Day 2: I’m stuck on a cruise ship lockdown due to COVID

Nov 12, 2020

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Passengers on SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I on Thursday remained quarantined in their cabins for a second day amidst a COVID scare.

In a letter slipped under cabin doors late in the morning on Thursday, the vessel’s captain, Torbjorn Lund, told passengers the line was “working with the authorities on how we in a best possible way will move forward.”

The ship currently is docked in Barbados, where it arrived around 10:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday after cutting short a seven-night voyage to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19.

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Barbados is the vessel’s home base for the winter season.

“After arrival, the local medical authorities came on board and (did COVID-19) retesting as per their protocols for all close contacts” of the passenger who had tested positive, the captain said in the letter.

Lund said that while the tests had been performed, the results were not yet back.

In a letter to passengers late Wednesday night, Lund said the test results were expected to come back within 24 hours, and passengers would need to remain in their cabins while authorities awaited the results.

Related: What it’s like on the first cruise vessel to restart Caribbean trips 

SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream 1 anchored in the Grenadines on Monday. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

There are 53 passengers and 66 crew on board the small, yacht-like vessel, which was anchored off Union Island in the Grenadines on Wednesday when the captain announced that a passenger had tested positive for COVID-19.

The list of passengers on board SeaDream 1, which just resumed Caribbean sailings on Saturday out of Barbados, includes me. I’ve been on board since Saturday covering this week’s voyage — a watershed moment for the cruise industry.

The sailing is the first by any cruise line in the Caribbean since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic in March. The Caribbean is the world’s biggest cruise destination, accounting for at least a third of all cruises taken in a normal year, and the cruise industry has been eyeing a restart in the region for many months.

Even before Barbados authorities came on board SeaDream 1 late Wednesday to begin testing passengers and crew for COVID-19, the ship itself had been doing its own COVID-19 testing on passengers and crew — albeit at a slow pace.

The SeaDream 1 sails with three Abbott ID Now testing machines that each can process one COVID-19 test every 15 minutes.

Related: What safety protocols were like when we boarded

The shipboard testing began Wednesday afternoon with the ship’s crew. In a shipwide announcement late Wednesday, Lund said all the crew had tested negative.

As of midday Thursday, the shipboard doctor still was methodically testing passengers for COVID-19 using the ship’s equipment.

In a call to my cabin around noon on Thursday, Lund said that I should expect to be tested by the ship’s doctor within the next few hours.

Lund said that Barbados also may require me and other passengers who have not yet been tested by government authorities to get a second test processed by the government.

Lund told me he was optimistic that there had not been spread of COVID on board and that our quarantine in our cabins could end relatively shortly. He said he didn’t expect health authorities to quarantine passengers on the ship or on land for an extended period. But he noted that he couldn’t make any promises.

In a subsequent announcement over the ship’s intercom system in the early afternoon, Lund said that all passenger tests that had been done so far by the ship’s doctor had come back negative.

“I understand that this situation is not fun or pleasant at all, and I really feel with you for being so isolated in your cabin,” Lund said in his Thursday letter to passengers. “We will do whatever we can to make this time as pleasant as possible for you and also as short as possible.”

Lund has been very proactive in keeping passengers informed since they were isolated in their cabins, with frequent updates from the bridge over the intercom and letters to passenger cabins. The ship’s crew also has been bending over backwards to make things as comfortable as possible for passengers, considering the circumstances.

Meals, which are being served directly to cabins in a carefully orchestrated, socially-distanced manner, have been impressive in their complexity. Passengers receive a menu slipped under their doors, with a robust range of options, and check the boxes for items they want. Within an hour, the food arrives, delivered by a mask-wearing crew member who leaves it on a raised tray outside the cabin door.

The crew member knocks and then backs away while passengers open the door to collect the food. Passengers later leave their dirty dishes just outside their doors, and they disappear.

Gene Sloan was traveling on SeaDream 1 as a guest of the cruise line. Featured image courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club

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