A Singapore 'cruise to nowhere' was forced to return to port after an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for COVID-19, leaving 1,680 guests stuck in their cabins until further notice

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  • A Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to port in Singapore after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19 early Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the cruise line and the Singapore Tourism Board confirmed to Insider.
  • The ship, Quantum of the Seas, was on day three of a four-day “cruise to nowhere,” a trip that started and ended in Singapore with no stops in between.
  • 1,680 passengers remained quarantined in their cabins while officials conducted contact tracing and testing, Annie Chang, the Singapore Tourism Board’s director of cruise, told Insider.
  • The passenger who tested positive was an 83-year-old man who reported to the ship’s onboard medical center after feeling unwell, Chang said.
  • Singapore’s first “cruises to nowhere” launched in November for Singapore residents only, with mandatory COVID-19 testing upon boarding and disembarkation. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

One of Singapore’s “cruises to nowhere” came to an abrupt end on Wednesday after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, spokespeople for the Royal Caribbean cruise line and the Singapore Tourism Board confirmed to Insider.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas vessel, which left Singapore on December 7, returned to port at the island city-state at about 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday, a day before it was scheduled to return from its four-day voyage, Kyunghee Park first reported for Bloomberg. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,680 passengers and 1,148 crew members were isolated on board while officials conduct contact tracing, Annie Chang, director of cruise at the Singapore Tourism Board, said in a statement to Insider. 

The guest who tested positive was an 83-year-old man who had taken a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test before boarding the ship and had tested negative, Chang said in the statement.

After reporting to the onboard medical center with diarrhea, the passenger took another PCR test, which came back positive, Chang said. Every guest and crew member who came into contact with the passenger was isolated and has since tested negative for the virus, she added.

At about 2:45 a.m. local time, the ship’s captain informed passengers over the public announcement system that Quantum of the Seas would be returning to port, per Bloomberg. After the ship got back to Singapore at about 8 a.m., the captain announced that a passenger had tested positive.

“It’s important that you know that you are safe on board and we have a good plan in place to maintain your health, safety, and comfort,” the captain said, according to The Straits Times.

It’s unclear how much longer the passengers and crew will have to remain on the ship. 

“They can’t really disembark yet because the crew’s operator has said that they are performing a review of the contact tracing, ostensibly to make sure they haven’t missed anybody else,” Gwyneth Teo said on Channel News Asia late Wednesday morning, reporting from the Marina Bay Cruise Center where the ship is docked. “Once that’s done, the passengers will be allowed to disembark.”

Royal Caribbean spokesperson Jonathon Fishman confirmed in an email to Insider that guests would be able to leave the ship after the review of contact tracing was completed, but he did not specify when that would be. Chang of the tourism board said that passengers would need to stay on the ship until the Genting Cruise Line’s World Dream vessel, which is docked at the same port, finishes boarding its passengers at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Gallery: Inside Singapore’s first ‘cruise to nowhere,’ where vacation-starved guests took turns using the pool and carried contact tracing devices everywhere they went (INSIDER)

  • Slide 1 of 16:  Dream Cruises just had its first "cruise to nowhere," a voyage that started and ended in Singapore, with no stops in between. It was the first cruise ship voyage in the country since the no-sail order in March and part of a "safe cruise" pilot program. Three and four-day cruises to nowhere will be offered regularly, going forward. Each passenger is tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to board. There's an on-board lab that can produce virus test results in an hour. These cruises are for Singapore residents only. Singapore is mostly closed to short-term visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the travel industry hard and left people around the world starved for a getaway.From flights to nowhere to fake plane trips complete with boarding, some companies are coming up with innovative ways to give people a taste of going on vacation."Cruises to nowhere" are the latest such effort. These are trips on cruise ships that start and end in the same destination, with no stops in between.On November 6, hundreds of passengers set sail on one such trip, dubbed the "Super Seacation" on the World Dream ship. It was part of a "safe cruise" pilot program, which stipulates that ships can only set sail at half capacity, and are open only to Singapore residents, according to the Straits Times.Going forward, three and four-day cruises to nowhere on the World Dream will be offered regularly, according to a press release by Dream Cruises.Representatives for Dream Cruises did not respond to Insider's request for further information about the trip and any new safety protocols.Keep reading to see what the two-night voyage was like.Read the original article on Insider

  • Slide 2 of 16: It was the first cruise ship to launch in Singapore since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's no-sail order in March. It was approved by the Singapore Tourism Board, according to the Straits Times, and only Singapore residents were allowed to go.On October 29, the CDC changed the original March order to "conditional sailing," meaning that cruises can accept passengers once they've made significant improvements to their health and safety measures. (Many companies and governments chose to voluntarily renew the ban until December 31, 2020, as they figure out these new protocols.)

