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First Royal Caribbean ship to return to cruising is having a COVID scare

Dec. 09, 2020
5 min read
Quantum of the Seas
First Royal Caribbean ship to return to cruising is having a COVID scare
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The first cruise ship from a major North America-based brand to resume sailing since March is having a COVID scare.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas returned to its home port of Singapore on Wednesday -- a day ahead of schedule -- after an elderly passenger on board tested positive for COVID-19.

All of the nearly 1,700 passengers on the ship have been quarantined in their cabins since the case came to light around 2 a.m. Wednesday, local time (Tuesday afternoon in America). But they will be allowed to leave the vessel soon, according to the line.

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In a statement sent to The Points Guy, Royal Caribbean said it quickly isolated and tested all "close contacts" of the passenger who tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been no additional cases discovered.

As part of new anti-COVID measures, passengers on the ship have been required to wear "tracelet" wristbands that record when they come in close contact with others on board. The wristbands are designed to allow Royal Caribbean to quickly do contact tracing in the event a passenger tests positive for COVID-19.

As passengers on board -- including longtime cruise writer Heidi Sarna -- have noted in social media posts, they've also been required to download and use a "trace together" phone app that also allows for contact tracing.

"We worked closely with the government (of Singapore) to develop a thorough system that tests and monitors all guests and crew and follows public health best practices," Royal Caribbean said in its statement. "That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do."

Quantum of the Seas resumed sailings out of Singapore just last week in what at the time was considered a major milestone in the comeback of cruising.

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The cruises, which only are open to Singapore residents, are the first that Royal Caribbean has operated since the cruise industry shut down operations in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. They're also, notably, the first cruises operated by any major North America-based brand since the shutdown.

Most major cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America, have canceled all sailings worldwide through at least February or March.

Royal Caribbean's limited return to cruising is being closely watched as it is the world's biggest cruise line, accounting for nearly a fifth of all cruises taken worldwide.

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Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas is one of the world's biggest cruise ships. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Singapore has been allowing cruise ships to resume sailings out of the city-state for locals only in the wake of a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases since the summer. The island nation has almost completely eradicated the illness, recording fewer than 10 cases a day on most days for the past two months.

Royal Caribbean was the second cruise line that Singapore allowed to restart operations out of the city-state. Asia-based Dream Cruises began short cruises from Singapore on Nov. 6 with a single ship, the 3,376-passenger World Dream.

Royal Caribbean implemented a wide range of anti-COVID-19 health measures on the sailings out of Singapore, including mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, and new limits on the number of passengers allowed on board. The ship this week was sailing with just 1,680 passengers. It normally can hold up to 4,905 passengers.

In addition, to sail on the ship, passengers were required to undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 within 48 to 72 hours before arriving at the vessel.

Still, unlike some lines that restarted cruises in Europe over the summer, Royal Caribbean is not testing passengers for COVID-19 at the pier on the day of departure.

The COVID scare on Quantum of the Seas comes just weeks after a COVID outbreak on the first cruise vessel to resume sailings in the Caribbean. In that case, the cruise line -- SeaDream Yacht Club -- was just four days into its first voyage. SeaDream subsequently canceled all remaining sailings for the year.

Royal Caribbean has canceled the next sailing of Quantum of the Seas, which was scheduled to begin on Thursday. As of now, it plans to restart operations out of Singapore on Dec. 14.

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Featured image by ©2014 Michel Verdure - www.verd