Only Alaska Cruise in 2020 Returns After Coronavirus Case Confirmed on Boat

Passengers on the first Alaskan cruise of 2020 had their journey cut short Wednesday after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19.

UnCruise was the only company expected to offer cruises from Alaskan ports in 2020. In total, the company had announced five planned trips with proper coronavirus mitigation protocols in place including the initial voyage of the season on the boat Wilderness Adventurer. The infected passenger had taken two COVID-19 tests. Although the first test returned negative results, a coronavirus test administered at Juneau International Airport came back positive. The crew were informed by the passenger of the positive test, resulting in the boat's return to port.

"We are focusing all efforts on care of the guests, crew and the local community," said UnCruise owner and CEO Dan Blanchard in a Wednesday statement. "This is very discouraging news and not what we had hoped for, but we'll deal with it professionally. The guests are taking the news well, and the crew has executed our contingency plan quickly."

Guests are expected to quarantine themselves in a nearby hotel while the Wilderness Adventurer crew is expected to remain onboard during the length of their self-isolation.

Positive cases of the coronavirus in Alaska are on the rise. Recent data indicates a cumulative total of 3,449 positive cases with 25 fatalities attributable to the virus.

Newsweek reached out to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for comment.

juneau, alaska
On Wednesday, the only Alaskan cruise scheduled for 2020 returned to port in Juneau after a passenger reported testing positive for COVID-19. iStock/Getty

Cruise ships have been singled out as prime areas for transmission of the coronavirus. Because of the high incidence of the spread of COVID-19 on the boats, many cruise lines have suspended operations from U.S. ports, effectively ceasing large-scale cruises for the year. The CDC had issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships which was originally expected to expire in July. That order was extended and is now expected to remain in effect until September.

Since the CDC order only applied to craft that carried fewer than 250 passengers, the Wilderness Adventurer was exempt because of its status as a small boat and lower occupancy capacity.

Some cruise lines are going further than the CDC's order. In a Wednesday statement, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced it would voluntarily suspend U.S. operations until the end of October.

"This is a difficult decision as we recognize the crushing impact that this pandemic has had on our community and every other industry," the CLIA statement read. "At the same time, should conditions in the U.S. change and it becomes possible to consider short, modified sailings, we would consider an earlier restart."

Cruise lines have suffered a massive financial hit because of the coronavirus. In the second quarter of 2020, Carnival Cruise Lines reported an adjusted net loss of $2.4 billion.

"The pause in guest operations is continuing to have material negative impacts on all aspects of the company's business," Carnival said in a June statement. "The longer the pause in guest operations continues the greater the impact on the company's liquidity and financial position."