Before and after boarding, passengers were subjected to an “incredibly rigorous system” of testing in which no positive results were found, Sloan told NBC.
Reports say guests were prevented from mingling with townspeople where the ship docked and that they only spent time on empty beaches. The passengers, however, were not initially required to wear face masks because the other safety measures were expected to “block Covid at the door, so to speak,” Sloan said.
After two days on the water, the captain made masks mandatory.
The passenger who tested positive reportedly checked himself in with the ship’s doctor and said he felt sick just as a third round of testing was set to take place.
“We haven’t interacted with people in any of the places we’ve gone. So somebody got on the ship with Covid,” Sloan said.
Sloan added he believed the incident to be a major setback for the cruise industry’s chances of returning to sea.
“There’s some argument that this isn’t representative of the bigger cruise industry. It may not have been Royal Caribbean or Carnival, but this was the first line trying to come back in the Caribbean and on the very first cruise, they had trouble,” he said.
The industry has faced an uncertain timeline for return since the pandemic shutdown began in mid-March.
That’s when all three major cruise lines ― Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian ― voluntarily agreed to suspend services.
Since then, each has continued to extend the suspensions month to month while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a no-sail order in place within U.S. territorial waters.
In October, the health agency based in Atlanta issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” which will help the cruise industry implement safety measures that would allow operations to resume.
In order for cruises to ultimately return to the sea, the CDC is requiring the companies to come up with their own plans to deal with COVID-19 with minimal help from federal, state and local governments. The plans must be detailed and specific, and will then be subject to review and approval by the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The cruise lines said they are prepared for the CDC to implement further health restrictions in the meantime.
“There isn’t a one size fits all answer to this,” said Richard Fain, chief executive of Royal Caribbean, according to Financial Times. “There are different steps that are appropriate at different times and different places.” Fain added: “A lot of people assume that you simply take what happens on land and apply it on to the sea.”