Breaking: More passengers test positive for COVID on Caribbean cruise ship

Nov 12, 2020

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The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Caribbean cruise ship in the midst of a COVID outbreak has jumped to five. In addition, there is preliminary evidence that there may be a sixth case on board.

In a shipwide announcement around 5 p.m. on Thursday, the captain of SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream 1, Torbjorn Lund, said testing overnight of close contacts of the original passenger to test positive for COVID-19 had turned up a total of five confirmed cases in his traveling party.

The testing was performed by health authorities from the government of Barbados, where the ship docked late Wednesday night.

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A couple of hours after that announcement, Lund made another shipwide address to say preliminary findings from rapid tests on board had uncovered a sixth possible case. The possible case needs to be confirmed with a second test that will be processed overnight.

SeaDream 1 arrived in Barbados around 10:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday after cutting short a seven-night voyage to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, due to the original positive test. Health authorities from Barbados boarded it shortly thereafter.

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

The five confirmed positive cases amount to nearly 10% of the passengers on the vessel. There are 53 passengers and 66 crew on board.

The list of passengers on 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.

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)

The sailing was 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 as he announced the possibility of a sixth case on board late Thursday, Lund had some good news to report. He said that an initial round of tests for COVID-19 on all other passengers and crew had come back negative.

Passengers and crew on board have been tested over the last two days by both the ship’s doctor and Barbados health authorities.

Related: What safety protocols were like when we boarded

The ship’s doctor and an assistant tested passengers and crew using three Abbott ID Now testing machines that the vessel carries on board. Barbados health authorities tested passengers and crew using tests that are being sent off the ship to a laboratory.

Since the tests by the ship’s doctor can be processed on board, the results for the tests have been coming back faster. These are the tests that have shown negative results for most passengers and crew. But the captain suggested that these initial results won’t be confirmed until the secondary results from the Barbados government testing arrive early Friday.

It was a positive test late Thursday on one of the shipboard tests that resulted in the captain saying there was preliminary evidence of a sixth COVID case on board. That case won’t be considered confirmed until secondary results come in from the Barbados government testing.

In his address to passengers late Thursday, Lund said shipboard officials were “not 100% sure” the positive test was an actual positive.

Testing by both the ship’s doctor and Barbados officials was the big onboard story of Thursday. I was tested first by the ship’s doctor at about 3 p.m. on Thursday. The test was performed at the doorway to my cabin, where I have been under quarantine since Wednesday. About two hours later, I got a call from the ship’s reception that the result was negative.

I was called down to the reception area of the ship about two hours after the initial test to undergo the test by Barbados authorities. That test is now being sent out to a laboratory, with results expected early Friday.

All passengers and nonessential crew on the ship have been under quarantine in their cabins since around noon on Wednesday, when the first positive COVID test came back.

Lund said late Thursday that the ship and local authorities had been in discussions about a plan for the next few days that would allow passengers who test negative for COVID-19 to leave the ship in the coming days.

The passengers would have to have negative results on both the test performed by the ship’s doctor and the test performed by Barbados authorities.

Passengers who test positive on one of the tests would be informed one by one on the next steps.

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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