SeaDream Cancels 2020 Caribbean Cruises After COVID-19 Outbreak

2020 Caribbean cruises canceled due to COVID-19
SeaDream 1 in Barbados prior to the first Caribbean cruise - photo courtesy SeaDream Yacht Club

Published Nov 17, 2020 3:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

SeaDream Yacht Club announced that it has canceled its scheduled Caribbean cruises for the remainder of 2020 due to the recent COVID-19 incident aboard its cruise ship. The SeaDream 1 was sailing its first weekly cruise from Barbados and was the only cruise ship scheduled to offer Caribbean cruises this winter.

Barbados health authorities reported that seven passengers and two crew members tested positive at the end of last week for COVID-19. The cruise ship had a total of 53 passengers aboard and a crew of 66. 

“The company will now spend time to evaluate and see if it is possible to operate and have a high degree of certainty of not getting Covid,” the statement said. SeaDream noted that it successfully operated more than 20 sailings during the pandemic without any cases sailing its two small, luxury cruise ships in Norway in the summer and a trans-Atlantic crossing aboard the SeaDream 1 with passengers to reposition for the Caribbean Cruises. SeaDream also noted that “further improvements were made to protocols before the Barbados season.”

Despite requiring multiple negative PCR tests before the guests boarded, SeaDream said it was not sufficient to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 onboard. Passengers had been required to have a negative test before leaving home to fly to Barbados and a second negative test administered by the cruise line on the pier before boarding.

Once aboard passengers admitted that it felt like they were in a safety bubble and precautions might have been relaxed. During port calls passengers remained separated from residents of the ports. For the first two days, passengers were not asked to wear a face cover, but the cruise line amended its policies at the beginning of the week before the outbreak. Passengers noted that SeaDream was operating with an increased level of hygiene aboard and praised the company for its handling of the entire situation.

The cruise had begun in Barbados last Saturday, November 7, but four days later a passenger reported feeling unwell and a test administered by the cruise line came back positive. Passengers and non-essential crew were asked to return to their cabins, while the ship which was at Union Island at the time, suspended the cruise and immediately returned to Barbados. SeaDream ran another round of tests getting negative results before the Barbados health authorities conducted their tests providing the positive results.

The newspapers in Barbados reported that the passengers who tested positive were moved from the ship on November 13 to a quarantine facility on shore. Unconfirmed reports suggested that those passengers later chartered a private plane to leave the island. The remainder of the passengers were permitted to board flights home on November 14, advised to follow health protocols and isolate for 14-days.

SeaDream left the possibility open that the cruise line might re-start the Caribbean cruises in 2021, but many cruise observers view the suspension as a setback for the industry. The situation was very similar to July when UnCruises began its first Alaska cruise only to have local health authorities inform them a few days later that a passenger had tested positive on their arrival in Alaska before the cruise. That cruise line also suspended operations and although when the passenger retested it came back negative, UnCruises decided to cancel the only planned Alaska cruises also saying that it needed to re-examine its health protocols.

Renewed quarantine restrictions in Europe in recent weeks forced other cruise lines to suspend some of their planned sailings. Currently, only a limited number of cruises are operating mostly in Europe as well as Taiwan and the recently introduced cruises to nowhere for Singapore residents.