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.”
— Gene Sloan (@CruiseLog) November 11, 2020
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.”
"Company officials say masks will not be required to be worn on yacht, thanks to extensive pre-departure testing designed to create negative ‘bubble.’" Wow. Way too many false negatives for this to work. Foolish. Another recipe for a disaster, via @SeaDreamYC #COVID19 #cruise https://t.co/Iw6RSj250a
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) November 6, 2020
No matter what you believe, the no-mask wearing is not setting the best example. Irresponsible. The CDC is watching every move of the cruise industry, US sailing or not. #cruise https://t.co/4Wd3hsuDEs
— Doug Parker (@CruiseRadio) November 7, 2020
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.
There are a lot of people and press commenting that have no idea the strenuous protocols SeaDream have taken to protect us. I should imagine this has been implemented because of external pressure as we feel so so safe!
— Cruise with Ben & David (@CruiseWithBD) November 10, 2020
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?
— Doug Parker (@CruiseRadio) November 11, 2020
Despite all precautions taken by @SeaDreamYC, after 3rd PCR test, a #cruise passenger is now confirmed to have tested postive for coronavirus. Would mask requirements at the beginning have made a difference? https://t.co/7bjruLrqYE
— Stewart Chiron (@CruiseGuy) November 11, 2020
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.
I’m on SeaDream I and am very impressed with the health protocols. I’d be the first to wear a mask in other circumstances but we’ve all had multiple tests + are very much socially distanced, + are temperature checked at least once a day. Ashore in Barbados, everybody wore a mask
— Sue Bryant (@sjbryant) November 9, 2020
Why am I not surprised, until yesterday no mask on board.
– sorry to hear it but pretty inevitable.
– this will put everything back….. when will it sink in THERE IS A PANDEMIC OUT THERE….
— David Thomas (@djthomashome) November 11, 2020
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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:
JUST IN: The ship's captain announces 5 people have tested positive for #COVID19 on SeaDream 1, the first cruise ship to embark on a voyage in the Caribbean since the #coronavirus shut down the cruise industry.
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) November 12, 2020
The total number of infected guests is now six, with one person reportedly taken to the hospital.
Isn't it long overdue for @SeaDreamYC #cruise to issue an official statement re: total number of guests infected with #COVID19 & explain why it didn't have a mask protocol at the beginning of the voyage? https://t.co/S4vNO7KGwI
— James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) November 13, 2020
Photos credit: SeaDream I – Gordon Leggett – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0; SeaDream 1 crew with masks – Gene Sloan