside of US waters allows SeaDream to operate outside of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s orders around cruising.
  • The CDC recently issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.”
  • The order is considered a tentative step toward the resumption of cruising.
  • Trade group Cruise Lines International Association said it will work with the CDC to resume US sailings as soon as possible, but that its members would continue a voluntary suspension of operations through the end of 2020.

SeaDream 1: five passengers test positive for Covid-19 on Caribbean cruise ship – The Guardian

SeaDream carrying 53 passengers, majority from US, and 66 crew. Ship ends cruise early after passenger became sick on Wednesday

  • One of the first cruise ships to ply through Caribbean waters since the pandemic began ended its trip early after five passengers tested positive for Covid-19.
  • The SeaDream is carrying 53 passengers and 66 crew, with the majority of passengers hailing from the US, according to Sue Bryant, a cruise ship reporter who is aboard the ship.
  • She told the Associated Press that one passenger became sick on Wednesday and forced the ship to turn back to Barbados, where it had departed from on Saturday. However, the ship had yet to dock in Barbados as local authorities tested those on board. The captain announced that at least five passengers had tested positive, Bryant said.
  • The incident marked the first time SeaDream had resumed its West Indies voyages since the pandemic, with the ship originally scheduled to return to Barbados on Saturday, according to an online itinerary. The ship had made several stops in St Vincent and the Grenadines before turning back.
  • The Norway-based SeaDream Yacht Club, the ship’s parent company, wouldn’t say how many passengers tested positive in the initial round of testing.
  • Bryant said passengers were required to have a negative PCR test to enter Barbados and underwent another test on the dock administered by the ship’s doctor.
  • “We all felt very safe,” she said, adding that the ship had been implementing strict hygiene protocols. “Yet somehow, Covid appears to have got on board.”
  • SeaDream said the ship’s medical staff has tested all crew members and that all tested negative. The company also said it was re-testing all guests, noting they are all under quarantine along with non-essential crew members.
  • “We are working closely with local health and government authorities to resolve this situation in the best possible way,” SeaDream said.
  • “Our main priority is the health and safety of our crew, guests, and the communities we visit.”
  • Government officials in Barbados did not return messages for comment.
  • Waters around the Caribbean have been largely bereft of cruise ships this year, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspending cruise ship operations at US ports in mid-March. The no-sail order expired on 31 October.
  • Last week, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of global ocean-growing cruise capacity, said its members were voluntarily suspending cruise operations in the US until the end of the year.
  • SeaDream was among the first cruise lines to resume service in Europe. In August, the company reported that an asymptomatic passenger had tested positive for the coronavirus after disembarking from SeaDream I in Denmark. All other passengers and crew tested negative, the company said.

First Caribbean cruise since March ends abruptly after multiple passengers test positive for COVID-19 – Orlando Weekly

In what can only be seen as a major blow to the return of North America’s cruise industry, the first cruise in the Caribbean since March ended abruptly after multiple passengers tested positive for COVID-19, despite stringent safety protocols.

Just after noon on Wednesday, as many passengers were getting ready to enjoy lunch on the boutique SeaDream 1, Capt. Torbjørn Lund announced that a passenger onboard had tested positive for COVID-19 on a preliminary basis. The ship, racing back to Barbados, immediately went into lockdown mode. Passengers returned to their cabins, where they were confined for the rest of the trip. SeaDream 1 arrived in Barbados late Wednesday night, but the situation was just beginning to unfold.

Crew and Barbadian health authorities began testing everyone onboard, and by Thursday evening nearly 10% of the 53 passengers onboard had tested positive. The first five cases seem to have come from a single party onboard. Two other cases were a husband and wife who were staying in a cabin together. By Saturday afternoon, more than a half-dozen positive cases were linked to the ship.

Passengers and crew were quarantined onboard until Barbadian health authorities had multiple negative tests. From Wednesday evening to Saturday morning, the ship sat in port with passengers quarantined to their cabins, as health authorities and SeaDream’s onboard health center crew conducted tests. Passengers who tested negative were able to leave their cabins for one hour per day of socially distanced fresh air.

Just before disembarking on Saturday afternoon, two passengers spoke to Orlando Weekly regarding their experience onboard. Ben and David are a U.K.-based couple who run a cruise-focused YouTube channel, Cruise With Ben and David.

Like many cruise fanatics, they were eager to get back aboard a ship, which they viewed as one of the safest pandemic vacation options, but their Caribbean vacation quickly turned into something else.

“We have been in our cabin for three days now but are being treated very well, with three good meals a day – SeaDream have been very good. We’ve just done some work, watched movies and chilled out, but three days is enough without much fresh air! As soon as the positive test was announced, we made a 180 from Union Island in the Grenadines to Barbados at full speed.“

As with others in the industry, Ben and David were surprised an infected person could show up onboard. “We were very shocked with a positive test; after the rigorous pre-cruise actions we had to take, we would have thought it almost impossible for COVID to get on the ship. Before boarding, we were required to take a full COVID antigen test within the past 72 hours. On boarding day in Portsmouth, U.K., the ship’s doctor gave us another rapid PCR test. We also had our oxygen levels and temperatures taken. Onboard there were daily temperature checks along with lots of cleaning and social distancing.”

SeaDream 1 didn’t enter U.S. waters and therefore didn’t need to meet CDC guidelines, though the cruise line had developed rigorous precautions that, in most ways, far exceeded even those now being required by the CDC. All passengers and crew were tested numerous times before and during the cruise. The ship had three Abbott ID Now testing machines on board. At first, the cruise line was not requiring masks, thanks to the strenuous onboard testing. It’s unclear if this played any role in the spreading of the virus onboard.

