Just the second charter in and the entire season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht became compromised when a guest began feeling tired, started coughing, and had a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit on last week’s episode.
For the crew who spent weeks quarantining, enduring multiple COVID swabs up the nose, living in cramped quarters, and being oceans apart from their families, it would make all of their efforts meaningless and put them out of a paycheck.
The guests, who shelled out thousands of dollars not only to pay for the luxury sailing charter but to fly out to Croatia and quarantine in a hotel for a week, would have a very unfortunate end to their very expensive vacation.
And for Bravo, it could potentially scrap an entire show’s season, not to mention everyone—the boat’s crew, the production, and the guests—could be exposed to a life-threatening virus that has claimed the lives of more than 2.7 million people worldwide.
As chief stew Daisy Kelliher bluntly put it, “That’s going to be the biggest fuck up in the fucking world if he tests positive.”
Captain Glenn Shephard admitted to The Daily Beast while he tried to remain optimistic as doctors came onboard in hazmat suits to test the guests, he was very concerned about the potential of a positive result.
“Anything like that could be the end of everything,” he explained. “So much effort went into being able to be there and have a normal charter season, or as close as we can get to a normal charter season, that could all be in jeopardy with one case.”
“In that moment we're all like, ‘Oh, my God, what's happening?’ Because we're just getting started in the season and all of a sudden, we have this scare. Is this gonna happen again? Is this gonna happen all season? It's a bit scary.”
Fortunately, on Monday’s night episode, the boat crew learned the guests’ initial COVID-19 tests came back negative, with the crew letting out a collective sigh of relief knowing their entire season wasn’t just ruined.
They then resumed their normal antics of partying, playing “Truth or Dare” in the boat’s hot tub and swapping saliva as they kissed one another.
It was no easy feat to get this far. Executive producer Jill Goslicky previously called it a “miracle season” for how they were able to pull off filming in August 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, with guests flying in from all over the globe.
“I'm impressed that we were able to pull it off,” Shephard agreed. “Of course, we had to have very strict protocols, which included quarantining when everybody arrives for a number of days. We had regular testing, social distancing, mask-wearing, temperature checks, and filling out a questionnaire before we came out of cabins every morning.”
Shephard said Croatia became the perfect spot in which to base the charter season, not only because it’s a beautiful destination with protected waters and several islands to glide around, but also for its low COVID rates and lax travel restrictions.
But for any crew members thinking that meant for a summer full of bar hopping and clubbing on their nights off—they thought wrong. The yachties, renowned for their hard-partying ways, were confined to the boat all season out of an abundance of caution.
Shephard, who doesn’t really drink, said it meant giving them almost free rein on the boat as he hunkered down in his cabin. “I've been doing this for a while,” he laughed. “My experience is [crews] need to blow off some steam to get ready for the next day or the next charter.”
“It was a challenge that they couldn't get off the boat and just go walk around. A lot of the people on shore were not masked up and not worried at all about COVID because it was such a low incidence rate. But our guys couldn't go and do that, so I wanted to, as much as possible, give them a little bit of room to blow off a little bit of steam, as long as you don't damage the boat.”
But there would be a slight incident, although not the fault of any crew members. Season teasers show that while trying to dock, the boat smashes into concrete, leading the normally laid-back Shephard to erupt. Luckily, it was only a throttle malfunction and the boat sustained mainly cosmetic damage, costing about $20,000 to fix, but it could have easily been much worse.
“It's a pretty serious thing,” Shephard said, stressing it’s the first time ever in his 20-year career to have such an accident. “It's sort of like if the brakes failed and you hit a wall in your best friend's brand new car. So yeah, I lose my cool and I swear a little bit, but from where I am when it happens, I can't see how bad it is. I'm really fearing the worst because I felt the impact. When I go and see it, it’s not as bad as I feared.”
But despite a few speed bumps this season, Shephard is pleased it was even able to happen in the first place, saying everyone had a great time and brought good energy to the Parsifal III.
Below Deck Sailing Yacht airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT on Bravo.