‘GREAT JOB – YOU DID WELL’: This 5-year-old and other locals upbeat about virus-free trip after being kept aboard Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen due to COVID-19 concerns

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This drawing showing the experience of getting a COVID-19 test is how the dramatically altered and potentially scary voyage aboard Hurtigruen’s Spitsbergen ended – on a happy note – for five-year-old Bjarki Rafn.

Rafn and everyone else aboard the expedition cruise ship was forced to bypass docking (and departing) in Longyearbyen on Tuesday, instead being forced to continue to Tromsø and remain on board until everyone was tested for the virus, following an outbreak aboard the Hurtigruten’s Roald Amunsen that is raising a fury of questions about the company’s handling of the situation. But all passengers and crew tested negative as of Friday, with many of those living in Longyearbyen planning to return home immediately.

Bjarki Rafn, 5, watches medical officials depart from Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen hybrid cruise ship after administering him and others on board COVID-19 tests on while docked in Tromsø. All passengers and crew were kept aboard the vessel until they were confirmed virus-free. Photo by Sólveig Anna Þorvaldsdóttir.

Bjarki’s drawing, photos of him being tested for the virus, and other images of his experiences during the voyage were posted by his mother, Sólveig Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, on her Facebook page Thursday night.

“Experiences from the mind of a five-year old who just took a COVID-19 test, put down on a piece of paper,” she wrote. “And his masterpiece from spending an amazing week cruising the Arctic. Think it’s time for an art exhibition!”

Passengers on the ship, including ten permanent residents of Longyearbyen, boarded a week ago Friday, the same day the outbreak aboard the Roald Amundsen became public. As that scandal spread quickly, Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt announced that due to Svalbard’s unique vulnerability to the virus because of its remoteness and lack of medical facilities, the Spitsbergen would not be allowed to dock as scheduled in Longyearbyen.

“Due to the uncertainty surrounding infection management on board the Roald Amundsen and the possibility that something similar could happen on the Spitsbergen, we dare not take the chance that crew and passengers will land in Longyearbyen or the other settlements on Svalbard,” she said.

Local residents posting about their involuntarily extended voyage on social media were generally upbeat and accepting about the circumstances, with few expressions of fear of being infected with the virus.

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Passengers aboard Hurtigruten’s Spitsbergen expedition cruise ship spend some unexpected extra and socially distanced deck time during their voyage from Svalbard to Tromsø. Photo by Dina Brode-Roger.

“We saw Bjørnøya!” wrote Dina Brode-Roger, a local social researcher, on her Facebook page Wednesday. “And boat life in quarantine…which includes glug wine on deck (with physical distancing), watching the ocean/fog, a polar bear film or two, and a jacuzzi on occasion (lots of chlorine and no mixing). And working a little in between.”

In addition to posting numerous comments and photos about the voyage itself, she shared a photo of a cluster of media and other persons with video cameras lined along the dock in Tromsø keeping watch on the quarantined ship until the tests came back negative.

“We are corona-free, crew and guests alike, and will fly home this afternoon!” she wrote Friday.