The company operating the luxury SeaDream yacht cruises has cancelled all its cruising operations after what was described as a disastrous restart that ended with a COVID-19 outbreak in Barbados’ waters.
Seven passengers and two crew members tested positive on one of its ships last month and the vessel was forced to seek help from the Ministry of Health and Wellness to confirm the cases, provide medical care and help move its passengers back to their home countries.
The COVID-19 cases occurred on the SeaDream 1 during a November 7 sailing from Barbados — the first cruise in the Caribbean since the pandemic began. What was supposed to be a seven-day cruise to signify a comeback for the hard-hit sector, had to be abandoned after passengers began to test positive for COVID-19 midway through the sail.
Since then, the company announced it would cancel the rest of its 2020 cruises due to the COVID-19 cases. “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-19,” a statement noted.
Miami-based SeaDream has two identical 112-passenger ships. Only 53 passengers were aboard the Barbados cruise. The boutique ultra-luxury cruise liner arrived in Barbados in early November with a number of voyages planned that included Bequia and Canouan Island in the Grenadine Islands and to Grenada.
The company said, “Multiple negative PCR tests were required before the guests boarded, but this was not sufficient to prevent COVID-19 onboard.”
Passengers underwent laboratory PCR tests up to three days before travelling to Barbados as required by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Just prior to boarding, passengers were tested again on the pier using the Abbott ID Now machine, according to cruise writer Gene Sloan, and results were ready in 15 minutes. He was one of several cruise journalists invited by the company to document the trip.
During the first two days of the cruise, passengers and crew were reportedly not required to wear masks.
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted its cruise ban in November but introduced requirements which companies must meet before resuming passenger sailings.
Barbados’ Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George was reported as stating that Barbados does not use rapid testing and does not endorse any rapid tests for COVID-19 that are currently on the market.
“We support cruises returning to Barbados but the cruise lines need to understand the requirements of Barbados and comply. We are not going to accept rapid tests on board. We are not going to accept antigen tests at this point,” he told the media. (IMC1)