  • Slide 3 of 16: Dream Cruises says World Dream is a 1,099-foot, 18-deck ship with 35 restaurants and bars, a spa, a theater, six waterslides, a zip line, a rock-climbing wall, mini-golf, and karaoke rooms, among other things.

  • Slide 4 of 16: Source: The Straits Times

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  • Slide 5 of 16: But before they could board the ship, passengers were first required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test.

  • Slide 6 of 16: Source: The Straits Times

  • Slide 7 of 16: Source: South China Morning Post

  • Slide 8 of 16: Source: South China Morning Post

  • Slide 9 of 16: No-touch hand washing stations were installed all over the ship, buffets were eliminated, and there were daily health checks on board, according to Cruise Hive.Dream cruises also said there was "100% fresh air ventilation in guest and crew cabins, as well as public spaces."

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  • Slide 10 of 16: These tracing devices are not new in Singapore. As early as June, the country said it was testing wearable tracing devices to track its residents for coronavirus contact-tracing efforts.Dream Cruises said it also upped its sanitization and disinfection practices for guest cabins, crew member quarters, public areas, and recreational facilities.

  • Slide 11 of 16: Tables and chairs were also kept spread apart and guests pre-registered for everything, according to the South China Morning Post.The ship's exercise classes were also at reduced capacity and enforced social distancing, according to the cruise line.

  • Slide 12 of 16: Source: Dream Cruises

  • Slide 13 of 16: Source: Dream Cruises

  • Slide 14 of 16: Source: Dream Cruises

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  • Slide 15 of 16: The first cruise ship to resume sailing in the Caribbean had passengers test positive for COVID-19, despite having been required to test negative within 72 hours of sailing, and again at boarding, according to USA Today.The trip was cut short.

  • Slide 16 of 16: According to the Miami Herald, as of November 10, there have been 3,908 cases of the coronavirus and 111 related deaths across 87 vessels.The CDC had a no-sail order from March 14 to October 29, 2020. It now requires a phased approach to resuming operations, with the implementation of new health and safety measures, as well as on-board labs.

Inside Singapore’s first ‘cruise to nowhere,’ where vacation-starved guests took turns using the pool and carried contact tracing devices everywhere they went

  • Dream Cruises just had its first “cruise to nowhere,” a voyage that started and ended in Singapore, with no stops in between.
  • It was the first cruise ship voyage in the country since the no-sail order in March and part of a “safe cruise” pilot program.
  • Three and four-day cruises to nowhere will be offered regularly, going forward.
  • Each passenger is tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to board. There’s an on-board lab that can produce virus test results in an hour.
  • These cruises are for Singapore residents only. Singapore is mostly closed to short-term visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the travel industry hard and left people around the world starved for a getaway.

From flights to nowhere to fake plane trips complete with boarding, some companies are coming up with innovative ways to give people a taste of going on vacation.

“Cruises to nowhere” are the latest such effort. These are trips on cruise ships that start and end in the same destination, with no stops in between.

On November 6, hundreds of passengers set sail on one such trip, dubbed the “Super Seacation” on the World Dream ship. It was part of a “safe cruise” pilot program, which stipulates that ships can only set sail at half capacity, and are open only to Singapore residents, according to the Straits Times.

Going forward, three and four-day cruises to nowhere on the World Dream will be offered regularly, according to a press release by Dream Cruises.

Representatives for Dream Cruises did not respond to Insider’s request for further information about the trip and any new safety protocols.

Keep reading to see what the two-night voyage was like.

“Super Seacation” on the World Dream ship set sail from Singapore on November 6. It made no stops and returned to port two days later.

It was the first cruise ship to launch in Singapore since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s no-sail order in March. It was approved by the Singapore Tourism Board, according to the Straits Times, and only Singapore residents were allowed to go.

On October 29, the CDC changed the original March order to “conditional sailing,” meaning that cruises can accept passengers once they’ve made significant improvements to their health and safety measures. (Many companies and governments chose to voluntarily renew the ban until December 31, 2020, as they figure out these new protocols.)

The World Dream can typically sleep 3,400 passengers, but sailed at half capacity for its first “cruise to nowhere.”

Dream Cruises says World Dream is a 1,099-foot, 18-deck ship with 35 restaurants and bars, a spa, a theater, six waterslides, a zip line, a rock-climbing wall, mini-golf, and karaoke rooms, among other things.

Passengers were assigned time slots for boarding to avoid overcrowding at check-in.

Source: The Straits Times

But before they could board the ship, passengers were first required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test.

