SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): Dream Cruises ship World Dream was forced to turn back to Singapore after a Covid-19 case was found on board.
The ship, which was operating a four-day, three-night cruise to nowhere, had departed on Sunday (July 11). It arrived at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre at around 6.30am on Wednesday (July 14), a few hours before it was originally scheduled to return at 9am.
A 40-year-old passenger was identified as a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case on Tuesday and was immediately isolated as part of onboard health protocols, said Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) director of cruise Annie Chang on Wednesday.
The passenger also underwent polymerase chain reaction tests onboard and tested positive for the coronavirus, said Chang in a statement.
The passenger, who had earlier tested negative during the mandatory pre-departure antigen rapid test on the day of departure, has been taken to a hospital for further confirmatory testing.
As part of onboard health protocols, three travelling companions were identified and isolated. They have tested negative for Covid-19 and further contact tracing is ongoing.
"All on-board leisure activities have ceased and passengers have been asked to remain in their cabins until the confirmatory test results are out and contact tracing is complete. In the meantime, they are being given regular updates and contactless meals are provided directly to their cabins, " said Chang.
"The well-being and safety of our local community, as well as passengers and crew, remain our top priority."
The passenger was reported to have received both Covid-19 vaccination doses, Dream Cruises said in a notice to passengers seen by The Straits Times.
ST understands that guests onboard were asked to return to their cabins at 1am.
Full cleaning and sanitisation are being carried out on World Dream, including all areas previously visited by the suspected case. The guest's cabin has been blocked off until further notice.
As a precautionary measure, the cruise operator has cancelled a subsequent three-day, two-night World Dream cruise originally scheduled to depart at 9pm on Wednesday.
These passengers can choose to transfer to other cruise dates, opt for a future cruise credit or obtain a full refund. They may contact their original booking source for the necessary arrangements.
"As safety is paramount, we thank you in advance for your kind understanding on this necessary cancellation in view of the situation, " said Dream Cruises.
When ST visited the cruise centre early on Wednesday morning, the drop-off point was already secured by about 20 staff who were tasked to ensure nobody entered the area.
The suspected case and the close contacts have left the cruise ship, but the remaining passengers are still on board. It is unclear when they can disembark, as it would depend on the results of the further tests carried out on the suspected case and the close contacts, a source told ST.
World Dream cruises resumed operations at a reduced passenger capacity of 50 per cent on June 14.
Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International were given the green light last November to offer cruises to nowhere from Singapore under a pilot scheme with strict safety measures.
In December, Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas returned on day three of a four-day voyage after an elderly Singaporean male passenger tested positive for the coronavirus on board the ship.
Subsequent tests after the ship returned to Singapore on Dec 9 showed that the 83-year-old man did not have Covid-19, indicating the earlier result was a false positive. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network