S'porean, 22, on Royal Caribbean cruise tells us what happened in the 24h after passenger tested positive

Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.

Mothership | December 11, 2020, 11:01 AM

PERSPECTIVE: On Dec. 9, Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas announced that a passenger onboard the cruise tested positive for Covid-19.

All on-board leisure activities were also ceased immediately and passengers were asked to stay in their cabins.

The ship returned to Singapore on Dec. 9, and all passengers who are not close contacts of the case were allowed to leave.

Mothership speaks to 22-year-old Terisha Tan, who shares what happened on the cruise following the announcement, and how she feels about the whole incident.

As told to Syahindah Ishak

2am: Announcement made on board (that we did not catch)

At 1:50am on Dec. 9, the announcement was made: A positive Covid-19 case onboard the cruise.

It was an 83-year-old man who had reported to the onboard medical centre with diarrhoea.

He underwent a mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test as part of the onboard protocols, and was found to have tested positive.

For me and my family, we completely missed this announcement as we were asleep.

6am: Waking up & realising something was wrong

We woke up four hours later in hopes of catching the sunrise, and quickly realised that something was wrong.

The staff instructed us to stay in our rooms.

We thought that it was because there were too many people on the deck, or that the sanitation processes got delayed.

But my dad looked out and saw that we were heading back to Singapore, so we suspected that something bad must have happened.

7am: Finding out about the Covid-19 case from the news

Right after that, we saw an article on the news regarding the Covid-19 case on board.

That was when the worry started to kick in -- less from the fear of contracting Covid-19 but more of not knowing what to expect.

To be honest, I wasn't extremely scared of getting infected. The ship is so big and there were so many people. I guess I didn't think the chances of getting it were high.

But we were worried about having to be quarantined on the ship so we frantically made arrangements.

My parents called their office to inform them of the situation. I was supposed to be at a course once I came back, so I informed the organisers too.

We have pets at home so my parents quickly called home to make sure our helper can take care of them for the next two weeks.

My sister got it the worst, though. She had a one-week contract job. And when she informed her employers, they told her not to come in as they did not want to risk anything. (This didn't change even after news of the false positive was announced.)

Messages from friends and relatives asking if I was coping okay also poured in after they realised that I was on the cruise.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

8am: Breakfast on board a docked ship

The ship docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore at 8am, a day ahead of schedule.

Passengers were instructed to remain in their rooms, and we were only able to communicate with the stateroom attendants when they came by to serve food.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, hash brown and two sausages.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

10am: Passengers were told that those who didn't have close contact could leave

At 10am, I was told via a letter and an announcement that passengers those who did not have close contact to the Covid-19 patient would be allowed to leave the ship. Which was good news, I guess.

As there wasn't much else that I could do but wait to disembark, I spent the time sleeping and watching movies.

Guests supposedly had access to free movies and WiFi on board, but my family had trouble connecting to the WiFi.

I ended up watching four movies in total (La La Land, Onward, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and Green Book).

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

12pm: Lunch

At around 12pm, lunch — rice with some chicken and vegetables — was served.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

The food was not bad at all and tasted quite good, all things considered.

8pm: Getting ready to disembark

After lunch, I continued sleeping and watching movies since there wasn't anything else to do.

At 8pm, the crew asked the passengers if they wanted to eat their dinner or disembark straight away

We chose to disembark. After all, we had been waiting for 12 hours by this point and all we wanted to do was go home.

Unfortunately, we ended up waiting at the ship's corridor for over two hours.

Everyone was just standing around and there wasn't really any internet on the ship either.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

The passengers soon started asking for food as they were getting peckish, but the staff had no food. And no answers either.

At 7pm, I first asked one of the staff if we'd be able to get some food.

By 8pm, we hadn't received any food so I popped out to ask them again. I was told that we would be disembarking soon.

None of the passengers received our dinner and had to continue waiting to disembark at the corridor. Some passengers had kids with them, and many were just sitting on their suitcases, waiting.

10:20pm: Finally disembarked

At about 10:20pm, we finally disembarked (we were exhausted by then).

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

I was kind of surprised actually. After waiting for so long, we were half-expecting not to disembark that night.

Thankfully, the disembarking process itself was very efficient, and the wait was really the worst part.

10:24pm: Update from MOH on the positive case

A few minutes after we disembarked, the Ministry of Health (MOH) released its Dec. 9 evening Covid-19 update.

Which said that the 83-year-old man's original sample was retested at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) and it came back negative.

A second fresh sample tested by NPHL has also come back negative.

After hearing about this, I was honestly a bit bummed. But I'd prefer that this happened rather than actual outbreak on the cruise, of course.

When we arrived at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, we immediately had to be swabbed.

We could go home after the swab test. (Finally!)

Dec. 10, 3:31pm: It was a false positive

On Dec. 10, MOH stated in its afternoon Covid-19 update that a final confirmatory test conducted by the NPHL on the same day confirmed that the man does not have Covid-19.

It was a false positive.

So how do I feel about this whole thing, causing the cruise to be disrupted and all the passengers being severely inconvenienced?

Ugh, whatever. I'll chalk it up to travel experience and a funny story to tell my kids.

And never go back.

Photo courtesy of Terisha Tan.

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Top images courtesy of Terisha Tan.