Shortly after noon today, travel writer Gene Sloan, the Points Guy, reported that a guest aboard the SeaDream 1 cruise ship tested positive for COVID-19 in his article The First Cruise Ship to Resume Sailing in the Caribbean is Having a COVID Scare.  He explained that:

“A passenger on SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream 1 has tested positive for COVID-19 on a preliminary basis, the captain of the vessel, Torbjorn Lund, announced in a shipwide intercom address shortly after noon on Wednesday. Lund asked all passengers to return to their cabins, where they would be isolated. Nonessential crew also would isolate immediately, he said.”

Mr. Sloan wrote that according to the captain, “the passenger who was tested had felt ill before the test.” The captain further explained that the results of the rapid test were positive and the cruise ship was “working under the assumption that it had one or more COVID patients on board.”

This particular voyage, which Mr. Sloan and other travel writers promoted as creating a safe “bubble”of a cruise, was marred by controversy from the start. Mr. Sloan took photos of the crew without masks. I called the absence of a mask policy “foolish” and a “recipe for disaster.” CruiseRadio was the first cruise blogger to pont out that SeaDream’s no-mask policy was “irresponsible.”

In an article titled SeaDream Yacht Clubs’s Anti-Mask Policy, I wrote that SeaDream was ignoring basic health and safety protocols and common sense. As many as 20 travel writers, cruise bloggers and popular travel agents commented on Cruise Radio’s post, including the Cruise Guy (“Gotta be kidding! EVERYONE on #cruise ship should be wearing masks! . . @SeaDreamYC not requiring cruise passengers and crew to wear a mask right now is ludicrous! Come on, man!”). I asked on Twitter “how long before a #COVID19 outbreak?”

SeaDream then changed course and instituted a mask policy (see photo right). Apparently, a number of passengers on board the ship told Mr Sloan that “they signed up for this trip specifically because they were told they wouldn’t have to wear a mask, and they said they wouldn’t have taken the trip if they had known a mask-wearing requirement was coming.”

But several popular bloggers like Cruise with Ben & David, who also were on the promotional press-cruise, nonetheless effused praise on SeaDream for keeping them “so, so safe!” while other cruise fans blamed “external pressure” from “bad outside people” for forcing SeaDream to adopt a policy requiring masks.

Today, faced with the news that a guest tested positive for COVID-19,  several notable bloggers quickly already raised the obvious question. Did the absense of a mask policy (until yesterday), considering COVID-19 is a deadly, airborne virus, led to this predicatable unfortunate outcome?

It remains possible, or course, that the test of the guest today resulted in a false positive. However, the SeaDream 1 is now returning to Barbados, ending with what was initially promoted as a “watershed” moment for the cruise industry. The other guests (and crew members) will now undoubtedly be tested again.

Travel writer Dave Monk, writing for the Telegraph, reported that the vice president of SeaDream, Andreas Brynestad, was initially “bemused” by the “fuss” over face masks. Another travel writer, Sue Bryant, who was invited on the press-cruise, tweeted earlier in the cruise that she was very impressed with SeaDream’s health protocols which allegedly created a “happy bubble cruise.” A follower responded with the obvious comment that cruising during a pandemic, with or without wearing a mask, remains dangerous.

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November 12, 2020 Update: 5 guests now tested positive for COVID-19. The remaining passengers remain in their cabins. There are around 800 comments to the tweet below, most are worth reading:

The total number of infected guests is now six, with one person reportedly taken to the hospital.

Photos credit: SeaDream I – Gordon Leggett – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0; SeaDream 1 crew with masks  – Gene Sloan