Unlike incidents in March where passengers were stuck on ships with the coronavirus rapidly spreading onboard, SeaDream Yacht Club worked with Barbadian authorities to quickly remove all passengers from the SeaDream 1.

While talking with Orlando Weekly, Ben and David were able to disembark after having two separate negative tests, including a full PCR test. They worried about what lay ahead as a taxi shuttled them immediately from the ship to the airport.

“The cruise was cut two days short; we are slightly concerned with flights and getting home. But hopefully with two negatives, we will fly home tonight. I think everyone onboard is just anxious to get back home.”

With the CDC requirements of multiple simulation cruises, health partnerships, and other expensive multi-step procedures, many cruise lines have opted for a wait-and-see approach. The SeaDream cruise was viewed by many as a pilot to see how cruising could return; the way it ended has some now questioning whether the CDC requirements go far enough.

In a public letter addressed to CDC director Robert Redfield, two Congress members urged the CDC to rescind efforts to allow cruising to restart. The letter, by Rep. Doris Matsui of California and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, pointed to the SeaDream incident as proof that cruising is still not a safe activity even the cruise line undertook numerous safety protocols.

“Despite these efforts and good intentions, the virus was still able to infect multiple people on the ship, with the possibility of more confirmed cases emerging as passengers and crew are retested. Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”

Advocates of the cruise industry have pointed to the lack of contact tracing in other hospitality industries, such as restaurants, casinos, air travel and hotels. Studies continue to show restaurants are strongly correlated with super-spreader events. One study showed full-service and counter-service restaurants are the two most common locations for super-spreader occurrences, with hotels the third most common location. A report in August showed that the five biggest super-spreader events in Clark County, Nevada, were all within casinos.

At the same time, the lack of contact tracing makes it difficult to know if places such as amusement parks or public beaches are to blame for spreading events. Despite data showing restaurants and other hospitality businesses could be far more dangerous than cruises, having yet another cruise ship event in the news isn’t going to help an industry already ravaged by the virus.

Reflecting back on the cruise, Ben and David expressed concern regarding what lies ahead for the cruise industry. “SeaDream required double the number of tests that the CDC will require when cruising returns and it still got on board, so it begs the questions ‘what’s next for the cruise industry.’ Such a bittersweet moment after an amazing experience.” On Sunday the couple arrived home to Cambridge, England, where they’re now quarantining.

Learn More:

  • CDC. Cruise Ship GuidanceCDC Conditional Sail order – Download PDF
  • SeaDream Pauses Sailing for the Rest of the Year
  • COVID-19 pandemic on Diamond Princess – Wikipedia
  • US cruise lines cancel sailings through at least end of 2020 – CNN
  • Singapore introduces ‘cruises to nowhere’ for travel-starved locals – CNN
  • Multiple Cruise Lines Are Ditching Longer Sailings – CruiseHive
  • Calls to Reinstate No Sail Order in Wake of SeaDream Covid Incident – The Maritime Executive
  • Royal Caribbean mock cruises attract ‘thousands’ of volunteers – CNN
  • Surprise! Cruise Bookings Continue to Rise for 2021 – TravelPulse
  • When Will Disney Cruise Line Resume Sailings? – DisneyTouristBlog
  • CLIA Releases 2020 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook Report (Dec 2019)
    • (WASHINGTON, DC, December 12, 2019) – Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade organization, is releasing the 2020 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report. According to the analysis, cruising sustained 1,177,000 jobs equaling $50.24 billion in wages and salaries and $150 billion total output worldwide in 2018.
  • Is there a path back to popularity for cruise ships? – CTV News
  • TORONTO — The cruise industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, with travel bans and virus fears colliding in a perfect storm. In 2019, the cruise industry was worth about US$150 billion and was projected to carry 32 million passengers in 2020. But the arrival of COVID-19 has forced the industry to virtually collapse. At the beginning of March, the Canadian government announced that cruise ships were banned from coming to Canada until at least July. Since then, the ban has been extended until the end of February 2021. Travel experts say the Canadian ban will likely have little effect on the industry as the peak season for Canadian cruise ship vacations usually begins around April and extends through the summer until the end of October. When asked if the industry could recover from a devastating year and an uncertain future, travel journalist David Yeskel pointed to Europe’s plan to resume cruise lines. “In Europe, for the last couple of months there have been two large cruise ships operating: MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, largely without incident,” Yeskel told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “They kind of set this template about how to do cruising safely in this age and that’s going to be moved forward to other lines for cruising around the world.” In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have given permission for cruise lines to begin to sail again, under strict conditions.The CDC’s “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships” requires cruise lines to test crew and future passengers at regular intervals and when anyone embarks or disembarks. They must also first carry out a simulated mock trip to show they can operate safely. “There’s a lot of hoops they need to jump through,” Yeskel says. “Once cruising starts from U.S. ports, hopefully by the spring, that’ll prompt a reopening of the Canadian ports by summer to facilitate cruises to Alaska and the Maritimes.” The CDC was prompted to issue no-sail orders for the cruise ship industry following an outbreak on the Diamond Princess ship which had to be docked in Japan for multiple weeks as passengers quarantined in their cabins. More than 700 people onboard the ship tested positive for COVID-19, leading to nine deaths. Since then, cruise lines have been singled out as COVID-19 hotspots for bringing together thousands of passengers and crew from around the world into close quarters where social distancing is hard to maintain. “We’ve pretty much seen the end of the self-service buffet,” Yeskel says of the new guidelines put out by the CDC. “We may only see 25 per cent passenger capacity on the initial cruises, just so they can maintain the distancing and the health requirements.” He added, “We should remember these are interim steps. These will go on for as long as they need to go on to keep everybody safe and healthy. But I think once there is a widely available vaccine and/or sure-fire therapeutic, things will slowly return to normal and some of these restrictions will be lifted.”