A “cruise to nowhere” lived up to its name after a staffer tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the last-minute cancellation of the trip from Hong Kong as well as mandatory testing orders for more than 1,000 passengers who had already boarded the Spectrum of the Seas.

The 40-year-old crew member registered positive on Thursday following a routine test on Tuesday before boarding, the government said. He appeared to be asymptomatic and had a low viral load.

Spectrum of the Seas. Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board.

The man had been fully vaccinated in May but was diagnosed with coronavirus in July in Malaysia, a statement from the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said. He arrived in Hong Kong in August and had tested negative 10 times since then.

“Based on the epidemiological and laboratory findings, the case is compatible with a suspected re-positive overseas case,” the CHP said.

Refund for passengers

The four-night cruise which was due to depart on Thursday was cancelled at the last minute and more than 1,000 passengers who already boarded were asked to disembark.

The staffer who tested positive had also worked on the Spectrum of the Seas on two other trips this month. Anyone who spent more than two hours on board between September 30 and October 21 is required to undergo testing before Saturday.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship carrying hundreds of Honkongers became one of the world’s largest Covid-19 clusters in the early days of the pandemic, with over 691 people infected on board. Photo: GovHK.

The crew member concerned works in a back office and had no contact with passengers, the operator Royal Caribbean said in a statement on Thursday. All of the other 1,250 crew members were fully vaccinated and tested negative, the company said.

Passengers will be given a full refund plus a small transport subsidy and credits for future bookings.

Hong Kong saw a 51-day streak of zero Covid-19 local infections until October 8, when an airport cargo terminal worker tested positive. The city has recorded 12,312 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 213 deaths.

“Cruises to nowhere” offered to fully vaccinated passengers by Hong Kong and some other Asian countries venture out to sea but do not stop anywhere due to Covid restrictions.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.