Two more cruise ships forced to turn back after passengers test positive for coronavirus

Sea Dream I has cancelled its voyage and is heading to port
Sea Dream I has cancelled its voyage and is heading to port

Two more cruise lines have been struck by cases of Covid-19 among passengers as efforts to restart ocean sailings hit turbulent seas.

Norway-based SeaDream Yacht Club has ordered those on SeaDream I to stay in their cabins after a passenger on a previous voyage tested positive. Only “essential crew members” needed to operate the ship, which has now cancelled its itinerary and is on its way to Bodø, northern Norway, are exempt from quarantine.

The passenger who tested positive was a woman from Denmark. She had disembarked in Tromsø on Sunday, August 2, at the end of the previous itinerary, before returning home. Her travelling companion has tested negative, and the line said there has been no symptoms on display during the voyage.

SeaDream, the first operator to resume international ocean cruises since coronavirus forced the industry to shut down in March, is in the process of contacting all those who sailed on the same trip.

“We sincerely hope that there is no Covid-19 on board, and we are not aware of any other guests or crew who are infected or have any symptoms, but we are taking all necessary precautions,” the cruise line said in a statement.

“All guests and crew were informed, as well as the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the Norwegian Directorate of Health as soon as we received the information this afternoon.”

All national guidelines had been followed, it added, and crew members were quarantined in hotels for 10 days before boarding.

Approximately 3,500 miles away, off the coast of Alaska, a traveller on UnCruises’ Wilderness Adventurer was diagnosed with the virus. The ship, with 66 crew and passengers on board, is now returning to port in Juneau – where it had set sail from August 1.

A case of Covid-19 has been detected on one of the only lines left sailing to Alaska this season
A case of Covid-19 has been detected on one of the only lines left sailing to Alaska this season

According to the line, the infected passenger boarded with a negative coronavirus test but a second test, taken at Juneau airport, came back positive. While the crew will stay onboard to quarantine, passengers are to stay in a local hotel.

UnCruise, which became the first operator to sail an overnight cruise in US waters in four months, was one of the only ways to cruise in Alaska this year after major lines scrapped their plans – they have today dropped all of their 2020 sailings in the state.

The two cases come only days after two other lines confirmed their own outbreaks. The worst-hit has been Hurtigurten, which has seen at least 40 positive tests following a voyage on MS Roald Amundsen at the end of July. The infected travellers had been on two separate cruises since July, which means that more than 400 people have left the vessel prior to the positive tests being reported.

The chief executive of Hurtigurten, Daniel Skjeldam, apologised for the developments, adding: “We have made mistakes and we have failed in this case”. Health authorities and police in Norway are currently investigating.

All cruises on MS Roald Amundsen, MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Spitsbergen have been cancelled until further notice – including the planned September sailings around Britain, which would have been the first in UK waters for six months.

In the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ namesake ship with around 350 on board was required to turn back after an American passenger tested positive. The one-ship fleet had only resumed service on July 29.

Costa Cruises have also reported three cases of Covid-19 among crew members, however the line is not currently sailing customers but is due to restart later this month.

Telegraph Cruise writer Dave Monk said that “now that the industry is in the spotlight every single incident is being scrutinised.”

“All hopes are now riding on lines such as MSC Cruises, which hopes to resume sailings from Italy next week with a comprehensive range of health and safety measures. The big US lines are still in discussions with regulators and working hard to ensure that when they come back they do so with every possible measure in place to safeguard passengers and crew.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry’s biggest trade body, said to Telegraph Travel that “While the world continues to learn about this virus, contingency and mitigation plans will remain an essential part of managing Covid-19, ranging from on-board isolation to track and trace systems.

“Resumption is extremely limited so far and sailings that are taking place must follow the requirements and approval conditions of national authorities.”