A ship of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is back in Singapore for what was to be day three of a four-day cruise to nowhere after a positive case of COVID-19 was identified on board early Wednesday.
Around 2,000 passengers on board theQuantum of the Seasthe vessel was informed of the development by the vessel’s master through the public announcement system at approximately 2:45 a.m. local time. The passenger who tested positive was isolated while authorities traced their contacts.
At around 8 a.m., the captain told passengers that a passenger was not feeling well and had tested positive for COVID. Everyone who has been in contact with the person has been tested and quarantined. The other passengers were asked to stay in their cabins. Once the contact tracing is complete, they will be allowed to disembark, but it is not known how long this will take. Passengers will also need to pass a quick COVID test to leave the ship.
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“We know this is not exactly how you planned to spend your cruise, and we are terribly sorry,” read a note sent to passengers on Wednesday. “Again, this is to your advantage and to make sure all clients stay healthy.” The captain, in an announcement over the ship’s speaker, said an update would be provided at 11 a.m.
The news is yet another setback for Singapore, a small island nation whose economy relies heavily on the tourist dollar. Last month, a much-anticipated air bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong that would have replaced quarantine with COVID testing was dropped due to increased cases in Hong Kong.
Royal Caribbean International and Genting Cruise Lines operatenowhere cruises– trips that leave and return to the same destination after a passage offshore – because the city-state aims to strengthen its tourism sector and give residents an outlet for their desire to travel. The positive case is a blow to this push, with reporters invited aboard the Quantum of the Seas to experiment with the new initiative.
Smoking, free phone calls
It comes as other countries struggle to revive and reinvent their tourism sectors for the COVID era. Japan had to curb an initiative which encouraged residents to travel to the country after tourist areas saw an increase in viral infections. In Europe, the resumption of summer vacation travel would have fueled the current second wave.
Strict protocols have been established for cruise lines and passengers to allow pilots to travel to Singapore. These included crew and passenger tests, better disinfection, and fresh air circulation measures. The cruises were also to sail at a passenger capacity reduced by 50%.
In the end, these proved insufficient to combat a virus that is now infected over68 million people in the worldand claimed the lives of nearly 1.6 million people.
Royal Caribbean, in its note to passengers, said free phone service would be provided to help people adjust their travel plans. People are also allowed to smoke in their bathrooms, although this is normally prohibited. The cruise, almost at full capacity, has a large number of families on board with young children.
Five 1.5-liter water bottles were left outside the cabins and breakfast was delivered between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., according to a Bloomberg reporter on board. Passengers are advised to be patient and wait for updates. Some who have rooms with balconies are standing outside trying to get better internet access.
“All affected guests will receive a refund in the form of an onboard credit for the missed day,” Royal Caribbean said in its note to guests. “In addition, we will provide you with a future cruise credit worth one day of paid cruise fare to be used on future sailing. We are committed to maintaining your well-being and making the next few days relaxing and enjoyable. “
Those who had booked on another cruise that was scheduled to depart Thursday can cancel and will receive a refund credit.
With international travel virtually banned, Singapore has been trying to find ways to boost its national economy. Excursions to hotels more luxury overnight camping at Changi Airport, and the government launched a domestic tourism campaign, with S $ 320 million ($ 240 million) in appropriations earmarked to encourage residents to support local businesses. The Singapore $ 100 vouchers, which have been sent to all Singaporeans aged 18 and over, can be used for attractions, hotel stays and tours.
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