UnCruise confident its Alaska cruise did not spread Covid

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Passengers on the Wilderness Adventurer in kayaks during the line's first Alaska cruise in 2020, which was cut short after a passenger's Covid test came back positive.
Passengers on the Wilderness Adventurer in kayaks during the line's first Alaska cruise in 2020, which was cut short after a passenger's Covid test came back positive.

UnCruise Adventures, the small-ship line that was forced to halt its first post-pandemic sailing last week after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19, said follow-up tests for that passenger and others on the ship came back negative, and the line said it was confident there wasn't any spread of the virus.

Company owner and CEO Dan Blanchard said in a Zoom press conference Aug. 13 that the crew and all but four of its 36 passengers have been released from quarantine. He said six of the guests' tests were lost by the lab, but they were allowed to go home because contact tracers determined they did not have enough close exposure with the person who tested positive to warrant concern.

Those still in quarantine in Juneau tested negative, he said, but they had close contact with the guest, requiring them to isolate for two weeks.

None of the guests had any symptoms of the virus, he said.

The sailing on the UnCruise ship the Wilderness Adventurer was the first overnight cruise in U.S. waters since the pandemic shut down travel and was being widely watched by the industry, particularly other domestic small ship and river cruise operators who have been hoping to resume operations this summer or fall. The ship set sail from Juneau on Aug. 1, but it had to cut short the cruise just days later after the positive test came back.

Blanchard said his experience shows that the company's  protocols worked. But the case underscores the need for reliable rapid testing to save the travel industry, small businesses and the economy, he said.

The guest in question had tested negative before traveling, then was tested on arrival in Juneau per state and cruise line protocol. Three days later, the guest was notified of the positive test while out in the wilderness.

"If we had had a rapid test at the Juneau airport, it would have been the difference between boarding that guest and not boarding that guest and the trip would have run," he said.

"Unfortunately, we got a positive. And once the word got out, it killed us."

UnCruise has canceled the rest of the 10 sailings it had planned this year in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

The ship was one of three last week to have sailings disrupted by positive results from routine Covid-19 testing.

SeaDream Yacht Club suspended a Norway sailing of the SeaDream 1 after a guest who had disembarked tested positive on arrival home in Denmark. The line also reported that a second test on the returning Danish guest was negative.

The line had paused the ship's subsequent itinerary while testing was carried out for passengers and crew onboard, but it resumed operations after the tests for passengers and crew were negative.

In French Polynesia, meanwhile, the Paul Gaugin halted its first Tahiti sailing with international passengers after a guest who tested negative before arriving in Tahiti received a positive result after being tested on arrival at the Papeete airport. The line did not immediately respond to an email Aug. 13 seeking information about follow-up tests on that and other guests and crew.

In all three cases, the guests were asymptomatic.

Separately, Hurtigruten reported an outbreak of Covid-19 among crew on a Norwegian ship July 31, but it admitted it had made mistakes in enforcing protocols

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