While I thought I could evade the dreaded virus forever, it unfortunately caught up with me on a Royal Caribbean sailing.
Having never caught Covid-19 before, I was happily hopeful that it would never come to me.
Or if it did, at least not while I was on a cruise.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans. I caught Covid on the third day of my 5-day/4-night sailing to Port Klang and Penang from Singapore, on Spectrum of the Seas.
It started with a ticklish and scratchy throat on Saturday morning, and by afternoon escalated to a stabbing throat pain every time I swallowed. I was also feeling generally fatigued, with a runny nose.
I called Royal Caribbean’s Medical Centre, after which the nurse had me describe my symptoms and its onset. I was then told to come down to the Medical Centre on Deck 2 to get an ART test (Singapore’s RAT tests) done. If negative, I would be able to go about my business, but would be charged for medication.
If positive, the cruise fare covers all Covid-19 related expenses, including medication, room service whilst isolating in the cabin and transport back to my home once arriving in Singapore.
I was also told to pack my bags. If my test turned out positive, I would be moved to a cabin in the ship’s Red Zone, and a crew member would move my bags for me.
Testing positive on board
After coming down to the ship’s Medical Centre, a nurse did a supervised art and took my blood pressure.
After testing positive, I was sent to a holding room, after which a doctor examined me and prescribed medication for my runny nose and throat pain. Both the doctor and the nurse were extremely calm and reassuring.
You’ll also be asked to disclose any close contacts on board your cruise. This will usually be the people you are sailing with, and any one you had mask-off activities with (like eating) for at least 15 minutes. Your close contacts will be asked to monitor their symptoms and do a daily ART. They’ll be able to go about their usual activities unless they test positive.
Moving to a Red Zone cabin
Half an hour after my consultation, my luggage was brought to the MedicaI Centre.
I was then moved to a cabin in the ship’s Red Zone on deck 3, led by one of the ship’s crew in a protective gown and face mask. Another crew followed behind me, sterilising my trail.
Fortunately, my isolation cabin wasn’t the small interior stateroom I pictured it to be. Whilst definitely smaller than my balcony stateroom (and without a balcony), it was still spacious with a sofa and an oceanview window.
The room also came with a large one litre bottle of water, as well as two bottles of steriliser spray. The Medical Centre provided me with a digital thermometer to take my temperature, as well as a pulse oximeter to measure my heart rate and oxygen level.
I was also given a list of numbers to call if I needed any assistance, including the nurse on duty, guest services, housekeeping as well as room service.
As soon as you are moved to an isolation cabin, be prepared for calls every 20 to 30 minutes checking in on you − at least for the first few hours of your quarantine.
Whilst I appreciated the crew’s efforts to check in on me, I had almost completely lost my voice by then. Picking up the phone proved excruciating for me, and I was also hoping to get a good rest.
I was also called up by a few different people in guest services asking how I was feeling, so I felt there could be a little more coordination on the team’s part. Nevertheless, I did appreciate their pro-activeness in following up with me.
Eventually, I did communicate to the staff to reach me via WhatsApp instead of phone, and was thankful that they did. The Front Desk Manager reached out to me, and I was able to order room service through him and make other requests as well.
For example, I requested stronger medication for my nasal congestion, and was sent a very effective nasal spray. I left my wallet in the safe in my other stateroom, and it was promptly sent down when I requested it.
The Front Desk Manager would also check in with me from time to time, asking if I felt better and if I needed anything else.
Killing time in isolation
Spending the last two days of my cruise in isolation, there wasn’t much to do except eat and watch movies.
Room service and movie charges are waived once you enter Covid isolation, so you can order as much food and watch as many movies as you want.
Thankfully, the room service menu is pretty substantial, and the food is very decent with numerous tasty options. If you purchased a beverage package before your sailing, you’ll also be able to order mocktails and cocktails to your room.
Whilst it hurt to swallow food, my appetite didn’t waiver. So I ended up ordering meals like pizza, philly cheese steak and pastas. Royal Caribbean makes a particularly good philly cheese steak, and I also enjoyed the desserts like cookies and New York cheesecake.
There are also drinks like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water, milk, juices as well as sodas.
Needless to say, you won’t go hungry or thirsty in isolation.
As for movies, there was a rather limited selection of about 7 to 8 movies, and it did seem that the choices dwindled on the last day (somehow the animation movies disappeared). I ended up watching Pixar’s Turning Red, and Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary Reunion. But mostly, it was all about recovering for me.
If you contract Covid on your cruise, you’ll also be refunded for the days of your quarantine, according to your original form of payment. Mine was a media sailing, but most guests can expect a refund within 30 days.
Disembarking the ship
On the fifth and final day of my sailing, another supervised ART was conducted in my cabin. As I was still positive, I was escorted off the ship around 10:15am, after everyone else had disembarked. I was given a protective gown to wear as well.
As it turns out, another family had also contracted Covid during my sailing, and we were escorted off the ship together.
Once we disembarked in Singapore, we didn’t have to go through customs. A port agent checked our passports, and I was ushered into a sleek-looking 7 seater car and ferried straight home to quarantine until I recovered. The crew will ask for your address a few days in advance, so you can either give them your hotel or place of residence.
While getting Covid on a cruise is no fun, I’m thankful I had a clean and comfortable room to do so, as well as great service from Royal Caribbean as they tended to my various requests.
Testing positive on a cruise from Singapore isn’t like before, where the whole ship had to turn back to port and all activities were ceased. Now, everything goes on as normal for the rest of the ship.
I’m looking forward to my next sailing, especially now that port-of-call voyages are back in Southeast Asia. And fingers-crossed, it will be Covid-free one.