(CNN) – So far, a total of seven passengers on board the SeaDream 1 cruise ship docked in Barbados have tested positive for Covid-19, according to two passengers on the ship.
Passengers who tested negative for the virus can leave the ship and travel home, Gene Sloan and Ben Hewitt told CNN on Friday. You’re both among a handful of cruise journalists and bloggers on board.
The SeaDream Yacht Club cruise was the first to return to the Caribbean since the coronavirus pandemic ended in March. It was supposed to show that increased security protocols, including regular on-board testing, could enable cruise travel during the pandemic.
Instead, one passenger fell ill on Wednesday, forcing the SeaDream 1 to return to Barbados, where all 53 passengers and 66 crew members were tested.
Hewitt said the crew had informed passengers that anyone who tested negative twice could leave the ship and fly home on Saturday.
The SeaDream Yacht Club announced in a press release on Thursday afternoon that “guests” had received “provisionally positive” results for preliminary Covid rapid tests, but without specifying the number who did so.
CNN asked SeaDream to confirm the exact number of positive results.
“We are working closely with local health and government agencies to best resolve this situation,” SeaDream’s Andreas Brynestad said in the SeaDream press release.
Passenger Gene Sloan took this picture while cruising which was interrupted by a Covid-19 outbreak.
Gene Sloan / The Points Guy
Intercom announcement of a positive test result
Sloan, a senior cruise and travel reporter for The Points Guy, said the fear of Covid began when the captain notified passengers of the preliminary positive test over the ship’s intercom just before noon on Wednesday.
Passengers have been instructed to return to their cabins and remain isolated there, he said.
The ship, which was in the Grenadines at the time of the first preliminary positive test, docked in Barbados on Wednesday evening.
“It’s not a great development for the cruise industry,” Sloan told CNN on Wednesday via email from his onboard cabin. “I think the hope was that the rigorous testing SeaDream was doing would keep Covid off its ship.”
Passengers were tested prior to getting to the ship and also before boarding the ship, Sloan said.
“And SeaDream also tested passengers four days after they started traveling,” he said. “We should be retested today. This is a more rigorous test plan than most lines discussed for the restart.”
The protocol is due in part to the rigorous testing required of Barbados, where the ship will be stationed for the season, Sloan noted.
“I think what this shows is that it’s going to happen. And until there is a vaccine or herd immunity, you will see things like this when you start the cruise. The question is how often and how big?”
The current sail carried 53 passengers and 66 crew members, Sloan said.
Gene Sloan / The Points Guy
Travel from Barbados
SeaDream’s winter voyages from Barbados began sailing on November 7th, which has now been abandoned.
These new Caribbean sails follow a successful summer season for SeaDream in Norway which, according to the company, “resulted in zero positive cases throughout the Norwegian summer season”.
“After completing a successful summer season in Norway, we have implemented even stricter health and safety protocols for our winter season in Barbados. All guests have been tested twice prior to embarkation and we are in the process of retesting guests,” said Andreas Brynestad of SeaDream in the statement released on Thursday.
Ben Hewitt, host of Cruise with Ben & David on YouTube, expressed disappointment and frustration with the virus in an interview from his cabin on Thursday.
“It’s just so disappointing that this happened because everyone has high hopes and we can’t see anything they could have done,” said Hewitt.
“It’s just such a terrible virus that despite constant testing, it goes everywhere.”
The use of masks on the trip was far less strict.
Sloan told CNN that initially nobody wore face masks, not even the crew. The crew members told him they weren’t necessary as the ship was a Covid-free “bubble”.
Then, a few days after sailing, SeaDream put in place a mask policy but offered no explanation, he said.
Less than 250 guests
SeaDream’s ships, which the company calls “super yachts”, have 56 cabins with a capacity for 112 guests and 95 crew members.
With fewer than 250 guests outside of US waters, SeaDream can operate outside of the US Cruising Disease Control and Prevention Centers.
The CDC recently issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Orders for Cruise Ships”.
The order, which applies to cruise lines in US territorial waters that can carry a minimum of 250 passengers, is considered a preliminary step to resume cruise.
Security measures may not be enough to contain the virus.
Gene Sloan / The Points Guy
In a letter signed by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) on Friday, the CDC was asked to resume its non-sail cruise ship order and to resume US operations Industry to reverse.
The letter cites the outbreak aboard SeaDream 1.
Despite all precautionary measures, “the virus could still infect several people on the ship, with the possibility of more confirmed cases remaining if passengers and crew were retested,” the letter said.
“Unfortunately, this worrying development is not surprising and reaffirms the need for extreme caution before returning passengers and crew on cruises.”
Photo from SeaDream Yacht Club. CNN’s Tamara Hardingham-Gill contributed to this report.