“We need reliable, rapid testing,” said Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise, that saw its attempted restart in Alaska last just a few days.
As the first small-ship operator back into the market in Alaska at the start of the month, the cruise operator had asked guests to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of boarding.
Crew onboard the Wilderness Adventurer had already been quarantined for a month and the company had multiple plans in place should anything happen while sailing at significantly reduced capacity.
With guests coming into Juneau, tests were administered at the airport.
One guest that had tested negative at home was then reported as a positive test by the airport, days into the company’s first cruise, ending the voyage and the company’s 2020 Alaska season.
The ship was brought back to Juneau while guests were moved to a nearby hotel which the company had an emergency agreement with. Crew also quarantined onboard.
Another round of testing for all guests and crew came back with good news: everyone was negative.
“If they had had a fast testing machine at the airport, or we had one on the boat, that fellow would have never gotten onboard,” Blanchard told Cruise Industry News.
In fact, UnCruise did have testing capability onboard, but those samples still needed to be sent to a lab for turnaround.
Some plans even involved having a float plane meet the ship to pick up test samples.
“A lot of people are feeling that we are going to have a vaccine,” Blanchard said. “You will need testing with a vaccine. It’s going to be a vaccine and testing or testing.
“Rapid testing that is reliable; that is going to be what we need and we are right on the brink of that.”
That will need to go along with federal standards, Blanchard continued.
“For almost anyone in the travel industry, the only way (the restart) is going to happen is if we have rapid testing … we stand on the fact if rapid, frequent testing is available, the economy can restart.”