The Wilderness Adventurer returned to Juneau after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. There were 66 people, 36 guests and 30 crew members, on board the ship. The canceled trip by UnCruise was the first of the season. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Wilderness Adventurer returned to Juneau after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. There were 66 people, 36 guests and 30 crew members, on board the ship. The canceled trip by UnCruise was the first of the season. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s first cruise of the year ends after positive COVID-19 test

All UnCruise tours to Alaska are canceled for 2020

The passengers and crew of an UnCruise Adventures tour are being quarantined after a passenger tested positive for the coronavirus.

“UnCruise has been immediately responsive today and is working with state and local EOCs to make sure they’re protecting guests and the community,” said City and Borough of Juneau Emergency Operations Center incident commander Mila Cosgrove in a news release. “From what I know of the situation, they acted responsibly and continue to act responsibly.”

This was UnCruise’s first sailing this year, and all future sailings in Alaska have been canceled, according to a news release from UnCruise’s CEO, Dan Blanchard. The ship did not make port at any other towns, and returned to Juneau to quarantine the crew and passengers as soon as the positive test was confirmed. There were 36 guests and 30 crew members on board, according to City and Borough of Juneau.

“This is very discouraging news and not what we had hoped for, but we’ll deal with it professionally,” Blanchard said in the release. “The guests are taking the news well, and the crew has executed our contingency plan quickly.”

This was the first attempted sailing of any cruise of any size from Juneau this year. The vessel returned to Juneau early Wednesday morning, and the guests are now quarantined ashore.

“It’s disappointing that it happened on the first trip out of town when they were trying so hard to make things work,” Cosgrove said.

Minimal contact, maximum response

The infected individual tested negative four days before arriving as part of the state’s policy to test before coming to Alaska. However, their test upon arriving in Juneau turned up a positive result, Cosgrove said.

“They got one within five days of travel. They retested at the airport coming here, and that’s what the plan was,” Cosgrove said. “The first test was negative and the second test was positive.”

The individual was only minimally in contact with the community in Juneau, transiting directly from the airport to the ballroom at the Merchant’s Wharf, Cosgrove said.

“There was very limited exposure to the community,” Cosgrove said. “I would be very surprised. I don’t think there was time for them to spread it in the community. There may be some exposure within that individual’s travel group.”

Proper planning prevents poor performance

“UnCruise had an arrangement with a hotel in advance. They were required to file a COVID mitigation plan. They had all of that in place,” Cosgrove said. “They also have an arrangement with a local restaurant and they’ve hired security. They are footing the bill for quarantine and meals and everything they need to do to take care of them while they’re in town.”

The guests will be quarantined and confined to the hotel during the mandatory period, Cosgrove said.

“The ship was not running at full capacity,” Cosgrove said. “They’ve already taken them off the vessel and quarantined them here and, they’re watching them quite closely.”

Dead in the water

With the stillbirth of this year’s sailing season, UnCruise’s plan to reduce passenger numbers and increase safety would seem to be at loose ends.

“From an industry standpoint, people were looking at us to lead the way and were hopeful for our fewer than 40 person group departures to succeed,” Blanchard said in a press release. “We will continue to adapt to this evolution and look towards a new day.”

UnCruise, with its small vessel sizes and passenger numbers, did not fall under the Cruise Lines International Association voluntary suspension of all cruises. While UnCruise’s sailings wouldn’t make up the economic losses from the lack of larger vessels, Cosgrove said, it was a start.

“It’s not a huge number of people,” Cosgrove said. “There will certainly be an economic loss there but not significant in relation to the rest of the season.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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