Semester at Sea cruise ship experiences COVID-19 outbreak

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(Graphic illustration by Robbie Haynes | The Collegian)

CTV News: Ren Wadsworth

Austria Cohn , News Reporter

The Semester at Sea cruise ship recently experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. As of Feb. 15, 43 people had tested positive, according to Scott Marshall, president and chief executive officer of Semester at Sea and the Institute for Shipboard Education.

The peak of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 on the Semester at Sea ship occurred on Feb. 15 after visiting Malta.

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Students were in Malta, which is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, from Feb. 8-11

“Anyone who chose to go on this voyage in the middle of a pandemic knew that we would be frequently testing as required by both maritime regulations and also to get into each country,” said Audra Brickner, the vice president of advancement and chief external affairs officer for Semester at Sea.

No one was seriously ill from COVID-19, but there were people on the ship who tested positive for Influenza A, and they were the most sick, Brickner said.

“We had every expectation that this voyage would involve COVID,” Brickner said.

This Semester at Sea voyage’s stops include Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Malta, Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Scotland, Poland, Sweden and Germany.

Brickner said the amount of students who are tested is dependent on the rules of the country they are in along with what the captain and capillary medical team are requiring.

On average, students are being tested every four to five days, Brickner said.

“For example, when we were in Greece, we had to test a student every time they came back to the ship and went back into the country,” Brickner said. “But every country has their own set of rules about what we do with people who test positive. Whether we keep them on our ship, whether we offload them into their country to stay in hotels — it just depends on each host country.”

There is a quarantine section on the ship that has special ventilation where students who test positive are required to go, unless the country they are in has a different policy, Brickner said.

“If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they will be administered two PCR tests to confirm the diagnosis,” according to the Semester at Sea website. “Close contacts of the individual will also be tested for symptoms and may be quarantined, dependent upon the individual country rules and regulations.”

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On the ship, there is a COVID-19 coordinator who makes sure every student has what they need, including meals and snacks, while they complete five days in quarantine, Brickner said.

“We also set up a system on our ship where we can deliver classes virtually to the cabins,” Brickner said. “We can stream directly to their cabin.”

“All voyagers (students, Lifelong Learners, faculty, staff and crew) are required to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” according to the Semester at Sea website.

“We’ve been working for those students who weren’t eligible for a booster prior to the voyage,” Brickner said. “We’ve actually been able to get them booster shots while on the voyage.”

According to Brickner, there is a total of 657 individuals on the ship, and 180 of them are staff.

“It’s important to us to not only protect the community on the ship but also that we don’t introduce infection to any place that we visit,” Brickner said.

For more information about Semester at Sea voyages or COVID-19 information, visit their website.

Brickner also encouraged people to look at the Semester at Sea TikTok account that shows their journey.

Reach Austria Cohn at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @AustriaCohn.