One of the first cruise ships to ply through Caribbean waters since the pandemic began has ended its trip early after at least five passengers tested positive for COVID-19.
The SeaDream I is carrying 66 crew and more than 50 passengers, the majority hailing from the US according to Sue Bryant, who is aboard the ship and is cruise editor for Britain's The Times and The Sunday Times.
She says one passenger became sick on Wednesday and forced the ship to turn back to Barbados, from where it departed on Saturday.
However the ship was yet to dock in Barbados as local authorities tested those on board. The captain announced at least five passengers had tested positive, Bryant said on Thursday.
The incident marked the first time SeaDream had resumed its West Indies voyages since the pandemic, with the ship originally scheduled to return to Barbados on Saturday, according to an online itinerary.
The ship had made several stops in St Vincent and the Grenadines before turning back.
The Norway-based SeaDream Yacht Club, the ship's parent company, wouldn't say how many passengers tested positive in the initial round of testing.
Bryant said passengers were required to have a negative PCR test to enter Barbados and underwent another test on the dock administered by the ship's doctor.
"We all felt very safe," she said, adding that the ship had been implementing strict hygiene protocols.
"Yet somehow, COVID appears to have got on board."
SeaDream said the ship's medical staff has tested all crew members and that all tested negative.
The company also said it is currently re-testing all guests, noting they're all under quarantine along with non-essential crew members.
"We are working closely with local health and government authorities to resolve this situation in the best possible way," SeaDream said.
"Our main priority is the health and safety of our crew, guests and the communities we visit."
Government officials in Barbados did not return messages for comment.
Waters around the Caribbean have been largely bereft of cruise ships this year, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspending operations at US ports in mid-March.
The no-sail order expired on October 31.
Last week, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95 per cent of global ocean-growing cruise capacity, said members were voluntarily suspending cruise operations in the US through December 31.
SeaDream was among the first cruise lines to resume service in Europe.
In August, the company said an asymptomatic passenger tested positive for the virus after disembarking from SeaDream I in Denmark.