The first U.S. cruise to set sail since the COVID-19 pandemic began will cut short its voyage return to the port of Juneau, Alaska, after a passenger received notification they had tested positive for the virus.
UnCruise Adventures’ Wilderness Adventurer, which left Juneau on Saturday for a weeklong cruise with 37 passengers and 30 crewmembers onboard, will arrive to the port Wednesday morning, and all passengers will be transferred to a local hotel, where they will be placed into quarantine until doctors determine it is safe for them to leave. Crew will quarantine onboard the boat.
In announcing the news of the positive test, expedition cruise line UnCruise Adventures issued a news release and held a subsequent late-night online news conference, where owner and CEO Dan Blanchard earnestly took questions from journalists, calling the situation “sad.”
“Even with all our protocols, testing and social distancing, we didn’t sneak by this guy,” Blanchard said of the virus during the news conference.
Anyone traveling to Alaska is required to show proof of a negative result from a COVID test taken within three days of arriving to the state. Alternatively, people can show proof of a negative test taken within five days of arrival; those people then additionally have to take a second test at the airport on arrival. (The policy changes August 11, when only the three-day option is available.)
The passenger identified as infected took the five-day option; the first test produced a negative result, but the second test, taken in Juneau was positive. The state of Alaska contacted the passenger, an American, while he was on the trip. He was asymptomatic and traveling with four companions.
Blanchard called the risk of spread in Juneau “minimal,” as the passenger arrived the day of the sailing and spent little time in Juneau.
No other passengers or crew are showing symptoms, according to the company.
Passengers are isolating themselves in their cabins, where plated meals are being served. UnCruise will cover the costs for the hotel stay and meals while passengers are quarantined. Additionally, passengers are being issued full cruise credits to be used on future sailings.
“We are focusing all efforts on care of the guests, crew and the local community,” Blanchard said in a news release.
“This is very discouraging news and not what we had hoped for, but we’ll deal with it professionally. The guests are taking the news well, and the crew has executed our contingency plan quickly.”