Yesterday, seventy-two (72) out of two-hundred and thirty (230) crew members on the Silver Cloud operated by Silversea Cruises (Silversea Expeditions) tested positive for COVID-19, according to a crew member on the cruise ship who wishes to remain anonymous.

Infected crew members are now under quarantine on the ship. Another twenty-nine (29) crew members appear to be close contacts and are also in isolation. This means that one-hundred and one (101) crew members (44% of the crew) have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts of the infected ship employees.

Meanwhile, the Silver Cloud is sailing with guests on its regular itinerary to Antarctica. The ship  sailed from Punta Arenas earlier this week to the Drake Passage. It arrived in Greenwich Island today. It is scheduled to sail to the Antarctica Peninsula tomorrow, and return to Punta Arenas on February 20th.

The crew members have been working to try to cover all jobs on the ship and to continue to provide guest services. A crew member commented:

“We don’t know how long we can continue this. I personally think, with this amount of positive crew, that we place the rest of the crew as well as all passengers at risk. Several crewmember have this concern. But no one is heard.  The upper shoreside management does not consider any complaints regarding this from the crew, so we will try to continue the cruise.”

This massive number of infected crew members comes at a time when many cruise lines are loosening their mask policies.

Silversea Cruises meanwhile still has a mask policy. Its written protocols state that except “while seated in restaurants, at tables in bars, and in outdoor areas in which physical distancing can be maintained,” guests will be “required to wear a mask in all indoor public areas, terminals and during shore excursions. Crew will be wearing masks at all times.”

Silversea is also one of several luxury cruise lines which have required its guests to have received booster shots before they can cruise.  Two weeks ago, Silversea Cruises announced all travelers who booked a voyage that departs on March 1 or later will now be required to show proof of receiving an approved COVID-19 booster shot before boarding.

Parent company Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, has stated that it will soon no longer require the wearing of masks. Royal Caribbean told the Washington Post that: it will allow its latest mask requirement to expire on February 14th, “returning to a pre-omicron policy in which passengers could go without face coverings in areas designated for fully vaccinated people, including some bars, lounges, restaurants, theaters and casinos.”

Abandoning mask and social distancing protocols at this point is premature, no matter the public sentiment, as this situation clearly proves.

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Photo credit: Brian Burnell with permission uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson CC BY-SA 3.0 commons / wikimedia.

February 12, 2022 A.M. Update: I received this message from an officer on the ship:

“The situation on the Cloud is far worse than you described:
  • The officers are breaking protocols, asking ppl tested who positive and are on quarantine – to go and work.
  • So those confined are going back to their cabins to get their uniforms and getting in touch with roommates who are negative.
  • Crew who are negative but are sick with flu do not get food delivered or when they deliver its not proper food, cold.
  • Lots of crew are having contracts extended without consent and they have nobody to complain because HR, HD and even the Captain are positive.
  • In addition to captain and other officers, ship doctor also tested positive.
  • I have pictures of the food that they are delivering (below).
  • Crew member are going through hardship.
  • The Expedition Staff is delivering food to the sick because the staff is infected.