There were high hopes on Saturday when the Wilderness Adventurer sailed from Juneau on the first Alaska cruise ship sailing in 2020.
It’s likely everyone with an interest in the future of Alaska cruising hoped to see the 160-foot vessel with 36 passengers and 30 crew members aboard return safely to Juneau after a seven-day voyage without incident.
Alas, despite significant precautions and protocols, the Wilderness Explorer had to turn back on Tuesday. One of its guests had tested positive for COVID-19.
Upon return to port, the guests would be quarantined ashore in Juneau. The crew is quarantined aboard the ship, also in Juneau.
The ship’s operator, UnCruise Adventures, which had dedicated much time, energy and resources into developing a operations plan for what remained of the 2020 season, canceled the remaining four cruises on its schedule.
Many will share in UnCruise Adventures’ disappointment in this outcome. The risks were known, yet there was hope that UnCruise could develop a strategy for managing travel safely while the novel coronavirus remains at large. The scale of endeavor in ship size and capacity was appropriate for the effort. The UnCruise leadership felt up to the task.
Still, the virus prevailed, and quickly.
But all is not lost.
If the cruise industry is to revive, its study of the Wilderness Adventurer circumstances should be thorough.
UnCruise itself is focused on figuring it out.
“This unprecedented virus requires unprecedented standards and continues to change,” the company said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “Our focal point is to continue to improve for the future of travel and our industry.”
Other cruise companies are likely thinking the same, as they should with their futures at stake.
They should be grateful to UnCruise Adventurers for this effort, and use it to build a strategy that could provide for a safe return of cruising in the not-too-distant future.