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There's Already A COVID-19 Case On The First Cruise Ship Back In The Caribbean

Few, if any, industries have escaped a downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic. But tourism has had a particularly rough 2020 as people have avoided any unnecessary travel like, well, the plague. Waves of cancellations of travel plans rocked airlines, hotels, and countless attractions around the globe.

If that wasn't bad enough, cruise lines were especially singled out as during the early stages of the global pandemic, the cruise ship Diamond Princess's struggle with the disease took over headlines. Starting with a single infected passenger, more than 700 ended up infected with the disease within a month.

As a result of the Diamond Princess and a few other cases, the CDC issued a no-sail order on March 14, an order that was updated and extended several times over the course of the year. But on October 30, the CDC made a change, providing a framework for conditional sailing of cruise ships.

Well, less than two weeks later, the first cruise ship to resume sailing in the Caribbean has already reported a case of COVID-19.

One of the smallest cruise lines out there, SeaDream Yacht Club, operates just two ships that are more like large yachts than the massive floating hotels of the major cruise lines.

Nevertheless, they were hoping to get a tentative but positive start to the winter cruise season, setting sail November 7 from Barbados for a seven-day voyage with stops in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

The hopes were that this voyage would be the first of 22 planned sailings through winter and into the spring. However, just days later, the SeaDream 1 was headed back to Barbados with the 53 passengers and 66 crew on board in isolation, according to The Points Guy.

November 11, the captain of the SeaDream 1 announced over the ship's intercom that a passenger had tested positive for COVID-19 on a preliminary basis.

The Points Guy had a reporter on board the SeaDream 1 to document the new safety features for the voyage but with that announcement, the reporter's assignment suddenly changed.

While he didn't clarify what was meant by the test's "preliminary basis," the reporter, Gene Sloan, told CNN that SeaDream went out of its way to try to make sure the disease wouldn't make its way on board, testing passengers both before traveling to the port and before boarding.

The fact that someone still tested positive is certainly troubling.

"SeaDream was also testing passengers four days into the trip," Sloan told CNN. "We were scheduled to be tested again today. That's a more rigorous testing plan than most lines had been discussing for the restarts."

However, Sloan believes it's too early to tell how the positive test will affect the cruise industry's plans, saying that "will depend in part on how this situation unfolds in the coming hours and days. But it's not a great development for the cruise industry."

For the few days the SeaDream 1 was sailing, measures to keep everyone safe had been in place.

Masks had not been required for the first two days of the voyage, but that changed starting Monday, Sloan reported for The Points Guy. Social distancing had been enforced for the whole trip to that point, however, and with the passengers and all non-essential crew now confined to their cabins while the ship heads back to port, there will be few opportunities for the disease to spread.

Sloan added that the ship was outfitted with three Abbott ID Now testing machines — each capable of processing a test in 15 minutes — that the ship's doctor was using to test all the passengers and crew. The passenger who tested positive did feel ill before the test, and the ship's officers are working under the assumption that there may be one or two other cases that have yet to be detected.

SeaDream had already resumed sailing elsewhere in the world prior to its attempt to get back to the Caribbean.

Over the summer, SeaDream successfully operated around Norway, completing an entire season without a single positive COVID-19 test, CNN reported.

"As the first luxury line to begin sailing again, we have learned many lessons and are confident that we can provide a safe environment without sacrificing luxury," SeaDream's Andreas Brynestad said in September, looking ahead to the Caribbean sailings.

h/t: CNN, The Points Guy