Royal Caribbean cruise ship turns back to Singapore after guest tests positive for COVID-19

A 2014 photo of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship.
A 2014 photo of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas cruise ship. (PHOTO: Ingo Wagner/picture alliance via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A cruise ship that departed from Singapore for a four-day cruise to nowhere had to turn back on day three due to a suspected COVID-19 case on board.

The Straits Times reported that an 83-year-old Singaporean had tested positive for the coronavirus while on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas, which had 1,680 guests and 1,148 crew members on board.

The ships’s captain had informed the guests over the public announcement system at about 2.45am on Wednesday (9 December), and the ship arrived in Singapore at 8am, reported The Straits Times.

Other guests and crew tested negative

Royal Caribbean International released a media statement on Wednesday morning, saying, “One guest aboard Quantum of the Seas tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with our medical team.

“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.

“The ship is returning to port today in accordance with government protocols, and will debark guests after a review of contact tracing is completed.”

Singapore Tourism Board’s director of cruise, Annie Chang, also released a statement saying that the elderly passenger “had reported to the on-board medical centre with diarrhoea, and underwent a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as part of on-board protocols”.

She added that the passenger had taken a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test prior to boarding, and was tested negative.

Royal Caribbean International added that it is in communication with the Singapore government to protect the health and safety of its guest and crew. It is also working with the government to develop a 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,” it added in its media statement.

Cruises resumed only last week

According to The Straits Times, Royal Caribbean had resumed its three- and four-night Ocean Getaway cruises last week, as part of the safe cruising pilot programme announced by the Singapore Tourism Board in October.

The programme had set about safe management measures to follow amid the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a reduced 50 per cent capacity as well as pre-boarding testing for passengers and crew.

Other measures include mandatory mask wearing and passengers needing to have the Trace Together mobile app or token at all times.

The Straits Times reported that the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship can serve about 2,000 guests during the pandemic, half of its usual 4,000-odd passengers.

It has a hospital on board, complete with a PCR testing laboratory and intensive care units equipped with ventilators, where COVID-19 cases can be isolated and treated.

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