The first cruise from Saudi Arabia since the pandemic was cut short last week when a person on the Silversea Silver Spirit tested positive for COVID-19, according to several newspapers in the region.

The Al Arabiya newspaper reported that the Silver Spirit cruise ship sailed on Thursday, August 27th from King Abdullah Port in King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia.  The ship carried Saudi Arabian passengers on the Kingdom’s first cruise since COVID-19 struck the cruise industry last February and March. The Silversea cruise ship had been chartered to the Red Sea Cruise Ship Company owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia which marketed the Silver Spirit exclusively to Saudi nationals for three and four-day cruises in the Red Sea out of the King Abdullah Port. This port is located on the Red Sea coast and is the Kingdom’s newest commercial port in close proximity to Jeddah and other key Saudi cities.

The Silver Spirit sailed with 450 guests, 75% of its operational capacity of around 600 passengers, consistent with its preventative protocols against coronavirus.

The newspapers which covered the story characterized the woman suspected with COVID-19 as a “passenger.” But according to several crew members on the ship who prefer to remain anonymous, the person was hired as a disc jockey (DJ) by the company which chartered the ship. She along with the guests who booked the cruise had undergone tests for coronavirus which were reportedly negative. However, before the ship sailed she visited with a family member who exposed her to COVID-19. After she boarded and sailed on the Silver Spirit on the 27th of August, she began to exhibit symptoms of the virus which she reported to the ship’s medical center.

Silversea decided to return the ship to King Abdullah Port on Saturday August 29th, in the morning. The cruise line then informed all of the passengers of the existence of a suspected coronavirus case and asked the guests to stay in their rooms. Fourteen crew members were also suspected of coronavirus and were quarantined in cabins on the ship, and later taken ashore with the DJ for testing. The DJ tested positive at a hospital for COVID-19; the 14 crew members tested negative for the virus, according to other crew members.

Tomorrow (September 9th), all crew members (who are currently quarantined on the ship) will reportedly be tested for the virus. Assuming the crew members test negative, the next cruise will proceed on September 13th.

Royal Caribbean Group, which owns Silversea Cruises, is one of several U.S. based cruise lines which are testing their health and safety protocols in sailings in Europe and elsewhere before they try to resume operations out of U.S. ports, once the CDC permits them to do so. Royal Caribbean will have to study and understand exactly how this individual came into contact with coronavirus and was infected even though she underwent testing before the ship sailed.

The Silver Spirit became the first ultra-luxury cruise ship to sail with a certification in infection prevention from DNV GL, the world’s leading classification society. The ship was awarded the certification on August 24, 2020, just three days before the ship sailed on the cruise in question. MarineInsight quoted Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s President and CEO, who referred to the Royal Caribbean Group and its “Healthy Sail Panel,” as saying “we are proud to become the first ultra-luxury cruise line to gain the certification in infection prevention for maritime, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our guests, crew and the destinations we visit.”

The Silver Spirit (MarineTaffic image right, in blue) is currently to the west of King Abdullah Port, off of the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea. It will likely sail into the port tomorrow for the COVID-19 testing of its crew.

September 9, 2020 Update: The Silver Spirit cruise ship returned to King Abdullah Port for COVID-19 testing of its crew members today, following the positive test of a woman on the ship on August 29th as confirmed in the hospital.

September 9, 2020 Update: The popular YouTube page @Travellingwithbruce covered this issue in the video below:

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Photo credit: Silver Spirit (top) – Saudi Gazette; Silver Spirit (bottom) – by Brian Burnell and uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.