Passenger Tests Positive for COVID-19 on Board Royal Caribbean’s 'Cruise to Nowhere'

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

A Royal Caribbean ship in Singapore has been forced to turn around after reporting a positive case of COVID-19, just over a week after the cruise line resumed sailings there. 

The Quantum of the Seas was returning to port at Marina Bay Cruise Centre on Wednesday after an 83-year-old male passenger tested positive for the virus following a check-in with the ship’s medical team when he started experiencing diarrhea, CNN reported. He was then taken to a hospital in Singapore.

This was the ship’s third sailing since it resumed “ocean getaway voyages” with no port calls. The ship, which was operating at 50% capacity, had left Singapore on Dec. 7 and was in its second day of sailing when the case was discovered, Cruise Critic reported.

“We identified and isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with this guest, and each of those individuals have subsequently tested negative for the virus,” Angie Stephen, the managing director of Royal Caribbean, Asia Pacific, told Cruise Critic. “The ship is returning to port today local time in accordance with government protocols and will debark guests after a review of contact tracing is completed.”

Passengers and crew who are not considered close contacts with the infected guest (1,679 passengers and 1,148 crew) will remain on the ship until contact tracing efforts are finished and then be given a rapid test. They will then be allowed to disembark and won’t be forced to isolate, but will be asked to watch for any symptoms for two weeks.

The positive case was discovered despite strict testing and onboard safety protocols including testing negative for COVID-19 within three days of the start of their trip and wearing a contact tracing-enabled wristband while on board. Only Singapore residents were allowed to board.

"We worked closely with the government to develop a thorough system that tests and monitors all guests and crew and follows public health best practices. That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do,” Stephen added. 

A Royal Caribbean spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel + Leisure.

The cruise line relaunched sailings in Singapore, but has cancelled most of its planned itineraries elsewhere through Feb. 28. And while Royal Caribbean is looking for volunteers to test new health protocols in the U.S. (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 'Conditional Sail' Order), it was not immediately clear when those would take place.

Royal Caribbean isn’t alone in trying to resume sailings only for those efforts to be stymied by an outbreak of the virus on board. SeaDream Yacht Club restarted sailings in the Caribbean last month, but was forced to turn around when several passengers and crew tested positive for coronavirus.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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