Sometimes, things aren't what they seem. The guest sailing on UnCruise Adventures' Wilderness Adventurer who had tested positive earlier this month for COVID-19 (coronavirus)—causing the line to cancel its entire Alaska season—was retested soon after and that subsequent test was negative for the virus.
UnCruise Adventures said the majority of the quarantined guests from the cancelled Alaska cruise were cleared and released starting August 8, and have returned home.
In a press release, the line said: "Revised news now shows all tests received back for guests and crew are negative and there was no transmission onboard. However, the season will not be recovered."
Better, Faster Testing Needed
The line said the experience has given it "some validation that there are safe sailing protocol options." In addition, UnCruise said it "continues to advocate for better testing to help save the travel industry. The company is now focused on rebooting their upcoming seasons and creating safe outdoor bubbles for travelers."
“Strict planning paid off,” said captain Dan Blanchard, owner and CEO, UnCruise Adventures, in a press statement. “We were able to act quickly, but that doesn’t mean this event has not been painful to our company and guests. Our policies held up and may be a footprint for future sailings and the industry.”
The line said it worked in tandem with local and state officials last week. Most guests were not required to quarantine for the expected 14 days but began departing for home on August 8.
The small-ship adventure brand has additionally been strongly lobbying Congress for more rapid testing that would help the travel industry and cruise operators. "We can all do better and are asking national leaders to work with us.” Blanchard says.
Timeline of Events
Here’s the timeline of what happened on Wilderness Adventurer:
- July 28: The guest took a test prior to departure.
- August 1: UnCruise Adventures returned to cruising. All guests with a gap of more than the 72-hour requirement were retested at the Juneau airport.
- August 4: A guest onboard received communication from the State of Alaska of a positive C-19 test retaken at the Juneau airport.
- August 4: Contact tracing was immediately implemented by the state. Also, the identified guest and four traveling companions were retested onboard the vessel by trained staff.
- August 5: The 60-person Wilderness Adventurer returned to Juneau. It was operating at a 60 percent occupancy cap. All guests were securely quarantined at a local Juneau hotel with costs covered by UnCruise Adventures. The crew quarantined onboard the vessel.
- August 6: All guests and crew were tested.
- August 7: UnCruise Adventures received negative results back on all tests. Thirty of 36 guests were allowed to travel with approval of the State of Alaska.
- August 8: Guests began flying home.
UnCruise Adventures said in its press statement that it "understands that accessible rapid COVID testing is needed across industries for businesses and tourism to return." It also said studies show that small boat sanitization is high and, in some instances, poses less of a risk of viruses than an average location that individuals visit in their local neighborhoods.
“Small businesses like ours have taken a considerable hit during COVID, and this was a big one.” Blanchard said. “We have taken proactive steps and understand our responsibility to our guests, crew, communities, and the industry. Safety remains our focus and we will continue to accelerate protocol standards.”
Earlier this year UnCruise Adventures spearheaded the small boat coalition with several other industry associates to help educate the public and government officials on the nature of small boats and differences needed in regulation. "Events like these leave small-business owners affected when full support is needed to re-ignite economies," said the line's press statement. "The need for a united industry voice continues."