Laurel Brunvoll, president and owner of Unforgettable Trips, recently returned from a cruise on SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I in the Southern Caribbean, which, unfortunately, ended early due to guests testing positive for COVID-19.
A warm Caribbean breeze blew across my face as I leaned on the ship’s railing. I looked out over a sea of blues—aquamarine, turquoise and sapphire hues. I blinked and looked again because the scene did not even seem real.
Then, I turned around and sat down at our table for lunch. Should I have king crab legs, grilled fish, BBQ pork ribs or avocado and mango salad with tomato soup? A glass of iced tea or should I choose chilled champagne? Every meal was a delight onboard. SeaDream’s cuisine is varied with multiple menu options, which were never repeated day-to-day. Also featured at every meal: Raw, vegan and organic items for additional healthy possibilities.
This is yachting at its loveliest!
Laurel with her husband, Steve, and friends.
My husband and I embarked on SeaDream I in Barbados several days earlier after fulfilling all travel requirements necessary to enter the country and get on the ship. We landed at Brantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, with more than a dozen pages of documents, including health questionnaires and negative COVID-19 test results (taken within 72 hours of arrival).
Prior to entering customs, we went through different check points for health screening. First, we presented our test results to several people (we also had to show these papers prior to boarding the flight in Miami). Then, our temperatures and oxygen levels were taken. At the next station, they gave us a color-coded bracelet, which matched our destination on the island (the ship) and then another bright red bracelet, which alerted all that we weren’t allowed to roam freely on the island until after a second COVID-19 test after four days. Everyone arriving in Barbados, regardless, must quarantine.
The entire process at the airport was organized and took less than one hour. An airport coordinator met us outside the custom arrivals area and directed us to our pre-arranged private, government-approved transportation (only after double checking our names on a master list).
We arrived at the dock and started the next set of procedures needed for our boarding of SeaDream I. More temperature and oxygen level checks. More documents presented. And, then everyone’s favorite activity… another COVID-19 test was administered to each guest. Once those results came back negative, we were cleared to get on the ship.
Once onboard, we settled into our cozy but comfortable cabin (No. 205), located on the lowest deck level. Since SeaDream I is an older ship (built in 1984 and refurbished in 2016), cabins are traditional—an older style with polished wooden cabinetry. None of the staterooms have balconies—including the suites—but with so much open deck space, these ocean-view rooms are spacious with plenty of natural light.
SeaDream I can typically hold 112 passengers and 95 crew, but on our recent Caribbean sailing, we were only 53 guests and 66 crew. The personalized service SeaDream Yacht Club is known for was even more personal and gracious on our sailing.
The ship also has a library, small casino, gym, spa, lounge, golf simulator, saltwater pool and freshwater jacuzzi, several restaurants and bar areas. The marina sports platform can be lowered at the aft of the ship and guests can swim or snorkel off the back. There are also ocean kayaks (with glass bottoms), stand-up paddle boards, Hobie cat catamarans, a banana boat, tubes, a floating island, jet skis and wakeboards.
Another unique feature is the Balinese Dream Beds. These are perfect for daytime lounging and reading a book. But guests can also sign up for a specific cushioned bed and sleep out under the stars! My husband and I donned our SeaDream pajamas (we received a navy set with our names monogrammed on them the first night) and slippers and headed up to the top deck. Our reserved bed was now made up with soft pillows and sheets just for us. We quickly fell asleep under a clear Caribbean night sky, millions of twinkling stars above us. (We woke up around 4:45 a.m. with a hint of coming dawn and went back to our cabin to finish our night’s sleep).
Our seven-night itinerary was roundtrip from Barbados with visits to the Grenadines and Grenada; however, due to restrictions, these island stops on our voyage required all guests to stay away from local communities and instead visit isolated islands and beaches.
The Grenadines are a chain of 600 islands and islets in the southeastern part of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. Its range is approximately 60 miles from St. Vincent in the north to Petit St. Vincent in the south. Islands include St. Vincent, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique and Union Island. Just beyond is the three-island nation of Grenada. These are remote, unspoiled islands with unmistakable tropical beauty.
Petite Tabac in the Grenadines.
On our voyage we visited: Mt. Wynne Beach on St. Vincent, with its striking black sand beach; Petite Tabac, a tiny, deserted island (its claim to fame is that "Pirates of the Caribbean" was filmed here, specifically the scene in "The Curse of the Black Pearl” where Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly) are abandoned by Captain Barbossa); and Tobago Cays Marine Park, a turtle sanctuary where we were able to snorkel with the turtles
Snorkeling with turtles.
Since I had sailed with SeaDream earlier this year, I was curious to see how cruising again would be the same and how it would be different. Many things did feel the same: The food was still incredibly delicious and the service seemed extra attentive. Primary differences were restrictions in shoreside excursions and additional health and safety protocols.
Examples of new protocols on Sea Dream:
- COVID-19 testing (minimum three tests: Two prior to boarding with a third scheduled mid-week)
- Luggage (including hand luggage) was disinfected after we were cleared to go onboard
- Hand sanitizing is required at every check-in point and immediately after boarding (with encouraged frequent use with stations all around the ship)
- Mandatory daily temperature (facial recognition thermal machines) and oxygen level checks as needed
- No more buffet-style service
- Extensive and regular cleaning around the ship, especially in common areas
- Social distancing maintained with all ship activities and shoreside excursions
- Gym required appointments and only open every other hour (closed in between workouts for deep cleaning); limited to four guests per hour
- Twice-daily cleaning in-room, plus ultra-sonic air filters in large spaces and UV light filter used daily in cabins for additional disinfecting
Laurel and husband Steve onboard SeaDream I
Unfortunately, our voyage came to an untimely end mid-week as a fellow passenger tested positive for COVID-19. The captain made the announcement and asked everyone to return to their cabins immediately. Within moments, the ship pulled up the anchor and sailed back to Barbados.
Throughout the next hours and days, there were regular announcements (both verbal and written) to keep us updated while we were in quarantine. The captain would also personally call us every day to see how we were doing and if there was anything we needed or wanted.
The five-star service and food did not end as we stayed in our cabins for the remainder of our cruise. They would slip menus under the door, and we could select things like lobster tail or filet mignon for dinner. If we got hungry and needed snacks or drinks, we would simply call the concierge desk.
The crew and staff of SeaDream I took extremely good care of us. It was apparent that they had concrete plans in place to address this scenario. We were impressed with how quickly and efficiently they implemented these plans and how well they handled a difficult situation. In spite of this setback, we look forward to better travel days and returning on another SeaDream voyage in the future.