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SeaDream Yacht Clubs’s Anti-Mask Policy: Against Basic Health Protocols and Common Sense?

SeaDream Yacht Club was the first luxury cruise line to resume cruises to the Caribbean when it sailed the SeaDream I from Barbados with 112 passengers and 95 crew members yesterday. The ship has 52 guests on board this weekend.

Cruise Radio’s popular blog wrote about SeaDream in an article published early last week as it discussed the company’s new health and safety protocols. Cruise Radio stated that guests must present a negative test for COVID-19 before flying to Barbados. Some guests from certain countries, “probably also from the US due to high infection rates”, will be retested upon arrival. The guests are then subjected to a non-contact temperature sensor before boarding the ship and a daily temperature measurement for the duration of the cruise. The passengers are then tested four days after the ship has sailed. SeaDream offers cruises lasting 28 days, well above the 7-day limit required by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for ships larger than 250 people. SeaDream has also installed new “ultrasound devices” with which public areas and cabins are disinfected to a so-called “hospital quality”.

But I was alarmed to read that SeaDream does not require its crew or guests on the ship to wear masks on board the ship. Cruise Radio wrote:

”. . . According to company representatives, masks do not have to be worn on the yacht, as extensive tests were carried out prior to departure to create a negative “bubble”. “

I commented on Twitter:

“Company representatives say masks do not have to be worn on the yacht thanks to extensive pre-departure testing that is said to produce negative ‘bubbles’.” Wow. Far too many false negatives for this to work. Foolish. Another recipe for disaster via @SeaDreamYC # COVID19 #cruise https://t.co/Iw6RSj250a

– James (Jim) Walker (@CruiseLaw) November 6, 2020

On Saturday, travel writer Gene Sloan, who hosts the popular Points Guy site, tweeted photos he took while boarding the SeaDream I. He wrote about the experience of sailing on the very first ship in the Caribbean, which he called a “turning point” for the cruise industry.

The photos show Mr. Sloan in a mask, but the crew members do not. Cruise Radio precisely commented on the no-mask policy as “irresponsible”.

No matter what you believe, wearing it without a mask isn’t the best example. Irresponsible. The CDC monitors every move in the cruise industry, US sailors or not. #cruise https://t.co/4Wd3hsuDEs

– Doug Parker (@CruiseRadio) November 7, 2020

Over twenty other well-known travel writers, cruise bloggers, travel agencies and cruise fans commented on Cruise Radio’s contribution, including the Cruise Guy (“Must be kidding! EVERYONE on #Cruise Ship should wear masks! . . . @ SeaDreamYC not mandatory cruise Passengers and crew wearing a mask right now are ridiculous! Come on man! “), Gary Bembridge (“The logs of various regions and mainstream lines contain masks / face covers as part of the previous revival that reflect the case ashore”), Wave Journey (“No masks = irresponsible and a HELL NO from us!”) Adventures w / Chris (“Seems to go against everything the other cruise lines do. I know you test negative multiple times to cruise, but the fact that CDC wants masks for everyone has a chance to blow everything away the industry has done to show that they are serious about it … “), CruiseWriter (” Cruise ship CEOs have stressed the need to use common sense precautions. The sooner this happens, the sooner we all go !! falsely accused petri dishes are cruise ships under the microscope. As much as we hate this ignorant implication, we must all adhere to it! ”) and @EatSleepCruise (“ We are shocked, that the cruise line doesn’t need staff or passengers to wear masks! ”)

Other comments include:

“Wow, that’s amazing. I hate masks as much as the next person, but I know that a negative test is unfortunately not always 100% accurate. “

“. . . I saw a few other travel bloggers on this ship last week and was horrified that no one had a mask on. “

“No mask is a deal breaker for us. The tests are not yet accurate enough to know that a negative test is 100%. “

“. . . Why don’t the waiters and employees wear a mask? We all really want to curse back, but if things go the way they appear in the pictures, it is likely to be even more disastrous for this industry than it is now. “

You can read several other dozen reviews here.

Travel writer Dave Monk (ShipMonk) responded to the controversy. He suggested that crew members should wear masks at the terminal but not have to do so on the ship. SeaDream also claims that its health protocols are being reviewed by the Barbados government and that its “medical advisors are aligned with the CDC rules, the Healthy Sail Plan and the CLIA protocols”.

But that’s hardly true. The CDC guidelines clearly mandate the wearing of masks on cruise ships of more than 250 people. However, the CDC’s conditional sailing order does not apply as the SeaDream I does not fly to US ports and the CDC has no jurisdiction, which is the real point here. SeaDream does not require the wearing of masks as there are no requirements.

The Healthy Sail protocols adopted by CLIA provide for multi-layered protocols that include at least tests, mandatory masks and social distancing. The reality is that every test protocol gives false negative results, which makes wearing masks and social distancing even more important.

This is more than stupid. Without prior 14-day quarantine. It won’t go well. Asymptotic people test positive after 5 days and longer. #cruise https://t.co/njNYlln45i

– 5WA – Robert Neff (@ 5wa) November 7, 2020

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA chairman and co-chair of the Royal Caribbean and NCL Joint Healthy Sails Panel, appeared on Face the Nation where he again advocated the wearing of masks. Dr. Gottlieb said: “. . . You need to take a layered approach. Tests alone cannot create a safe environment, no protective bubble. . . ”

An integral part of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 transition plan is working with mayors and local health authorities to implement mask mandates nationwide. President-elect Biden will continue to “urge every American to wear a mask when around people outside their home.”

Wearing a mask in public is a sign of caring for others, not just yourself.

SeaDream’s no-mask policy is a shocking sign of ignorance that puts its guests and crew at risk of potentially contracting COVID-19. I expect the company will be quick to change its policies or it will continue to be publicly ridiculed and despised on social media.

Do you have a comment or question? Please leave one below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Update: A reader on our Facebook page said, “It’s the same old story – once you’re outside of US jurisdiction, you can do what you want.

Photo Credit: SeaDream I Crew – Gene Sloan

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