A passenger aboard the first cruise ship to set sail in the Caribbean since the start of the pandemic has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a reporter traveling on the ship.
Gene Sloan, a cruise writer for The Points Guy, said in a post on Wednesday that the captain of the SeaDream 1 made a shipwide announcement alerting guests to the positive case and asked that everyone return to their rooms.
The passenger tested positive on a “preliminary basis,” according to Sloan. It’s not clear what “preliminary” means.
SeaDream Yacht Club, which owns the ship, has not confirmed the positive case and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The news came four days into the ship’s seven-day voyage after it left Barbados on Saturday with 53 passengers on board. It had traveled to Saint Vincent, Canouan Island, Tobago Cays, and Union Island in the Grenadines and was scheduled to end on Nov. 14 but returned to Barbados early.
Sloan told NBC’s “Today” show that the ship came up with an “incredibly rigorous system” to try and keep Covid-19 cases off the vessel. Everyone was tested before arriving in Barbados and again at the pier and received negative results.
Passengers also did not interact with locals during their stops and were shuttled to empty beaches to either relax or do an excursion.
The ship was planning on doing a third round of tests on Wednesday when the passenger went to the ship’s doctor and said he was feeling sick, Sloan said.
“We haven’t interacted with people in any of the places we’ve gone. So somebody got on the ship with Covid,” Sloan said.
At the beginning of the trip, passengers were not required to wear face masks. Sloan explained that the ship believed that its extensive testing prior to passengers boarding “would block Covid at the door, so to speak.”
But that changed when two days into the voyage the captain said that masks would be mandatory.
“I’m a little worried,” Sloan said. “I’ve interacted with the other passengers on board over the last few days.”
Cruise ships were not allowed to sail U.S. waters after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order in March following coronavirus outbreaks on several ships. On Oct. 30, the CDC issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” which will help the cruise industry implement safety measures that will enable it to eventually resume operations in a phased approach.
The reported positive case on SeaDream 1 could hurt the industry’s chances of resuming sailing in the U.S., Sloan said.
“There’s some argument that this isn’t representative of the bigger cruise industry. It may not have been Royal Caribbean or Carnival, but this was the first line trying to come back in the Caribbean and on the very first cruise, they had trouble,” he said.