According to the Straights Times, passengers had their results in as little as 20 minutes.

Source: The Straits Times

Onboard, the ship also has a clinic that’s equipped to produce virus test results in an hour, according to the South China Morning Post.

Source: South China Morning Post

In addition, the ship is outfitted with an intensive care unit in case someone does contract the coronavirus.

Source: South China Morning Post

After their COVID-19 tests, guests were able to board the ship, but were required to socially distance and wear masks.

No-touch hand washing stations were installed all over the ship, buffets were eliminated, and there were daily health checks on board, according to Cruise Hive.

Dream cruises also said there was “100% fresh air ventilation in guest and crew cabins, as well as public spaces.”

In addition to wearing masks and staying away from other guests, passengers also carried an electronic contact tracing device.

These tracing devices are not new in Singapore. As early as June, the country said it was testing wearable tracing devices to track its residents for coronavirus contact-tracing efforts.

Dream Cruises said it also upped its sanitization and disinfection practices for guest cabins, crew member quarters, public areas, and recreational facilities.

There were capacity limits on all activities. The pool, for example, only allowed 26 people at a time.

Tables and chairs were also kept spread apart and guests pre-registered for everything, according to the South China Morning Post.

The ship’s exercise classes were also at reduced capacity and enforced social distancing, according to the cruise line.

Still, the ship didn’t skimp on entertainment. There was a laser show called the “Vitamin Sea & Dream,” which is the only laser show at sea in Asia, according to Dream Cruises.

Source: Dream Cruises

The cruise was Christmas themed, with Santa and his helpers making appearances as well as a “Verry Christmas” musical production.

Source: Dream Cruises

Crew members had to take a series of COVID-19 tests before the arrival of passengers and quarantined for 14 days on the ship before the voyage.

Source: Dream Cruises

While there were no reports of COVID-19 outbreaks onboard the “Super Seacation,” other cruises have not been so lucky.

The first cruise ship to resume sailing in the Caribbean had passengers test positive for COVID-19, despite having been required to test negative within 72 hours of sailing, and again at boarding, according to USA Today.

The trip was cut short.

Cruise ships see infectious disease outbreaks relatively often due to their isolated environment and prolonged close contact between travelers and crew, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the Miami Herald, as of November 10, there have been 3,908 cases of the coronavirus and 111 related deaths across 87 vessels.

The CDC had a no-sail order from March 14 to October 29, 2020. It now requires a phased approach to resuming operations, with the implementation of new health and safety measures, as well as on-board labs.

Chang added that passengers “will continue to be given regular updates and amenities to make their stay more comfortable.”

Before disembarkation, everyone will have to pass a rapid antigen test, Angie Stephen, Royal Caribbean’s managing director for Asia-Pacific, told the Straits Times. 

They can then go home and will be advised to monitor their health for the next 14 days,” Stephen told the Times. After that, all guests will take a polymerase chain reaction test with the expense borne by Royal Caribbean.”

In the meantime, passengers visible on their balconies appeared to be “relaxed,” Teo of Channel News Asia said.

“They were right outside on the balconies, just relaxing, talking to each other,” she said. “One of them was doing push-ups.”

Ronald Tam, a 43-year-old passenger on the ship with his family, told The Straits Times that all guests were told to stay in their rooms and await further instructions. “Hot breakfasts and water were delivered to all rooms,” he said.

Royal Caribbean said in a memo to passengers that all guests would receive a refund in the form of onboard credit for the missed day of the cruise, according to Bloomberg.

Singapore’s ‘cruises to nowhere’ come as the CDC advises avoiding cruise ship travel 

Dream Cruises launched its Singapore “cruises to nowhere” – three to four-day voyages that start and end in the city-state with no steps on between – last month, with Royal Caribbean following suit at the beginning of December. The cruises are only for Singapore residents, as the city-state is currently closed to short-term visitors from most countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruise ships’ isolated environment and prolonged close contact between passengers crew make them prime targets for infectious disease outbreaks. As of November 23, 2020, the CDC “recommends that all people avoid travel on cruise ships.”

Royal Caribbean touted its safety protocols in a December 3 press release announcing the departure of its first “cruise to nowhere,” noting that passengers would be required to undergo COVID-19 testing upon embarking and debarkation. The cruises would be operating at reduced occupancy with enforced mask wearing, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning protocols.

“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,” Fishman, the Royal Caribbean spokesperson, told Insider.

In recent weeks, Singapore has been keeping its COVID-19 largely under control, with only 80 active cases. The city-state has reported a handful of new cases each day, mainly coming from foreign arrivals or returning Singaporeans who are already in quarantine. 

The Singapore Tourism Board did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

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